What They Say:
In the future, mankind is blessed with superhuman abilities called Quirks and in a response to the growing crime rate, superheroing becomes a viable profession. Izuku “Deku” Midoriya dreams of one day becoming a great hero like his idol All-Might, but he was born completely quirkless with no powers at all. However when Deku ends up having a chance encounter with All-Might in the flesh, it changes his destiny forever.
Content (warning as portions of this review may contain spoilers):
It’s time for a showdown as this week’s episode brings us the long awaited match between Deku and Todoroki. The show has spent a lot of time this season trying to build this one up, and as a dedicated reader of the manga myself, I was really eager to see this fight finally get adapted. With all that in mind it pretty much goes without saying that I was expecting this to be one of the show’s stronger episodes, but it ended up blowing right past them, instead delivering what’s not only one of the show’s strongest entries to date, but easily the best of either season.
The match gets off to a pretty rough start as Todoroki goes all out in using his ice powers on Deku who’s left with no other choice but to defend himself by sacrificing his fingers to deflect them with One-For-All. However, Todoroki’s refusal to use his father’s powers ends draining his stamina, and he soon finds himself almost as exhausted as Deku. Despite being pushed beyond his limits, Deku refuses to give up and berates Todoroki for holding back on using his fire powers, saying that he doesn’t deserve to aim for the #1 spot if he’s not going to give it everything he’s got. This only ends up setting Todoroki off even more as he’s spent his whole life resenting the powers he shares with his father, but Deku tells him to become a hero for his own sake and not his dad’s and those words remind him that much like Deku, Todoroki once possessed a genuine desire to be a hero and finally uses both his powers, costing Deku the match, but helping Todoroki to take his first real step towards being the kind of hero he wants to be.
There’s so much to dive into here that it’s really hard to know where to begin, but I might as well say first and foremost that this episode looks downright fantastic. While I’ve generally been pretty happy with the way the show’s looked up to this point, and it’s certainly had a lot of strong animation highlights, I have to admit that I sometimes felt like the show was a little too visually conservative for what I generally expect from BONES productions and kind of wanted to see it be a little bit more ambitious. This episode answered that wish in spades as it’s easily the best the show has ever looked, not only in terms of strong animation highlights and sheer spectacle, but also in terms of bringing out it’s most effective use of visual direction thus far. From detailing the agonizing levels of pain that Deku puts himself through to stay in the match, to the faded color schemes used to represent Todoroki’s inner turmoil as he struggles through the pain of his past, everything here manages to hit right where it needs to and manages to bring out a level of intensity that I frankly wasn’t expecting.
For all that visual flair though, it’s the story told through this episode that really makes it shine, and it was great seeing a bit more of Todoroki’s perspective. While his backstory still feels a bit over-the-top, the resentment he feels towards his father is very real, and its managed to consume him to the point of nearly defining everything that he is. However in trying so hard to reject his father, he’s also been rejecting himself, allowing Endeavor’s shadow to loom over him emotionally rather than physically, and the effects have clearly eaten away at him. The realization that he doesn’t have to let his physical similarities to his father define who he is manages to come off as a genuinely powerful moment despite the cliches involved, and it’s equally fascinating to see that beneath all that raw angst lies a kid who’s always dreamed of being a hero of justice, much in the same vein as Deku. All of this ends up coming at Deku’s expense since he loses the match, but much like what the title of the episode implies, the events here are also meant to be the start of Todoroki’s story, and it strikes a very similar cord to how Deku’s journey began.
Much like how All-Might’s words convinced Deku that he could become the hero he always wanted to be, Deku does the same for Todoroki, and it’s really incredible to see things come full-circle from the first episode as Deku plays the role of All-Might here in helping serving as a source of inspiration. Of course even with this epiphany, it’s clear that Endeavor’s ambitions are going away anytime soon, but the step Todoroki manages to take here is one that will no doubt help him towards achieving his own dreams, and the overall execution has me just as interested in seeing him reach those goals as I am with Deku reaching his. Between the great storytelling and the strong visuals, everything thing in this episode manages to click just about perfectly, and while there’s still plenty of material left to get through this season, this feels like it’s gonna be a really hard one to top.
Deku and Todoroki’s big match finally arrives and ends up bringing us the show’s strongest episode to date. Everything from the excellent visual direction to Todoroki’s struggle to overcome his past, really manages to leave an impact, and it all comes together to form an episode that’s as intense as it is emotional. This is easily the strongest the anime has ever been since it’s first two episodes and while I’ve been pretty back and forth on the quality of it’s execution since then, this one definitely shows that the staff can really knock it out of the park when they want to and I’m hoping this won’t be the last time they manage to go this all out.
Streamed By: Funimation, Crunchyroll, VRV