Saving Eri Part 1!
What’s the Story?
Having passed the provisional license exam, Midoriya and the rest of the students of U.A. are ready to get back to training and become the best heroes they can be! To do that they’re going on work studies with professional heroes, Midoriya setting his sights on All Might’s former sidekick, Sir Nighteye. The young heroes aren’t the only ones looking to up their game though, the League of Villains think they’re ready to take the next step, that is until they meet the head of the Shie Hassaikai yakuza family. While Midoriya learns the tragic history of Sir Nighteye and All Might, the man known as ‘Overhaul’ is working on a plan, a plan that will bring hero society to its knees and all he needs is one little girl to make it all work. Operation Rescue Eri begins here!
And now for something a little bit different! I’ve talked about My Hero Academia on this blog before, primarily the two movies (you can find the reviews HERE and HERE), but I’ve yet to review an actual season of the show. Well, that all changes right now! In the past I’ve not had that much to add to the conversation about MHA, I love the series and much more articulate people than me have already said all that I could think to say about the show, until this season, Season 4. In fact, I’ve got so much to say about this show that this review is really far too long, as such I’m splitting it in two. This week I’m going to cover a few general thoughts and then dig into the first half of Season 4. The rest of the season and my final verdict will appear in a review next Friday, so buckle in folks, this is going to be a long one!
Season 4 covers roughly four arcs of the manga, the Shie Hassaikai arc, the Remedial Course arc, U.A. School Festival arc and the Pro Hero arc (the latter three arcs being comparatively small compared to the first arc). I’ll also point out that the Shie Hassaikai arc takes up the entirety of the first half of this season and you may have already spotted a problem here. It’s actually a problem that Season 3 shares, the season starts with this big climatic arc, ending in a massive battle, then moves on to arcs with lower stakes and actions. As such the seasons end with considerably less bang than their midway point, at least Season 3 did, unfortunately the Shie Hassaikai arc didn’t come with that much bang to begin with, but I’ll come back to that in a minute. Most of this comes down to the seasonal format and the adaptation being a bit too faithful. In the manga an arc with lower stakes isn’t a problem, it’s a nice little breather and the story is free to ramp up again with the next arc. Unfortunately for anime only watches, the next arc is at least three months away and in this modern age of constant consumptio, that is an incredibly long time to wait. It changes something from a nice little breather, into a frustration because why won’t it just get to the point already!
Let’s talk about the Shie Hassaikai arc though. I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of the manga longer than I’ve been watching the anime and maybe that accounts for my perspective, because I was looking forward to this arc. I really enjoyed it in the manga, it has its issues sure, but overall I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed all the new characters and Overhaul was an intimidating and interesting new villain. However I feel like the transfer of this arc from page to screen has exasperated several of its problems. For one, a lot of the focus in this arc is on Midoriya and the new characters it introduces, which isn’t a massive issue in the manga (okay, it’s a slight issue, the continual introduction of new characters is one of the main issues for MHA, but I love all the crazy powers they come with so I never really mind it). When I read it in the manga I’d just come off the last arc where I got to see the majority of class 1-A, so why not let the story experiment with something a bit different and unique for a while. Unfortunately that same sentiment doesn’t apply to the anime. People have spent months waiting for this series to return and then they find out that the majority of the characters they love are barely in it, what’s more it’s going to bring in a lot of new characters that it wants us to care deeply for? Yeah, I get some people’s frustration with this season.
Another issue with the adaptation comes from an unusual place, for me at least, the anime’s use of colour. Now Bones animates My Hero Academia with a wealth of gorgeous, bright colours, and that really fits the world of MHA. For the Shie Hassaikai arc however, I don’t feel like that works. This arc is a bit different to me, it should have a darker, grungier feel to it. We’re stepping into the dirty underbelly of the heroes’ world and the anime doesn’t really reflect that. It needs more dark shadows, scrub off some of that bright and clean exterior. Stepping into the underground labyrinth should feel like racing into Hell to me, but it doesn’t. I realise that several of the animators were taken off of the first half of this season to work on the second movie and that does show. There’s a lack of spectacle to this arc, especially when it comes to the final battle against Overhaul and that hurts this season (I mean it’s still good, this is Bones after all, but not as good as I was expecting). Also, this is the first time I’ve watched MHA weekly and that really kills the momentum of the story. I’m going to give MHA a ‘binge-watch only’ sticker from this point onwards, because that’s how I watched the first three seasons and I never noticed a problem with the pacing before. All in all the Shie Hassaikai arc comes off as a bit a disappointment compared against everything that came before it.
The weight of expectations is actually MHA’s biggest hurdle to clear. Let’s be honest here, the arcs from the Sports Festival through to All Might’s last stand are the peak of MHA. Those arcs feel like one continual story, all leading to one explosive finale. Everything since then and coming feels less…cohesive. As a manga reader I know what’s coming and, looking back, I can see how each of the arcs lays out the building blocks necessary to get to where we’re going. For example you need the Provisional License Exam, otherwise characters can’t take part in Shie Hassaikai and onwards, but going from an exam to fighting yakuza feels like a strange left turn. MHA should experiment and try new things, but the story doesn’t feel as tight as it did earlier. There are some amazing moments to come and I personally can’t wait for the current arc in the manga to be animated, but I get it if people don’t want to hang around based purely on the promise of something awesome somewhere down the line.
I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but griping during this review, but fear not, there are some positives coming. Next week I’ll take a look at the rest of Season 4 and give out my final verdict! Bring on the School Festival!
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.