This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Episode 17
“Now you know the burden of being the best…”
So much of the beginning of My Hero Academia looks at the journey of Izuku Midoriya, an extreme underdog, as he attempts to make any headway as a superhero. Midoriya is far from a pro at this point, but he’s come a long ways from his clueless origins. In fact, the eager student has come so far that he’s currently in the top position at U.A. High’s prestigious Sports Festival. What’s fascinating here is how “Strategy, Strategy, Strategy” confidently shows that being the best can also make you a major target and cause life to be just as difficult as when you were at the bottom of the food chain.
Midoriya might technically be leading the pack right now, but if he doesn’t come up with a major battle plan soon then he’ll be eliminated before he can even make use of his first place standing. The anxiety, fear, and doubt that stems from being in this precarious position is what “Strategy, Strategy, Strategy” is all about and even though it’s not the series’ most thrilling entry, it still delivers an exciting episode that deepens these characters and the events of the Sports Festival.
Just after Midoriya ends up at the top of the rankings after the events of the obstacle course, the next stage of the Sports Festival begins and throws everyone into a competitive “cavalry battle” that turns the heat up a little. With 10 million points on Midoriya’s head, he’s now a competitor that’s impossible to ignore. All Might wanted Midoriya to make a big splash here and whether this is how Midoriya wanted to do that or not, it’s happened.
The students frantically get thrown into the cavalry battle and they’re given a mere 15 minutes to prepare for this new challenge, at that. It’s explained that individuals gain points by stealing headbands from opposing teams, that the aim is to obtain as many as possible, and that the points between team members get accumulated in the end. It’s comforting to see the series reach a point where it’s comfortable to relatively breeze past rules like this and just get to the action.
Characters talk over imperative instructions as they begin to plot out how they’re going to win here. It’s also pretty comical to see just how many lost students want to team up with Bakugo (Mineta faces the opposite problem) and he can’t even be bothered to remember any of their quirks. Curiously, even though strategy is the name of the game here, Bakugo once more chooses to not overthink this and instead coasts off of his emotions and intuition.
That being said, it’s amazing to hear characters like Mina and Tsuyu talk about strategy and the pros and cons of losing your headband early on in the free-for-all as soon as the rules are mentioned. It’s a strong representation that the 42 remaining students all realize the importance of a strong strategy, but an effective plan of attack becomes even more difficult when everyone is equally plotting like crazy to outsmart each other.
In spite of this, Midoriya still understands the unique position that he’s in and he figures that if he’s going to be a target anyway, then he might as well have a strong team that can help him take the heat as well as decimate his opponents. Midoriya wisely chooses to team up with Uraraka and Hatsume from the Support Course, both of which he has history with, but in a bit of a surprise move, Midoriya selects Tokoyami and his Dark Shadow for his final partner. This well-rounded group amounts to a strong combination to face off against the onslaught of attacks that come their way.
Speaking of strategy, in perhaps my favorite moment in the whole episode Midoriya attempts to recruit Iida as a teammate, but he swiftly refuses his friend’s offer. This decision may initially come as a shock, but it really makes perfect sense for Iida’s character. He lets it slip that he wants to be put on the same level that Midoriya views Bakugo and Todoroki at, and as much as he enjoys being Midoriya’s friend, he also wants to be taken seriously as competition. This is such a beautiful moment because Iida is totally right here. As strong as Iida is, Bakugo doesn’t view him as a significant threat and after this episode he’ll finally begin to look at him in that way. These actions and restraint on Iida’s part also show a level of maturity in him that’s perhaps not yet present in Midoriya.
Another major strength of this episode is the way in which it chooses to unfold. The installment effectively puts the audience in Midoriya’s shoes and it has everyone think about how they would handle this situation as if you were in the Sports Festival. The added time element to the episode definitely adds a sense or urgency and importance to what goes on, too. While the students assemble their teams, there’s a significant scene between some of U.A. High’s faculty where they discuss that the point of a cavalry battle goes far beyond that of simple combat. They too reinforce that strategy component of this challenge and how it tests much more than brute strength alone.
As competent as Midoriya and his teammates are it’s still telling that their winning strategy is simply to flee and run out the clock. The chase that ensues is reserved to only a few minutes at the end of the episode, but the installment makes the most of it. Even with a strong strategy in tow, the episode wisely shows a number of things go wrong with Midoriya’s plan. There are several moments of improvisation where Izuku and his team resort to drastic measures on the fly to avoid elimination and it’s frankly a lot more exciting than if everything went according to plan. This cataclysm of attacks on Midoriya’s team even culminates in a mid-air collision with Bakugo where they come out on top.
“Strategy, Strategy, Strategy” tries to juggle a lot of concepts while still moving the Sports Festival forward. It may not be the most eventful installment, but it gets inside the characters’ heads in a way that hasn’t been seen in a while. The animation is also fluid, gorgeous stuff, but this stage of the Sports Festival is just getting started. The action that happens doesn’t disappoint and the cliffhanger where the underdogs from Class 1-B swoop in to come out on top (all because they have the best strategy here, no less) makes for a strong place to start the next episode. They’re the perfect unexpected people to take advantage of this chaotic situation and stake a claim for the lead. You don’t want to get on Bakugo’s bad side and Class 1-B is about to learn that the hard way when the cavalry battle concludes.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.