The battle for society’s soul enters the next stage.
This episode masterfully combined light scenes of everyday life with tension that damn near squeezes the heart. A commenter mentioned last episode that spoiling the Izuku/Shigaraki meeting in the preview was a mistake, and I agree. But while that dulled the initial shock, it didn’t destroy the scene by any means. The tension was so palpable that I couldn’t properly enjoy Uraraka worrying about whether she likes Izuku when I was so focused on just wanting her to go back and save his life. Even if we all knew that Izuku wasn’t going to die there, it doesn’t mean he couldn’t get hurt, nor that bystanders couldn’t end up dead, and the primal fear of having a predator with his hand around your throat is enough to short circuit the logical mind and just make me afraid. It was a damn good scene, even with the spoiler.
The words that were exchanged is where the real meat was, though, for it exposed in clear terms what this story is really about. It isn’t a story of heroes vs villains, nor is it a story about Izuku becoming the next Symbol of Peace, at least not fully. At its root, it’s a battle between two groups with opposing visions for society. The heroes and villains both want the same thing: to dictate the future of society along the lines which they feel is best. For the heroes, typified by All Might and Izuku, this is a society of justice and peace, where heroes stand between criminals and the public at large. (The importance of heroes to their view of the future is important, because while some would probably take a hero-less world, they all believe that heroes are important.) For the villains, typified by Shigaraki, it’s to expose the hypocritical lie that is society, and prove how fragile the rules, laws, and mores of modernity really are. (Stain was another axis, but his ideals and convictions will be subsumed and defiled by Shigaraki’s—the Hero Killer should have killed him when he had the chance.) They both want the same thing, which pulls them into conflict, because only one (at max) can have their way.
That’s a beautiful addition to this series past the coming-of-age hero story it was originally billed as, because it adds another layer to the narrative, deepening it beyond the bildungsroman foundation. Then scenes like Izuku bravely enduring Shigaraki’s threat—which are impressive enough as is—take on a new dimension, for it’s not only about him saving lives. Their talk will have ramifications far beyond the 20-30 people Izuku saved, because though he did the right thing, he was forced to give Shigaraki something valuable: conviction. In making it clear why people were talking about Stain and ignoring Shigaraki—isn’t it just like a villain to hate people while wanting them to pay attention to him?—he made Shigaraki more dangerous. Humans abhor chaos, and they don’t understand the unfettered id, while strong will and conviction, even if twisted toward darkness, is perversely attractive. In opening the gate for Shigaraki’s conviction to blossom, the battle is on in earnest. Before he was dangerous, but he was naught more than a volitale thug. Now he’s a true villain.
My favorite characters of the episode are probably the women in Izuku’s life—Uraraka, for being epic-level adorable and for saving him in the end, and his mother for being such a mom. She might be the most “mom” mom in anime. I love it. She really makes clear that heroes like Izuku don’t come from nowhere, and it’s the environment in which they were raised that creates them. (As does Uraraka’s parents, as does Katsuki in the negative, as does Shouto despite his environment, etc.)
More thoughts in the final impressions below.
- You don’t often hear these two seiyuu playing psychos, but I think Toga Himiko (Fukuen Misato) and Dabi (Shimono Hiro) are going to be excellent additions to the cast.
- At least now Izuku knows how Shigaraki’s Decay works. Once all five fingers touch, it kicks in. That means he knows how to stop him: break, or tear off, his fingers.
Boku no Hero Academia is a series I didn’t expect to like as much as I did when the first season aired, which led to NO END TO THE HYPE when the second season aired. So, rather than relitigating why the series as a whole is good, let’s explore another question: How does the second season compare?
Quite well. I enjoyed the first season more, but much of that has to do with expectations, and the USJ attack was just phenomonal, plainly put. Keeping it up at that level would have been impossible, not the least because valleys are needed for the peaks to have impact (otherwise we would become numb to the tension if it was always life-or-death battles). What the second season did, though, is enrich and deepen the world in which Boku no Hero Academia takes place, and that’s necessary work to make the third season (and beyond!) even better than the first. And it was entertaining watching to boot.
I’m a big fan of tournament arcs, so it’s no surprise I enjoyed the Sports Festival. It definitely peaked at Izuku vs Shouto, but Katsuki vs Uraraka was great too, as were many of the ones before that (I loved the obstacle course). The Hero Killer arc wasn’t quite as white-knuckled as the USJ arc, but it had something that USJ only hinted at: theme. It’s at that point that the series really got to layering meaning into the heroes vs villains conflict, and though the practical exams arc doesn’t punch with the best, it continued that tradition.
I’m forced to conclude that everything that was done well in the first season was still done well, and they even added in some adroitly crafted anime original content that either added to the baseline story, or added a fun side story without feeling pointless. I enjoyed the crap out of this season, and I’m glad that Boku no Hero Academia has already been greenlit for a third season. Not that I had any doubt, but of all the series I’ve blogged, this is certainly one of the ones which I can wholeheartedly say this:
I could keep doing this forever. Plus Ultra!
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 updates. At stephenwgee.com, I’ve begun blogging again! The latest post: Help Houston.