Saving Eri Part 2!
What’s the Story?
After battling against the Shie Hassaikai, the students of U.A. finally have a chance to rest, but even though the day was saved some wounds have yet to heal. Eri, the girl who was trapped in the clutches of Overhaul, has yet to learn how to smile. What better time could there be for a school festival! As Class 1-A decide to put on a concert to lift the spirits of the other students, Bakugo and Todoroki are put to the test to earn their provisional licenses. Yet even as happier times return, there is a dark shadow growing in the distance, from the depths of the Internet comes a challenge unlike any other for U.A. That’s right! This time the greatest evil comes for U.A., a Youtuber! Does Modoriya stand a chance against the elastic might of this ‘gentle’ criminal?
And we’re back! It’s time to continue my review of My Hero Academia Season 4, are you excited? Because I am!!! (Seriously, I know I left last week’s review on a bit of a dour note, you can read it HERE, but I am pumped for this section, there’s going to be so many exclamation points I’m worried I might wear out the button on my keyboard!). I’ll let you in on a secret right here and now, I still hold to the idea that the sports festival through to the Hideout Raid arc are the best that MHA has to offer so far, but one of my favourite arcs outside of those is the School Festival arc! That’s one of the arcs that this section of the anime is adapting! Okay, now I feel like people are looking at me funny, or at the very least looking at their screens funny as they read this, the School Festival arc? Really? I know, I know, it’s basically a filler arc. The stakes are pretty much miniscule, with Midoriya having to protect the titular school festival from a villain who is the least nefarious MHA has ever produced, he’s basically an attention hog. Also Midoriya gets to practise a new move. That’s pretty much it, but I love every minute of it.
The School Festival arc just appeals to me on so many levels. On the one hand this whole second half of Season 4 feels like a return to what MHA does best. We’re got more screen time for the majority of Class 1-A, more interesting explorations of the world this series is set in and some top notch action and spectacle. It’s what I want from this series and I think binge-watching this last half of the season all at once really helped it (it’s been an interesting experiment, watching the first half of this season weekly and this half all in one go, the difference is astounding. MHA really needs to be binged, the emotional beats work best when they’re hitting you one after the other and that doesn’t happen when there’s a week’s gap between episodes).
There’s tonnes to dig through with this series, which is part of why I love it so much, but the first thing that really struck me was the idea that each generation’s quirks get stronger and stronger, and the effect that has on the kids of said generation. I’d love to see that explored more and it opens up the possibility that the world of MHA is heading towards a bigger disaster than any of us ever thought. Admittedly this season doesn’t do much with the idea, and maybe this is my foreknowledge speaking again because I know it’s important to a certain character to come, still it’s a really interesting idea to mull over and I’m surprised more superhero series haven’t thought of it before.
The second thing that struck me was Gentle’s backstory, he only ever wanted to be a hero, he only tried to help, and things went disastrously wrong. Obviously this is why things like provisional licences exist in the first place, but it was the reaction that struck me the most. People spray painting ‘trash’ on his wall, his mum screaming at him. Imagine if that had happened to Deku. What if at the very start of the series Deku’s actions trying to save Bakugo got a hero hurt? Would he have gotten the same treatment? It’s ideas like that that are the reason Gentle Criminal is one of my favourite antagonist (I can’t keep calling him a villain, he’s not) in the series so far. Not only is Gentle incredibly likable, he’s always fun when he shows up and he has a really interesting power, but, for me, he’s a dark reflection of what Midoriya could have been and I always love those types of antagonists. I love his fight with Midoriya and it’s heart-breaking when Deku has him pinned and La Brava’s there pounding her fists on Midoriya’s begging him to let him go.
Add on to that the stunning animation for the actual school festival performance, a song by Chrissy Costanza and Eri’s adorable smile and is it any wonder I love this half of the anime so much? I’ll admit there’s a bit of a drag in the middle of this half of the season, the anime is stretching two volumes worth of content (which normally takes me about an hour each to read) into four and a half hours of content, but the binge-watching helped with that. Overall I’d say the second half of My Hero Academia Season 4 is much stronger than the first, even if the stakes are lesser and the action isn’t as epic as what’s come before, the world and the characters of MHA are still some of the best in shonen. If you did watch it weekly and were disappointed, I’d recommend watching it again, but as a binge this time. Or if you don’t want to spend that kind of time, just make sure to binge-watch season 5 when that comes out.
Now, of course, there’s one last arc to talk about, the Pro Hero arc! Focussing on Endeavour and introducing Hawks! I like Hawks, Hawks is cool, he’s…he’s…he’s a murdering bastard! I’ll kill you Hawks! I will! After what you did! How could you!
Sorry, had a bit of a moment there. I’m calm now and no I’m not going to explain what that was about, spoilers! Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the Pro Hero arc! Honestly, I get the thought process behind it, it’s the season finale and you want to send everyone off on a big flashy fight, but cramming everything into two episodes? Really? I mean it’s going to make the start of Season 5 awkward as that now has to deal with all the aftermath of said fight, rather than starting fresh. Then comes the actual fight itself and surely the School Festival could have lost an episode to this the showdown between Endeavour and High-End a bit more room. I hate to be that guy, but I felt the impact of that fight so much more in the manga, admittedly because I could read it at my own pace, but then pacing is really the Achilles heel of this season isn’t it? Still the action itself is top notch MHA and, without my experiencing it in the manga first, this’ll probably be amazing to watch.
All in all, My Hero Academia Season 4 is definitely the weakest season so far, admittedly that’s only because the previous seasons have been so good (later half of Season 3 notwithstanding). There are clear pacing and production issues throughout the series that rub off some of the lustre and the arcs themselves aren’t the best the series has ever put out. The Shie Hassaikai arc is trying to be different and it’s not for everyone and, as much as I love it, the School Festival arc isn’t the most important or impactful story. However, I still love this series, I love it’s characters and it’s world and that it gets me to question things and really think about what it’s trying to say to me. I will continue to watch this show, I’ll just stick to binge-watching it in future.
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.