This Week in Anime
Is the New My Hero Academia OVA Killer or Filler?

by Monique Thomas & Steve Jones,

I know we all miss the comfort that a school schedule can bring. Oh, not that one. I'm talking about UA and the Quirk-y heroes in training of My Hero Academia! Season 5 is coming someday, but until then there's a new OVA out that takes us back before...season 4? Steve and Nicky sign-up for Do-or-Die Survival Training and somehow make it out alive.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Steve
Well Nicky, it's that time of year—school reopenings are a hot-button issue, and the myriad heated debates around them, carried on the winds of discourse up through the highest levels of authority, are more than a little despair-inducing. It's not all bad, though! In fact, there's one (and ONLY one) place of learning I'm happy to see back in action right now.
Nicky
Well, I wouldn't get my hopes too sky high, because it's more like an inauguration day rather than a full semester. Normally, we don't get to see this kind of stuff outside of Japan or Blu-ray releases but today we'll be covering both parts of the new My Hero Academia OAV!
Yeah I don't think this is the first time we've gotten an OVA simulcasted, but that's pretty darn cool in and of itself. Really makes you reflect on how anime accessibility overall has increased by multiple orders of magnitude in very recent history. Also, this wasn't the joke I was going for in my intro, but I just had a thought: the plot of this OVA, in which teachers send students into a training simulation with real risk of serious bodily harm, still makes for a better and safer curriculum than expecting everyone to return to school in the midst of an unchecked global pandemic. That sucks to think about! But I don't want to spend this whole column waxing U.S. politics. I wanna spend it talking about the Good Frog.
Familiar characters like Tsuyu-chan-kun is one of the great of the highlights of this OVA. Every time she's on screen it's like seeing a light of previous happier times in this dark, dark world of ours.
I love my precious amphibian daughter.
I actually love all these children. Yes, including the shitty ones.

Okay, maybe especially the shitty ones, which is good cuz I think the show and this OVA would be much less interesting without our fan-favorite yelly boi.
It is most certainly the Bakugo hour in this two-part special. And given the gargantuan size of MHA's cast, I guess it's not surprising that the plot hones in on the more popular faces of 1-A. There's only so many minutes to spread around, and of course I'm not going to complain if it involves more frog content.
The show even does the work for us by splitting the class up into two teams to start so you don't have to look at or deal with Mineta.
Thank the great All Might for small favors. Though if I'm being honest, it would've been nice to see the OVA branch out and explore some of the kids who don't usually get a spot in the limelight. But if that's the price we had to pay to exorcise any whiff of Mineta horniness, I suppose I can accept that.
Yeah, I would've preferred a more lax OVA of just the kids hanging out but instead we get Super Serious "Do-or-Die! Survival Training" which makes me think that this is more like an episode of early Naruto rather than an episode of MHA. These two episodes even take place BEFORE the chunin exam--I mean, the provisional license exam, and it's not based on any other pre-existing material. In other words, this is filler.
So if you're looking for any world-shattering developments or talk-show-juicy secrets revealed, you ain't gonna find them. And I couldn't tell you why they would decide to set these new OVAs in the middle of season 3, when we're still waiting for any news about season 5, but hey. More MHA is more MHA.
I have a pretty good suspicion for why they set it at this particular time but IMO I think it also acts to its detriment. After seeing four seasons and two movies, the stakes of a simple training rescue turned real feel kind of manufactured and hollow like the empty and abandoned building most of this little venture takes place in.

I hope you like the colors BROWN and also GRAY!
What really gets me is that this is just a recapitulation of the kind of test that was in the provisional license exam arc. Like, Aizawa even literally says that. Except for the most part it's even less interesting. At least the "dummies" in the real test could talk smack to the kids and tell them everything they were doing wrong. That was the good stuff.
One of the big issues with filler material is that it has to exist in a pocket where it complies to the source material's canon, so they can't use it to change any of the existing characters or introduce any elements that could conflict with anything. Any growth characters get in this feels kind of null, especially when this takes place at an earlier date when we've already SEEN the growth of some of these characters. But also if they didn't do that we wouldn't get more of BAKUGO BEING A JERK and also no emotional conflict.
And I do wanna say, I think people tend to be pretty fast and loose with the term "filler" in regards to long-form serial storytelling. A lot of what gets labeled "filler" is actually good, worthwhile stuff that iterates on important things that may not be an opaque development of the main plot. That said, tho, these OVAs sure are filler lol. BUT, like you said, there's still good stuff in here. Like Bakugo being Bakugo.

Spoilers: he goes off on his own and interferes with their teamwork.
As the great philosopher David Byrne once said: same as it ever was.
Moving on from that, the actual objective is, in order to train for the exam, the kids have to traverse a creepy underground mall in order to rescue a dummy. But of course, as soon as they split up, a real earthquake happens and all the kids end up being trapped inside the crumbling building themselves.
And to the kids' collective credit, they've been at UA long enough to surmise that this "accident" is the REAL test.
Though, I think Aizawa implies that it actually wasn't a planned part of the test. Which is kinda lame. Although, the kids take it seriously all the same. The bad news of this scenario is that there are no villains to fight, but the good news is that this gives certain characters with practical powers like Uraraka and Yaoyorozu a chance to shine.
Plus, Momo divides everyone up such that each team's set of Quirks and skills complements each other. Most everyone gets at least one situation in which they can flex their heroic muscles. For instance, Ochaco gets to airlift a wounded Iida out of the complex. Todoroki gets to use his fire powers to keep Tokoyami's Dark Shadow from going berserk. And Kaminari gets to be a glorified phone charger.
Yes, being a hero isn't just all about being flashy and cool, it's also about trying to learn the best way to deal with a crisis! One of the things most people tend for forget is that, despite his short temper, Bakugo is actually pretty intelligent. He manages to protect his teammates, locate and restore the emergency power, and even attempts to rescue the dummy. His people (dummy?) skills could use some work though.
Yeah, the core thrust of the OVA is making the audience realize "huh, that Bakugo kid can actually be a pretty good leader when he wants to." Which, while certainly true, would have had more impact if it weren't something that MHA had already and repeatedly covered. Also, my dude, you are in NO position to be calling out other people's hairstyles, ESPECIALLY not Kirishima's. Both of you have prominent porcupine ancestry.
His plan of course to rescue the dummy without debris falling of them is of course an old favorite.

Y'know, just unleash a powerful force onto an already crumbling and unstable structure! No Problem. Looks cool though.
Like they say, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So when your only superpower is blowing stuff up, I guess everything looks like one of those red barrels in a FPS game. But nothing is more galaxy brain than Bakugo's plan for escaping the mall.


The sublime absurdity of this plan alone kinda makes the whole OVA worth it, tbh.
I do enjoy the little drawings complete with little effects bubbles. But Bakugo is arrogant and unwilling to depend on others cuz even he can't be that accurate to make a safe way out for them both, and they have to rely on Deku for help, leaving all three of them to make it to safety.
Because everyone knows that blowing up ice is dumb. But kicking ice really hard. Ah, now that's the ticket. But I really shouldn't be making fun of this because that is literally how they escape. Shows what I know.
Though Bakugo hurts his leg doing so and has to get supported back by Deku, in order to put a bow on the metaphor box.
I know I just accused the OVA of retreading other bits of Bakugo development, but I will give credit where it's due: he's a lot more serious about roleplay than I would've guessed.
While shipping is fine and good, it does miff me a little bit that like all MHA solutions, it usually falls on all the three powerful and super talented boys even if it's ultimately still a collective effort. I would've preferred to see some other smaller characters like Tokoyami be a little more proactive despite his weakness to Da-da-da-da-DARKNESS!
How dare they make Dark Shadow look this cute. But I totally agree. If you're gonna make a pseudo-extra-canonical OVA, do you really have to hew so closely to a normal episode of the show? That's an underwhelming lack of vision.
Aizawa also comes off pretty cold in all these saying that he's not gonna intervene for the sake of the test but I think it's more of a case of making an adult seem irresponsible for drama even if it's supposedly for the non-existent growth of the character because they've already proven that they can do this stuff in other arcs!
Aizawa's barely even a presence in this one. He has the energy of a teacher who just wants to take a break for the day so he rolls in the TV and puts on a movie for the class. Except in this case replace "movie" with "deadly hero trial they've only done dozens of times before." Not that I can blame him. It's 2020. We're all tired.
If that were the case I'd rather be watching National Treasure in history class again, but that might just be me. Speaking of movies. If you're aching for more of this series, you're better off seeking out the second movie Heroes Rising, which basically covers everything that happens in this OVA and better. Otherwise, especially in the case of extra bits of recap, this OVA feels less like a return to form and more like sitting through a lecture you've already heard before.
It's not terrible, but it does feel pretty phoned in. A light little apéritif for some eventual season 5 news, and that's about it. It's also, arguably, an olive branch extended to both OchaDeku and BakuDeku shippers, but I wouldn't dare tread in the middle of that minefield to confirm or deny.
Coward, you forgot to mention the inclusion of Todoroki and Tokoyami, in which I don't even know the proper ship name for, but I'm certain it exists!
It's probably BirdMan. That couldn't possibly get confused with anything else.
Nope! Not at all confusing. Anyways, despite the danger presented, this OVA overall plays it pretty safe. I'm hoping that it's inclusion to the simulcasting world means we'll get more interesting and weird ones to see later though and I still welcome the reprieve even if it's a bit stale.
Yeah, at the end of the day, it's not like I'm gonna complain about more MHA. I like MHA! Just, please, I need season 5. I need more animated Mirko content. I'm dying here.

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