「飯田から緑谷へ」 (Iida kara Midoriya e)
“From Iida to Midoriya”
Much of this episode is just an extension of the second half of last episode, and thus doesn’t require further discussion. The protagonists are wrestling over the fallout of the training camp attack and the abduction of Katsuki, and their decision (to go rescue him, even if they know they shouldn’t) isn’t a surprise, because, all else equal, an action shounen manga story will always go for the option that leads to more action. That was a bit pithy—in truth, good stories always opt for conflict over not-conflict, and while Iida and Yao-momo convincing the others not to go would have been unexpected, and would have led to plenty of character conflict, the conflict would have had to be resolved for them to mutually decide not to go. That was possible, but not likely. So them going was expected, and there wasn’t enough there to this decision for execution to elevate it. It it what it is.
I do think, once we’re in the most expected timeline, that having Yao-momo and Iida demand to come along is the best possible solution. The other three going off on their own would be (1) negligent on Iida and Yao-momo’s parts, and (2) wouldn’t allow for as much potential in-group conflict as having the five of them go together. It’s a much better idea, storytelling-wise. Their plan is also all predicated on the assumption that Katsuki is in the same place as the Nomu, of which there’s no promise (and I’d be more annoyed at the spoiler preview if I hadn’t already anticipated exactly this). Which is damn good, because Uraraka is correct in saying that Katsuki would be humiliated if he was saved by everyone. They lucked out in a way by heading toward a Nomu factory instead of Katsuki’s location. That’s probably the only way they’re lucky, though. Except for all the bad luck.
I did love their stop in to the Don Quijote store for disguises, which is a discount retail chain that Japanese viewers wouldn’t have had to google to know about. I’d like to say it offset the tension, but really it enhanced it, but adding a humorous absurdity in the middle of a tense infiltration. Plus it was funny. Yao-momo so cute.
Then we have Katsuki. Katsuki remains one of the most compelling characters of Boku no Hero Academia, and the one I’m most consistently impressed by. Not by his actions, but how difficult it is to make a bully character a primary protagonist without whitewashing or excusing his worst impulses. He’s still a bully, and his relationship with Izuku in particular is toxic. He’s done a lot of damage to our lovable dweeb. But he’s iron. The idea that he would go over to the League of Villains is, to us, laughable. Not impossible in the fullness of time, but it would take a lot more than a little monologuing to to turn him. Where Izuku wants to save everyone like All Might, Katsuki wants to win every time like All Might—and the “like All Might” part is important. It’s likely that All Might saved Katsuki a long time ago, by being so damn cool at an impressionable time in Katsuki’s life. What if it had been Stain instead? And what happens to the young boy who’d very much like Katsuki now, who will see Stain or Shigaraki instead of All Might? Symbols matter. Role models matter. Katsuki had a good one, and it turned his iron will toward the light. It could have gone the other way. The world is lucky it didn’t, as are we.
I do think Shigaraki is getting pretty good at understanding and manipulating people. His media war against UA and the hero establishment is going swimmingly, and against anyone else, his decision to untie Katsuki would have been smart. He accurately guessed that Katsuki was smart enough to know the odds, and by untying him, he would in some ways make the boy complicit. What he didn’t factor in was that Katsuki does not give a fuck. He knows the odds, and he doesn’t care. What was that line? “Top heroes have stories about them from their school days. Most of their stories have one thing in common: Their bodies moved before they had a chance to think.” Katsuki ain’t any different. His drive might be to win rather than to save, but his body still moves.
One final thing. First:
Oof. I understand. I understand Izuku’s mom completely. No parent wants to see their child battered, hurt, and suffering, much less on a path that seems like they’ll die before their parents. I get that. Parents are scared for their children—but that’s not enough of a reason to stop. Parents want their children to be safe, but safe isn’t always the best path. I wish it were, but sometimes, to live the best life you can, it requires doing risky, dangerous things. And I don’t mean just the sort of shit Izuku gets into—they could be financially risky, emotionally risky, or even morally risky. There are many kinds of risk, and parents don’t like to see their children face any of them. But risk is a part of life. Izuku should go forward until (if) his path becomes untenable to him, not because of anyone else. Not even his mother. Though he should spend time with her. She’s going to be a wreck while he pursues this life, so some mother-son time is the least he can do.
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