A genre of Japanese comics and animated films aimed primarily at a young male audience, typically characterized by action-filled plots.
See: Boku no Hero Academia
If you were listening to Samu and myself on an RC podcast talk about how Boku no Hero Academia was the future of Weekly Shounen Jump back when it was maybe 25 chapters old – or if you were one of the ones following it already – nothing you’re seeing now surprises you. But it’s interesting that it was so obvious, even then, that this series was a landmark in the making. Horikoshi (of course) hadn’t yet done most of the things he would eventually do to make BnHA so special – but we knew. What is it that tips us off when a story is exceptional, I wonder?
What Horikoshi does with this series that’s so magical (and there’s no point anymore in repeating how brilliantly Bones is capturing it – that’s a given by now) is combine elite shounen action with really intricate character development. T*gas*i does it too of course, but his signature work veers almost into seinen territory – Boku no Hero manages to have incredibly complex and nuanced character arcs within an archetypal shounen framework. I wouldn’t say this series is in a class by itself in doing that, but it sure doesn’t take long to call the roll.
What’s playing out now in Hosu is especially interesting because we have a bunch of these character arcs intersecting (principally Izuku, Iida and Todoroki), while at the same time two different and totally contrasting villainy styles are unleashed on the city. The League of Villains are releasing pure chaos with the rain of Noumu, and Stain is pursuing a very systematic and idealistic (yes, I think that word is justified) reign of terror in pursuit of a larger purpose. If you’re the one being terrorized I don’t suppose it makes much difference, but from a viewer perspective it’s certainly food for thought.
Stain is a style of antagonist I especially like, because there’s a disquieting appeal to his line of thinking, and he never lapses into incoherent vamping. Even his most “cartoonish” villain affectation – licking blood off his blades – is something he does specifically because it’s necessary for his quirk (I’m not saying I know for sure he doesn’t enjoy it, but that’s neither here nor there). Shigaraki has, in fact, unleashed the Nomu specifically because he wants to rain on Stain’s parade – to make the citizens forget about him. One can almost sense that Shigaraki is more threatened by Stain than by the heroes themselves (though his boss definitely takes a longer view).
It’s very clear that Iida’s journey has gone terribly wrong here, and that’s why it hurts so much to hear Stain call that out – the fact is he’s right, and even Tenya knows it. To use your quirk in the pursuit of a personal goal (much less an ignoble one like vengeance) is about as unheroic as it gets. Deku makes quite a contrast – meddling in other people’s troubles even when unasked is the essence of being a hero. And Stain gets this right away – to him, Deku is worth letting live while Iida is not. It’s brutal for Iida to watch (and hear) all this playing out as he lies paralyzed – all of his feelings of helplessness and inadequacy are intensified.
Izuku has learned to use Full Cowling, and at last can use One For All without taking himself out in the process. But as always, his greatest strength is his brain (and spirit). He’s figured out what Iida was up to, and where he might be found. He’s confirmed the essence of Stain’s quirk, and figured out his best plan to attack it. He’s smart enough to realize that he needs help, and discreetly calls for it with his sumaho. He even correctly guesses the weakness of Stain’s quirk when his recovery makes it apparent. But even so he’s still not strong enough to take out Stain on his own. And the other hero who proves his meddle here in, in fact, Endeavor. He too has guessed what might be about to go down in Hosu, and because of that Shouto is close by to receive Deku’s distress call.
This is an important stage of Shouto’s journey too – and it was Deku’s intervention in their battle that gave him the insight to finally confront his father and his own quirk head-on. When his friends are in trouble Todoroki doesn’t hesitate to use his left side, and he needs every ounce of power he has. Even with his and Izuku’s combined strength Shouto is still wounded, and Izuku forced to take the lead in protecting the fallen Iida (and Native). For Todoroki and Deku this is a battle, and if they survive it they’ll know they’re on the right path. But for Iida, it’s not simply a matter of survival – even if he lives, he’s completely lost. Will he see Deku and Shouto as examples he has to follow, or as further evidence of his own unworthiness to take on his brother’s mantle?