This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 4 Episode 17
“Kids these days are crazy strong…”
Kids are growing up fast.
It’s a little mind boggling to see infants in strollers swiping their chubby digits across iPads, but there’s no denying that the current generation are born with certain advancements and technological innovations already in place. They get to spend their entire lives with these things rather than building these skills later in their maturity. In practically every department, it feels like kids are advancing and becoming simultaneously more comfortable and desensitized to the world around them.
My Hero Academia explores that concept in a very creative way by how it showcases that all of these gradeschoolers not only have very powerful quirks, but they’re very adept with them. The challenge of taking on a bunch of children shouldn’t be that difficult of a task, especially after the series just handled the dismantling of an evil Yakuza-like organization. “Relief for License Trainees” finds a plausible way to ensure that this battle is actually difficult and that it feels like there are stakes to it.
Last week’s introduction to the children of Masegaki Public Elementary School was devoted more to figuring out the right strategy for these delinquents and how to connect with them. All of that foreplay is over and this jumps right into the action. It’s satisfying to get some serious time with Bakugo and Todoroki, but a lot of this episode rides on how enjoyable their opponents are. My Hero Academia succeeds in that department and it honestly feels like there could be a spinoff that’s centered around this younger generation of heroes-in-the-making. Even though Bakugo and company are outnumbered by these kids, they all have very impressive quirks in their own right, which turns this fun session into a surprisingly more intense altercation.
These children are a worthy challenge because of their experience with their abilities, but the episode also hints at a bleak idea known as the “Quirk Singularity Doomsday Theory,” which looks at the strengthening and evolution of quirks through each generation to the point that they reach uncontrollable levels. Glimpses of that unbridled power are seen in the fight against Masegaki Public Elementary School, but it never reaches the point where anyone’s lives feel seriously threatened. This is still an important plot thread that may be returned to in the series’ canon in some shape or form.
This battle is really a triumph, even if it is remarkably silly from an outside perspective. There are so many remarkable Quirks on display that from an animation perspective it’s just gorgeous to look. There’s a lot going on and the sight of these powerful abilities colliding together is always enjoyable. There’s one sequence that pairs together Camie’s “Glamour” Quirk with Todorki’s fire and ice skills to create a cosmic ride that verges on something you’d see in a Masaaki Yuasa production.
In spite of how the fighting connects with its action, it’s also very clever with how it pairs characters together and the way in which it uses these Quirks. It’s hilarious to see Camie mess with all of the hormonal girls with her creation of “Galmouroki” and other pin-up versions of the male heroes (Where else are you going to get to see Bakugo say, “I want to see your cute face”?). It’s moments like these that help create a strong balance in this episode between the comedy and the action, where both aspects compliment each other and stand out.
Matters escalate between the heroes and the children and the ringleader that’s behind all of this really turns the whole situation into a “kids versus adults” binary. He’s determined to prove that his generation is superior to Bakugo’s. Bakugo is actually able to provide some sage advice to the kid when he tells him to get over himself. He speaks from his own experience when he tells him that if he always views himself as the best then he’ll overlook his own faults and be able to genuinely improve. Out of all of the chaos that spills out in this episode, it’s a great surprise that it’s Bakugo out of everyone that uses his words to solve the problem and actually inspire someone. It’s a move that feels much more out of Midoriya’s playbook, so it’s exciting to see the lines progressively blur between these two heroes.
The biggest surprise here is that the license trainee material ends on a rather abrupt note and only takes up half of the episode. What follows feels like an extended epilogue to the first half of the season’s events more than anything else. Months of time pass here and updates are provided on matters like how Centipeder takes over Nighteye’s agency and how Eri continues to nicely heal, but remains unstable. However, her horn—the source of her Quirk powers—seems to be shrinking, which is a positive development in terms of a stable future for her. There’s also an update on the family drama between Endeavor and Todoroki where Endeavor wants to actually redeem himself in the eyes of his son as he steps into All Might’s position as the “Number One Hero.” This could become surprisingly poignant, even if at this point in time Todoroki has absolutely no interest in letting his dad back in his life.
After “Relief for License Trainees” touches in with these characters, it proceeds to move into a highly unusual Aoyama subplot where he seems to place a curse Midoriya in a manner that’s both highly sexualized, but also evocative of psychological horror. Some of the dread that Midoriya experiences here feels like it was directed by Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Hideaki Anno. Plus it’s even more bizarre because it’s unclear why it’s even happening! It’s a seriously strange pivot to what happens in the first half of the episode.
Aoyama’s obsession with Midoriya isn’t necessarily bad material, but it just feels very out of place. Even if this story were in an episode of its own it would still feel like an awkward installment. It may have just been a better move to extend the Masegaki Public Elementary School material or combine the events of this episode with last week’s entry. As Aoyama talks more to Midoriya about how he knows his “secret” about how his “Quirk isn’t compatible with his body,” more than anything else it feels like this is the show’s not so subtle attempt at a story about coming to terms with one’s own homosexuality or transgender status. I’m not at all opposed to My Hero Academia tackling heavier, more important stories of that nature, but this episode approaches the idea so flippantly and randomly that it misses its mark.
“Relief for License Trainees” is a strangely frenetic episode of My Hero Academia that honestly is more like two installments crammed together. This isn’t the first time that this has happened in the series, but the transition is so jarring and unnatural here that the show literally needs to span months of time so it can properly segue into its second storyline. All of the content here has merit in different ways, but the haphazard nature of it seriously holds it back and hinders both storylines. At least with a fresh start established at the end of the episode the following entry shouldn’t be held back by any additional baggage.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and criticwhose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, and Bloody Disgusting. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and that Hannibal is the greatest love story ever told. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.