This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers
My Hero Academia Episode 19
“The life he leads is so different than mine…”
My Hero Academia has recently made strides for its ultra-competitive Sports Festival as the previous installment narrowed the tournament down to its sixteen finalists. In spite of how these results primed this next episode to launch into quirk-filled fury, the action this week instead takes a backseat to character development and crippling daddy issues as My Hero Academia digs into Shoto Todoroki’s past.
The Todoroki-centric “The Boy Born with Everything” is the necessary calm before the Sports Festival’s final act. Some viewers may already be prepared for chaos, but this methodical interruption in battle makes Midoriya’s inevitable showdown with Todoroki carry much higher stakes and emotion as a result. Fights are about a whole lot more than merely looking cool and “The Boy Born with Everything” understands the complex nature of why some people put themselves in battle.
The episode’s title may imply that Todoroki had quite the privileged childhood, but it should be clear from the jump that there’s also a degree of bitterness in the title of the episode. Todoroki may have technically grown up with plenty of advantages, but much like Iida he’s also been subject to generations’ worth of expectations and responsibility. The “everything” that Todoroki’s been born with also includes a good deal of stress and fear in addition to the perks.
There have been many times where Midoriya wished that his parents were famous superheroes, but Todoroki quickly highlights that such a life is rather stressful. Todoroki has turned into a formidable fighter in the process, but he surely would have been even happier with a “normal” life where his quirk wasn’t made his priority. Todoroki has lived a life of isolation whereas Midoriya’s life has been full of support.
Todoroki’s father, Endeavor, may now be the number-two ranked hero in the business, but he constantly treats Todoroki like a weapon rather than his child. Endeavor basically wants to use his son to get the ultimate revenge on his old rival. He views Todoroki as an extension of his own history with All-Might rather than an actual individual. It’s devastating and helps accentuate just how colossal the falling out between Endeavor and All-Might was ten years ago.
As Todoroki expands on his messy childhood, Midoriya can’t help but reflect on his own youth and his selfless mother that only wanted what was best for him. Midoriya’s mother is his biggest fangirl and she made the world of superheroes full of life and excitement for her creative boy. She turned it into something he could reach for, even without a quirk, whereas Todoroki’s mother was rendered passive and weak due to his father’s commandeering nature.
Endeavor treated her like some ingredient in a recipe and only cared about passing her powerful quirk onto their child so it could better destroy All Might. She grew to hate Endeavor so much that she’s responsible for the ghastly burn on Todoroki’s face because his left side reminded her too much of her husband.
“The Boy Born with Everything” highlights how different the childhoods of Todoroki and Midoriya were, but it doesn’t necessarily try to pit them against each other, even if that’s what Endeavor wants. This episode isn’t interested in saying that Todoroki or Midoriya is more entitled to success than the other, but rather that people can turn anything into helpful experience. Everybody has different motivators, as tragic as they may be. Midoriya does admit that Todoroki has the more conventional “tragic superhero backstory” though.
Furthermore, it’s ratherpoignant that the episode begins with Midoriya and Todoroki meeting for a conversation just as All Might and Endeavor do the same thing. These two generations of heroes discuss the future and echo each other in subtle ways. It’s fascinating to see how Todoroki’s story is juxtaposed against what Endeavor’s bad blood with All Might.
While the content of Todoroki’s past is important, it’s also crucial that he chooses Izuku as the one to share all of this with. Todoroki puts everything on the table and it’s a level of transparency and honesty that many of these characters don’t open themselves up to, especially with someone that could potentially be their greatest competition. If anything, it’s almost the ultimate act of defiance to his father.
The end of the previous episode also hinted at Todoroki’s larger fears about the dangerous duality of his quirk. That trepidation only intensifies this week as Todoroki worries that he may take after his father and give into his more evil impulses, which he desperately wants to avoid. Todoroki has made a pact with himself to not abuse his fire powers, even if they would assure a victory in battle, because they come from his father’s side. However, the reality that Todoroki has had to slowly turn to them when he gets trapped in a corner speaks to his larger struggles with who he is and who he wants to avoid becoming.
“The Boy Born with Everything” features some heavy material, but it’s not devoid of humor (Todoroki’s prediction that Midoriya is All-Might’s love child is a particular highlight). There’s a small stretch within the middle of the episode that lets the majority of U.A. High’s students run amok before the next challenge begins. Many students are too busy sizing up their opponents to think about anything else, but leave it to Mineta to temporarily turn My Hero Academia into an episode of Ping Pong Club and attempt to cram a boiled down sex scheme into the middle of the installment. By now most of U.A. High should be well aware that it’s not safe to leave Mineta anywhere near cheerleaders. As misguided as Mineta’s sex antics are, they do help break the episode up a little and inject some levity into the story, too.
Curiously, the first half of the episode focuses on Todoroki’s heart-to-heart with Midoriya, but the rest of the entry figures out the brackets and pairings for the finalists. Admittedly, the episode’s second half doesn’t have as much impact as it’s beginning. It’s exciting to see who everyone is set to fight against first (Midoriya’s first match is with Hitoshi Shinso and his brainwashing quirk), but it’s also information that could have been breezed past in a matter of seconds as the show jumps right into the elimination battles.
“The Boy Born with Everything” is definitely a little short in material and so while this display stretches what’s an already thin episode, it does still manage to create suspense out of this. Midoriya seems genuinely uneasy about his upcoming battle and an episode that’s more crowded might not have had time for this moment of reflection. All Might even fits in one more pep talk with Midoriya before his battle to make sure the kid’s head is on straight. None of these story beats are necessary, but they’re still pleasant to take in.
“The Boy Born with Everything” definitely pumps the breaks after the roller coaster that was the previous episode, but Todoroki’s history is entertaining and layered in the best way possible. Todoroki was already a character that was fascinating due to his acumen in the field, but fleshing him into more of an actual human makes his strengths increasinglyinteresting.
Next week promises to return to suspenseful battles as the Sports Festival progresses into its final round of one-on-one fights. Clearly the show doesn’t have the time to give every finalist the same level of attention that Todoroki gets here, but hopefully more strangers will become fully realized along the way. My Hero Academia has gotten as proficient at their emotional stories as they have with their action scenes that they’re now something to look forward to and get excited over.
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.