This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 6 Episode 17
“Look at me!”
My Hero Academia’s Todoroki family have been fascinating figures ever since Shoto Todoroki first arose as a possible adversary to Deku in the anime’s fifth episode during these heroes’ salad days at U.A. High. My Hero Academia has never shied away from Enji “Endeavor” Todoroki’s painful past and the beyond-extreme lengths that he’s pushed his family in the name of “heroism.”
However, after seasons of challenging character development and redemption, it’s devastating to see that Endeavor’s family is more shattered than ever before. Dabi’s bold proclamation continues to ring in the entire Todoroki family’s ears and “The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire” takes an emotional look back at the catalyst that tore the Todorokis apart and ignited the flames of a villain.
The last few episodes of My Hero Academia have focused on the ongoing fallout of Dabi’s public airing of Endeavor’s dirty laundry. There have been glimpses of the Todoroki family’s past, both as a way to shed light on Shoto and Enji’s characters. These prior flashbacks have kept Toya to the sidelines or completely absent, as if he’s a painful memory that the family has repressed. “The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire” returns to the past, but through Toya’s tragic perspective. His childhood is even more painful than Shoto’s and Toya feels a subconscious resentment towards his brother after Enji discards him for a stronger son. “The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire” is a cautionary tale on how to cultivate a villain, but at its core, this is really just a story about a boy who wants to be truly seen–as himself–by his father. On some level, it feels like Endeavor could defeat Dabi if he simply looked his son in the eyes and said, “I see you, Toya.”
Toya’s childhood is heartbreaking. Everything that he does in service of getting his father’s attention, yet he becomes ancillary to his own family and a figure of shame after Shoto is born and the Todorokis gets a “do over.” Sadly, Toya can’t stop at this point and his desire to impress his father as a hero slowly, organically festers into making him the ultimate villain. It’s a hard transformation to watch, especially since it seems like if one family member simply showed Toya some love then maybe all of this could have been avoided.
At the same time, “The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire” is also sure to show audiences that every member of the Todoroki family is complicit to some degree with Toya’s transformation into Dabi, even the more passive members like Rei. “I’ll make you glad I was born,” is such a chilling threat for Toya to launch at his family that clearly still reverberates through Endeavor’s thoughts. This episode asks the audience to consider–much like Endeavor has for the past decade–that if he had confronted Toya at Sekoto Peak instead of Rei then maybe he could have saved his son. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter because the possibility alone is enough to drive Endeavor mad.
The audience is already aware of the broader strokes in “The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire,” but it’s the finer details that really help this episode shine. Society’s admonishment of “fashionable” arranged Quirk marriages is an interesting wrinkle. One would think that this judgment would teach Endeavor to move on, but he instead just doubles down even harder with Shoto. It’s also appreciated that the manufactured nature of Rei and Enji’s marriage doesn’t prevent actual moments of tenderness between the two of them. This story just becomes more painful since the Todorokis happen to have a nice rhythm going, briefly, before Enji burns it all up. The symbolic blue flower from Sekoto Peak is used particularly well in this episode and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t turn into a recurring symbol through the end of this season.
Perspective has been a powerful tool through the past two seasons of My Hero Academia as the anime continually flips the script on what and who constitutes a “hero” and “villain.” “The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire” literally casts Endeavor and Rei as gruesome monsters during the climax of the flashback. There are heavy animation flourishes that amplify the family’s fear and Shoto’s innocence. It’s an extremely powerful way to illustrate the ways in which traumatic experiences can appear even more frightening in the memories of our youth. This depiction of the Todoroki guardians as threats makes the episode’s conclusion, where everyone comes together, even more satisfying. The Todorokis reach the powerful revelation that this isn’t Endeavor’s problem to solve and that it’s the family’s collective burden to bear. Now, all together, they can finally put out Dabi’s fire.
“The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire” is one of the strongest episodes of the season and the definitive piece of storytelling on the Todorokis. It’s necessary for the audience to fully understand the circumstances of Toya/Dabi’s birth before he can be properly faced in battle. “The Wrong Way to Put Out a Fire” doesn’t leave any questions unanswered and the emotional heights of this cruel childhood surpass expectations. It’s truly impressive how delicate the series has gotten with its harrowing backstories and when restraint is necessary. My Hero Academia continues to deliver with both emotional character studies and extravagant superpowered showdowns and this installment is a superior example of the first that elegantly sets the season up for the latter.