This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 4 Episode 18
“After being told all that, to not do it wouldn’t be rockin’ at all, would it? ”
Izuku Midoriya and his fellow classmates at U.A. High have pulled off some incredible feats that have not only pushed many of them to their limits and beyond, but have also kept the world safe from the threat of growing dangers. After this constantly exhausting and stressful work, it goes without saying that all of these characters deserve a break after the chaos that’s gone on. It looks like the next few episodes of the season are going to settle into some territory that has considerably lower stakes, but ramps up the series’ more comedic and playful sensibilities.
This is helpful for the series, since the first half of the season has been the darkest that My Hero Academia has ever been, with the past few episodes slowly releasing that tension until the show has reached the lighter point that it’s at here with this “School Festival Arc.” This isn’t a negative shift, but it’s still a change to prepare for. Thankfully the show’s previous episodes have helped make this tonal transition more tolerable.
“School Festival” faces a sizable dilemma and so it’s highly refreshing that My Hero Academia immediately addresses the elephant in the room. Kirishima questions the logic of spending so much time on fun and games when there’s been an exceptional amount of villain activity as of late. Aizawa even acknowledges the validity of Kirishima’s frustration and that he agrees with him, but he explains the importance of the school festival in relation to U.A. High’s other curriculum streams, like the business and support courses.
This is actually a really solid explanation and it again speaks to this season’s fascination with expanding the boundaries of the show’s universe. It’s easy to get tunnel vision on the Class of 1-A and their hero studies, but they’re only one facet of the school. So while everyone understands that there is more important work to be done, they view their participation in the school festival as an act of Good Samaritans and another way in which they can push more kindness into the world. Frankly, My Hero Academia has gone into more frivolous material in the past and not provided any justification for it, so it’s admirable that in the case of the school festival it not only gives it a purpose, but also uses it to make its heroes even more empathetic to their peers.
A lot of “School Festival” is devoted to Class 1-A’s brainstorming efforts for their contribution to the festival. The group comes up with a huge list of proposals that touches on everything from a maid café, to a mochi shop, to even a “Frog Song” courtesy of Asui. Perhaps the best moment here is when Mineta’s suggestion gets prematurely silenced since his hormones are practically leaping out of his body. Iida attempts to reign everyone in and ironically what’s supposed to be this opportunity to let loose and have fun leads to many arguments and dissent amongst the young heroes. All of these suggestions and debates are great opportunities for humor from the show’s varied cast.
Class 1-A’s inability to make a decision becomes even more dire when Aizawa gives them the ultimatum that if they can’t reach a consensus then they’ll get saddled with a “public lecture” as their contribution to the festival. Based off of what Aizawa told everyone about the nature of the school festival, Iida and company decide that whatever they contribute should be something that gives the other students pleasure and relieves stress, instead of an activity that’s only fun for them. It’s a smart angle to approach things from and it has the group realize that a grand musical performance that everyone can rock out to is a great way to celebrate others and also combines many of their different talents that aren’t necessarily Quirk-related.
One of the better aspects of this rock band decision is that it pushes Jiro into the spotlight in a way that’s never really happened before. Jiro has gotten to show off her headphone-based vibration Quirk in small doses in the past, but the school festival turns into a big opportunity for her and it’s nice to see this more trivial content get to at least showcase some underserved characters. Ashido also gets a few big moments where she shows off the power of dance and tries to gage her friends’ abilities to bust a move. Ashido usually only gets to utilize her acid Quirk to help in battle, so it’s a lot of fun to explore this other side of the character and how she’s able to break through to the pack.
“School Festival” spends a lot of time on the topic of helping others and spreading joy, so it’s very fitting that Midoriya and Togata pay Eri a visit to see how she’s been doing. This reunion culminates with a happy ending, but it’s tinged in darkness as Midoriya gets many reminders of just how dark Eri’s life was and that even though Chisaki may be out of the picture, he’s still infected Eri in drastic ways.
Eri’s confession that she’s forgotten (or maybe never even knew) how to smile is devastating. She tries to push and contort her face into the shape of a smile in what’s a mildly funny gesture, but it comes from an infinitely sad place. Midoriya’s idea to have her attend the school festival and share their celebration is at least a sweet enough promise that seems to do Eri a lot of good.
The majority of “School Festival” focuses on 1-A’s big plans to wow the school, but the episode’s ending does provide the first major look at the season’s new villains, the highly theatrical Gentle Criminal and La Brava (two characters who feel like they’d fit in especially well on The Venture Bros., by the way). Their appearance here is brief, but they still make a big impact and are already on the police’s radar. Gentle’s abilities are intentionally kept a secret, but due to the wobbly nature of the convenience store that he robs it looks like his Quirk probably involves elasticity or rubber.
Many of the previous villains in My Hero Academia have been driven by relatively similar ambitions, so the idea of someone who’s more concerned with notoriety, page views, likes, and subscribers as opposed to the more vile motivations of previous antagonists like All For One, Stain, and Chisaki is an innovative change. It also presents a new villain that’s honestly a lot more relatable than past foes as Gentle’s goal seems to be much more grounded and egocentric.
Subtlety is definitely not one of “School Festival’s” strengths and it’s made pretty clear that the grand act that Gentle Criminal and La Brava have in mind that will grab everyone’s attention is an attack set at the school festival, which is now an even more volatile situation since Eri will be there. While all of this may be predictable to an extent, it’s still a satisfying way to connect all of these disparate threads and it’s a good indication that the tail end of this season will still contain heavier moments and not just be a lot of band practice. At the same time, Shigaraki and his re-vamped League of Villains are still out there and building their forces, but it’s unclear if they’ll intersect with Gentle or take a backseat during his fifteen minutes of fame.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this episode, but it does feel a little insulting to get a Quirk explanation in the middle of the show’s fourth season. Is anyone just jumping into the show blind at this point or completely lost by the series’ general premise? This is nothing new, but it feels especially random in this episode and almost like it’s just a way for “School Festival” to eat up a minute of time because the installment was running short. Another minute spent with Gentle and La Brava would have been a more effective use of the time, but this is a minor issue in what’s still a very fun, albeit trivial, episode of My Hero Academia.
“School Festival” is a simple episode of My Hero Academia that is more concerned about having fun than saving the world. It may be a jarring shift for some, but the season has gradually built to this point and it operates like a necessary release of tension. “School Festival” effectively sets up what’s ahead for these heroes, but it’s still able to hint at the dangers that lie ahead and get outside of its school festival bubble for a little bit. It’s healthy to occasionally slow down and take a breather, but “School Festival” also cleverly lulls its heroes—and the audience—into a comfortable sense of security just as some very interesting new villains begin to make their mark.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose 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.