Boku no Hero Academia Season 2 – 09

shounen (adjective) : [Japanese, “teen boy”] see “Boku no Hero Academia”.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 - 09 - 01That was pretty much a master class in Shounen right there, one which doesn’t need a whole lot of extra flannel from me to sell it.  I’ll say this much – if that didn’t work for you, you may just not be a fan of traditional shounen manga/anime, because I’m not sure you’ll see it done any better.  There’s genre-bending and deconstruction out there that sits in its own category (like Hunter X Hunter of course – obligatory mention: check) but for the straight-ahead stuff, this is pretty much what should be studied in the textbook ’cause it’ll be on the test.

And just consider this – BnHA really hasn’t gotten to the good stuff yet.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 - 09 - 02There are so many reasons why Horikoshi-sensei is so good at this, one of them being his innate understanding of the form and function of it.  There’s also the fact that his characters are so vibrant and so distinct.  I mean, truthfully Bakugo vs. Ochako is a solid “B” match, not a headliner – but it sure feels like a headliner, doesn’t it?  There’s no part of Kacchan and Uraraka’s journey that we don’t understand, because we’ve come to know them so intimately.  I think a case can be made that the outcome of this match was never in serious doubt, but with Boku no Hero Academia, it never felt like a sure thing.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 - 09 - 03It’s a fascinating matchup, no question about it.  Ochako is a fairly transparent character – and I mean that in a good way.  Her motivations are known and easy to understand, she’s loyal and consistent, a true friend and a model of fair play.  Kacchan seems transparent, too, but he’s actually not.  It’s a mistake to think this boy is simple or easy to understand, because he’s neither.  He’s very good at giving the impression he’s governed by his rage, which makes him act rashly and without thinking.  But – and this makes him way more interesting – he’s full of rage but channels it into well-calculated decisions.  He factors in all that anger and arrogance and builds a strategy around it.  I’m not saying he doesn’t exercise bad judgment sometimes because of his temperament – but it’s always judgment.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 - 09 - 04There’s a simmering chauvinism in this battle, a scent of the sexism that runs so deep in Japanese society (and shounen).  Why should Bakugo go easy on Uraraka because she’s a girl?  She chose this path, just as he did.  In truth Kacchan is being much more respectful of Ochako in every sense than the audience (and Present Mic) who boos him for “bullying” her – he may call her “roundface” but he’s equal-opportunity when it comes to disrespecting opponents, gender is irrelevant.  Kacchan wants to win this just as he does every match, and he knows Ochako is a threat he can’t take lightly (pun intended).  Full kudos to Aizawa-sensei for calling out the audience and his broadcast partner for their condescension and the strategic blindness it causes.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 - 09 - 05In the end, though, Bakugo is simply stronger than Ochako – it doesn’t come down to heart or guts or strategy, and there’s no shame in it.  Her plan was a good one, maybe great – lure Kacchan into attacking her low to the ground and giving her an arsenal of debris projectiles to make weightless and use against him.  If Kacchan were the impetuous berserker some mistake him to be it would have worked – but he’s not.  He’s as careful and calculated as he is powerful, and he makes the necessary adjustments to survive Uraraka’s best shot.  But he never lets his guard down, right up until the match is called.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 - 09 - 06That clears the stage (once Kirishima has won the PK shootout for the final quarter-final spot) for what indisputably counts as a major headliner – Deku vs. Todoroki.  They don’t get much bigger than this, and thanks to Horikoshi’s writing, the matchups don’t get much more compelling.  Here we have All Might’s willing protege against Endeavor’s unwilling one – two boys who genuinely respect each other (I couldn’t agree more with All Might that they “give off a similar vibe”, which makes this matchup so much more gripping) but have their eyes on a much bigger prize.  The difference here could not be more stark – All Might makes no attempt to make this about himself, but for Endeavor this match is totally about himself – and All Might, of course.  Surpassing him, that is.

Boku no Hero Academia 2 - 09 - 07The chance meeting in the corridor between Izuku and Endeavor is very interesting indeed.  Endeavor is quite respectful – much more so than with his son, certainly – and he notes that Deku’s quirk is “magnificent”.  He also notes its similarity to All Might’s but doesn’t drop any hints that he suspects.  What really strikes me, though, is how Deku chooses to play this moment.  His immediate response is to defend his opponent – yes, he declares “I’m not All Might” but as they both say, that’s obvious.  But for Deku to take the bold step of telling Endeavor that Shouto isn’t like him tells us so much about Deku.  Make no mistake, he’s the “hero” in the title of this series – Izuku Midoriya is a child to be admired on so many levels, and a great shounen protagonist.

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8 comments

  1. Y

    Useless comment but… This was SO GOOD!

  2. Z

    Useless comment Me too – So FREAKIN GOOD

  3. s

    Hands down my favorite episode. Everything from Deku’s subtle character growth (pretty much telling Bakugo and endeavor to get their heads out their ass), to Bakugo’s respect for ochako (he even called her by name….gasp), to ochako fighting with every ounce of her being regardless of being scared, and then finally, when she apologizes to her parents for losing because she thinks the loss has set her back from earning money for her parents sooner…Oh man. That one scene effectively captured what it feels like to be a kid in a low-class family putting the burden of breaking the cycle of poor earning on one’s shoulders. To think to yourself: “i want to hurry up and be rich so i can support my family” and then feeling like your losing time because every setback feels like your family has to endure working hard to survive; that’s quite relatable. People talk about best girls like hatsume and tsuyu but for me, ochako has always been the female character i liked the most. She’s got character underneath that bubbly personality, So headstrong and determined; so courageous (true courage is fighting even when you’re scared) and earnest; and most of all, filled with fighting spirit. It’s sweet how she looks up to deku (and how he is so grateful to her without her realizing it); sweet little girl subconsciously fell for Deku after the U.A entrance exams without even realizing it.

  4. s

    execution like this in shounen is rare these days

  5. C

    YES. Yes to all of the above. Ochako is an excellent character, I’m glad Horikoshi used some of this tournament arc (which could have easily been all about Deku, Bakugo, and Todoroki) to tell us more about Ochako and what drives her in life. I’m sure we’ll get to the other female characters soon, but in the meantime, this show (and its manga) is/are outstanding and a leader of the Shounen pack. I don’t know how Horikoshi does it; there are so many reasonably fleshed-out characters to juggle and he makes the task look easy.

  6. Good episode, Uraraka had needed some fleshing out before this point and the episode delivered on that magnificently, also liked how Deku didn’t end up being the one to comfort her. The Deku and Todoroki fight could also go either way, but I’m personally rooting for Deku since his future matches are likely to be more interesting.

  7. Y

    I LOVED this episode. As someone who is in an identical financial position at the moment, I completely understand Ochako and really feel for her and her family. I loved how fierce she was, how determined, all for the sake of providing for the people she cherishes, and I loved that I could look at a mainstream shounen manga and see something so seemingly mundane that I could personally relate to; the fight itself was magnificent too — I actually got goosebumps when she dropped the meteor shower. But I hated how Katsuki, Deku, Monoma and Aizawa were literally the only people in that entire stadium to take her seriously without unnecessarily bringing her gender into the picture and using it as an excuse to disregard her worth and drive as a hero.

    I often have serious trouble discerning whether or not Horikoshi himself is sexist — and this episode left me just as confused on that account as I usually am when I read the manga. On the one hand, there are the abovementioned characters, who clearly weren’t willing to listen to that bullcrap about how “She’s a GIRL, How COUld YOu DO thIS to HERrrrr?!” (Katsuki’s reply to Kaminari — “What part of her was frail?” — is one of my favourite lines in all of BNHA, can you believe…), but on the other, you have the rest of class 1-A, including characters I genuinely love, like Iida and Tsuyu, who had no problem being just as casually sexist in their remarks as that pro guy who started breathing down Katsuki’s neck about how he was going too hard on Uraraka (I’m defending KATSUKI’s choice of words and actions, this is unreal). And in general Horikoshi tends to oversexualize some of his female characters and centres a lot of their arcs around the arcs (or sometimes even the sheer existence/presence) of his male characters. Not to say he doesn’t write them well — he always does — but it’s noticeable, and I find that pretty frustrating. Of course, I’m aware that compared to most manga writers/artists, he’s a saint when it comes to handling the gender imbalance. I just wish things were different because I believe he can still do better.

    On a more positive note, I will most likely die next episode: the Deku/Shouto fight is my absolute favourite moment of the first half of the entire manga, for a list of reasons too long and twisted to explain here. I was punching the air when Deku told Endeavour to go hang his pathologically inflated ego, and I’m probably going to cry on Saturday, knowing what’s coming. I love both of these boys too much.

  8. You know, the casual sexism you describe is just so pervasive at every level of Japanese society that I don’t think most Japanese even perceive it as sexism. I can think of very few manga or anime with a meaningfully mixed-gender cast that don’t display at least that much sexism, so I don’t really hold it against BnHA in a major way. As you say, compared to most mangaka (especially in shounen) he’s positively progressive.

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