So remember that last thing I said about Shingeki no Bahamut yesterday? That.
This seems like an appropriate time to make an observation about Boku no Hero Academia. Specifically, that’s it’s especially well-suited to a tournament arc structured like this one – which in my mind says that Horikoshi Kouhei is smart enough to understand his own strengths. That quality of “always leave you wanting more” is amply in evidence with Boku no Hero – every character is so distinct and so interesting that you look at them and say, “I could watch a series with that person as the protagonist/villain/sidekick”. There’s that apocryphal Salieri-Mozart thing again (as with Togashi) – the sense that this is all pre-written in the author’s head, and he’s just “taking dictation from God”.
That’s why this style of competition, with sixteen characters paired off in one-on-one battles, is so perfect for Horikoshi’s style. In many cases we’ve been anxiously waiting for these kids to have their moment in the spotlight (though even here, it’s often all too brief), in some it’s only when we see a character in focus for the first time that we realize we’d like to see more. And because of how fleshed out they are, there’s genuine uncertainty about how these matches will turn out. A few of them follow course (Aoyama seems consigned to the eternal butt-monkey role, for example) but most of them pack real suspense.
First off, it’s Kaminari-kun against “Earth Goddess” Ibara Shiozaki (Masaka Miho). And if there were any question of Class A running the table, it’s quickly put to bed here as Ibara spanks Kaminari pretty ruthlessly. This is an example of two very different styles of quirk and their relative compatibility – Denki’s Pikachu attack is strong enough, but Ibara’s binding quirk (though her acting ability is also almost quirk-caliber) is perfectly suited to neuter it. Also interesting to note here is the observers – Mt. Lady is anxiously scanning the pitch looking for potential sidekicks (a major component of the sports festival’s importance). And of course there’s Deku – but we’ll talk of him shortly.
Next up is Iida against Mei, of the Support Class – and while it isn’t specifically quirks, again we see a question of one person’s strengths exploiting the other’s weaknesses. Honorable, literal-minded Iida-kun can’t wrap his mind around the idea that Mei has no interest in winning, and is simply using him as a runway model for her hero tech gadgets. He falls right into her “trap” – though that trap involves him winning and moving on, as Mei simply walks out of the ring after showing off her entire product line (and highlighting the items that keep Iida from losing despite his own best attempts). Once again BnHA casts its gaze on the more mundane sides of the hero industry – and in this series, that’s exactly what it is.
Of Aoyama and Ashido not much need be said, as this was the heat that was a foregone conclusion (the most amusing part was in the audience, as Mineta bemoans the fact that their fates weren’t reversed). But Tokoyami and Yaoyarozu, now – that’s a fascinating matchup. I love the “stealth” characters in shows like this, and Tokoyami is very much that. His personality is as unassuming and humble as it gets, but he’s a major, major player – his quirk is deceptively terrifying (and even superficially it looks pretty damn good). As for Momo, we see once again what her biggest flaw is – she’s continually bedeviled by self-doubt and over-analysis.
The penultimate match pits the two most similar quirks we’ve seen in BnHA against each other – pitting Class A’s rock-hard Eijirou against Class B’s steel-belted Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu (middle name: Tetsutetsu?). If there’s anything between these two it’s impossible to peg based on what we see here (indeed, they end up drawing) – and it’s interesting (and by no means isolated to these two) to see how it plays up the way quirks reflect the personality of the person who sports them (Hisoka would be so proud). Again, it’s a matter of compatibility – when two quirks of the exact same nature face off it’s not the most thrilling match, and even Deku’s attention wanders to the battle to follow – though given who’s involved, he can be forgiven for that.
Ah, Deku… Is it me, or is it impossible not to think of Ei-chan from Baby Steps when we see him in this mode? They share a lot in common, these two boys (not least being among the best protagonists ever in their division of shounen manga). It’s interesting that Deku decides to help Ochako here – he chalks it up to repaying a debt, but given his twisted personal history with Bakugo and the potential “other factors” with Ochako, it’s fascinating to ponder. Ochako’s decision to reject Deku’s help, having been inspired by Iida’s earlier resolve to prove himself against Deku despite admiring and liking him, has inspired considerable disagreement among readers. I, for one, fully endorse it – this is not a life-and-death battle against a villain, with innocent lives (and her own) in the balance – it’s effectively a sporting event. She has every reason to prove her own worth, to herself if nothing else. And this is definitely one of those battles where the result is full of suspense, one of the real headliners of the tournament. Strap in tight…