「騎馬戦決着」 (Gibasen Ketchaku)
“Cavalry Battle Finale”
Everyone comes out of this fight looking stronger, and weaker, than they did just seconds before the end. A battle of reversals.
This was a battle of reversals, and it’s a textbook case of how to do them right. Let’s start with one thing we could all safely assume: Izuku would advance to the next round. Of course, right? But there are many ways that could have happened. He could have kept the 10,000,000 headband; he could have lost it, and reclaimed it; once that one revealed itself to be the 70, he could have grabbed another headband with enough points to win; or, once that failed, they could have revealed that the top four teams advancing was a lie, and the top six teams were advancing! All of these were possible, and the unpredictable nature of the battle—for instance, how Izuku’s team kept control of the 10,000,000 point headband until the last minute, made it hard to guess which would happen.
Then the bell rang, and it was over. Then the story moved directly into identifying the winners, which is crucial. Given too much time, we would have realized that someone must have grabbed another headband, because the only other option was to admit the top 6 teams, but even a moment’s quick consideration would make us realize how bullshit that would be. So don’t give us the time! Show us the winner, the runner up, the surprise third-place finishers—which is even better, because it distracts us from thinking about Izuku’s team for a moment—and then straight into the reveal. Tokoyami, you glorious sonofagun! And Uraraka too, for taking such delight in revealing to Izuku how they won. Awesome, amazing, magnificent, WOOHOO!
This is what made this episode so great: reversals, and pacing. The pacing has to be quick! And that truly bastardly mid-episode cliffhanger, switching to commericial and then Bakugo’s team, when we were all dying to know what happened with Izuku vs Todoroki. (Not that Bakugo’s story thread wasn’t good, because it was, but c’mon. Priorities.) Also, and I think it almost gets lost in the shuffle, but Izuku used his quirk again without shattering his arm! That’s huuuge, since it opens up more choices for him in the final round (and beyond), while leaving his quirk still unreliable enough for him to not go to that well immediately.
Probably my favorite part of the episode is how various characters’ stocks rose and fell as a result of the events. Iida-kun’s obviously went up, though so did Kaminari’s, which is more of a surprise—I like seeing the guy who’s always getting shit remind everyone that yeah, he does deserve to be there. Izuku’s both goes down—down for his assumption with the first headband, and up because when they were left with zero points and little time left, he doesn’t waste any time and immediately launches his team back into the fray, and still goes for #1. By the same token, Uraraka’s stock also goes up for not hesitating and backing Izuku up immediately. Tokoyami’s stock, of course, went way up. Love that guy!
And as always, Katsuki continues to surprise. He might have gotten super pissed, but both he and Izuku showed why they deserve to be there. Monoma Neito’s (Amasaki Kouhei) quirk, Copy, is a great one, but Katsuki’s team blows past it and knocks him out of the running completely not because they’re better, necessarily, but because they want it more. And that’s the key. Katsuki is gifted with a powerful quirk, but it’s his tenacity that makes him so damn good, and because, as much of a rage monster as he is, it doesn’t overwhelm him. He’s not flexible, and I keep expecting that to lead to a breakdown—but it hasn’t. Not yet.
All of this analysis obscures something crucial, and which needs to be said: this episode was thrilling, exciting, pulse-pounding, and damn fun! I exclaimed aloud when the mid-episode cliffhanger came, and cried out in excitement and relief when Tokoyami showed the headband he had swiped. Boku no Hero Academia is logically good, I can tell you the storytelling reasons why it’s good. But what really makes it amazing is that it grabs a hold of your monkey brain, straps a couple of jumped cables to it, hands the other end to Kaminari, and then shocks it up to excitement level 9000. It’s awesome, yo! Because, as a wise writer once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And I won’t soon forget how Boku no Hero Academia makes me feel.
- The other big storyline was with Todoroki, and how he wouldn’t use his left arm (fire), which gave Izuku’s team a weakness they exploited—and which, when push came to shove, he used anyway. But that’s going to be more of an issue next week, I feel, as All Might and Endeavor enter the equation just as their successors continue to square off. Though Todoroki’s stock—even though he won—is probably the one that suffered the most. It really did feel like they were on thin ice.
- Another thing I expected, but was still surprised from due to pacing: Shinso’s team advancing. There was no point in him being in the OP if he wasn’t a player in this arc, but his team flew so far under the radar during the cavalry battle that it was still surprising when his team came up third place, just because I’d forgotten about them. Another example of storytelling concealing the obvious to make it a surprise.
- Izuku is such a crybaby. Though, at least we know where he gets it. She’s such a mom, lol!
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for exclusive content. At stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: I get it now!; Guardians of the Galaxy, Glee, & Firesign; That’s not supposed to go there . . .; and The Carcer Principle.