「ワン・フォー・オール」 (Wan Fou Ouru)
“One For All”
True heroes don’t just save lives. They save hearts, too.
Shimura Nana is the most fleshed out character we’ve never met. We don’t know everything about her, not by a long shot. But in short moments, in lines and lessons passed down to the ones who came after and traveled along with her, we know who she is. It’s incredibly economy of storytelling, to be able to convey a character in so comparitvely few words, but it was done wonderfully. If we got a Shimura Nana prequel manga about her versus a Shimura Nana imposter, I feel like I would be able to pick out which one is the real deal. We’ve gotten the essence of a great character, and I’m sad that she’s passed. She would have been fun to travel with as well.
There is so much to unpack in this episode, I know I won’t do it justice. There are issues of the wisdom of All Might’s original goal, to become a pillar upon which everyone’s hopes could rest. What happens when the man behind the symbol falters? That’s what All For One tried to test, but All Might had one better on him, because he knows the hero isn’t in the quirk. It’s Best Jeanist or Tusyu-chan all over again. It’s the person behind the mask that matters.
It remains, though, that without the power to halt this villain, all the grand ideals would have meant nothing; the rubber must meet the road at some point. And All Might had him there too, by drawing on the most poetic of sources. Who’s to say the old dog can’t learn new tricks, and the teacher can’t learn from the student? All Might certainly learned from Izuku, borrowing his unsightly tactics to hit All For One where he least expected it. As a symbolic end of an era, it doesn’t get much better than that.
The entire battle was so full of tension, in which it seemed like All Might would win. Certainly, right? But maybe not. Thematically it makes the most sense that he would; All For One was All Might’s villain, while Shigaraki is Izuku’s. The torch needs to be passed on both sides for Izuku’s story to truly take over. But it kept moving too quickly, and too many things were happening, for it to feel like a sure thing. It was wonderful.
I’m also so heartened by the reaction of the crowds. It reminds me of The Dark Knight, where we’re led to think that the crowds will eat each other, and they do not. Here, would despair set in? Would the people abandon All Might and lose faith in heroes when his frailty is revealed, his defeat televised? They did not. All Might’s Symbol of Peace plan may have been unwise, for it builds peace upon the back of one man, and all men falter eventually. But his work went deep. He told a story people wanted to believe, and he’s held up his end of the bargain. They did as well. When the going got tough, the people still believed in All Might, they didn’t despair, no matter how weak he looked. They still believed. I think the public at large should have taken All Might’s final line to mean them, that All Might is passing the torch on to everybody this time, and it’s their turn to build the better society with what he’s left them. (Maybe it’s good to see your heroes falter sometimes…) But at least they proved they’re better than All For One thought they were. People are generally decent when it comes down to it.
“Next, it’s your turn.”
Finally, there is that final line. I’ve already said how I thought the public at large should have taken from it. For Izuku, though, it’s full of almost menace. His hero and teacher is quirkless again, and One For All rests entirely within him. He must be the hero now, because All Might will not be there to save him. It’s no surprise that he cried—and Katsuki is looking on. Katsuki is not a dumb boy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he figured something out.
I could go on, and quote half of this episode to show how much I love this show. I’ll end on just one thought, though: All Might’s United States of Smash. How cool is it that one of the most American heroes ever created is from Japan? It’s perhaps Boku no Hero Academia’s most potent love letter to American comics. It’s totally awesome.
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, the latest post: Risk Tolerance in the Creative Life.