It has been said that barking dogs seldom bite. It has also been said that Katsuki Bakugo does both frequently and has attempted multiple times to literally blow up said phrase, due to its inaccuracy in regards to his personal motivations.
With the Sports Festival nearing its climax, this week sees Bakugo vs Todoroki in the match we’ve all been waiting for…at least since the spectacle of Midoriya vs Todoroki wrapped up. With a speed round of battles that lacked the inherent gravitas of said fight, fans both in universe and out are longing for the next big clash, perhaps none more so than Bakugo. With zero internal monologue, Bakugo reminds us all that he desires victory above all else. Moreover, he wants an indisputable victory, a triumph that cannot be ignored and other synonymous phrases. Combined with the knowledge that Todoroki saw fit to utilise his left side on Midoriya, Bakugo spends much of his screentime demanding Todoroki show him the same respect. Though his loud and abrasive manner fails to coax Todoroki into using his true firepower, it continues to paint us a picture of who Bakugo is as a character. On the surface a simple foil to the friendly and kind-hearted Midoriya, this bombastic bruiser is one of the most complex characters within the series.
Despite people fearing his power and understanding his raw talent, Bakugo forever feels a chip upon his shoulder. Determined to prove himself, he challenges the world so that he may stand atop it and have those he has bested truly understand his might. The most interesting element of this approach however, is that Bakugo is completely aware of what he is doing. He does not simply exist for us to dislike his bullying of Midoriya, he is a character unto himself with motivations all his own. Though these may clash with the rest of the cast, the series goes to great lengths to show that said motivations are not invalid. Could he have been a little less of a jerk to Todoroki? Yes. But he wasn’t wrong to wish for the same level effort in their fight. Even his classmates understood this. The amount of audience reaction shots showed this and particularly stood out to me this week, not just for their rapidity, but because I honestly was not sure if the crowd could hear what the competitors were saying. Though the symbolism of Midoriya and Todoroki’s dialogue being just between the two is nice, having characters bare their souls in this tournament has a certain raw charm to it. Especially when exclaimed by the jagged, uncut diamond that is Bakugo and his many exclamations.
Whilst Bakugo steals most of the scenes he is in this week, especially with his Lecter-esque confinement on the 1st place podium, it is the quieter moments that send this arc off that truly hold presence. Claiming the reigns one more time, Todoroki ventures forth to heal the wound that is still preventing him from accepting his left side: His mother. Though Midoriya showed him that his fire abilities are not to be shunned, Todorki believes it is simply not fair for only him to be relieved of his burden. Thus, he visits the woman who forever scarred him, in more ways than one. As one might expect from a child visiting their parent who was hospitalised for assault and mental instability, the scene that plays out is difficult to quantify. Though it was his mother who burned him, Todoroki has never presented any level of hatred towards his mother, directing it instead to the man who led her to do so. Still, it is hard to not feel uneasy when the two meet again. The almost non-reaction Todoroki’s mother has upon seeing her son holds such a sombre tone and yet she is still one of the most compassionate influences in his life. Which says a lot for the poor kid. Kids for that matter, as we finally see another of the Todoroki siblings and come to realise that the hardships of the Endeavour household stretch further than Shoto and his mother.
Speaking of hardships, poor Iida has found himself most unwantingly back in the spotlight of this series. Following the clarification that his brother is not dead, despite last episode purposefully leaving that fact up in the air, we are able to see a little more of the brotherly relationship that spurs Iida towards heroism. And it is a sweet one. As Iida respects his brother for his values, so to does Tensei respect his brother’s accomplishments. It’s a subtle point, overshadowed by the state in which Tensei lies, that serves to remind us that a world of characters exist outside of Class 1-A. That consequences are very real and, despite the glory of heroism, there is a very real side to it. Kind of a heavy note to leave off on, considering the highs of combat that have seen us through the past few weeks, even with their messages of personal growth and improvement. Even seeing Midoriya shatter his hand wasn’t as hard to watch as seeing Tensei in hospital and Midoriya shattered his own hand. Twice over.
So there we have it, the Sports Festival is over and the (irate) winner is Bakugo…not that anybody truly cares. Though I’ve said it many times before, Midoriya vs Todoroki was the moment that excitement peaked and though everything that has followed contains its own merit, it is still the exhalation of everything the early episodes built up. Still, this lower key ending (even with another appearance from hero persona All Might) allows the transition to drama to flow, rather than cut suddenly. And with Stain still unchecked for his crimes, I have a distinct feeling that drama will be a key word in the arc to come.
It’s fine now. Why? Because My Hero Academia is on Crunchyroll