This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 6 Episode 9
“It’s not only evil people who want power.”
My Hero Academia is an anime that’s rich in history and worldbuilding and several episodes are devoted to explaining how certain iconic characters came to be the individuals that they are today. My Hero Academia has turned to the running device of “Origin” episodes as a way to reveal backstory and character development, whether it’s been for Izuku Midoriya, Shoto Todoroki, Katsuki Bakugo, or even Tomura Shigaraki.
These are all revelatory episodes of the anime, but My Hero Academia has also increasingly adopted a similar approach with the suffix, “Rising,” as a way to celebrate these characters’ milestones and their evolution into new echelons of power and insight. There’s been the “All Might: Rising” OVA, season two’s “Yaoyorozu: Rising,” and even the series’ second feature film, Heroes Rising. All of these “Rising” installments represent some of My Hero Academia’s most emotional episodes and “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” is not only no exception, but it’s also the strongest of these reflective character studies.
The bond between Izuku Midoriya and Katsuki Bakugo has been a topic of fascination ever since My Hero Academia’s series premiere. Bakugo might have spent his youth terrorizing a meek Midoriya, but the two have blossomed into eternal allies who are more than likely to sacrifice themselves for the good of the other, if necessary. Every shonen series offers its own version of the Midoriya/Bakugo friendly rivalry dynamic where these powerful characters’ accomplishments become the ultimate motivator to push the other past their previous limits.
Midoriya has even shared his One For All Quirk with Bakugo during a moment of true hopelessness where the trust that he has for his best friend has never been greater. The climactic heights of My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising seemed like it’d be the apex of Midoriya and Bakugo’s friendship and a courageous display that would be difficult for the series to top. My Hero Academia has finally topped this achievement with “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising,” the new gold standard when it comes to My Hero Academia’s fiery hero and his connection with his oldest friend.
“Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” is a patient installment that doesn’t immediately dive into its main course. The episode’s first-third examines Gigantomachia’s deadly demolition and the helplessness that it elicits in My Hero Academia’s supporting heroes and society at large. This first act isn’t pointless, but it does bide its time more than necessary. The pacing in “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” could be more egregious, but it still makes it feel like it’s just gotten started by the time that it starts to wrap up. There’s a better version of this episode that’s more focused on Shigaraki, Midoriya, and Bakugo’s fight where time is passed on internal reflections instead of passive detours across the city as everyone checks in on Gigantomachia’s carnage.
Gigantomachia reverence aside, “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” does eventually make the ticking time bomb that is Tomura Shigaraki its priority. Shigaraki’s aura of evisceration spreads, which forces Midoriya to decide if he’ll retreat or valiantly take on All For One’s second coming without any real plan. Midoriya has walked away from easier conflicts, but there’s too much at stake when it comes to a reckless Shigaraki. It’s genuinely captivating when Midoriya debuts Nana Shimura’s Float Quirk and combines it with his Blackwhip power.
Midoriya’s no-nonsense intensity and the animation’s exaggerated visuals are sights to behold. This outburst unlocks a newly aggressive side to Deku that might be essential in winning this war. This altercation digs even deeper into Shigaraki’s subconscious since Midoriya’s new power is an indicting reminder to Shigaraki of the one member in his family who he revered above everyone else. Shigaraki’s destruction of Midoriya now also means that he’ll have to kill Nana all over again.
My Hero Academia’s sixth season has been quite vocal about how Shigaraki’s awakening is synonymous with the villains’ victory. Up until now, this bold claim has carried a depressing truth to it. The catalyst in “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” is that Midoriya understands that Shigaraki’s body–like his own–is highly temperamental and that his Quirk use also has its limits. Midoriya recognizes that Shigaraki’s body is breaking because he’s spent seasons recovering from the same physical trauma.
Deku, for a brief, shining moment, actually secures the upper hand and it’s such a rush of adrenaline. His approach to repeatedly target the same spots on Shigaraki’s body so that they accrue damage and become useless is a brilliant strategy that comes from his acute understanding of his own shortcomings and One For All’s restrictions. My Hero Academia has teased the similarities and connection between One For All and All For One for seasons, but this battle plan illustrates how they’re designed to be the architects of each other’s destruction.
The second-half of “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” is where most of the magic happens. The episode shifts to Bakugo’s mental state as he finds the courage to take on this impossible villain, but to also accept what Midoriya truly means to him after years of inspirational teamwork. Bakugo is left with barely any time to act, but he finds solace in his memories. There’s a sweet flashback where Bakugo and All Might have a heart-to-heart on the topic of Deku’s growing powers. Bakugo understands that he’ll need to be there to watch over his friend just as much as Midoriya needs to be aware of his own limits. It’s a scene that’s powerful in its original context, but it resonates even more in the present once Bakugo puts these wishes into action. All Might is nowhere near Shigaraki’s fallout zone, but Bakugo is ready to defend his friend to the bitter end.
Bakugo hatches a smart plan with Shoto and Endeavor that allows him to give Midoriya the necessary backup that only he knows that he needs. It’s an extremely passionate concentration of friendship that emotionally culminates with a nostalgic reminder of Bakugo’s takedown of Midoriya’s nickname, “Deku.” This innocent memory highlights just how far these two have come as individuals and as partners. Bakugo bursts into battle and he’s ready to save Izuku Midoriya–Deku–Shitty Nerd–his best friend.
My Hero Academia continues to build upon the series’ recent creative renaissance and “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” distills the first-third of this season down to a furious fight between the anime’s most important players. It’s a thrilling entry even if it feels like half of an episode and that its most interesting material only gets going in the final act. Nevertheless, “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” does exactly what it sets out to do with this suspenseful, delicate celebration of teamwork. It’s unlikely that the final blow that Bakugo receives will be fatal, but if it is, there’s not a better or more passionate way for this hero to go out. Bakugo enters My Hero Academia as a bully to Midoriya and exits as a legend and champion for One For All.