This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 6 Episode 16
“Just how many people are asking themselves once again what it means to be a hero?”
My Hero Academia has shown plenty of painful childhoods when it comes to both its heroes and villains alike between Tomura, Shoto, and Himiko, but “The Hellish Todoroki Family, Part 2” establishes Hawks’ equally grim origins. As the episode title indicates, so much of this installment deals with the Todorokis and the recent fallout regarding Dabi, but it also highlights how the ripples of this destructive family irrevocably transform others, like Keigo “Hawks” Takami.” It’s an emotional episode that pushes its characters to properly reckon with their pasts, who they were, and who they want to become as the Pro Hero Society undergoes a collective identity crisis.
“The Hellish Todoroki Family, Part 2” flashes back to Hawks’ youth and the first moment where he was inspired by Endeavor and started to think of himself as a hero instead of just some hurt child. Hawks and his motivations have received a lot of attention over the past few seasons, but My Hero Academia chooses this moment to inspect the character’s origins, without a filter, to communicate the growing schism that’s formed between society and its heroes. When Hawks was growing up, he put up necessary barriers between himself and heroes. They were a form of entertainment that felt like they’re from a separate reality as opposed to tangible figures who can fully co-exist with the world, let alone with those who society has overlooked, like Hawks’ family. For Keigo “Hawks” Takami, superheroes like Endeavor were a necessary form of escapism from their miserable everyday lives.
Hawks has one of the saddest backstories to come out of My Hero Academia. He’s the child of two outlaws, one of which is a petty murderer with lingering anger issues, who view Keigo as the source of their misery. Keigo’s parents have avoided a prison sentence, but they’ll never fully be “free” as long as they’re tethered to their child and responsible for his well being. It’s a pressure that brings out the worst in Keigo’s reactionary parents, but it’s a rhythm that pushes Keigo to increasingly retreat into heroic fantasies and the optimistic news reports that he sees on TV. In lieu of any actual role models in his life, Keigo sees a true source of inspiration in Endeavor and it’s enough of a shock to his system to forever change the path that he’s on in life.
It’s a powerful, cathartic moment when a young Hawks clings to an Endeavor doll as he watches his favorite hero fight crime on TV. However, this tableau becomes more heartbreaking after an adult Hawks struggles to accept Endeavor’s serious flaws. How can this be the superhero who dragged him out of an abusive life of squalor when Enji Todoroki isn’t that different from his own violent father? The most terrifying thing about all of this is that under the right circumstances, Keigo could have grown up to be Dabi instead of Hawks. An outsider may even fail to recognize the difference between these two after Hawks’ execution of Twice. After all, he’s now taken just as many lives as his abusive father. This season of My Hero Academia continues to reflect the miniscule differences that make heroes and villains.
Hawks and Best Jeanist’s assault on the Glutton God and his food-based felonies makes for a very silly second act that results in some tonal whiplash from the episode’s painful beginnings. This material isn’t unsuccessful and it’s appreciated to get a little levity in what’s otherwise quite the morose installment. It still feels like an odd inclusion that evokes a feeling of filler in what’s meant to be an image-boosting moment for society’s heroes. However, “The Hellish Todoroki Family, Part 2” quickly moves past this altercation instead of milking it into a full-on battle. It’s a visually-pleasing attack, but the most substantial takeaway from this rescue is that civilians are still nowhere near ready to put their trust back into society’s heroes. Hawks has learned this in the past, the hard way, but one destructive act can erase years of trust. Hawks himself can’t help but feel guilty for his decision to “abandon” his mom for the greater good and how a lifetime of selflessness might have actually been worse than just being there for the one person who unconditionally loved him.
The Todoroki family may be the episode’s namesake, yet it’s more in a thematic sense. Pro Heroes are retiring en masse and morale is at an all time low. Their redemption is dependent upon Endeavor finding the strength to go back in public and prove that heroes can be trusted. At this point, it’s no exaggeration to claim that the future of Pro Hero Society rests on Endeavor’s wearied shoulders. “The Hellish Todoroki Family, Part 2” implies that it will operate as a fiery sequel to a season five installment that previously started to pick at the Toya Todoroki scab. By the episode’s end, nearly the entire Todoroki family–even Rei–have joined Endeavor’s side to figure out what to do about Toya. The Todoroki family learns how to properly grieve, forgive, and move on and while this appears to mostly be a prelude to next week’s episode, it remains some of the most powerful material to ever come out of My Hero Academia.
“The Hellish Todoroki Family, Part 2” continues to effortlessly depict the heroes during unprecedented fragility and pain. It’s a jarring change of pace for a series like My Hero Academia that can typically be so cheerful and optimistic, but it’s necessary to show just how much has changed. My Hero Academia can sometimes reset after the defeat of a major villain and it’s clear that this is no longer the case. Every action has consequences. Every consequence has victims. When the dust settles, there will hopefully still be enough true heroes left to clean up the mess.