The genius of Boku no Hero Academia is strongly in evidence in an episode like this one. I think it’s scenarios like this that really call out the almost savant-like shounen gifts of authors like Togashi and Horikoshi, and are one (though by no means the only) reason I find Horikoshi to be the closest thing to Togashi among the young generation of shounen mangaka. I can only imagine what the creative process for writers like this is, but it’s always seemed to me that scenarios like the Yuuei sports festival or Heaven’s Arena (or indeed, quirks and Nen) this are akin to putting together a puzzle. And that geniuses like these two see the entire picture even as they’re putting the individual pieces together.
The cavalry game is a kind of perfect storm of strategy, really, one that I suspect Togashi-sensei himself would be proud of. There are so many dynamics here – the personal relationships between the students, the rivalry between the classes, the allocation of points, and the quirks themselves. Most obviously being worth ten million points literally means Deku has a price on his head, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If the obsessive focus of most teams is going to be on claiming Midoriya’s scalp, couldn’t one choose to take advantage of that obsession and steal lesser bounties, aiming for one of the top places starting with second?
The matter of who Izuku will team up with is multi-faceted. The first to damn the torpedoes and join him is Uraraka, and she does so strictly out of personal loyalty (which has clearly been important to her from the beginning). But the next in line is a curveball, Hatsume Mei from the support class. For her, all that matters is exposure for her “babies”, catching the eye of corporate scouts – and that makes the fact that Deku is a marked man a positive, not a negative. This really calls out the multi-faceted nature of the hero game in Boku no Hero Academia – this is a business, and a cutthroat one at that.
Deku has a strategy (of course), and the ideal fourth wheel for his team is Iida. And there’s no one at Yuuei who feels more kinship with Deku than Iida. But he refuses, reflecting the conflicting priorities of this event. Iida needs to shine on his own, not consistently be in Deku’s shadow – thus, he refuses. But Deku has a backup plan (of course) and that’s Tokoyami, whose “Dark Shadow” is the invaluable defensive quirk that Izuku needs to make his team complete. What’s most notable for me here is how willingly Tokoyami acknowledges Izuku – “you’re the one that chose me”. Willingly deferring to someone who’s better at strategy than y0u is itself a good strategy.
As the other students weigh all these factors and choose their paths, it’s revealed that Class B has been playing the long game – quietly following behind Class A in the obstacle course event and observing their quirks. It’s sound reasoning – the name of the game is to finish on top at the end. And their strategy means they’re now more interested in claiming the headbands of the teams focused on the ten million points and moving forward to the next stage than actually finishing first themselves. That makes things easier for Team Deku (especially when Class B claims Kacchan’s bounty and diverts his attention) but there’s still a formidable force out there gunning for him.
Todoroki is never one to be taken lightly in Boku no Hero Academia. Even with one hand figuratively tied behind his back (he refuses to use his fire ability in combat, only ice) he remains arguably the most powerful student in the first year class – and he can stalk Deku without being burdened by personal animosity or petulance. He has Iida on his team, too – and the complete deference of his “horses”. It’s interesting to observe the figures who command the center of attention in Class A – Deku, Bakugo and Todoroki – because they each do so through completely different means. And being the genius shounen concoction that it is, the cavalry battle puts those means sternly to the test…