Upon reviewing the UA Sports Festival Arc, I’ve come to an important discovery. Despite being praised for being the best arc of the show by many fans, this is an incredibly underrated arc. Simply because, when people say it’s the best arc, they’ll talk about Deku VS Todoroki, or Uraraka VS Bakugo. But you know what’s a truly spectacular fight that no one talks about?
Deku VS Shinso.
Shinso is one of the most intriguing characters in all of My Hero Academia. His Quirk allows him to brainwash anyone he pleases, so long as they respond to anything he says. All his life, the people around him have told him that it would make a fine villain’s Quirk. But all Shinso has ever wanted was to be a hero and use his incredible ability to save lives. However, due to the way hero schools, especially UA, judge potential heroes with physical strength, Shinso can’t reach his goal without truly excruciating effort.
He does a lot of good things that improve the story. For one, his very existence reveals a critical issue with the way heroes are selected. Even the school and governments are obsessed with physical strength, so they ignore the Everest-high heroic potential of someone that could simply brainwash a villain and force them to surrender. In all actuality, Shinso would be a spectacular hero, capable of saving countless lives with little effort or risk to anyone involved. But because of the way the world of heroes is structured, achieving his dream is a nigh insurmountable task.
It also makes him a very sympathetic and tragic foil to Deku. During their fight, Shinso reveals his envy towards Deku and others like him for being blessed with powerful Quirks. He understands that becoming a hero is quite possibly not an attainable goal for him, but he tries his hardest anyways. He stares at the highest mountain in the world, plagued with the roughest storms, coldest snows and most deadly predators, and he has mustered the courage to brave it’s peaks without any climbing equipment.
In terms of narrative, Shinso is a distorted reflection of Deku. Had Deku not received One For All from All Might, he very well could have ended up like Shinso. He could have become someone filled with envy and longing, struggling to attain a dream that is nigh impossible. The only difference is that Shinso still has a Quirk; but based on the standards of what a hero should be, as judged by society, he may as well be Quirkless.
I absolutely fucking love Shinso as a character. He is a perfect addition that makes the world of My Hero feel much more deep and interesting than it was before. I haven’t read the manga (yet), so I’m unsure of where the story is going next. But I pray to god that, at some point in the run, Shinso can make a dramatic reappearance.
This episode also gives us a Chekhov’s Gun that is yet to fire. Just as Deku is about to step out of the ring thanks to Shinso’s mind control, he sees the shadow figures of One For All’s previous bearers, and they help him snap out of it. We learn later that All Might had seen it in his younger years as well, and it’s a sign that he’s getting a clear grasp of One For All’s power. So how is this a setup?
Simple. Thanks to this vision, Deku managed to snap out of a dangerous situation and bounce back. However, in all actuality, that situation wasn’t very dangerous at all. Sure, he would’ve lost the Sports Festival, but it’s not like his life was on the line. By using it in a non-life-or-death situation, the story can set it up for more grand high stakes moments, allowing him to bounce back against villains while his mind is fogged up for whatever reason.
Though I do think that it’s very unlikely we’ll see such a scenario. And if we do, it likely won’t be for a while longer into the series run. If this is a Chekhov’s Gun and I’m not overthinking things, then it’s a rifle that shall remain silent for a long while.
But the episode is still far from done. The remainder of the run is spent focusing on Deku’s next and most powerful opponent: Todoroki.
Up to this point, we’ve seen Todoroki’s extreme overwhelming power. But his match with Sero blows all other cases of it out of the water. In a single instant, he creates a wall of ice so incredibly massive that it towers over the entire arena and even freezes Midnight on the sidelines. Thanks to the snappy and quick cuts, you get a sense of just how fast the attack is, and the shaking of the stadium felt in Recovery Girl’s office communicates the sheer power of the blast.
Oh, and did I mention that it looks fucking gorgeous while doing all this?
Thanks to his incredibly brief battle with Sero, the stakes are all set for Todoroki’s battle with Deku. We know what both fighters are capable of, and we know that both of them are total monsters in terms of raw power. However, we also know that Deku’s powers come at a heavy cost, and we’ve only had subtle hints at Todoroki’s weaknesses. As it stands now, a victory for Deku seems completely out of reach. This small fight sets the stage for the grand climax of the arc in an ingenious way. All while accompanied by a grand, dramatic but somber and lonely piece of music.
Friendly reminder: this show’s soundtrack is amazing and I love it.
There are so many high quality episodes in this arc that aren’t talked about anymore. But, if you were to ask me, I feel this is chief among them. The world and character building, visuals, and, music all come together to create one of the strongest episodes in the whole series. It’s actually kind of exhausting how grand this episode really is when you think about it.
Luckily, we have an episode of less important but still fun battles to help us relax before the first major fight that everyone talks about: Uraraka VS Bakugo.
God, I’m so excited!