This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Episode 22
“Even if you’ve lost, you always have to look forward to what’s next.”
A strong strategy or undying enthusiasm can be helpful in battle, but they’re not evergreen traits. They don’t guarantee success. It’s especially difficult to watch someone lose in combat when there are such high stakes riding on the fight. However, it’s sometimes these battles that bring the fighters down to their lowest common denominator that are fundamental for these heroes-in-training to learn who they really are.
Sometimes it takes utter defeat and hitting rock bottom to figure out a new outlook that will take you to the top. “Bakugo vs. Uraraka” focuses on one tense fight, but what happens afterwards and what’s learned from the battle are just as important as the fight itself.
The events of the previous episode properly established how nervous Uraraka is for her upcoming fight against loose cannon Bakugo. Bakugo is one of the most formidable students at U.A. High, which would be enough to frighten anyone, but Uraraka is slightly less anxious than normal because she and Midoriya developed a plan prior to her fight.
The two of them devise a strategy against Bakugo that will hopefully improve her odds in battle, but that hardly means that she has the advantage here against her opponent. Uraraka determines that if she is able to touch Bakugo and make contact then she should be able to reduce his gravity and get him out of bounds. This may sound simple in theory, but Bakugo doesn’t hold back and Uraraka has a hard time keeping up, even with a number of quick tricks at her disposal.
My Hero Academia pulls out some gorgeous animation during Uraraka’s showdown with Bakugo. It makes sure that every explosion counts and the low-to-the-ground attack that Uraraka brings forward is especially stunning. Bakugo confidently proceeds in their fight, but it’s an exciting twist when Uraraka reveals that she actually has a deeper plan in play and that Bakugo has fallen right into it.
Uraraka’s strategy is rather brilliant. As the ring has gotten steadily blown up through battle, Uraraka has been suspending all of the debris in the air. She eventually launches all of it, like a veritable meteor shower, and then takes advantage of the distracted Bakugo. It’s another showcase of slick, fluid animation, but as smart a plan as this is, it doesn’t faze Bakugo in the least. He destroys Uraraka’s debris with minimal effort then quickly turns things around on her and makes this an easy defeat on his part.
On some level it’s comforting that “Bakugo vs. Uraraka” doesn’t go the typical underdog route. Realistically, Bakugo would win this fight and the episode doesn’t weasel out of that outcome, even if Uraraka as victor makes for the happier ending. It’s touching to see Midoriya make sure that Uraraka gets the credit that she deserves for her plan. It’s especially emotional when she touches base with her father and her parents’ reaction to her defeat is so impossibly sweet. They’re hopelessly proud of her, even if she didn’t win, yet this forces Uraraka to just be harder on herself.
Uraraka eventually gets out of her funk, but the episode gets heavy for a minute as she shares this honest moment with her father. Uraraka is crushed to break the bad news to her family, whereas I sincerely doubt Bakugo is calling up his parents after his wins and sharing his good news with them. He doesn’t care about such things, but on the other hand we explicitly know that Uraraka is really only pursuing a career as a hero to help out her family. That’s where her pressure comes from.
Uraraka’s crushing defeat is also perhaps a hint at the tone of the series as it moves forward into its next arc. My Hero Academia wants to make it clear that no one gets an easy out here, even the most fragile of characters. Everyone needs to be at their best, otherwise they’re not going to make it. The previous episode eliminated a lot of characters with such precision that their consequences barely got a chance to sink in, but “Bakugo vs. Uraraka” allows Uraraka to wallow in her defeat.
“Uraraka vs. Bakugo” also features an amusing addendum to the draw that Kirishima and Tetsutetsu’s fight resulted in. The two must resolve their tiebreaker through a grueling arm wrestling match, but the act seems to bring them closer together than ever. Kirishima proves to be victorious, but the camaraderie between these two hard-skinned individuals is the real winner. Perhaps they will become a team in the future after all.
Before the episode leaves things off on the exciting cliffhanger of Midoriya and Todoroki’s battle, it fits in a mini confrontation between Endeavor and Midoriya. It appears that Endeavor is suspicious about Midoriya’s quirk and his possible connection to All Might. If Endeavor knew the truth here then he would definitely push Todoroki even harder to defeat Midoriya. That’s not to say that Todoroki would listen to his father’s wishes, but it’s still a liability that Midoriya doesn’t have to open himself up to. He at least is able to share some firm words with Todoroki’s father that will hopefully leave an impression on him.
Even though this episode prioritizes on action and emotion, it still finds time to fit in some satisfying laughs. This conclusion to Kirishima and Tetsutetsu’s competition definitely plays into the show’s humor, but plenty of lighter moments also punctuate the episode. There’s a lot of fun to be had with Midoriya and Iida as backseat announcers who continually weigh in on this heavy fight between their friends. Furthermore, the clear biases from the actual Sports Festival remain entertaining, too.
“Bakugo vs. Uraraka” contains strong content, but the episode’s beginning and ending both feel pretty padded between recaps of past events and summarizing Endeavor’s rivalry with All Might. The episode concludes with Midoriya’s battle with Todoroki finally about to begin, but a more efficient episode could have definitely fit more of their fight into this installment. That being said, it’s nice to take a bit of time to slow down between fights and focus on the emotional wear and tear a little.
“Bakugo vs. Uraraka” is an entertaining episode that delivers yet another satisfying battle between two big characters, but it also suffers from the strain of properly pacing out this arc. While not perfect, this episode still does a lot right and manages to properly give Uraraka her due, even though she doesn’t win her fight. Her next big battle is going to be one to watch out for.
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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.