「麗しきレディ・ナガン」 (Uruwashiki Redi Nagan)
“The Lovely Lady Nagant”
We’re at the point now where the question starts demanding to be asked – is this the best season of Boku no Hero Academia? That it’s even in the conversation is a huge comeback for an adaptation that reached a low ebb with Season 5. It might seem surprising but I knew it was coming of course (and warned you all ad nauseam). With Nagasaki Kenji more involved again (and stylistically it’s clear he is) and some of the best material in the manga, this renaissance was always in the cards. But still, as Jerry (via Buddy) said, it’s so nice when it happens good.
Here was an episode that had pretty much everything you look for in a HeroAca classic. A charismatic villain, a lovingly animated and choreographed fight, pathos out the ying-yang. Hell, we even got some All Might heroics – and those are basically extinct in the series mythology at this point. It was also (and this is not to be underestimated) thematically 100% aligned with what Horikoshi-sensei has been building towards. We didn’t get here by accident – we’ve been building up to it for 134 episodes.
Deku starts out by making what for almost everyone else would be a fatal mistake. It doesn’t occur to him that Lady Nagant might have multiple quirks, which renders all his calculations inaccurate. Of course she makes the same mistake, which makes you wonder just how much All For One told her. He didn’t trust her, clearly, as events later in the episode will demonstrate (he probably doesn’t trust anybody, per se). Having access to all those quirks is no panacea for Izuku. He still has to be able to use them more or less simultaneously, and he’s not trained up to do that yet.
As for Toshinori, it’s quite emotional watching him get into any sort of life and death situation. He’s so fragile, yet retains the heart of the #1 hero. He has to face down his would-be assassins here with nothing more than his strength of character. Fortunately that’s still a formidable weapon – All Might is still in there, and he still has the power to cow and intimidate petty ne’er-do-wells like this. The fact that this is all he can do for Deku know drives him relentlessly. I wouldn’t say Toshinori devalues his own life, but he considers it expendable in service to a larger purpose. Having burdened Izuku with what he has, it’s hard to argue with that line of thinking.
There are really two battles going on between Deku and Lady Nagant. Eventually each catches on that the other is packing multiple quirks and adjusts accordingly. Deku wisely narrows his focus down to a few he can more easily juggle. Sixth’s Smokescreen is essential, as is Blackwhip. But the final piece of the puzzle is “Fa Jin”, the quirk of the third One For All user. With it Deku can repeat a movement and store up it’s kinetic energy in his body, to be released in an explosive burst at a time of his choosing. This is especially well-paired with Smokescreen, because Fa Jin allows Deku to exit the smoke with a surprise up his sleeve. Well – more accurately here, his pant legs.
“Faster than a speeding bullet” indeed. Lady Nagant’s response to being outflanked is to target Chisaki. Because she was a hero, Lady Nagant knows Deku’s impulse will be to protect anyone who might be taken out on his watch. And she’s right of course – this is not something Deku can turn off like a switch. But his four quirks trump her two, and he’s able to move Chisaki to safety. He still has an important role to play, clearly – because Eri clearly does, too, and Chisaki is inexorably linked with her. But that’s for later – the focus for the moment is the hero and the ex-hero, fighting on different sides because of how they see the same truth.
Lady Nagant has a hell of a story, no doubt. Being forced to do evil things for – theoretically – the good of society broke her. Izuku has changed – he’s seen too much to perceive the world as black and white now. The difference is that he, like All Might, looked into the darkness and decided that it needed light that much more. Nagant embraced it. And this, fundamentally, is probably the greatest practical flaw in the “sham society” Lady Nagant not unfairly decries. It takes someone truly exceptional to understand how this world works and not be broken by it. And there just aren’t enough people that exceptional to make this society sustainable in the long haul.
Way back in Season 3 (which would be my other contender for the top spot – it had the best single cour of the adaptation and one of my top 5 moments in all of shounen) I talked about the “gap” Endeavor saw between himself and All Might. This is the essence of that gap, and how the likes of Hawks and Bakugo measure up to it is still to be determined. All For One, being the right bastard he is, has rigged a self-destruct into “Float” in case Lady Nagant betrayed him. And at the very least she wavered in the face of Izuku’s unvarnished devotion to the light.
It may be too late for Lady Nagant, but perhaps it’s not too late for Hawks – probably more than anyone precariously balanced on the very precipice between those two worlds. The very foundation of hero society is rooted in exceptionalism – that’s its greatest weakness. But sometimes people can prove to be truly exceptional, as Izuku and Toshinori have. The problem is whether there are enough of them strong enough to pass the test of character this grey world eventually imposes on everyone who calls themselves a hero.
I wish Nagant escape. She was just introduced and she gets blown up and sent back to prison. WTF was the point? It would have been better if she escaped and continued to serve AFO, but still have Deku’s words echoing through her mind. Having Nagant still work 4 AFO but continue to have doubts would have made her a more compelling badguy.
For me this is undoubtedly the best season yet, and this episode is one of the best in this season. Everything was excellent. I would’ve loved it if we saw a reaction from Endeavor when Chisaki says he wants to apologize to his father, such a line could easily remind him of his own father-son issues.