This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Episode 18
“You’re always trying to one up each other.”
Events inMy Hero Academia like the cavalry battle component of the Sports Festival are notable for how they throw so many different heroes together in competition. Such a tactic means that all of the various quirks of these characters are put together into a blender together, but so is all of he baggage and issues that each of these heroes-in-training carry with them. “Cavalry Battle Finale” does bring this hectic portion of the competition to a close, but it also allows many of the growing doubts and worries of these characters manifest, for both better and worse. The episode turns into quite the gauntlet, both physically and psychologically, and many of the characters from Class 1-A learn some valuable lessons here.
It’s pretty crazy that the entirety of this episode seems to take place in under six minutes, as that’s all the time that’s left in the cavalry battle portion of the Sports Festival. It’s a strong way to accentuate just how much is actually going on as these 42 students simultaneously fight for the top spot. Midoriya and company don’t just have Todoroki and Iida’s all-star team to worry about, but a dozen different groups that they have to keep track of and multi-task around. It’s not an easy feat, but “Cavalry Battle Finale” figures out how to properly represent the adrenaline and chaos associated with this free-for-all.
At this point in the series there are a lot of super strong characters at UA High, but “Cavalry Battle Finale” and the previous installment have helped bring Tokoyami and his Dark Shadow quirk into the same echelon as Midoriya, Bakugo, and Todoroki. Tokoyami’s quirk has always seemed colossally overpowered (it’s essentially a back-up fighter at your command!), so it’s satisfying to finally see it and its user get their due and really get to show off here. Tokoyami also explains the physics behind how Dark Shadow works, which perhaps isn’t necessary, but it adds a nice extra dimension of strategy to this battle. The twist at the end where it’s revealed that Dark Shadow has been retaining a secret headband is also rather brilliant and makes for a surprising finale.
Another highlight of this episode is that in spite of the strong team that Midoriya has put together, a series of setbacks and bad luck force them to improvise on the fly. In that sense this episode is actually a much better example of Midoriya’s abilities as an exceptional strategist than it is as him as a strong fighter. A lot of this episode sees Midoriya and company take a defensive approach while they assess their surroundings, yet they remain resilient around the numerous obstacles around them.
The gang avoids conflict for as long as possible, but Midoriya gets pushed to finally use his quirk again in battle. He puts his entire arm into his One For All maneuver when he comes up against Todoroki. It’s a considerable risk for Midoriya to put that much energy into what’s still an unstable technique, especially this early into the Sports Festival, but Midoriya is backed into a corner here and has to do something drastic to survive. The consequences here for Midoriya are yet to be seen, but Todoroki also impulsively uses his fire powers in a similar fashion. The mental drain seems to be the bigger problem for both of these characters.
“Cavalry Battle Finale” juggles focus on many different groups of characters, but its use of Bakugo is especially wonderful. Bakugo gets caught up in some real rage when it comes to Neito Monoma, the pretty boy from Class 1-B. Monoma successfully steals Bakugo’s headband because he’s too focused on Midoriya’s team and the aftermath is just priceless.
Monoma has a powerful quirk where he can copy the abilities of his opponents and Bakugo is quite stunned to see his own quirk used against him and then adeptly countered. He’s not just craftier than Bakugo in this case, but he actually has the advantage in battle, too. The way in which he reduces Bakugo’s notoriety to purely “that sludge monster’s victim” is also the perfect way to get under Bakugo’s skin. Bakugo isn’t likely to underestimate Monoma again, but Monoma’s also probably now on the guy’s permanent hit list.
Bakugo’s venom towards Monoma hits such heights here that it practically becomes its own sub-plot in the episode. Bakugo does finally get the chance to pull off his spiteful revenge and get the last laugh on Monoma, but this feud is far from over.
As the cavalry battle reaches its conclusion, the decision to not make Midoriya’s team come out as the winners also feels like not only a believable choice, but one that helps aid this story. There’d be considerably less tension if Midoriya continually dominated the Sports Festival. What’s so great about the outcome of the cavalry battle is that Midoriya and his competent team truly tries their best and it’s still not good enough (in their defense though, Iida’s gambit is considerably bad-ass). It’s a necessary, humbling lesson for the heroes to pick up during this tournament. Midoriya’s team may not take first place, but they still fare well enough to remain in the competition and proceed to the final round. That’s really what’s important here and the results make them hungrier moving forward.
“Cavalry Battle Finale” maintains the bombastic energy that gets established in the previous installment and even manages to turn things up a little higher as it all rushes to its conclusion. My Hero Academia are pros at slick, gorgeous fight sequences by now, but this episode works especially hard to feature the sheer amount of power that’s on the screen. The episode somehow even finds time to cater towards emotional development for characters like Bakugo and Iida, which is especially impressive in such an action-heavy entry. The Sports Festival continues to be full of surprises and “Cavalry Battle Finale” leaves the competition in an exciting place for whatever may come next.
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.