Boku no Hero Academia Season 5 – 02
Make no mistake, this was the real premiere of Season 5. You can debate whether last week’s episode served any essential purpose (I know which side I’d take), but it’s never difficult to tell which material is written by Horikoshi Kouhei and which isn’t. With no disrespect to anyone involved the extra episodes (or movies) almost always play like fanfic – fanfic of widely-varying quality to be sure, but fanfic just the same. That’s usually the case with exceptionally well-written shounen, and I would absolutely put Boku no Hero Academia in that category.
In fact I wonder if we (myself included) don’t take BnHA for granted at times. It has a few off patches here and there, and younger WSJ properties come along and hit it big as the flavor of the week. But damn, this series has been consistently good – and often great – for a very long time. Horikoshi has a great sense of scope, and his mythology is very sure-footed and consistent. The impression is that there’s always a plan, a vision, and he’s been pretty consistent about executing it. And the sort of material in this week’s episode is really Horikoshi at his best, in my view.
Hawks, that fascinating man, is definitely one of the central pillars of the post-All Might HeroAca universe. I find Hawks to be quite unlike any of the other main heroes of the series in terms of personality, and that’s before the nature of his role even became clear. I remember being quite shocked when he was revealed to be a traitor, and think thinking “You know, I can actually sort of see it.” When the truth came out I was quite relieved, because I really wanted Hawks to be someone you could admire. But he remains a man who has darkness in his soul, and that’s never too far from the surface.
It may be a different sort of darkness but Todoroki Enji is certainly consumed by his. And what’s worse, he’s consumed his family in it as well. To a certain extent you have to give the man credit, because he’s realized that he can’t fill All Might’s shoes as long as he’s wracked with self-loathing. But while I believe his desire to make amends is genuine, and certainly that Fuyumi is sincere is trying to heal her broken family, wanting it and doing it are two different things. I don’t think Natsuo is wrong by any means – after all Endeavor has done to his family (and we’ve only been teased when it comes to the oldest son Touya), he has no right to expect forgiveness. And I don’t think Enji has proved he’s willing to do the heavy lifting required to make things right (if it’s even possible).
Poor Shouto is really caught in the middle most of all. He was the one his father used both as a tool and as a weapon against the rest of his family. He’s also the baby of the family, and (I speak from experience here) feels the least emotionally empowered when the family splinters into conflict. If he can forgive, the train of thought goes, maybe Natsuo should too. But Natsuo has to first forgive himself for not being able to protect the others. And Shouto still has a ways to go in his own journey of forgiveness, that’s for sure.
Meanwhile, we have Deku and his ongoing struggles with One For All. The dreams are still coming, and it seems as if someone or something is trying to send a message to him. For the first time he sees a new face – that of the original holder of One For All (played by Hoshi Souichirou). Any time All For One is involved the narrative tension in HeroAca goes off the charts, partly because of how he’s written but also because of Ohtsuka Akio’s titanic, mesmerizing performance. This origin story is one we’ve heard second-hand, but seeing it play out more or less as it happened brings home the depth of the danger Deku has chosen to wade into.
We’re headed into the meat of the first cour next week (“Joint Training Arc”), but the seeds planted in this episode are certainly not planted by coincidence. This is how Horikoshi rolls – in a way Boku no Hero Academia runs on two narrative tracks simultaneously, the express and the long-distance trains. He’s very good at entertaining us with the former even as he adds incrementally to the latter. And one suspects that the “final arc” WSJ is currently teasing is we’re finally going to see those two tracks joined together. Here’s hoping Horikoshi-sensei can pull it off, because if he can we could be looking at one memorable whopper of an ending.
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