Preliminary Review: My Hero Academia (post-season 3)

The latest season of the popular anime continues to progress the story.

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The Lowdown:

Show: My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia)

Studio/years aired: Bones, 2016-

(SPOILERS INCOMING. If you want a spoiler-free My Hero Academia Review, check out Season 2’s right here. Grading contains some minor spoilers, unlike my thoughts.)

AniB’s thoughts:

As you’ve no doubt noticed, school once again has unfortunately caused me to cut back on how much I write here for AniB Productions, but I was both excited (and determined!) to bring you the post-season review of My Hero Academia, which incredibly enough as a series now has almost more episodes total than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. (That had 64; Hero Academia is now up to 62 and a 4th season was confirmed.)

So the the golden question is if Season 3 continued the momentum of the first two. To start with, this past season continues to be faithful to the manga, bookending the opening arcs of the show with All Might’s final battle against the ultimate evil- All For One; and with his forced retirement opening up a resurgent villain presence in the world that had slowly been built up from season 1 with the events at the USJ at the time to now, where Tomura Shigaraki is biding his time as his organization grows stronger.

While summary is nice, this season showcased a good deal of character development in addition to its shifting plot lines. Midoriya, who I wrote about at about the halfway point of the season, continues his path towards becoming All Might’s successor, ultimately developing his own unique combat style while taking to heart the consequences of his previous recklessness and the damage it caused to his body, especially his arms. His rivalry with Katsuki Bakugo is also revisited- and in turn, displaying the ever-shifting dynamic as the former’s steady gains forces his long-time childhood specter to properly acknowledge him.

It’s actually quite difficult on some level to believe that My Hero Academia is now 3 seasons into its run, but yet, here we are- and overall, to answer the main question, with a wink and a nod to the show’s famous catchphrase- it’s been pretty “plus ultra” so far. While minor complaints have cropped up over the show’s run, from extended flashbacks in certain important scenes to some more vocal parties complaining about under-utilization of the side students in Class 1-A, the fact remains that the next big thing in shonen has delivered in spades, both upon the promise it’s shown so far and the strong leads of the show- which, in any event, are more important than a side cast any day of the week. That isn’t to say the complaint in that department isn’t valid- it very much is- but it seems more a byproduct of an increasingly vocal and growing fanbase that comes with the popularity territory Hero Academia has staked out.


Animation Quality: Quoting from last year’s season 2 review: “As you might expect from Bones (the people who did Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the quality of the hand drawn, computer shaded 2-D is on point. Vibrant and faithful to its source material, the fight sequences are beautifully crafted; a wide ranging and immersive color palette brings the world of heroes and villains to life, and it’s all done in a tasteful way that completely enhances the effects of the show at every turn.” Since my views on this haven’t changed this past season, and continued to be justified between a presumably high budget and some amazingly faithful scenes done well.  5/5 points.

 

Characterization: Carrying over from season 2, BnHA’s extensive cast continues to be led Izuku Midoriya, but features several prominent developments for major characters.

Best known as “Deku” (his chosen hero name) from both fans of the show and the actual cast alike, Izuku’s dream of becoming the world’s number one hero is initially a pipe dream for him in a world where 80% of the population possesses superpowers, (or “Quirks”, as they’re referred to in-universe) and he has none. His life changed though with a chance encounter with the current #1 hero and his idol, All Might- where he is bestowed the powerful “One For All” quirk. Driven by relentless determination and a kind heart, Izuku’s got a lot of crazy in him- jumping into situations with little regard for himself- but he’s also committed to the suddenly steep and difficult journey that piece by piece, unfolds before him. Izuku continues to take major strides in both his training and character development, as this season introduces a seismic shift in the hero-villain dynamic of the show, along with several major events for Class 1-A on their paths to becoming heroes.

Deku’s archrival from childhood continues to be the brash and ill-tempered Katsuki Bakugo (spelled “Bakugou” in the manga). True to his personality, his Quirk allows his sweat to have nitroglycerin-esque properties, which in turn allows him to create localized explosions from the palms of his hands. A prodigy in terms of skill, his persistently foul moods mask to many his brilliance or his undying resolve to also be the top hero. As BnHA unfolds, Bakugo begins to resent Deku more and more, which leads to the beginnings and development of said rivalry properly. After season 2’s practical exam saw the duo win a dysfunctional but ultimately triumphant victory over All Might, the last season came to a head at the end with a proper duel of wills and skills.

For both Midoriya and Bakugo, All Might serves as their inspiration to be the next great hero- and as a major character in the show. Previously, he juggled multiple roles as Midoriya’s mentor, his still-extant run as the #1 hero, and a brand-new teaching position at U.A. Academy- but after a titantic battle with the ultimate evil- All For One- he burns out the final “embers” of the Quirk he passed onto Midoriya. Effectively retired, he fully entrusts himself to Deku’s hero training.

Previously as a hero, he’s the stereotype of a Silver Age comic book hero on the outside, wielding the awesome power of One For All- but hides his true form as a skinny man with disheveled hair and baggy clothes from all but a few. Despite the huge difference in strength and appearance, All Might is the same on the inside as a steadfast protector of the people and takes seriously his role as the “Symbol of Peace,” so much so that he’s unable to pace himself in his hero work…which eventually does lead to the end of his era.

It would take a while to highlight every last important character on the cast beside these three, but there are a few more worth mentioning in brief due to having larger supporting roles:

Tomura Shigaraki’s role continued to expand from his initial plans and failures at the climax of season 1; by the end of this season it’s clear he’s juxtaposed as the anti-Midoriya- All For One’s chosen successor- and has built himself a truly lethal little squad of villains, who wreak havoc on U.A.’s secret training camp in the first half of the season.

Ochaco Uraraka is the first person Deku meets at the U.A. Entrance exams, and after said sequence of events, they become quick friends. Noted for her ability to manipulate the gravity of objects with her fingertips, she’s bright, kind and hard working…but also has a crush on Deku, which is low-key but quite obvious. The latter point becomes a side character plot for her more prominently in the past season, but she also shows growth in her training.

Gaining a great deal of relevance originally in Season 2, Shoto Todoroki is the son of Endeavor- a man he despises- and another prodigy with a powerful Quirk that allows him manipulation of both ice and fire. Todoroki continues to be a standout in Class 1-A through his performances, though things don’t quite as expected when the time comes for hero licensing exams…As was true before, his level of control and personal path to walk pose their own issues for him.

The rest of Class 1-A continues to receive varying levels of attention, from more in the case of homeroom teacher Shoto Aizawa and students like Tsuyu Asui and Eijiro Kirishima, to far less as in the case of Koji Koda- a student mostly noted for his control of animals and very small amount of speech. While some see the class as being underdeveloped, it’s far more preferable to have great leads and a slightly lesser supporting cast than the opposite. (Of course, the best example of a class who receives even development is Assassination Classroom’s Class 3-E; you can read about that series here!)

It’s a bit of a shame that this section can’t cover every last one of these characters in the show, but it’s a solid cast that translates the incredible design work of the manga well and in turn, the animation itself does wonders in bringing them to life through 3 seasons. 4/5 points.

Story: This season’s Hero Academia plot saw some big moves from the League of Villains after biding their time in season 2, and a U.A. Academy in flux- from the student who via forced trials are demanded to grow stronger in the crucible of a rapidly changing world, to a school facing increasing questions about its perception and viability- a double edged sword that came with prestige. Sure, some of it is typical shonen-stuff, but it’s well executed, there’s only one (admittedly fun) filler episode neat the end of season, and the pacing is quite good. Good work all around. 4.5/5 points.

 

Themes: As the openings of this season stresses, a big idea of Hero Academia is one’s ideals. Who can back up their convictions? How about when they are pitted in a classic struggle of good versus evil? Or what about when such distinctions aren’t quite as clear in a given moment. The idea of justice is severely tested, as are society’s faith in the heroes they believe, and it created a panorama of tension that served as Season 3’s backdrop quite effectively. 3.75/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: Hero Academia definitely takes some darker turns this season, but it remains an easily accessible anime for both older and newer viewers alike. The soundtrack continues to be stellar, and in terms of intangibles, it remains a fun ride. 4.75/5 points.

Overall: 21.75/25 (88%): My Hero Academia’s past season continues to expand faithfully upon the manga and delivers on some vast promise, while continuing to develop its core characters and remain a delightful balance of fun and serious. The “next big thing in shonen” is the big thing now, and with season 4 already confirmed, it’s a good time to pick it up if you haven’t already.


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