With the wonders of a frog girl centred series fresh on our minds, and in our hearts, My Hero Academia leaves filler territory behind and performs a 180 degree roundhouse kick that gives us all both mood whiplash and a greater appreciation for the horrible past this fictional world left behind. No hyber buff hero smiling his way towards a brighter future, hair antenna billowing in the wind, just the emaciated form of All Might grimly explaining the truth behind the power to change the world. It’s a rough one this week.
With their internships behind them, Class 1-A returns to dole out all the gossip, stories and jokes their bodies can handle. Tales of modelling careers, combat training and preventing a family of octopi from smuggling drugs onto the shores of Japan abound and are resoundingly overshadowed by the three students who came face to face with a man prepared to kill the entire part of the world this series focuses on. Although Mineta’s sudden opinion shift on women leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air, questions that I’m not entirely sure I want answered. Still, this reminiscing leads nicely into 1-A’s next test, showcasing just what they have learnt over the course of their internships…probably. Said test mainly exists for Midoriya to show off Full Cowling and blow everyone away with the fact that he is not exploding his limbs with every movement. Bakugo also receives a moment to stew in his fury, simultaneously frustrated that Midoriya has progressed so far and that he is using Bakugo’s own moves to do so. If only he knew imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Not that I think he would care either way.
Regardless, the main aspect of this episode come after the brief rescue exam, after the reminiscing and after Mineta receives a rather apt punishment for trying to peep on the girl’s changing room. Having met Gran Torino and his second true villain (who All Might confirms does not now possess One For All after having ingested his blood, a minute aside I absolutely adore), Midoriya is apparently ready to hear the tale of One For All…and it is a doozy. Namely, it has a second half: All For One. As musketeerian as it is, a polar opposite to One For All is well in line with the spirit of self-sacrifice that permeates this series. Ironically created by All For One (whose nature is to steal Quirks and gift them as the user sees fit), One For All is the embodiment of heroism and the Shonen ideals. With three of its nine holders confirmed to be born Quirkless, it is a power that exists to empower the weak and keep the spirit of justice alive. However, it also gives the power a history of its own, strengthening the notion that Midoriya and perhaps those before him, never truly accept the power as their own. It is a gift, given to them and designed to be given again, something to exist forever and never die. A blessing and a curse that burdens its wielder and draws them into a fight not entirely their own. Luckily, I hear messing in another’s affairs is the essence of being a hero.
On a more grandiose scale, All Might’s speech to Midoriya reveals a veritable era of chaos, hidden enough so that even history books omit it…which raises some ethical questions about the freedom of information, but let’s leave that alone for now. As is so often the case in history both fictional and non, the sight of people different from oneself created a period of violence in the world of My Hero. Quirks were despised, their wielders ostracised and their very existence credited with why humanity is not capable of space travel…which is a bit of a stretch and and overall dick move. I mean, maybe if you weren’t such a jerk to the people with magical abilities, everybody could’ve gotten along and made some cool rockets. Mei Hatsume can make Hover Boots and she’s in high school. Think about that. Science aside, this period of history is one we haven’t seen from this series before, having been born on the concept of heroism being a widely accepted profession. It’s kind of frightening to imagine a time when this world was not divided into heroes and villains, but Quirks and Quirkless. The horror of a world that would hate Froppy…I don’t want to think about it.
And yet despite this deluge of information, this episode’s most lasting mark is what goes unsaid. Driven home hard by Midoriya’s ever present hero worship, All Might muses to himself that he will not be around forever and that his presence may end sooner, rather than later. It’s a heck of a note to leave off on and one that becomes all the more haunting upon the revelation that One For All still lives…in some semblance of the word. Comprised of nothing but scar tissue from the jaw up and riddled with medical tubing, the implied tenacity of this being is frightening. Even the notion that anti-aging Quirks exist pale in impact to the figure that stands behind Shigaraki, that works to mold him into a twisted successor. The similarities between the lineage of One For All and All For One are lost on nobody, but even this cliche construction of hero and villain carries the appropriate weight. Their existences similar, but not mirrored. Shigaraki may be analogous to Midoriya, but he is his own character at the end of the day and one that holds a far deeper connection to the world of villainy than we ever knew.
So now we know and knowing is nowhere near half the battle set to be fought. A history so heavy that even the shoulders of All Might sag under its weight. A story penned long ago that has seen the plight of a brother give rise to the greatest hero of all time and seen only a temporary set back to its equal evil. A fight that continues onwards in two unwitting successors, destined to leave their mark on the world, whatever it may be. A mark which, I’m not entirely sure I want to see. After all, look at what state All Might and All For One exist in now after their final clash. A broken man unable to fully utilise the power he so desperately desires to change the world…and All For One.
It’s fine now. Why? Because My Hero Academia is on Crunchyroll