Now that we’re finally getting into the finale of the first season, we can start to discuss some aspects of the show that we couldn’t touch on before. The USJ Arc is filled to the brim with character defining moments, though not all of them really stick around very long. Case in point, Todoroki’s ruthlessness.
After a minute-and-a-half long recap and a brief scene with Deku’s team, we get a scene of Todoroki freezing all the villains in his way with ease and threatening them with cellular death in order to get information. This could have been a great scene to show that Todoroki, due to his troubled past which season two will get into, has a sort of twisted view on what a hero is. Thanks to Endeavor, he thinks a hero to be a ruthless man who will do whatever it takes to win the day, but at the same time he definitely has a few teachings from All Might ingrained in his head that make him more merciful. This could’ve been a very interesting addition to his character, but we never get a scene like this again. The closest we get is in season two when he instantly freezes Sero in their fight, but he seems more somber than cruel in that scene. Looking back on this scene with the current context, it does seem sort of out of Todoroki’s character, at least in terms of how cruel he is towards the villains.
The next scene, however, feels very in line with these characters. We see Kaminari’s straight forward, blunt and stupid approach to things (though he’s not so dumb as to put his classmates in danger), Yaorozu’s intellect and confidence (as well her trust in her classmates, as she is completely un-phased by frying her own clothes around them) and Jiro’s blunt, harsh and get-it-done attitude. On top of that, we get a much stronger understanding for how their Quirks work.
This is the episode where the ensemble cast truly shines and I fucking love it!
Then we get the first real scene of development with Shigurake Tomura, our main villain for the series. We see for the first time his creepy attitude, high intellect and child-like outlook on things, comparing Eraser Head’s abilities to an Action in a video game. We also see his Quirk for the first time as he begins to rot away at Aizawa’s elbow. In terms of establishing his character, this scene does a great job at laying the foundation, and the rest of this arc will only build on it further.
This is also the episode where we get my favorite part of any story: the low point. Midway through this episode, the characters hit rock bottom. Eraser Head is getting beaten to death by the Nomu, 13’s power was turned against them, Iida is enshrouded by Kurogiri, and Yaorozu’s group are taken by surprise by yet another villain. This is the peak of the drama in the episode, and it comes across wonderfully. The whole season has built up most of these characters very well, so seeing them get pushed to their absolute limits is nail biting and engaging.
It’s just a shame that it doesn’t really last longer than the one scene. After that, we get Bakugo and Kirishima kicking ass (which serves as a nice bit of development for Bakugo, as we see his calm and logical side as well as his understanding of how strong his classmates are), followed by Ojiro, Tokoyami and Animal-Boy (whose name is still one of the only characters I haven’t gotten down yet) doing the same. Then, in a pretty badass team up featuring Shoji, Uraraka and Sero, Iida’s team bounces back and buys Iida the time to escape.
So, while the low point was extremely momentary, it did still do a good job of making the following scene, the turn-around in favor of the heroes, all the more satisfying.
And then Nomu breaks Eraser Head’s arm like a twig, and we’re right back to the low! And it’s even more grim than the earlier case! Eraser Head is officially out of action, Shigurake and the Nomu are facing down Deku, Tsu and Mineta, and both are going for the kill. Just like the previous case, however, it only lasts for about a minute before the tide turns once again.
All Might arrives. And for the first time, he is well and truly pissed off.
This episode is a god damn rollercoaster. One minute is a triumphant moment, the next is a crushing defeat, and then we go right back to the beginning of the cycle. This constant ebb and flow of events makes the episode super engaging to watch, as you know each victory is short lived and each defeat could be bounced back from. It’s the kind of episode that’s hard to tear your eyes off of.
This is also the episode that showed us just how grim My Hero Academia could get. Aizawa and 13 get their asses handed to them in the most gruesome way possible, leaving these pros in complete bloodied wreck. This does two things: one, it makes the Villains feel genuinely threatening, and two, it tells the audience not to get comfortable, as some grim shit is likely coming in the future.
Which is why I love Stain so much. But we’ll get to him another day.
In terms of production values, this episode meets the standard perfectly. The animation is solid, the thugs are all extremely varied and make the world feel varied, and the facial expression is as spectacular as always. And do I even need to mention the music at this point? We all know how incredible that is.
All in all, this is one of the best episodes of season one. It’s certainly worth revisiting with the current context of the story, and it still holds up in the visual department. It’s a personal favorite, and it will be for a very long time.