This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 5 Episode 8
“Raise the temperature higher. I can go higher. Burn myself! In order to become who I want to be!”
My Hero Academia season 5 has worked very hard to showcase the wide range of characters that compose Classes A and B, especially some of the more obscure or forgotten heroes. This season caters towards perpetual combat, but part of the reason that these clashes are so successful is because everyone has trained hard and improved upon their base skills, only the audience isn’t privy to how exactly these heroes have upped their games.
My Hero Academia could have easily devoted some introductory episodes on this material, but the mystery factor has become a very exciting element to this season. Each episode from this season has featured some sort of surprise reveal about a character’s new abilities, but “Match 3 Conclusion” makes these secret hero improvements its priority in a fantastic episode that never slows down and marks the highlight of the season.
Unsurprisingly, “Match 3 Conclusion” finishes off the third battle of the Joint Training Arc that kicked off in the previous episode. These episodes may be two halves of the same whole, but they couldn’t be more different in terms of their pacing and scope. This is a deliriously busy episode that crams in too much action, if anything. Something that “Match 3 Conclusion” underscores is that all of the Class A students in this fight are important and play a factor in the outcome, but it’s Tenya Iida and Shoto Todoroki that really get to prove their leadership abilities here. Both of these characters have been some of the dominant members of the 1-A Class in the past, but it’s literally been seasons since they’ve been integral to the main conflict at hand.
Iida quickly rises to the occasion and debuts his new Recipro Turbo ability, which increases his speed to even higher levels of ridiculousness. Midoriya makes an offhand remark that Iida is now faster than Gran Torino, which is a pretty significant claim, if true. All of the theatrics around Iida’s new speed look stunning and the animation as well as the choreography around these sequences is perfect. The sequences gain an extra level of fluidity and the actions occasionally get ahead of the frames, as if the show itself can’t keep up with Iida’s new speed.
Iida’s new super move allows him to intervene in Ojiro’s battle and dominate the battlefield, but he’s not the only one that’s come to play with new tricks. “Match 3 Conclusion” generates some effective suspense over the nature of everyone’s new abilities, when they’ll reveal themselves, and if there’s a deeper strategy to them beyond their surface level purpose. It’s a smart way to make the established powers of the Class A students feel as new as Class B’s Quirks, many of which are being seen for the first time.
Previous matches from the Joint Training Arc have featured a domino effect as different heroes rise to the challenge once their teammates get defeated. “Match 3 Conclusion” adopts a more thrilling structure where Iida’s fight against Kaibara happens concurrently with Todoroki’s war with Tetsutetsu, as well as Shoji’s duel with Pony Tsunotori. This approach means that there’s never really a dull moment in this episode as each of these battles intercut with each other. It’s all action and the lack of filler is a welcome alternative to the emptier first half of this battle from the previous episode. It’s also harder to predict the outcome of all of this since Class A and B’s teammates are divided and pursue different, independent strategies.
A consistent strength of this season of My Hero Academia is how every pairing between Class A and B students has featured an especially inspired clash of complimentary or contradictory Quirks. In this case, Tetstutetsu specifically targets Todoroki because of the intense temperature-based training that he’s put himself through that ideally removes all of Todoroki’s usual advantages. This initially seems to work as Tetsutetsu pushes through Todoroki’s attacks, but is actually able to grow stronger when his steel exterior becomes burning hot after it’s heated up by Todoroki’s attacks. This turns into a twisted endurance contest, which is how battles have typically gone through these two characters in the past, even if it hasn’t been against each other.
There are clear stakes here, but the fight between these two is just gorgeous on a visual level. All of the episodes that feature Todoroki’s Half-Cold Half-Hot Quirk are typically impressive in their execution, but “Match 3 Conclusion” is by far the most extreme example. Moments from Todoroki’s battle honestly look like they’re from a TRIGGER production as the heat rages on and an atypical color palette compliments the fiery and heightened atmosphere. The final minutes of the episode go for broke in this department as an avalanche of Quirks advances on everyone and the environment melts into a sprawling mess.
Tetsutetsu’s dedication to grow stronger is highly admirable, but it’s hard to not get excited for Todoroki once he unleashes new temperatures to his abilities, which freaking melts Tetsutetsu’s steel into a molten mess. They both don’t hold back from each other here and it’s quite endearing that they later throw so much respect towards each other post-battle. They’re left with a stronger bond than before rather than a brewing rivalry.
The Joint Training Arc is really putting in the work that in a season or two, every Class A hero could be out in the world and partners with someone from Class B and it’d feel like a completely natural progression of the series. My Hero Academia also doesn’t get enough credit for how substantial and satisfying Shoto’s development has been throughout the series and it’s definitely possible to view this series through the lens that the Todoroki family are actually the real main characters.
The final act of this fight is such a treat once everyone’s conflicts overlap. Pont Tsunotori becomes Class B’s breakout MVP and her encounter with Shoji is more of My Hero Academia at its smartest. Shoji literally has eyes on the back of his head that prevent a sneaky horn projectile from Pony. Once Juzo Honenuki’s Softening Quirk gets added to the mix, the perfect Quirk cocktail exists for all hell to break loose. This brilliant climax is fast, but it contains some of the best action that the series has ever done. Everyone is at their best, yet a Rube Goldberg-esque series of events simultaneously takes out nearly everyone from both teams. The chase element at the end where Iida runs for his life is so damn cool and helps Iida truly shine before the battle concludes.
Perhaps the most surprising development in “Match 3 Conclusion” is that time is the biggest enemy. The match is deemed a tie in the end once the clock runs out and the majority of both teams are unconscious, but not in the designated jails. Characters remark that this conclusion is extremely disappointing, but it’s arguably the best and most suspenseful match of the whole season so far. It’s an excellent demonstration of the power of teamwork and how much extra momentum can be added to a fight when it features the right combination of elements. Todoroki and Tetsutetsu both prove to their classmates how much they’ve grown, but every member of these teams gets to be the hero at some point during this exercise.
“Match 3 Conclusion” is My Hero Academia at its very best and a testament to how creativity and the right characters can still make a friendly match as exciting as any fight against a top villain. There’s little to criticize this episode on, but it’s worth noting that the season is now a third over and it’s been very focused on just the competition.
Other important elements like Midoriya’s connection with the previous One For All bearers, or the situation with Hawks and Dabi, have receded into the background perhaps more than people expected, but will surely become important again before the season is over. This isn’t necessarily problematic when the level of action is as challenging and thoughtful as what takes place in “Match 3 Conclusion.” Bakugo finally gets to show off what he’s been up to in the next match, which hopefully means that the most extreme battles are still yet to come.