This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 6 Episode 14
“Atone for your crimes and start over…”
My Hero Academia season 6 has been full of conflict as the heroes and villains engage in a literal war. This has also been a season that’s been just as philosophically enriching as big questions hang over the heads of heroes, villains, and society in general. The above quote about atoning for one’s crimes and beginning anew is said by Hawks to Twice in a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate this villain. However, it’s a statement that’s applicable to everyone, heroes included.
The second-half of season six seems like it’s obsessed with this mantra and if it’s something that’s actually possible for some of these heroes and villains or if they’ll falter through their inability to move on from the past. It’s a fascinating question for My Hero Academia to examine after such intense carnage, but “Hellish Hell” is a laborious start with a title that feels more in response to the episode’s plodding pace than the mental state of hero society.
Most seasons of My Hero Academia have been divided into two major story arcs and the transition episodes always have to do a lot of heavy lifting. This season benefits from how these new events are the direct result of the Paranormal Liberation War, but this only makes the clunky nature of “Hellish Hell” more of a disappointment. In the grander scheme of things, this is definitely an episode that will get skipped over on rewatches and it covers very little new ground. The first-half of “Hellish Hell” functions as a sizzle reel for the season six’s first arc. It’s succinct and looks gorgeous, but it’s still not exactly the most exciting way to kick off these new episodes. It also feels like all of this could have been accomplished in half the time so that there’s actually more substance to the events of “Hellish Hell.”
It’s natural to have a cooldown period after the heights of “Final Performance,” but this episode flows with such a distant voiceover that feels detached from the busy footage that it accompanies. An episode that’s better balanced and a little busier wouldn’t have been out of My Hero Academia’s reach. “Hellish Hell” could have still taken the same recap approach, albeit in a more active way where Midoriya is trying to make sense of the events with Bakugo, Todoroki, and Endeavor. Even just a Pro Heroes Association meeting where the injured pros like Mt. Lady and Kamui Woods detail their accounts would be more interesting and give My Hero Academia the opportunity to show just how many casualties the heroes faced by the end of this war.
What does work in “Hellish Hell” is how it retroactively emphasizes the level of ignorance displayed by Midoriya and the rest of the heroes during their fights. They do plenty of good, like help with the evacuation of civilians, but even then they fail to recognize Shigaraki’s presence and that this has always been a fight against him. The rest of this chaos is all just set dressing. It’s an eerie revelation for Midoriya to reach that doesn’t change much, but it does temporarily cast him in doubt regarding whether he could have been more prepared for the stalemate they faced and if there was possibly a way to exterminate Shigaraki before he was fully awakened.
Midoriya can revisit these events all he wants, but while he focuses on the past there are very real problems present regarding the future of hero society and the irreparable damage that’s been done to their brand after Dabi’s bombshells. It’s not as if Midoriya is useless or incapable of acting in “Hellish Hell,” but it’s significant that he becomes so reflective and introspective during this time of healing. He’s left to think about strategy and the very nature of heroism as opposed to getting blindly lost in revenge.
“Hellish Hell” highlights how all of the major villains, Re-Destro included, get arrested and are presumably sent to Tartarus and other top prisons. In fact, nearly 17,000 villains are apprehended (with only a little more than 130 left and on the run), which in any other scenario would be viewed as an overwhelming success. However, it’s enlightening to see how the heroes appear to be scrambling much more than the villains in a manner that hardly qualifies their successes as a “victory.” Twice becomes a martyr of sorts after his murder video goes viral, which is not only deeply relevant and progressive material for My Hero Academia to explore, but it also gives this misunderstood “villain” validation, even if he’s not there to receive that appreciation.
Re-Destro announces that “the liberation isn’t over yet” moments before his arrest and it’s hard to argue with his optimism when My Hero Academia showcases how both media and corporations skew society and are better insulated to protect villains over heroes. “Hellish Hell” doesn’t dig too deep into this territory, but it does make clear that the Almighty Dollar is the biggest winner in the Paranormal Liberation War, all of which is provoking material for an anime that began as a kids’ show about a boy who wants superpowers. It might be a bit of a stretch, but even the season’s new opening theme song, “Bokura no” by Eve, is considerably more somber than usual. Deku and friends are lost in perpetual rain as they tirelessly fight against endless enemies. It’s hard to feel like this new opening isn’t meant to reiterate this darker tone.
This strongest material in “Hellish Hell” comes out of the new content that attempts to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of this war. It’s really a shame that there’s not more of this type of material in favor of fewer flashbacks. “Hellish Hell” would make a greater impact if the same reflective voiceover from Deku was placed over fresh footage of civilian chaos and disarray. One of the most effective scenes that My Hero Academia has produced in years is a quiet moment where an out-of-their-league hero decides that this line of work is too painful and full of losses for them to go on. Sometimes justice and bravery still aren’t enough and it’s likely that many heroes will soon go through comparable crises of faith after the villains regroup.
It’s quite touching when Uraraka, Asui, and plenty of lesser heroes who don’t receive regular celebration help rescue civilians and use whatever limited tools they have in their arsenals to bring smiles to others and do good. That is what My Hero Academia is all about at the end of the day and it’s comforting to be reminded of that in an episode where so many people feel helpless and are in need of unity.
Similarly, the one glimmer of hope that shines through all of this pain is Deku’s belief that deep down Shigaraki actually wants to be rescued. He’s a victim in all of this even if he’s too far gone to possess this clarity himself. This seems as if it will be Deku’s arc for the rest of the season as My Hero Academia explores whether Shigaraki is not only capable of being saved, but if Deku is strong enough to do so and whether One For All is truly powerful enough to usurp and correct All For One.
This all has the potential to provide closure to generations of conflict between arbitrary heroes and villains. Re-Destro, Stain, and Shigaraki preach bold ideals for how they’ll change the nature of society, but it’s Deku’s redemption of Shigaraki that truly has the potential to rewrite hero society as everyone knows it. “Hellish Hell” teases great things through that premise, but it’s an episode that doesn’t amount to much more than that–a tease.