This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 4 Episode 23
“A bright future, huh?”
In the past My Hero Academia has marked big events at the end of seasons with unexpected appearances from villains who crash the party. That was initially Gentle Criminal’s plan with U.A. High’s School Festival and even though that would have turned into a very interesting series of events, it’s nice to see the school truly get to kick back and celebrate for once without any distractions. This could have been a much more stressful and chaotic installment, but the choice to make “Let It Flow! School Festival!” a much more serene and pleasurable endeavor is a strategy that works well for what’s been an atypically dark year for the series.
Before the School Festival can begin there’s still some fallout from Midoriya’s battle against Gentle Criminal that needs to get addressed. The last episode effectively illustrated that these characters had a profound effect on one another and they both appear to experience real epiphanies, which allows this fight to conclude in a really beautiful and understanding way. It’s very satisfying to see Midoriya soften on Gentle Criminal after his history is made clear. Gentle and La Brava’s fate could have been incredibly grim and act as a stark lesson for these two, but they’re shown remorse.
When Gentle and Midoriya part ways there isn’t just a level of understanding between the two of them, but also a strange amount of respect, too. Midoriya sees himself in Gentle Criminal to some extent and he’s worried that he could have just as easily turned out like him if he had been turned down from U.A. High and didn’t have such an easy time getting into heroics. All of this also allows for the possibility that Gentle Criminal could eventually re-enter the series at some point, perhaps as a hero-in-training, which holds a lot more potential than him being executed or locked away in perpetuity.
After the saga of Gentle Criminal and La Brava is put to rest, the remainder of this installment is devoted to the events of U.A. High’s School Festival and if Class 1-A’s performance will be able to break through to the rest of school like they’ve anticipated. The stakes are markedly smaller and Midoriya’s major goal here is just to make Eri smile. My Hero Academia does something very interesting here because it sets the audience up to be in a similar position to the spectators in the crowd. Everyone is skeptical over how a musical performance can really be that good and worthy of so much focus. Even though so much time has been spent on building up to this performance, I really wasn’t expecting that much from the end result. What’s so great about “Let It Flow! School Festival!” is that 1-A’s performance really is that amazing.
The show that 1-A puts together is a dazzling showcase of animation and creativity that takes up a large chunk of the episode, but it’s absolutely worthwhile. The crowd slowly turns and becomes enraptured in this performance because its infectious quality is impossible to deny. Everyone is having such a marvelous time by the end of it all and it acts as the perfect celebration after a season of so much pain. The moment where Eri loses herself and truly experiences joy for once in her life is absolutely beautiful and just thinking back to it makes me want to cry. It’s a testament to the strong characterization that this season has developed where such a tiny moment can resonate in such an astounding way. That same goes for when she has her first candy apple.
After Class 1-A blows the rest of the school away with their performance nothing else really matters for the rest of the episode. “Let It Flow!” School Festival!” flies through the remaining events of the festival with a much faster pace, which turns the second half of the episode into more of a highlight reel of what happened. The two other events that get a little time to develop are the absolutely absurd pop culture hodgepodge play that’s going on, as well as the beauty pageant. This ridiculous piece of theater doesn’t disappoint and just enough of it gets shown to indicate that it utilizes every cliché in the book to wonderful effect.
The beauty pageant is a spectacle that Mineta unsurprisingly pushes very hard, but the episode still has a lot of fun with it. Everyone has their respective cheering squads, but it’s Nejire who dominates and takes home the prize. It’s nice to think that Nejire’s had a whole seasonal arc that the audience just hasn’t been privy to about overcoming her demons and figuring out how to come in first place, which she achieves here. A looser season of My Hero Academia could have easily turned both of these performances into entire episodes of their own, so it’s appreciated that the series distills them to their best moments here.
“Let It Flow! School Festival!” is an episode where not much happens in terms of plotting, but it’s really about the emotional payoff for both Midoriya and Eri that’s been brewing ever since the first moment that he saw her with Chisaki. To go even deeper, this is also the culmination of an entire life of neglect for Eri. It’s not just the first time that she feels joy in this season, but rather in her entire existence. That’s a rather seismic event and “Let It Flow! School Festival!” does the proper work to let its significance register. So while on a surface level this is a lighter installment of the series, the emotional stakes are arguably higher than they’ve ever been before.
“Let It Flow! School Festival!” is a strong conclusion to this season’s School Festival arc and it actually hit me a lot harder than I had expected. It’s not an episode that will work for everyone and many people will inevitably write this entry off as a waste of time. However, it accomplishes what it sets out to do very well and 1-A’s performance really is as good as possible. This is still a version of My Hero Academia that’s much lighter and less action-centric than the norm, which just might not excite some. Now that the School Festival is a thing of the past, these final two episodes of the season will likely shift back towards action and set up what’s to come in year five.