My Review Academia S4 E23: A Child’s Smile

Quick little thing before we start.
I criticized the last episode over Deku’s final exchange with Gentle in their fight. I complained that Deku told him he’d fought stronger, then immediately went back and told him that he was the toughest opponent he’d ever faced. Looking back, I realize that it isn’t a question of raw power. Rather, it’s one of moral standing.
Gentle is the first antagonist in the series who’s actions aren’t completely villainous. He isn’t a bad guy, which is why Deku had such a hard time. He’s used to fighting people without any of his own feelings holding him back. Facing off against someone who isn’t pure evil is the greatest emotional challenge he’s faced so far.
I mention this because this conflict will be further explored in this episode. Now, with that preamble done, let’s get into the actual episode.

God damn, this episode put the biggest, dumbest smile on my face! It’s not amazing, but it still concluded the arc fairly well. Although I still think that the arc itself isn’t all that phenomenal.

This episode picks up right where the last one left off: with Gentle turning himself in. He tries to protect La Brava, undermining her role in his crimes while doing all he can to bolster her innocence. Understanding his aim, Deku joins in, bluffing about the severity of the situation. With Gentle arrested and the situation disarmed, Deku rushes back for Class 1-A’s performance. From there, the rest of the episode is spent on the festival itself.

Right off the bat, I love Gentle’s final moments in this episode. His trying desperately to save La Brava by taking the punishment himself perfectly encapsulates everything I love about this character; even if he’s taken to villainous acts, he’s still trying desperately to be a hero. Even if that means throwing himself away to protect the only person left who loves him.

Better yet, we get a hint at where he’s going next in the post-credits scene! We see that Gentle, for all his faults, is still a good person. One that very well can be redeemed. It’s a super sweet scene, one that gives me hope for Gentle’s eventual return.

Which I want more than anything. Seriously, this guy is my new favorite character!

However, I’m not fond of how things left off between Gentle and Deku. Once Gentle’s gone, Deku goes into a silent monologue about how he saw himself in Gentle. Having that connection between them isn’t bad; in fact, it’s fantastic! My problem is that having Deku monologue about it completely destroys all the subtlety their relationship could have had! The show may as well have written down the parallels between these characters on a fucking chalkboard! Come on, you guys can afford to be a little subtle!

The other major draw of this episode is the music performance. I’ll admit: this scene put a big dumb smile on my face! The dance choreography is delightful, the creative use of certain characters powers is a nice touch, the animation is stellar, and the song itself is pretty great! Plus, we get an extra little hint at Jiro’s backstory, which is always nice.

*Side note: I love the little detail of everyone cheering Yaoyorozu rather than the class itself. It’s nice that they remember that these kids are all in high school. It brought me back to my high school days, where every assembly helmed by the student council would have those idiots at the front row cheering for the school idols. Unlike those events, however, this little touch was actually funny.*

But none of that matters because Eri fucking smiled and it’s the cutest god damn thing and it actually made me go “Daw!” like a fucking middle-school girl!

The rest of the festival was just okay. Class 1-B’s stage performance, a combination of Romeo and Juliet, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings, was hilarious and the beauty pageant was certainly… a thing that happened (it wasn’t bad, but who the fuck cares?). The rest of the festival is reserved entirely to a montage, which I honestly think should have been the case for the entire thing. These scenes are fun, but they aren’t all that memorable or interesting. It’s just something for the side characters to do that also happens to pad out the run time.

All in all, this was an okay episode. It definitely had some highlights that made it worth watching. But that only takes up about half of the episode! The other half may as well been a montage! It was a fun conclusion to a half-decent arc. But just like the arc itself, it was only half-decent.

Except for Eri smiling. That’s the best thing that happened in the entire show.

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