It’s not too surprising, but every time Boku no Hero Academia has an action-driven episode, it sees a spike in its Stalker numbers. It’s pretty clear what the disc-buying audience wants, and over the course of its run Boku no Hero certainly offers plenty of it – and you know when Bones is doing the animating, it’s going to look the part. But I appreciate the fact that they haven’t chosen to play the action card to the detriment of both this adaptation’s faithfulness and it’s effectiveness as a story. Horikawa-sensei puts just as much care and attention into the chapters that aren’t battle-driven, and the anime audience deserves to see them get their due.
For all that, this was certainly a battle-driven episode (the first in a while) and it doesn’t disappoint. The good thing about BnHA is that even the action sequences are used as character development, and they always follow a sense of internal logic. For example sending Iida to return to Yuuei for help, as Thirteen-sensei did. It might seem odd to sidebar one of the leads in the middle of the series’ first life-and-death battle, but it was the only move that made sense. With lines of communication down and the invading villains clearly having someone in their midst blocking them, someone had to go and Iida is by far the most logical choice. It’s not a decision that sits well with Iida, but even he is forced to accept the common sense of it.
The villains – seemingly under the leadership of the rather grotesque Shigaraki (Uchiyama Kouki) soon make it clear why they’re here – they want to take out All Might. But he’s not there, leaving Eraserhead-sensei to cowboy up and try and take on the lot of them while Thirteen helps the students escape. He employs his quirk to great effect, erasing enemy quirks at a dizzying pace, but also reveals a couple of tricks up his sleeve. His goggles make it impossible to tell whose quirk he’s nullifying, making him effective against a group of enemies, and he’s extremely adept at close combat too (a must given the nature or his quirk).
Still, Aizawa-sensei is only superhuman, and he lets the villain Kurogiri (Fujiwara Takahiro) slip away – literally in the blink of an eye. The “Black Fog” uses his Warp Gate quirk to split up the kids, scattering them to the four corners of USJ where the plan is, presumably, to pick them off at leisure. Meanwhile the intended target of all this, All Might, is back at campus getting a lecture from the principal about not responding to every distress call he hears and prioritzing his teaching commitment a little more. The timing for a leisurely chat could hardly be worse, but Nezu has no idea what’s happening at USJ – and to be fair, the points he’s making are totally valid ones.
Sent to the shipwreck rescue zone, Midoriya has been isolated with Tsuyu and Mineta, facing seemingly insurmountable odds as a small army of villains obviously strong in the water surrounds the boat Tsuyu has retreated to with the boys she’s plucked from the water. But Midoriya has more going from him than his quirk – he’s a budding master strategist, and Tsuyu is no slouch either. She points out that these villains wouldn’t have launched their plan unless they had a way to take out All Might, and he that the villains likely don’t know what the students’ quirks are given that they’ve sent the frog girl to the water zone (rather than, say, the burning skyscraper). Mineta-kun, meanwhile, laments his own perceived powerlessness and bad luck to be killed before he can cop a feel of Yaoyarozu’s oppai.
Having of course read this arc through to its conclusion I want to avoid saying too much here, but I will offer the observation that quirks, like people, don’t always reveal their true depths on casual observation. And that, like Nen, they represent only a part of a person’s power and act as a reflection of their nature. A quirk is only as valuable as the owner’s understanding of how to use it – this most obviously applies to Izuku and his struggle to control One for All, but certainly it’s not exclusive to him. Tsuyu reveals her value quite quickly – she understands her quirk well and knows how to maximize it – while Mineta still sees his as minimally valuable in combat. Fortunately Deku doesn’t see it that way, and his actions are a sort of challenge to Mineta to believe in himself. Teamwork saves the hour, if not the day – revealing another facet to maximizing the value of quirks. To wit, combining them. The U.A. students may not be learning the lesson that was on the schedule, but they’re certainly learning valuable ones indeed if they want to survive in the hero game.