There are many paths to greatness in shounen manga.
OP2:”Sora ni Utaeba” (空に歌えば) by Amazarashi
Boku no Hero Academia returns from a two-week break, and if you were worried it might have lost its mojo in the meantime, you needn’t have. This nesting doll of a story continually reveals new complexities, new dimensions, and has the ability to turn on a dime. It doesn’t do that here, though – this is more of a seamless transition to a new phase in the journey (which is more the norm for BnHA). It even vaults into the new season with an outstanding new OP and sticks the landing with a cheeky and amusing ED that has more than a few Easter eggs stashed throughout its RPG storyline.
I know you guys give me guff for the constant Togashi comparisons with Horikoshi, and Hunter X Hunter with BnHA. But there’s a reason I do it. How can one not think of Nen when watching Deku try and master his quirk, or be put in mind of H x H as Boku no Hero continually twists and turns through a universe of astonishing complexity and internal consistency? But as much as anything it’s the key difference between these two series that fascinates me. One can attack shounen by blowing it up, which is effectively what Togashi-sensei does with Hunter X Hunter. Or they can do so by perfecting it, which Horikoshi-sensei does with BnHA. One might theorize that age is a factor here – Horikoshi was in his 20s when this series began. But there may be an element of artistic temperament involved, too – we’ll see, as we watch Horikoshi evolve as a writer.
Perfecting the shounen action model is very much what Boku no Hero Academia does here, at least as I see it – show us what’s possible when the right genius is brought to these familiar foundations. As we rejoin the story, time is very much a factor – Deku is aware now of just how far he has to go, and how urgent All Might’s situation is. At first the eccentric (to say the least) Gran Torino seems a poor choice to guide him on this journey – hell, he plays himself off as senile. But as the boy comes to know the old man, it becomes clear that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree as far as Toshinori Yagi’s teaching methods are concerned.
Gran Torino drops some interesting mini-bombs here, what with allusions to the 8th holder of One For All and such, but the focus is very much on Izuku himself (and by necessity). The world is not going to wait for him to (eye)catch up – Stain and Shigaraki meet at last, and while their differences are obvious (Stain scoffs at those who would “kill without conviction”) each has their own compulsion to do harm to those we’ve come to care about. The other Yuuei students are off to their own internships, each interesting in its own way, though I especially liked the scene with Kacchan and Best Jeanist (no spoilers, but this is a good reminder to pay close attention to what people in this series say – there’s not much throwaway dialogue).
Gran Torino slips into the mantle of shounen mentor easily – he’s not going to let the hero off the hook by telling him what he needs to figure out on his own. But his clue that Deku’s love for All Might is a “shackle” is certainly on-point. Gran Torino understands that Deku’s greatest strength is not One For All, but his mind and his will – with the right nudge, he’ll find the right path. I won’t give Gran Torino so much credit as to suggest he planned the microwave thing (I doubt he knew the Midoriyas had an old-school “no turntable” microwave), but it certainly flipped a switch in Deku’s agile mind.
Time, as I said, is a huge presence in this episode (and indeed, in this story). As Izuku muses, his friends and rivals have had lifetimes to live with their quirks, to understand them – and he’s had less than a year. Deku is many things, but among them is very hard on himself – and that’s something we see in many great protagonists in shounen. It’s a valuable trait, even a necessary one – but it can also be a weight that drags a hero down into despair. The role of a mentor is not only to push his disciple to get stronger – it’s also to encourage them to give themselves a break once in a while. It’s all part of the hero’s journey, and it’s one we’ve seen portrayed many times in shounen – but rarely as literally (or as brilliantly) as with Midoriya Izuku.
ED2:”Datte Atashi no Hero” by LiSA