「全てを持って生まれた男の子」 (Subete o Motteumareta Otokonoko)
“The Boy Born with Everything”
This would be a very different story if Todoroki was the main character.
The first half of this episode was all about Todoroki, and wow—now we know, at least in part, what makes the guy tick. It was already clear that his asshole father was a big part of it, and Endeavor’s actual plan (having his son rise to the top where he failed) was exactly what I expected, but everything with Todoroki’s mother is a new layer of terrible. Quirk marriages, and his father picking his mother like she’s a pokemon—that’s abuse of status/power and almost certainly spousal abuse, for those keeping track at home—is another layer of horrifying, albeit not surprising either. But her pouring boiling water on her son, which is how he got his scar . . . yeah. That adds a new layer to Todoroki. It’s not that he’s trying to honor his mother by using her quirk only, not fully, because that was some pretty heavy child abuse she got up to, even if she was psychologically damaged by her rapist husband and the family who sold her to him. It’s probably part that, but above all else, Todoroki wants to stick a finger in his father’s eye, and succeed despite his twisted, immoral plan. If he was the main character of this story, it would be a much different tale.
What I like is that, like with Katsuki, Shouto could so easily be a caricature of a real person, and he’d still work. He could be a dark and brooding asshole, the kind of gritty antihero who may or may not have a heart of gold. But he’s not. He’s brooding, sure, but he remains unbowed despite the abuse he experienced and witnessed as a child. He may not be a pleasant young man, but his past hasn’t poisoned him. Like with Katsuki, he’s more than he seems, and more than he easily could have been. That’s what makes him feel like a real, living, breathing person, rather than merely a character.
Tone is important in this series, and while it delves with serious issues it always seeks to keep the preceedings as light as can be. Not shallow, but not heavy either. Or not as heavy as they might be! Enter the cheerleaders, courtesy of Mineta and Kaminari. The interesting part about this—aside from the obvious, down you pervs—is that the tone was lightened without pulling the punch of the serious stuff that went before. By which I mean, another author might have done all the Todoroki stuff, and made something funny happen then—the storytelling equivilent of saying something serious (and true) and then saying “Just kidding!”. Instead, they did it in the next scene, where it was silly, but didn’t poison the well. Plus, ya know, cheerleaders. Nice trick, that.
Then, the 16 vs 16 tournament. I cannot even begin to tell you how pumped I am! You all know my love for tournament arcs, and this is that concentrated, with the first two (potential) fights in the Izuku & Todoroki side of the bracket illustrative. It’s no surprise that Izuku is going up against Shinso, since all the new characters from the OP are destined to play a role. But since it’s a tournament, Izuku could conceivably lose. Probably not, but maybe! And then, assuming both Izuku and Todoroki advance to the next round—and one or both might not! But both probably will—we’ll have an early battle between them. If it was later, it’d be easier to guess who’d win by the battles that came before (who was open to the most character development from losing), but with only one previous battle each? Who knows! That uncertainty is the spice that makes the tournament so great.
First though, Izuku has to beat Shinso, and it looks like it’s not going to be easy, since he either doesn’t know the full truth of Shinso’s quirk, or, if he got enough of a scoop from Ojiro—a true hero among heroes, and an honorable young man—he didn’t pay enough attention. Or so it seems. Add on all the uncertainty on the contestants’ faces, and we’re bound to have some fun matches. Bring it on!
- It’s also no surprise that Todoroki guessed that Izuku is All Might’s secret child. It makes sense! Occam’s razor and all that. Who would another think that quirks can be passed along in some novel new way when the old way works so well? Though if Izuku was smart, he’d say that they have similar quirks but aren’t related, it’s bound to happen eventually (case in point), and it’s reason enough for All Might to keep a special eye on him. That’d be too easy though, so alas.
- Notice how Kacchan was eavesdropping, but this time he didn’t get angry? He just listened. That boy never ceases to surprise.
- Notice how the American cheerleaders have big noses? Comically so, but I’ll allow it, because not all of them are blonde. Finally, a Japanese mangaka admits that Americans can be brunettes too! (Says the blond-haired guy.)
- Mineta is the worst, and Kaminari is second worst. Poor Yaoyorozu, she’s matched with all the worst boys! (Except for Yuuga, who is, of course, a trash person like usual.)
- If Izuku is only at 5%—wow. He’s going to be a juggernaut later on. Which means the story can advance a LOT from where it is, and keep throwing more and more vicious villains at Izuku and co, before he ever hits his stated cap. I couldn’t be happier!
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.