This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia: Episode 7
“Don’t tell me that you’re underestimating me, Deku.”
A lot of My Hero Academia boils down to the frenemy relationship between Izuku Midoriya and Bakugo Katsuki. This simmering rivalry is ever present and often bubbles up in the background of episodes, but “Deku vs. Kacchan” lets out all of that pent up aggression and puts it front and center. The episode marks the first real battle between these two and the weight behind this occasion is certainly felt. It’s clear that there will be plenty more fights between these two, but you never forget your first.
“Deku vs. Kacchan” carries on from the literally explosive battle that began during the tail end of the previous installment. The episode makes a smart play by rewinding the clock a little bit to show what Midoriya and Bakugo have to say to their teammates before they go into this challenge. Unsurprisingly, Bakugo and Midoriya are focused on each other and they’re all that they can talk about. However, Bakugo talks about Midoriya with a resentful disdain whereas Midoriya basically speaks about his rival with awe and reverence. This conversation effectively frames the episode, but these contrasting opinions between Midoriya and Bakugo also carry on into their fighting styles.
Before digging too deep into the big battle—which occupies the bulk of the episode—it once again just needs to be pointed out what a fantastic job Funimation is doing with the dub of this series. The original version of this episode and this fight were still incredible, but tiny changes in dialogue and the brilliant performances that Justin Briner and Clifford Chapin put forward really increase the tension and make the build up all the more intense. These performers are continuing to grow and evolve in these roles just like how the characters are with their training and the results have been very impressive so far. Bakugo acts like a damn madman by the end of this one and Chapin’s performance is intimidating stuff.
Performances aside, the battle between Midoriya and Bakugo is just all around an awesome fight. It features incredible, surprising choreography by both fighters, but there are very real stakes. For one, Bakugo and Midoriya have a very complex history and rivalry that the series has taken the proper amount of time to develop. On top of that, Bakugo plays for keeps here and even All Might comments on how the hotheaded boy’s attacks will kill Izuku if they happen to connect.
This aggressive strategy forces Midoriya to stay focused and push himself to new levels due to how his safety is very much in danger. The whole thing acts as a good distillation of the two very different approaches that Midoriya and Bakugo take towards their powers and what it means to be a hero. The message here is strong, but it also doesn’t hurt that the animation is gorgeous as hell and this showdown between their abilities is beautiful. This fight also creates quite a bit of anticipation around when the first real villain comes into the picture and what a staggering display the fight against them will look like. If this is how amazing a training battle looks then imagine how impressive all-out warfare will be.
With Izuku and Bakugo’s battle reaching such intensities, Uraraka has her work mostly cut out for her against Bakugo’s partner, Iida. This fight obviously doesn’t contain the same rawness as the one that rages on around them, but it’s still a captivating battle that speaks to both Uraraka and Iida’s strengths. Iida attempts at villainy are also all fantastic.
It’s also a refreshing moment when Midoriya reveals that Bakugo and Iida would easily beat them if they worked as a team, but he knows that it’s beyond Bakugo’s comprehension. When the two aren’t caught up in battle they’re engaged in a tense cat-and-mouse chase with each other. They’re haunted by memories of each other through all of this, but Midoriya learns from these while Bakugo just gets driven deeper into his rage.
Bakugo doesn’t go easy on Deku and he’s sure to give him as few opportunities as possible to retaliate. As a result, Midoriya is largely on the defense for this fight, but when this appears to be a failing option, he struggles with whether he should bring his quirk into play or not. The last few episodes have really explored the idea of Izuku not overusing his One For All quirk because it will literally destroy his body, but also because there are sometimes better solutions that are out there.
Midoriya has also learned how to refine his quirk and use fractions of its power, but even still, it’s an ability that’s largely beyond Midoriya’s comprehension and it shouldn’t be used unless it’s absolutely necessary. A lot of “Deku vs. Kacchan” sees Izuku struggle to determine whether this is one of such situations or if there’s an alternative way to win this fight. Midoriya’s resistance to use his quirk when Bakugo spams his like crazy is also an important distinction between their characters. Midoriya’s thoughtful strategy is appreciated, but there are also times when impulsiveness is key and taking too long to make a decision can result in your death.
There are probably a lot of people out there that would have preferred for Midoriya to lose this battle, but the boy’s evolution into a hero is still very early into its process. Izuku’s win here doesn’t mean that he’ll always win or that this will turn into the sort of show where he’s always the hero. There are many mistakes ahead in Midoriya’s future and this victory speaks more to his versatility and ability to solve problems rather than setting the tone for what’s always going to happen.
Midoriya is not Goku and My Hero Academia has no interest in making them the same. Besides, Bakugo’s ego has gotten so big at this point that he could use a lesson in humility to bring him back to Earth. A lot of Bakugo’s defeat has to do with his tunnel vision to defeat his rival—he even outright ignores his partner, Iida—whereas Midoriya uses battle knowledge and strategy to overcome him. Very little of this has to do with actual strength.
“Deku vs. Kacchan” is the first time that the series devotes the bulk of an entire episode to a fight and their experiment with this structure is a clear success. The fight is satisfying, surprising, and faithful to these characters, and the episode knows how to cut the tension when the moment is right. Arguments could still be made on the benefits of holding off a little longer on Deku and Bakugo’s fight, but this still turns out to be arguably the series’ best episode yet.
Some of the flashbacks go on a little longer than they need to, but they never turn into a distraction. It makes sense for My Hero Academia to deliver such an exciting installment at the halfway point of its first season, but hopefully it will ride this energy and character development and turn out an even more satisfying run of episodes for what’s to come.
You just know that Bakugo’s already hungry for a rematch.