「Let You Down」

There’s no question that there’s some fatigue among the English-language fandom for Boku no Hero Academia. At least as far as discussion is concerned (though it had already slowed down around here even during Season 6, arguably the show’s best). Yet by most measures the franchise’s popularity is as strong as ever. Manga sales have actually been trending up, another movie is coming, and the Japanese fandom continues to be as quarrelsome as ever. I think it’s a series that will only be fully appreciated when it’s over – and people have a chance to miss it.

The more I see other battle (and other sub-genre) shounen kaijuu franchises, the better BnHA comes off looking. For me it’s the most intricately plotted and internally consistent battle shounen megahit since Hunter X Hunter, and the most honest with its audience. Say what you will, I find it hard to deny that the buildup to this week’s events was exquisitely executed. The way Horikoshi weaves both the quirk system as a whole and individual quirks into this scenario is almost Togashi-like, truly.

Among the villains, there’s a clear spectrum both of motivation and pure evil. Spinner is the most morally ambiguous among the remaining core, as befits the fact that it’s Stain whom he most admires. He doesn’t fit with this current bunch, and he has to work increasingly hard to keep convincing himself that he does. Dabi-Touya is about his personal vendetta, and none of the rest of this really matters to him at all. Toga is unhinged, a villain who lives on the visceral thrill of the gig and little else. And there’s probably no one who hates All For One more than Shigaraki, or that he hates more.

The good guys remain more or less in survival mode. The principal announces openly to the refugees at Yuuei that Shigaraki is going to be back in the game in four days, and effectively that they should prepare for the worst. The overworked students are shuttled off to a makeshift dorm called Troy, 30 kilometers from Yuuei. Troy was made in the mold of Heights Alliance, but it’s basically on the front lines. Deku seeks out Ochaco to thank her for speaking up on his behalf, and that meeting is a reminder that both of them are too nice and too forgiving for their own good. Peas in a pod, really.

It’s pretty rare that we see All For One get outflanked. But when we do, it’s almost invariably because of his overconfidence. Inside AFO there’s always a tug-of-war between his overarching certainty that he’s utterly supreme and his obsessive attention to detail. Because of a quirk he stole so long ago that he’s forgotten the name of the guy he stole it from (though not that he was “boring”) All For One is convinced no one can double-cross him because he can spot any ill intent or deception. But his enemies have the perfect weapon to counter that – Shinso, with his “Brainwashing”.

It’s through Brainwashing that the Aoyama parents are able to convince AFO (I could go for some 40 year-old Macallan myself) that they’re setting up Midoriya, who of course is the person of more interest to him than anyone else on either side. Izuku is the living extension of AFO’s eternal foil, the one thing that’s managed to genuinely frustrate him throughout his too-long life. Shigaraki, the League, Paranormal Liberation Front, even world domination – in the end, All For One cares less about any of it than he does about at last possessing One For All for its own sake.

Yuga doesn’t have to be brainwashed of course – he just has to act the part, and he has considerable acting experience by now. All For One, arrogant as he is and as much as he hungers for this moment, is not incautious enough to arrive unaccompanied of course. But the heroes knew that. And in the end it doesn’t matter – they need this confrontation to happen sooner rather than later if they’re to have any chance at all, so this is a tradeoff they’re more than willing to accept. And now that they have their showdown the really smart thing would be to get Deku as far away as far as possible – but somehow, you sense that things won’t end up that way…



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