「勝ち負け」 (Kachimake)
“Victory of Defeat”

Few stories have ever done this better, through luck as much as good planning. That’s fitting, I feel.

Most of us guessed what Shinso’s quirk was before even the end of last episode: brainwashing. And true to popular guesses as well, Ojiro-kun did warn Izuku, but Izuku got baited into the mind control anyway. And also true to many guesses, it was good old shounen grit and emotions that got Izuku over the top.

Just outlining the expected events obscures how well this was all done, and the slight twists Horikoshi-sensei put on the old standards to create something thematically striking.

The appearance of the One For All ghosts obscured that it was good old shounen grit until the very end, and even Izuku lampshaded that this wasn’t very satisfying—which I disagree with, actually. There was no other way that could end with no other players in the fight, and the trope of shounen grit endures for a damn good reason. Better, though, was what happened next. A latent theme had clearly emerged: that of the aggrieved have-not fighting against the privileged have.

This episode was perhaps THE most effective way to delve into this theme at this depth* of nearly any story I’ve read or seen. That may sound like hyperbole, but I don’t think so, and I’m not crediting it all to Horikoshi-sensei’s brilliance (which would go rather against the theme). Part of it is luck, which I find fitting. The story of someone struggling against another who seems to have it all is an old tale, but here it’s enhanced by three elements.

First is that we know. We know Izuku, and we know that, despite Shinso’s protests, Izuku was not born with this power and that he worked damn hard to get where he is. It works so well because Shinso is just like Izuku in this desire and this struggle—but telling us that wouldn’t be enough. We’ve been there with Izuku. That’s the advantage of coming at this theme later. The groundwork has been laid.

Second is that we’re on the side of the privileged have rather than the aggrieved have-not. Usually it’s the other way around—the main character is the scrappy underdog who’s struggling against the person who seemingly has it all, and then the storyteller tries to convince us that the guy who has it all actually had to struggle and work super hard to get where he is. Hell, HeroAca does this itself! That’s Izuku vs Todoroki in a nutshell, and Izuku vs Katsuki before that. But as much as we nod our heads and agree, deep down inside we still feel that the other guy had it easier, because we’re on the scrappy underdog’s side. Here, we’re not, and when that’s combined with our existing knowledge of Izuku, it makes us reflective rather dismissive—because we want our guy to be the good guy, and want to see him in the right.

Third, quirks are binary. This is the luck part, where Horikoshi-sensei probably only realized after he’d started writing the series that this theme would work so well with this world. Sometimes, being a good writer comes down to recognizing the good chance you accidentally made for yourself, and running with it. Think about it: though there’s endless variety among quirks, when it comes to the quirkless vs the quirky, the options are binary. 0 or 1. You have one or you don’t. And we know that Izuku didn’t have one, full stop. Someone might tell me that Serena Williams was terrible at tennis as a child—I don’t know if that’s true, I don’t know much about her other than what I’ve read on FiveThirtyEight, this is just an example—but there would always be that niggling doubt in the back of the mind that maybe she started off with some latent talent. Here, there is none of that. Izuku was quirkless, we know that for a FACT, and it’s only the oddity of One For All being inheritable that gave him one in the end.

All of this combines for an emotional scene, which I’ve gone on far too long about: of Shinso protesting that Izuku was born with a wonderful quirk, whereas he was born with one that gave him zero chance in the UA hero course exam. And we know it’s not true, and Izuku does as well, but he can’t respond because of Shinso’s quirk, and he couldn’t say anything if he could! It’s a scene that hits hard, not as much in pure emotional adrenaline as in an idea that blossoms in the mind and then just. won’t. go. away. It’s the realization of what it’s really like to be the privileged, the lucky, and to know it—but not being able to say a damn thing.

Which, by the way, was the other wonderful part. Izuku realized that nothing he could say would help Shinso, because he himself had been exactly like him—“You can’t help the things you long for.” But fortunately, combined with the slight twist of Shinso not being the bastard he seemed to be—which should have been expected, he is at UA to become a hero, after all—the other kids in the General Studies course took over from there. Why is the screen suddenly blurry? I’m not crying! You’re crying!

That brings us to Todoroki. Here’s the kid who has everything, proving again that having everything doesn’t mean all those things will be pleasant. His father mentioned Shouto’s siblings, and my instant response was “What did you do…?” Imagine me scowling, because I did. I’m rooting for Todoroki to punch his father’s face in some day, but for the time being, the match. I mean, it wasn’t like Sero was going to win, right? He acquitted himself all right despite the short match, at least he acted quickly and decisively, though he should have expected the ice across the floor—not that it would have mattered. Ouch. I guess, when the outcome of the match is all but preordained, you might as well reveal character. When Shouto got angry, and then apologized afterward—that’s a lot of character revealed. He’s still a good kid, despite it all.

Looks like next time we’re going to speed through a bunch of matches, though I hope we get to spend some time with a few of them, most notably Yaoyorozu vs Tokoyami. It’s all building up to the next big one, though: Uraraka vs Bakugou. Oh my.

* i.e. stories entirely devoted to the theme can and have certainly done better, but the construction of Boku no Hero Academia makes it uniquely suited to make this theme LAND with the relatively short amount of time it chose to devote to it.

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.




  1. I love how artsy the color palette got right before and after the All For One ghosts showed up. Super cool.

    Preview says: “Iida is going to be humiliated by a girl!” Boy, wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants, if inventor girl pulled out a win?

    1. Just sympathetic heroes, because it was obvious that Sero had zero chance to win from the start the moment Todoroki awed the entire stadium into silence with his overwhelming power. They were trying to make him feel better.

  2. Shinsou’s full name, 心操人使, is yet another pun.
    It can roughly translate to something like “Heart manipulat(ing) people-user”, a direct reference to his powers.

    1. It might have more strategic power, but I feel like it’s more vulnerable to the opponent/villain knowing how it works. Shinso could still trick them into answering though, and then it’s insta-over. Izuku’s quirk is more robust.

  3. Couldn’t have said it any better. This episode served to propel Izuku ever forward on the path he was essentially gifted. He already started on it, he would’ve surely known something like this was gonna happen sooner or later the moment Bakugo thought he deceived him about his quirk, because even though he doesn’t think he’s developing right and needs more experience, the others see him as a threat, capable of triumphing over them like wild fire as he did in the race. But really, that he couldn’t say anything about it was just hard. Even if Shinso’s quirk wouldn’t affect him the way it did, nothing Izuku would say would’ve made Shinso feel better, and he knew it. There was only gonna be forward. Everything else was only gonna feed into that. And hence, yet another burden is added on Izuku’s shoulders.

    I am quite loving the Todoroki insight. He really has the right to be pissed. His father is an apex abuser who is so far getting away with everything. I just hope when Shouto over-used his ice quirk like that that it gave his father an idea about how powerful it can be. I don’t think he’ll learn to back off just from that nor will begin to acknowledge it. No, I think it’ll make him mad and force him to take measures to ensure something happens to make Shouto use his fire quirk, since he is Endeavor’s most valuable “son”, which will be the point where he begins to become desperate, which may be the moment Shouto aims for. Unless he also happens to be that kind of incredible jerkass who is also capable of patience, then Shouto has a long way ahead of him, because I have to say, this is by far the most unconventional reason to become a hero. It’s uniquely selfish, but just as equally right on many fronts. Needless to say, I’m really rooting for Shouto. I hope he succeeds in giving his father the ultimate middle finger.

    1. Goes to show you that it doesn’t really matter why you do it, it matters what you do. Shouto’s reason for being a hero is as valid as Izuku’s, just as it is with Katsuki’s too—so long as they do the right things. The other two are just more at risk of doing the wrong things than Izuku, though mostly Katsuki. Shouto is still a good kid, though he might rip his father’s legs off and beat him to death with them.

  4. Shouto’s siblings… I kinda imagine Endeavor having a kid with tons of ladies and seeing how the resulting Quirk turned out. Shouto is just the strongest of the bunch, so Endeavor’s pinning his hopes on him to be the one to unseat All Might.

    I guess, as shitty as Endeavor is, I kinda get where he’s coming from? He’s been #2 his whole career. No matter how many good deeds he wracks up, no matter how many villains he puts away, he can’t touch All Might. And All Might makes it WORSE by trying to be NEIGHBORLY to him, which makes Endeavor feel like he’s not threatened by Endeavor’s strength at all. So he pins all his hopes on his kid being the one, to do the thing he could never do.

    Then with that in mind, just go overboard and horrible, and you have Endeavor.

  5. I still couldn’t think of anyway for Shinzo to use his quirk efficiently if he ever become a profession hero. Since in this universe heroes’ works and information (at least about their career and quirk)seem to get publicize all the time but Shinzo’s quirk is the type that the less people know about it, the more fearsome it becomes.

    Or maybe there’s also a type of heroes that keep low profile or work in secret too.
    Anyway, I’m rooting for him.

    1. In a way I see Shinso’s quirk becoming almost like All Might in how powerful a deterrent it could be once it becomes public knowledge. Every criminal would eventually be aware that a single errant response to a voice around the corner could ruin them and all their accomplices. Despite the required setup and its limitations in direct confrontations, just that possibility poses a significant danger to every villain and could even deter potential criminals from acting in the first place.

      1. That’s a good point. Though, the obvious response to that is “Kill him to stop it.” So he’d do well to get some defensive tech (plus loooots of training) to help him stay alive and on his feet. He might not be an exceptional solo hero without that, but him in a group? Once the villain is getting frustrated and worn down, and has to be constantly aware that one errant response will doom him or her?

        Yeah, that’s strong. Even if people know about him.

  6. Hate posting too fast.

    More of what I love this episode. I love how the show shows that being a hero is something you work hard and earn. But also being a hero is what you desire as well. When given a choice you pick the positive road even though the negative is so tempting.

    Also, love the show of how friends and comrades keep you going with the comments and praise for those who lost from the audience.

  7. Well now. This ep got me to cry at a character that was built up as a possible future villain! There’s nothing more cathartic than realizing your skill and talent can actually bring you fortune and thereby offer you hope for your life. 🙂

  8. Boku no Hero manages to address such themes – like the genius who seems to have it all, even though he had to work hard to surpass the odds – with the brilliance of Naruto. This is an amazing twist in the idea behind Neji vs Naruto’s fight from the Chunin exam; albeit seen from a different perspective.

    I think we may have found the next bearer of the torch, because Boku no Hero is hitting all the right marks in an innovative and fresh way while still managing to deliver a ton of feels. Top notch anime.

    1. Neji is a real asshole, though. His own pain drove him to displace that hurt onto others. It’s understandable, but not admirable.

      Shoto’s just cold and standoffish. I can root for him much more easily.

      1. I completely agree with you! Shoto’s a nicer fella all around, after all he is the underdog but more than that, he is a really good guy that despite having everyone’s suspicions in front of him, still pressed forward following his dreams of becoming a hero.

        To be honest, Shoto has the makings of an anime main character, now that I think of that. All the barriers and obstacles are there… well, maybe in the long run his quirk would fall short but still, top character.

      2. @Kiritsugu

        Izuku said the same thing, that Shouto could be the main character of a story. We’d have a much different story if he was, though.

        I think characters like Shouto come from building on characters like Neji, of knowing the tropes and saying “But I’m going to change up this, and this…” and getting a character that’s greater than the sum of his tropes. That’s why Shouto can be brooding and cold without coming off as an asshole, me thinks.

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