What we all knew to be true was given concrete form this week. Horikoshi Kouhei announced that Boku no Hero Academia will be ending in five chapters (with the first Jump issue in August). I’ll have more to say on that subject without question, but it represents a pretty big deal in animanga. Putting HeroAca into historical context isn’t something I can do off the cuff, but I do know that it’s a personally significant series for me. From the moment I called out the brand-new manga as a future sensation through seven anime seasons that have (so far) never missed the LiA yearly top 10 list, we’ve been through a lot together.

And here we are, with the current season seeming not to be generating that much buzz in English. It’s interesting – the manga’s sales have actually been on the rise in Japan, which is almost unheard of for a series of this vintage. It sells extremely well in the U.S. as well. This is coming off arguably the anime’s best season, too, which makes it even harder to explain. I suspect that just as many people are watching, it’s just that a lot fewer are talking about it. But without access to the streaming numbers, that’s something there’s no way to know for sure.

This episode is entitled “Extras”, but it’s by no means omake-type material. Ultimately it’s Deku and Bakugo who are the leading men on the hero side and indeed, they’re not involved here (neither is Deku’s villainous foil). A lot of other 1-A students not obviously of the first tier are. But All For One is all over this episode, and while Shigaraki has his big bad elements there’s no question AFO is still the big dog. Not to mention he has the two top-ranked pro heroes opposing him.

News of Shouto’s (seeming) triumph over Dabi spreads across the various battlefields, goosing the morale of the hero side. Escapee Kuneida joins the fray against Fat Gum and co. as the Camino team puts the finishes touches on their apparent victory. But as usual, All For One is completely unruffled by all this. There’s nothing he can’t spin to his own manipulative advantage, no fertile ground in which he doesn’t feel the compulsion to sow some seeds. And there’s rarely been more fertile ground for him than Endeavor.

The overarching feeling I have with Todoroki Enji is that he’s just kind of pathetic. Essentially he’s a fraud as the #1 hero, but here’s the thing – he knows that, and that knowledge is a big part of the reason why he’s always on the edge of despair. Though he craved it enough to destroy his family to try and attain it, the #1 mantle is an incredibly ill-fitting suit of clothes on him. And All For One knows all this of course – he knows stuff a lot less obvious than that. Watching him play Endeavor like a Shigeru Kawai concert grand is more sad than anything – it’s just too easy. What a job Ohtsuka Akio is doing here – as always, in this role and in countless others.

I feel bad for Hawks having to try and keep Endeavor afloat while fighting a horrendously powerful beast like AFO at the same time, at well less than his own physical best. All For One’s ability to hone in on weaknesses is probably more powerful than any of his myriad quirks. And when Tokoyomi and Kyouka Jiro join the fray after he takes Enji down, All For One immediately zeroes in on them (especially Kyouka). He knows they’re not prepared for this sort of situation, and he knows Hawks will feel an enormous sense of responsibility to protect then. All the more so Kyouka, whose abilities he hasn’t had the chance to assess. AFO immediately goes after them, knowing Hawks will take the bait.

Tokoyomi is, for me, the sleeper of Class 1-A – a massive talent largely overlooked in favor of the big three who’s barely scratched the surface of how powerful he can be. But stepping into the ring against the self-styled demon lord, a man who can destroy others both with quirks and with words, is an awful lot to ask. He and Kyouka did save Hawks from the brunt of one of All For One’s attacks already, no question about it. But it’s fair to wonder whether their presence here will, in the end, make Hawks’ job harder rather than making it easier…



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