「ダビダンス」 (Dabi Dansu)
To answer an obvious question, yes, I knew – I was spoiled. But by that time I’d already pretty much guessed. I imagine a lot of people did, though on balance I think Horikoshi did a pretty good job keeping his hints subtle enough that only those really paying attention would put the pieces together. Writing about a series (and I’ve now written about this one roughly 125 times) forces you to do that, whether you like it or not. I do like it, as it happens, though there are times when I’m tired enough that I miss stuff until I go back and start deconstructing.
Horikoshi-sensei has said publicly that there are elements to HeroAca’s plot that have evolved differently than he initially imagined they might. That said though, I don’t think there’s any question that this development was one he planned from the beginning. Both Shouto and Endeavor’s entire character arcs basically build up to this revelation – Shouto’s struggles with his fiery side, Endeavor’s relentless jealousy of All Might, All Might’s final battle forcing him to the sidelines forever. This is where it was all headed, and like so much else in this arc, it fundamentally changes everything in the story.
We do get some preamble before Dabi commands the stage. Best Jeanist shows up out of nowhere, alive and appearing to be reasonably well. Toga and Ochaco continue their faceoff in a wrecked house, a tense standoff where Ochaco has to find a way to touch her enemy without her blood being drawn. That might have ended badly for Ochaco if Froppy hadn’t shown up, causing Toga to take the hint and board a passing titan. Toga rubs some fans the wrong way, but I rather like the niche she’s carved out for herself in the cast. Like most of the League, she’s complicated in a way that takes her beyond simple villainy. She’s truly unhinged and disconnected from any sense of right and wrong apart from what her fevered mind tells her.
This is all just setting the stage for Dabi, of course. Though perhaps it would be better to say Torodoki Touya, as he finally reveals (along with his true hair color) his name to be. And reveal it he does in spectacular fashion, with Skeptic broadcasting a message he’s recorded across Japan via hacked satellite and internet communications. This is not merely about settling personal scores with Endeavor for Dabi – he wants to destroy his reputation, too. For him, this is justice as we see it. And it’s not so easy to call him wrong.
It’s important to remember that Touya is quite an ideologue, with an awareness of popular opinion and hero culture. He’s an avowed admirer of Stain, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that even as he apparently intends to immolate himself and take his father with him, he wants to destroy public faith in the hero cult (as he sees it). What better proof that heroes are morally bankrupt than what Touya’s father did to him? He also goes out of his way to incriminate Hawks for what he did to Twice, which confirms what Dabi’s overarching goal is here. Otherwise, why bother doing that?
We’d only gotten the Touya backstory in bits and pices (that short and excellent “Endeavor Agency” arc is way more important than it gets credit for) until now. It’s clear that Endeavor clearly believed his son had died in that fire, but does that excuse what he did? Or what he would do later, to his father and youngest son? Shouto has managed to reach a certain acceptance if not forgiveness of his father, but there are clearly things he didn’t know – and whatever Endeavor did to him (while bad enough) obviously pales in comparison to what happened to Dabi.
Without question, Touya’s exhibition will have done immeasurable damage to Endeavor and to an extent hero culture itself. However, the arrival of Best Jeanist is important above and beyond his stopping Touya from carrying out the final stage of his plan. His presence specifically puts the lie to part of Dabi’s broadcast, which could to an extent call the veracity of the whole thing into question. And oh, by the way there is the matter of the battle itself. Gigantomacchia arrives on the scene and finds All For One clearly running the show, much to Shigaraki’s dismay. Shigaraki is in bad shape by this point, at his limit – and All For One’s imperative with Macchia’s arrival is retreat. But Dabi stole the show in every sense of the word, and everyone else’s plans are in turmoil because of him.