Was there a time when this series didn’t try to play kickball with your heart? Because I sure don’t remember one. Just when a literal Ending forced its way into our little Todoroki story beat, MHA decides to introduce a backstory to just really heap the sadness onto U.A.’s resident grumpy dad and fun uncle. Seriously, let somebody not be riddled with trauma: is that too much to ask? Probably. I don’t imagine one throws themselves into the maw of danger without some sort of complex, but I digress. Reminding us all that Kurogiri exists, has been incarcerated, and is a Nomu (not sure if we new that last one), this episode follows Eraser Head and Present Mic’s discovery that said Villain is, in fact, the tinkered-with and reanimated corpse of their childhood friend. Though our knowledge of Shirakumo is limited to this episode, his first mention, he definitely seemed to be the driving focus of this U.A. trio of the past. His introduction also reveals that students have indeed died during their work studies, reminding us all that this is a seriously dangerous world in general. Worldly implications aside, seeing the glibness and zaniness of these two characters crumble is a pretty rough watch. Even beyond the final burst of emotion, Present Mic spends most of this episode telling Eraser to calm down, despite his own body language clearly betraying his thoughts. It’s…it’s a lot.
Outside of the obvious, one of the most interesting things about this episode is seeing how Shirakumo’s death changed Mic and Eraser. It wasn’t that the tragedy altered their personalities—gloomy and loud, respectively—but that it focused their attitudes. Mic kept on being a loud people-person; Eraser did his damndest to make sure his students didn’t throw their lives away pointlessly. I’m not sure if expelling students simply to strike fear into their hearts and make them feel the “death” of their Hero-self is an ethical practice, but it sure seems to work. Also, good on MHA for exploring the issues with teaching students “the spirit of self-sacrifice”. I mean, it’s important when a Hero lays down their life to protect others, but only when it’s absolutely necessary. Eraser almost died to save his students back at U.S.J.: necessary. Midoriya almost exploded his arm to throw a baseball once: not necessary…but kind of metal as hell. All I’m saying is that I’m glad this series explores its own rules to their fullest extent. It makes it a good series; it makes you care about a character who was never known to exist; it makes you want to punch All For One in his dumb whatever-he-has-that-is-technically-called-a-face. For all these reasons, and probably more, damn was it good to see Shirakumo break free, if only for a pained moment. I’m not sure if that’s enough to change a miracle into a possibility, but one can hope.
P.S. I still like the dynamic of Ashido teasing Uraraka about her super-obvious crush on Midoriya. It’s fun. Is that wicked mood whiplash from the rest of this piece? Yes. Yes it is. Enjoy it.