This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Episode 23
“Just remember, stay true to yourself.”
One of the reasons that My Hero Academia has grown into such an entertaining show is because there are so many fun, engaging characters that populate it. The series worked hard to originally center Izuku Midoriya as the show’s audience surrogate and everyman, but that perspective has slightly changed over the course of the show as Midoriya grows increasingly confident in battle.
Accordingly, as Midoriya becomes more developed, the show has been able to gradually let other supporting characters into its orbit and given them the focus when it’s been appropriate. One of the most interesting characters to receive this treatment is Shoto Todoroki, who’s arguably had the most torturous backstory of any of the students at U.A. High. Todoroki has depth because of his past, but he’s also one of the strongest characters in the show, which makes him even more interesting.
As more about Todoroki has been learned it’s felt like he and Midoriya have been on a collision course where they’re just waiting to eventually smash into each other. “Shoto Todoroki: Origin” follows through on that smash and it results in one of My Hero Academia’s very best episodes.
The growing tension between Midoriya and Todoroki has been clear over the last few episodes, but perhaps the coolest thing about their highly anticipated fight is that it’s ostensibly a battle between the “children” of the number one and number two pro heroes, so of course it’s going to go for broke and be an especially exciting battle. It’s also not entirely fair that Midoriya gets caught up in this complicated grudge that Todoroki’s father has against All Might, but he doesn’t hold it against Todoroki. If anything it helps him fight even harder for All Might’s honor.
It’s fair to say that Todoroki brings a lot of emotional baggage into this battle, whether it’s the defiance of his abusive father or the redemption of his battered mother. This fight against Midoriya is basically Todoroki’s de facto therapy session and every blast he launches at his opponent carry the full weight of his family. At the same time, Midoriya also faces a lot of stress as he heads into this momentous battle. The stakes that All Might has placed on Midoriya are definitely comparable to the weight that Endeavor’s put on his son, but it’s admittedly a lot less traumatic. Todoroki has more pain to channel for this battle and it certainly helps give him the advantage here.
Midoriya again tries to fall back on strategy and getting in his opponent’s head in order to win this fight. He banks on the fact that Todoroki will focus on ice-based attacks and not bring his fire side into the ring. Midoriya’s right about his assumptions, but he doesn’t anticipate for Todoroki to experience the epiphany that he does in this battle.
By the end of this fight, both Midoriya and Todoroki are both better fighters, but Todoroki is the one that’s gone through the greater metamorphosis. The fight grows in suspense due to how Todoroki also has just as good a read on Midoriya as he does on him. They’re both able to effectively anticipate their opponent’s attacks and quickly counter to their advantage.
Midoriya and Todoroki are both so competent that they repeatedly come to a standstill, however Todoroki is the one that leads the way and dictates the speed of this fight. It’s thrilling to watch this fight turn into a grueling endurance match where both Midoriya and Todoroki progressively wear out their bodies as they attempt to outlast the other. This is especially gruesome in Midoriya’s case as he needs to break one of his fingers every time he wants to counter one of Todoroki’s blasts.
Midoriya may not initially recognize that Todoroki’s reservoirs of strength aren’t unlimited, but Bakugo provides a useful lesson on the limitations of the human body. Heroes like Todoroki and Bakugo that are able to blast a wide area can’t just spam the attack. It has very real consequences on their bodies and even if it’s not as apparent as Midoriya’s “All For One” consequences, it still takes a lot out of Todoroki. He continually pushes a smug confidence throughout their fight, but as Midoriya really studies his opponent he can begin to see that he’s not invincible and still worried about the outcome. At the same time, the extreme level that Midoriya pushes himself begins to worry All Might and the other professional heroes in attendance. They’re concerned that his body may have permanent damage after this display and even if he wins he’ll be in no condition to fight in his follow-up match.
As the fight rages on, Midoriya is able to briefly turn the tables on Todoroki and it even seems for a minute that he may win this fight. Midoriya knows how to wear down Todoroki and play to his strengths as the fight reaches its climax. It’s this pressure that pushes Todoroki to surpass his normal limits, go out of his comfort zone, and really fight to win here. Everything that’s been brewing inside of Todoroki, like his damaged past and his admiration for Midoriya, come together in a beautiful way.
Todoroki is also happy to drive his father crazy by willfully not using his fire powers in battle. It feels like he’d be even more satisfied to anger his father over the denial of his quirk than he would be to win the fight from using it. However, Midoriya strives to push Todoroki to use his fire powers, but in a way that’s wholly different than what his father has in mind. It’s arguably the most aggressive that Midoriya has ever been with someone before, but it’s for the greater good. Midoriya wants Todoroki to reclaim this ability and use it to spite Endeavor rather than honor him with its use.
Furthermore, Midoriya spitefully tells Todoroki that he doesn’t deserve to be the number one hero if he’s not courageous enough to use his full strength. It’s a touching act on Midoriya’s part and even if it does result in his defeat, it feels more important that he could help a friend get a little further in their extreme daddy issues. Todoroki’s reasoning for why he holds off from his fire powers is still understandable and it’s not as if Midoriya is entirely right here. There’s a lot about Endeavor and Todoroki’s past that Midoriya’s oblivious too, but it’s still encouraging to see Todoroki get past this mental block and mature a little.
It’s ultimately disappointing to see Midoriya get eliminated from the Sports Festival tournament and not even reach the final round, but “Shoto Todoroki: Origin” makes it easy to get excited for Todoroki’s win. Midoriya will always have friends and other support systems around him, but for someone like Todoroki this win is a lot more significant. He still remains one of the coolest characters in the series and now that he’s slowly letting fire powers into this arsenal, he’ll likely become even more incredible. Todoroki may win this battle, but the episode truly builds suspense over just who’s going to come out on top and it’s without a doubt the most exciting battle from the entire series. Both of these characters want this win so much and it brings out the best in them.
On an aesthetic level, all of Todoroki’s ice attacks look incredible and the music really helps build the emotion and intensity of all of this, too. This is a well-choreographed fight that rises to the occasion with both its energy blasts and the physical combat. We’ll likely get more impressive displays of it in the future, but for now, the one tremendous showcase of Todoroki’s fire abilities and combined talents is quite the spectacle to take in. The conclusion to their fight is stunning to watch.
My Hero Academia has pulled off a few “origin” episodes at this point, but “Shoto Todoroki: Origin” takes a refreshingly different approach. Rather than jump to the past like these other episodes have, this one stays in the present and shows how the latest iteration of Todoroki and his actions in this fight are the circumstances around his true origin story. The present is more important than the past here, even though it plays a strong part in all of this, too. This structure is frankly for the best because Todoroki received a flashback episode so recently that there’d be little room to add upon his past with such a quick return. There may be flashes of his childhood here, but this is much more about who he’s become.
“Shoto Todoroki: Origin” is an episode where the characters want to get into their opponent’s head just as much as they want to dominate them in battle, but it’s a mix of the psychological and the physical that is an absolute success.
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.