This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers
My Hero Academia Episode 14
“I want you to think of this sports festival as your debut! You are the flesh made symbol of peace! The next All Might!”
If you thought a campus invasion by the League of Villains was risky business, then get ready for something even more terrifying: organized sports!
The first arc of My Hero Academia’s second season is met with quite a bit of controversy. The final episodes of the show’s debut season see Izuku and company face off against pro villains for the first time and they really get to understand the life and death stakes that are involved with being a hero.
There are a lot of directions that the series can go from that point, especially when the League of Villains have quite the ax to grind against U.A. High. However, rather than send Izuku, Bakugo, and the rest of the heroes-in-training out into the fray, a sports festival becomes the next major topic of focus.
If this sports festival was just the driving engine for a few episodes at the start of this season it would be one thing, but this event takes up twelve episodes of the 25-episode season. That being said, the sports festival gets a lot more hate than it deserves and it actually finds a unique, creative way to test everyone’s strength and not diminish the stakes of the series.
The sports festival might seem a little lame in theory, but it’s really just an excuse to get all of these students in competition with each other again. Sure, it may look like everyone is caught up in races, obstacle courses, and other physical challenges, but these are absolutely quirk-filled battles that are no less dramatic than the actual fights that went on in the first season.
This construct still allows all of these characters to learn, grow stronger, and challenge each other, which is really what My Hero Academia is all about. It doesn’t matter whether the heroes demonstrate that in qualifying exams or a sports match.
This sports festival also allows the series to reignite rivalries that have long been gestating since the show’s first season. It would come as a supreme surprise if Izuku and Bakugo don’t face off against each other at some point during this festival. Furthermore, My Hero Academia can’t always trade in life and death situations; otherwise they stop having any meaning.
There still have to be high stakes battles that don’t mean annihilation upon defeat and the sports festival is a smart way to get these characters in another important showdown, but doesn’t also cheapen the dangers of the show’s universe or bring in needless casualties. News reports explain that 72 villains were arrested in the U.A. High raid from last season and something that massive can’t happen all the time on this show.
On the topic of the show’s villains, there’s a brief but fascinating scene that discusses Tomura Shigaraki and the rest of the League of Villains’ motivations. The audience is introduced to police investigator Naomasa Tsukauchi and even though the police can’t figure out who’s the true leader of the League of Villains, he’s still determined to make progress with all of this. Shigaraki becomes the focus of investigator Tsukauchi’s attention and he appears to have a respect for villainy.
Shigaraki’s been trained and modeled to fit that agenda just like the students of U.A. High are raised to value justice. It feels like this season is much more interested in exploring the parallels between the League of Villains and U.A High and what it means to be a villain, just as much as it’s interested in what it means to be a hero.
This sports festival also has some added stakes to it because it serves a purpose beyond simply determining who’s U.A. High’s best competitor. Apparently the pro heroes watch the sports festival and treat it as a recruitment tool of sorts for new sidekicks. So not only is there personal pride involved in this tournament, but those that do well could even find themselves working alongside one of the best heroes in the business. U.A. High is a fantastic hero school, but performing well at the sports festival is one way to really jumpstart an early career in the field and get a professional license.
On that note, after the events of last season’s finale, All Might takes the time to explain to Izuku that he’s now even weaker than before and that his condition isn’t showing any signs of turning around. In fact, the shape of his quirk is so dire that he can now only hold his hero form for a mere fifty minutes.
All Might’s mentorship has been invaluable to Izuku, but with this grim prognosis, All Might insists that this sports festival is the perfect opportunity for Izuku to excel so that the world will know just how powerful he is. All Might and most of the staff and students at U.A. High understand that Izuku holds great potential within, but a winning performance at this festival could allow someone else to truly put his skills to use and take him out of this small pond. In a brief tease All Might even reaches out to the hero that trained him as a possible future mentor for Midoriya.
The development of Izuku and All Might’s relationship continues to be one of the richer aspects of the series. Izuku is eager to make All Might proud and he’s genuinely glowing when he tells his mentor that he’s making progress with One For All.
At the same time Izuku’s also understandably nervous when All Might drops the news that he wants him to take on the mantel of All Might and become his successor, and to do it at the sports festival, no less. This makes for quite the monumental cliffhanger, but it might not ultimately be the best move for Izuku. It’s arguably more important for him to develop his own personality as a defender of justice than to just shamelessly slip into All Might’s shoes.
All Might explains that the public still need a symbol of justice that they can look up to, but is it only possible for Izuku to achieve that as All Might? It should be interesting to watch Izuku wrestle with this identity crisis over the course of this season and it makes for a more mature direction to his character.
“That’s the Idea, Ochaco” also adopts an interesting perspective due to how Ochaco Uraraka is almost just as much of a central figure as Izuku. Izuku is excited to make a strong impression this season, but Uraraka is the one that’s really pumped about the sports.
Uraraka explains her noble ambitions for wanting to become a hero in the first place and a little of her family’s background in the process. Uraraka actually has a practical reason for becoming a licensed hero that goes beyond that of some altruistic fighter of crime. It also helps shine a light on the fact that some heroes are more content solving smaller-scale problems and that not everyone wants to save the world.
Arguably, a practical route like the one that Uraraka considers here actually stands a chance of doing more long-term good than someone like All Might. The world isn’t always under some grand attack, but there are always going to be people that need help with construction. Whether this deeper focus on Ochaco continues into this season, if she turns into a romantic interest for Izuku, or if she unfortunately recedes into the background, she makes for a helpful counterpoint to Izuku in this premiere.
“That’s the Idea, Ochaco” is definitely a premiere that takes its time to appropriately set the table for this season and while it’s a little slower than what some people may want, it makes for a strong reintroduction to this universe and these characters.
It’s a premiere that to its credit doesn’t try to do too much and is simultaneously able to handle the fallout from last season, but also move onto new material. It wouldn’t have hurt for the episode to shoehorn in some kind of fight, just to throw a bone to the action hounds, but My Hero Academia is confident enough to know that it can rely on its characters alone rather than their ridiculous quirks. “That’s the Idea, Ochaco” is a slow start, but once the sports festival actually gets started the season will really come alive.
Now let’s just get ready for that Uraraka telekinetic construction worker spin-off series, stat!