Let the games begin!
The UA Sports Festival is finally getting started, and you know what that means! We’ll be getting tons of drama, action and character development from here on out! Hell, we’ve gotten plenty of it before the games have even begun! Mostly through three separate declarations of war.
First, we have one of my favorite characters from this arc, Shinso, who declares to Class 1-A that he’ll supplant their spots in the Hero Course and take them for himself. It’s not much, but it’s a good set up for his role in the arc. Next, we have Todoroki telling Deku that he’ll beat him. It’s a nice set up for their upcoming battle, which is one of the finest in the whole show, and it brings Todoroki to the forefront of the show for the first time. Then, as our final declaration, we have Bakugo telling the world that he’ll be number one.
Successfully pissing off everyone in the first year in the process. God I love this kid!
Aside from those, this episode has one of my favorite bits of character development for Deku. After Shinso and Bakguo have their back and forth, he realizes that everyone around him is giving it their all and decides to push beyond his anxieties and his limits and give it his all. We see plenty of this in the episode, including an absolutely gorgeous shot of Deku enveloped in green energy before the first game begins.
Speaking of animation, holy fuck is it good in this episode! Every little minute shot is already visually appealing, but then we get to the big moments of the episode. My personal favorite being the shot where Todoroki freezes the faux villains from the entrance exam. Just look at it!
This episode is stunning to look at from beginning to end. Not only does it serve as fantastic eye candy, but it communicates to the audience that this arc is going to step things up a couple notches. And by a couple, I mean it’s going to snap the fucking dial off while screaming “PLUS ULTRA!!”
The music in this episode is also a cut above the rest. Mainly because it introduces some of my favorite tracks from the series. The main stand outs being Jet Set Run, which plays over the beginning of the first game, and the Terminator-like track that plays when the robots bear down on the remaining students.
Though at this point, saying the music in this series is good is equivalent to saying that you’ll be wet after a dip in the pool.
The directing is also on point here. There are tons of little details that you may not notice if you aren’t looking close enough. For example, when the General Studies course enter the stadium, all of Shinso’s classmates are looking towards the Hero Course kids with anxious and hopeless expressions. Shinso, on the other hand, is staring directly forward, a look of cold determination in his eyes. Shinso’s figure also dominates the frame, making his classmates look small and helpless while making him look powerful. Everything in this shot wordlessly communicates to the audience one simple fact: this man is not to be trifled with, and he is a genuine contender in this competition.
Another high quality addition to this episode is the voice acting. The performances have always been excellent, but this is the arc where you can really feel that. Listening to Present Mic screaming at the audience in excitement gives the feeling that his voice actor, both in Japanese and English, was having an absolute blast in the recording booth. It’s incredibly well done.
This is one of the strongest opening episodes to an arc in any Shounen I’ve ever seen. We meet all our major players, set up the character arcs they’ll all undergo by the end, establish the rivalries that will fuel the later battles, and set the standard for the visuals as high as they can go.
Then, because it’s My Hero Academia, the animators will scream “PLUS ULTRA!!” and shatter that bar while they launch themselves into the stratosphere.