This MY HERO ACADEMIA review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 5 Episode 13
“It was the prologue to a tragedy…”
It’s Christmas in July for My Hero Academia!
My Hero Academia knows how to have fun and there are several one-off installments that are odes to silliness and the lighter side of these heroes-in-training’s lives. It’s been a difficult year for U.A. High’s students, not because their lives have been endangered by villains, but because of the grueling tests that they’ve applied to each other and the major revelations that characters like Midoriya, Shinso, and Todoroki have made about themselves. “Have a Merry Christmas” is a major change of pace and it honestly feels more akin to the structure and tone of one of the series’ OVA installments. It’s an episode that doesn’t try to hide its dangerously cute nature, but the question becomes if this distraction is worth it–especially at this stage in the season–and ultimately it falls short.
“Have a Merry Christmas” is another low key My Hero Academia episode, which works hard to establish a clear demarcation line between what will presumably be the two major story arcs of this season. At the same time, “Have a Merry Christmas” represents a strange stretch of lethargy for the series and these past three episodes could honestly be pared down to one and a half installments.
I can understand the temptation to not have the series’ 100th episode also double as a Christmas installment, but this run of episodes has killed any of the momentum that was built up by the triumphant conclusion of the Joint Training competition. Clearly big things are ahead, both with the return to work studies and what’s been quietly brewing behind the scenes with the League of Villains, but none of that excitement is capitalized on “Have a Merry Christmas,” which feels just as much like disposable filler material as season five’s expositional premiere.
The highlight of these Christmas festivities is to bask in all of these characters’ joy as they let down their guards and treat themselves to a much-deserved day of celebration. This turns into an excuse to dress up everyone as members of Santa’s workshop and engage in a cute gift exchange. It actually wouldn’t come across as ridiculous if this episode were to introduce that Santa exists in My Hero Academia and that he’s able to spread gifts around the world because of a Quirk, but “Have a Merry Christmas” is a much more modest and simple episode. That being said, it absolutely carries the cloying energy of an episode where Santa shows up to teach a lesson.
Gift time at U.A. High may not seem incredibly exciting, but it turns into one of the sweeter sequences from the season. Every combination between hero and gift is satisfying in its own way, whether it’s something obvious or a strange mystery. Mineta’s present seems to be an autographed photo of Yuga Aoyama, which is perfect, and Eri seems to acquire a massive sword that’s meant for Tokoyami through the Secret Santa exchange. Eri’s presence cannot be underestimated here and her arrival in a Santa costume is almost too sweet to bear (as is the adorable nature of her “Trick or Treat” greeting and her attempts to hand out painted Easter eggs out of confusion). My Hero Academia’s efforts to make Eri more of a natural supporting character continue to work and hopefully won’t be absent during the second half of season five.
Outside of the pleasant Christmas levity, the rest of the episode is concerned with media interviews and a focus on the heroes’ public images, which evidently is a lot harder to manage than their Quirks. Bakugo and Todoroki have just proven themselves as newly-minted provisional heroes, yet they take completely opposite approaches to the media blitz that follows. Bakugo hurls insults at the interviewer and freaks out at Todoroki whenever he exhibits affection or gets so bold as to refer to him and Bakugo as “friends.”
It’s incredibly entertaining for Bakugo to be so concerned over whether his aggressive side makes it through to the public while his Pro Hero image gets established. The audience has seen an increasingly softer side to Bakugo, especially over the past few episodes, so this regression into explosive behavior when he’s put under pressure is one of many enjoyable digressions in “Have a Merry Christmas.” Of course, Todoroki is a consummate professional throughout the interview and views it as an important experience, even if he still gets tripped up over the awkward experience. The glimpse of everyone else’s abject horror over how candid Bakugo gets during the interview is another strong opportunity for My Hero Academia’s more humorous instincts to be fully on display in this episode.
This could have been a quick gag, but “Have a Merry Christmas” really lays into Todoroki and Bakugo’s embarrassment, which helps establish the episode’s playful energy and that the episode’s aim is to just laugh and have fun with these characters instead of stressing over the next big threat. Todoroki is a character who is typically all business and someone that the rest of Class A holds in reverence, so his incredibly literal interpretation of Mt. Lady’s comments are absolutely brilliant. My Hero Academia has struck unexpected gold by pushing Todoroki out of his social comfort zone and hopefully the second half of this season will have more fun with this awkward side to the powerful character.
This focus on interviews also provokes an honest discussion over the pros and cons of whether hero students should show off their signature moves on television, which some think will leave them at a disadvantage and expose their strongest maneuvers to the enemy. This is certainly true on some level, but Mt. Lady emphasizes how a hero’s signature move is just as much a representation of what they stand for as a hero as anything else. It should be an exciting opportunity to reveal themselves to the world. The episode settles on the perspective that it should be exciting to show off for the camera, but “Have a Merry Christmas” slowly introduces doubt over how these accomplishments might actually turn into liabilities.
The episode’s interview portion is meant to be fun and allow these characters to come out of their shell. However, it does trigger some deeper discussions over the public’s current perception of the district’s Pro Heroes. These interviews are helpful sales tools for these heroes’ futures, but they’re also meant to act as a response to what the public expects of their heroes and if the villains have managed to affect the larger narrative. It’s these many contrasting opinions that partly pushes U.A. High to reinstate the work study programs and get the heroes back in the public eye.
Some of the most fulfilling developments to come out of “Have a Merry Christmas” are crammed into the episode’s final minutes. Midoriya and Bakugo express concern over where they’ll be able to do their work study programs since Best Jeanist is out of commission and the Nighteye Agency is still tied up in a difficult period of transition with Centipeder now in charge. Todoroki innocently suggests that the three of them all train under Endeavor, which turns into a fascinating prospect that combines some of the series’ most fascinating characters together.
This accumulation of talent might be more important than this trio of friends even realizes. “Have a Merry Christmas” teases the return of Shigaraki in the form of a devastating attack on Deika City, which only emphasizes how ill-prepared the heroes are for what’s about to cut through all of these lackadaisical distractions. The needlessly sweet nature of this episode, and its ending, almost seems to acknowledge the severe darkness that’s on the way and that Deku may never get another Christmas where he can just relax with his friends and enjoy being a kid for a day. Shigaraki and the League of Villains are ready to prove that the only gift that these heroes deserve is endless pain.
The criticism directed towards “Have a Merry Christmas” may seem a little harsh, which is warranted, but that’s not to say that this episode is without its charms. Those that enjoy whenever My Hero Academia indulges in these lighter slice-of-life tangents will undoubtedly adore this episode. However, this installment still feels needlessly sparse, even for the character-driven entries that shy away from battle. There’s no reason why this holiday celebration couldn’t have also strengthened some of the other themes from this season rather than exclusively focus on “the feels” and fuel for copious Christmas-based My Hero Academia fanart. A heavy, dark future lies ahead in the season’s second half and “Have a Merry Christmas” isn’t the bold finish that’s necessary before this season heads into its endgame.
Also, Hero Critic, Aorio Kuraishisu, is pure nightmare fuel. Who’d have thought the Devil would make an appearance during a Christmas special?