It’s time for the big one. The grand climax of the UA Sports Festival Arc. The fight that most fans consider the best of season two, as well as one of the best in the entire series. We’ve finally arrived at Deku VS Todoroki.
Now, in terms of actual choreography, this is far from the most interesting fight in the series. In fact, it’s about as simple and straight-forward as fights can get. Todoroki blasts Deku with his powers, Deku blasts him right back, and they repeat until they hit each other full force and the fight is over. On paper, that alone sounds pretty boring, right? Well, no. Because the driving force that makes this fight so interesting isn’t the fight itself. Rather, it’s the emotional conflict of the characters within it.
In terms of origin, Deku and Todoroki are about as different as they come. Whereas Deku has never had any expectations placed upon him until recently, Todoroki has been crushed by the high expectations set upon him by his father. Midoriya has the love and support of his family, friends and mentor behind him, and Todoroki has… well, no one, really. Deku has a massive well of power that he physically isn’t capable of using, and Shoto handicaps himself out of a spiteful principle.
At first glance, the conflict here seems very one-sided. Deku, up to this point, has had no qualms with Todorki, whereas not-Zuko has forged a rivalry with Deku simply because he and All Might are similar. However, Deku does actually have a fair amount to get angry at Shoto for during this match. Not very far into the fight, Deku figures out the weakness of Todoroki’s powers: his body can only handle so much cold. He also realizes that this is a weakness that could be completely negated by using his other Quirk.
Now, place yourselves in Deku’s shoes for a moment. Through the whole tournament, he’s seen everyone around him give it their all to make it to the top. Some have succeeded, and others, like poor Uraraka, have suffered from heart breaking defeats. On top of that, Deku himself can’t use his full power without hurting himself.
Wouldn’t you be insulted if someone was only giving a half-effort when facing you? Wouldn’t you see that as disrespectful towards those who are giving it all they have? You’d be pissed off, right?
Well, Deku sure is. In fact, this is the very first time we see our hero well and truly furious.
Deku’s goal in this fight isn’t to defeat Todoroki. It’s to push him, force him to give it his all. By doing so, he not only gains a moral victory. He saves Todoroki from himself, helping propel him onto the path of becoming a true hero. And watching their back-and-forth is incredibly compelling, making this one of the most emotionally powerful battles in the whole series.
Still, that alone wouldn’t make this fight so damn popular. Luckily, the visuals here are some of the strongest in the whole series. In terms of animation, this is easily the peak of season two. Each shot, from the smallest blasts to the grand finale, are all lovingly animated and beautiful to witness.
The direction in this episode is also some of the best I’ve ever seen. The fight uses brief cutaways to the different audience members giving color commentary in order to create a slower pacing to the fight. Thanks to these, the battle doesn’t feel over quickly or lame.
The shot composition also adds an extra layer of intensity to the battle. The extreme close-ups give us a perfect glance into the characters heads (thanks in major part to the fantastic facial drawings). On the other hand, the extreme wide-shots give us a taste of just how truly massive and insane the power being hurled by these teenagers truly is. They make the fight feel grand, transforming an emotional evolution between two characters into a spectacle for the whole world to see. One which won’t soon be forgotten by anyone who sees it.
Also sprinkled throughout this battle are a few flashback sequences. In these, we get to see Todoroki’s past, from his daily beatings- I mean ‘training sessions’ with his father to his mother’s breakdown. It’s a heartbreaking sequence to watch, and it adds a lot of extra depth to this character. Within this one episode, Todoroki transformed from an extra rival to our hero into one of the most interesting characters in the whole show.
This is easily one of the best episodes of the entire series. From it’s character building to it’s visuals, the whole ride is engaging from beginning to end. When people ask me if they should be interested in My Hero Academia, I point them towards this fight. It’s one of the strongest battles in all of anime, and it’s well worth re-watching again and again.