So it begins.
The reveal of the second season of Boku no Hero Academia was one of the worst-kept secrets in anime. The only question was where and when it would happen – at the close of this episode? At the BnHA event at Anime Expo next weekend? As it happens it fell to Weekly Shounen Jump itself to deliver the good news, which might have sapped some of the excitement from the finale epilogue. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter – the point is that more anime is coming (when exactly is still unannounced, but based on what’s being teased most likely two cours), and it always was. Boku no Hero Academia is simply too successful and too important to WSJ‘s brand strategy not to receive a long-term adaptation.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear – if you have issues with the anime’s pacing, send all complaints to Horikoshi Kouhei, c/o Shueisha, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Because this is all on him – Nagasaki-sensei and Bones followed the course of the manga faithfully, and I for one am glad they did. I’m frankly surprised that this has turned out to be such a kerfuffle, but I think it’s still more evidence that the predominance of light-novel adaptations in recent years (thankfully, possibly on the wane) has sapped the anime audience’s patience for character development and deliberate exposition (especially in action series). In effect, what happened this season was the prologue to Boku no Hero Academia – and nothing that happened in it was unnecessary to the main story which begins in Episode 2.1.
A couple of series based on manga I was already a fan of really overperformed this season – Shounen Maid and Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge. Two shows I had huge expectations for – Joker Game and Bungou Stray Dogs – underperformed (badly, in the latter case). Boku no Hero Academia was the one show in my top tier that delivered exactly what I expected – and that’s a good thing. Nagasaki didn’t need to make major changes for this series to transition well – it was already ideally suited for the screen, one of the most dynamic manga around. And he didn’t – as is usually the case when Bones adapts good material, they understand what it is that makes it special and don’t mess with it.
Closing with the “USJ” Arc was the right move for the anime, and not just because it was the next in-line chronologically. This story really marks the end of innocence, the first step in the real education of Izuku and the other Yuuei students. Everything up to this point has been in a controlled environment, but the world is not a controlled environment – and certainly not if one aims to be a hero or a villain. Horikoshi raises some very interesting questions about what the process of education children in a fundamentally dangerous and unpredictable profession ought to look like, but the answers are for later – what’s important here is that these kids see what the word “consequences” means for the first time.
In my view, this is one advantage Izuku has on his fellow students, because he already knows the answer. He’s had to work his ass off to acquire his quirk rather than have it simply manifest soon after he was out of diapers. But not only that, he’s painfully aware of consequences every time he uses his quirk – and the consequences for All Might are made obvious to him over and over. Deku knows things the other Yuuei students don’t, and while that makes him a bit of an old soul, I think it also gives him an edge when circumstances force a split-second decision in the moment of crisis, when everything is on the line.
That’s where the real tension lies as this encounter with the villains enters its final stage. Yes, Noumu has been vanquished and the worm seems to have turned. But only two people in the center of the maelstrom know what’s really happening – Deku and All Might. All Might literally can’t move a step without his body giving out and blowing his cover, and all he can do is taunt Shigaraki and try to stall until the cavalry arrives. The person this is hardest on is surely Izuku – he can’t say what he knows, but he can see the telltale signs that All Might is past his limit. What in the world is the right thing to do, when almost any action or inaction might make things much worse? No mistake about it, BnHA does not go easy on its protagonist – here, or ever. It’s not that kind of story.
All Might’s goading the clearly unstable Shigaraki on might just have worked, but Kurogiri has a much calmer head. And when Shigaraki settles down a bit and realizes that All Might isn’t as indestructible as he looks and that this might be the best chance they’ll ever have to kill him, he acts – and All Might is totally powerless (literally) to do anything about it. Even knowing what he knew, Midoriya doing what he did next had to be a terribly hard decision. Would the truth come out because of what he did? Would he be killed himself – if his quirk didn’t do it first? He breaks his own legs to achieve the speed he needs to get in-between All Might and his attackers, but Kurogiri has seen through his plan. Things look grim, but help does indeed arrive just in the nick of time – most critically the hero called Snipe, who intervenes in rather immediate fashion at the last moment.
That whole sequence was pretty much Deku in a nutshell. He’ll act when he has to even if the odds are stacked against him, and he has an instinct for knowing which seemingly hopeless course of action is the least hopeless. I’ve worn out the keyboard talking about these great moments between he and All Might, but we get yet another one here when All Might makes sure Izuku is aware that his actions were no failure – in fact, they saved his life. They were the very definition of heroic, in fact, which sums up Deku pretty darn well. I think Kacchan totally gets that even if he doesn’t know exactly what was going on with All Might (he does sense something is amiss), and that really pisses him off.
Only the quick thinking of the hero Cementoss preserves All Might’s secret, but for all that it could have been worse, Yuuei has some soul-searching to do in the aftermath of this debacle. Aizawa-sensei and Thirteen are alive but badly hurt, and All Might and Izuku are taken to Recovery Girl for their latest makeout session. Consequences are very much hanging in the air here, but at least everyone is alive to face another day. An old friend of All Might’s, detective Tsukauchi Naomasa (Kawashima Tokuyoshi) is in charge of investigating for the police, and stops by for a visit. And as Shigaraki and Kurogiri debrief their masters in the post-mortem, the new face of evil looks out over the city…
And now, the wait begins – if I were a betting man, I’d guess a wait of six months. For reference, this season covered only 21 chapters of a manga that’s at around 100 and counting, so there’s plenty of material to do a two-cour season as soon as Fall and not come close to catching it up. I think even those who’ve complained about the pacing will find much to like in next phase of the story, which picks up the urgency considerably. For the rest of us who’re already fully on-board, it’s just sheer excitement in knowing that the real epic has only just begun. Boku no Hero Academia‘s first season did a perfect job of setting up the series and giving the audience a taste of what’s to come – now it’s time to gorge ourselves at the feast.