This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 6 Episode 8
“I’ve driven off the flies.”
Early on in My Hero Academia‘s run there were endless exercises orchestrated by U.A. High that forced these prospective hero students to learn how to work together and troubleshoot through scenarios where the danger at hand requires not just a hero, but a team of heroes. At the time, these training exercises were criticized as filler–albeit entertaining filler–that allow the characters to show off their skills, but still reset the slate by the time that the credits roll. “League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” is a fascinating episode because it copies the exact formula of these group training exercises, but translates it over to a pivotal stage of the Paranormal Liberation War.
“League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” is an episode that celebrates My Hero Academia’s dozens of supporting players who have had more than 100 episodes to steadily prove their strengths as a team. This episode is the culmination of seasons’ worth of training and Momo Yaoyorozu and the rest of U.A. High’s students are only able to accomplish what they do here because of the previous hoops that the series has made them jump through. “League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” retroactively justifies all of the extended group training once the students effortlessly jump into action. It’s the perfect detour for this season before it gets back to Shigaraki and it results in the year’s most purely entertaining and inspirational installment.
One of the most challenging aspects of a season of television that’s ostensibly one huge war is finding ways to maintain momentum. Previous seasons could indulge in lighthearted standalone episodes with the show’s supporting cast, but there’d be tremendous whiplash if My Hero Academia suddenly cut away to a slice of life entry with Fuyumi and Natsuo Todoroki. “League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” is the closest thing that this season has had to “filler” as it narrows in on one specific corner of the war’s ongoing carnage. It’s exactly the right approach for this season. “League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” makes sure that its Gigantomachia assault is rewarding enough that you almost forget that there’s barely been any Shigaraki in the episode.
There’s a charming video game quest mentality to “League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” in the sense that Gignatomachia’s defeat gets distilled down to successfully getting a canister into his mouth so that he’ll fall asleep. Everyone’s diverse Quirks beautifully complement each other in a quilt of teamwork that helps them pull off this task, yet the episode never devolves into direct combat. There’s a temptation in a scenario like this to just launch endless superpowers against this lumbering behemoth. In a season that’s full of battles, this episode benefits from its more strategic approach. There are even multiple moments where this feels like an episode of Attack on Titan as this group of intrepid heroes soar through the sky and focus on a giant’s specific weak spot.
Momo Yaoyorozu is the mastermind behind this intricate assault on the villains and it’s reassuring to see how quickly she acclimates to the role of team leader. Momo and Eijiro Kirishima do a lot of the heavy lifting, but Mina Ashido also really steps up to the plate with a zest for action that hasn’t been seen for seasons. There’s a domino effect of heroism that plays out as each of these heroes step up for their peers’ shortcomings. U.A. High operates like a single organism, which is the ultimate testament of how well they’ve all gotten to know and care about each other.
Not only does everyone get to show off their Quirks, but there are some exceptional character moments that are peppered throughout this team attack, like the chaste, religious Ibara Shiozaki’s apology to Gigantomachia for outnumbering him. On top of everything else, “League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” continues this season’s streak for gorgeous animation. The blue glow from Dabi’s flames that illuminates a lengthy stretch of the installment is a hauntingly beautiful touch.
This salute to teamwork is incredibly optimistic, but “League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” concludes with an indicting takedown of heroes and their ability to bend justice and play favorites. It’s not as if Gran Torino, Endeavor, or Deku hear Shigaraki’s tirade and begin to question their values, but it’s still quite powerful for this villain to emphasize that the only reason that he rejects heroes is because society, and heroes, have rejected him. He’s the product of a Pro Hero Society just as much as Deku is.
Shigaraki’s claim that “it’s because you don’t understand that we have heroes and villains,” is actually one of the wiser distillations of My Hero Academia’s bifurcated society. It’s also a reminder that Shigaraki is quite intelligent and emotional, beyond being an ultra-strong powerhouse. This builds to a devastating final act that’s the most intense and viscerally frightening that My Hero Academia has been in seasons. Shigaraki’s immovable convictions collide with Midoriya’s growing anger and these two two polar opposites have never seemed more alike. A darkness begins to drive Deku forward and the final revelations hit with such an impact that it’s going to be torture to wait until next week’s resolution.
“League of Villains vs. U.A. Students” is a consistently suspenseful My Hero Academia that properly uses its resources to extend its story. An episode that easily could have come across as meandering and manipulative turns into a satisfying elevation of the series’ ancillary heroes and a literal trial by fire. These specific skirmishes all feed into the season’s larger thematic questions that put heroes under the microscope as a series of compromises are made in order to accomplish the impossible. My Hero Academia is the most exciting that it’s ever been and every component of its war continues to delight and pay off five seasons of hard work.