Boku no Hero Academia Season 2 – 17


This is one of those episodes where Boku no Hero Academia flips the river card – a payoff ep in the truest sense of the word.  All the heavy lifting the series does in terms of character development and making an elaborate lanyard from plot threads allows it to deliver a conclusion that doesn’t require a lot of interpretation.  It all fits, it all makes sense – all you have to do as an audience member is sit back and revel in it.

Many manga fans have dubbed this part of the story the “Stain Arc”, and it’s easy to see why.  For me, the Hero Killer Stain is the most fascinating and unsettling part of this arc – yeah, Iida’s crisis is compelling and a true litmus test for his relationship with Deku and Todoroki, and it’s important for everyone’s character development.  But as his own brother says, Tenya is a very literal person.  He’s straightforward, and his motivations are straightforward.  There’s nothing straightforward about Stain – he’s a dark and disturbing puzzle that asks a lot of uncomfortable questions no one else in this story asks.

First things first, though.  And the first thing that has to happen in this denouement is that Iida Tenya has to overcome his self-pity and despair and move his ass to save his friends – who’re putting theirs on the line to save him from himself.  Make no mistake, Iida should feel terrible – indisputably, it’s his selfishness that put Izuku and Shouto in deadly danger.  If he hadn’t launched this vendetta against Stain, the Doumu crisis would still have been bad, but Izuku and Shouto would have been fighting under the leadership of pro heroes, adults.  Stain certainly wouldn’t have helped Shigaraki – in fact, I’ve always believed that if Iida hadn’t interfered Stain would have “heroically” hunted down noumu himself to the best of his ability, since their presence is an affront to him.

But Iida did what he did, and he got himself (and Native – who I should note is played by the very likeable Kenn) into deadly danger as a result.  So Tenya’s test is to swallow his self-loathing and suck it up to fight for his friends’ lives.  And so he does, just in the nick to save Shouto from a rather nasty (perhaps arm-removing) cut.  Three-on-one, the boys have the measure of Stain – just.  But it’s a war of attrition, filled with danger, and it still might have turned out for the worst if Gran Torino hadn’t been sent to help by Endeavor (who was given the address by his son).

Stain is a murderer, a “fundamentalist” as Shouto calls him – a terrorist.  He practices social engineering of the worst kind, destroying those who don’t meet his standard of what the world should look like.  But he’s also a man of towering will and seemingly limitless resolve.  As (again) Shouto notes, Stain’s quirk is actually rather limited – yet he’s able to take down pro heroes at will, and he’s more than a match for three of the strongest Yuuei students and their more powerful quirks.  He makes up for what he lacks in quirk with astonishing physical prowess (he’s certainly better with blades than anyone in BnHA) and even more astonishing martial spirit.  And if all that weren’t enough, there’s so much damn truth to the criticisms he levies against hero culture (and some specific counterfeit heroes – like this moment’s Iida Tenya).

The most dangerous madmen (and fascinating villains) are not the moustache-twirling sociopaths, but the ones whose madness is rooted in a truth and justice that’s warped into something terrible (see: Shishio, Makoto).  When a noumu snatches the severely wounded Deku, it’s Stain who thinks quickly and saves him (despite being even more critically wounded) because that’s what his code dictates – he’s acknowledged Deku as a true hero in nature.  And what Endeavor arrives on the scene, despite his terrible injuries and not being able to use his quirk, Stain raises himself up to confront the man he considers the embodiment of hero culture gone wrong (the implications of that are fascinating).  And he’s ready to take him on until he’s literally out on his feet – unconscious due to internal bleeding.  As these two stand facing each other, knowing what we do of Endeavor and Stain forces us to ask which is the real villain, if not which a true hero – and that’s what makes Stain such a fascinating and dangerous terrorist.

 

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8 comments

  1. J

    I think the idea Stain taking out Noumus (spelling?) first is a bit naive – even in this episode’s flashback, he says that he’ll deal with them later. Heroes amassing to deal with the threat provided Stain the perfect opportunity to strike at those he felt were unworthy, which was what he was doing [with Native] before Iida showed up. Taking out the Noumus would have been the last item on the agenda.

    Having said that, his would-be confrontation with Endeavour was fascinating. We have the benefit of Todoroki’s backstory to show us how contemptible his father is. What information does Stain know, or are there been rumours of Endeavour’s attitude in the general consciousness? Still, it was also refreshing to see Shouto take on his father’s advice – often in life, the best lessons you learn are from those whom you like the least.

  2. I believe at that point he’d just become aware of the noumu’s presence.

  3. G

    Why do you think Native is on Iida’s shoulders? I’m pretty sure Stain was inches from sticking a knife in him like a Thanksgiving turkey seconds before Iida showed up.

  4. s

    As reprehensible as endeavor’s mannerisms are when considering his private life, the man is a pretty damn effective hero. The dichotomy between his and all might’s approaches to heroism are quite fascinating in that while endeavor is a brilliant hero, he runs it like a business (as it is pretty much is in the boku no hero world); he’s practically the CEO of a multi-billionaire company who possesses the acumen and unbridled intelligence to run his business (hence the respect he’s garnered) but doesnt have any genuine investment in whether his business truly helps people or not. To endeavor, helping people is a policy he must uphold to keep his company strong so that he reins in the profits and pleases the stock holders. As a hero, he feels a responsibility for the lives of people to some degree, but it doesnt come from loving passion to help others. Endeavor, unlike All might doesnt uphold what some would see as true heroism: inspiring those to do better; being brave and courageous enough to uphold altruism; and it’s that which makes him the embodiment of everything Stain loathes even though for all intents and purposes, Endeavor’s services provides safety and comfort to the city. The thing is, Endeavor sees himself as a hero and one could argue that he is in that protects people, putting his life on the line to do so. However, where do we draw the line between what is heroism; that is what Stain asks and while he makes some compelling points, even stains definition of what a true hero is not entirely the right one; it just touches on aspects of heroism that should be valued highly. I dont think Hirokoshi ever tries to make it seem like Stain is right as some manga fans come to think; but rather that Stain makes some points that should be meditated on and taken into consideration.

  5. K

    Well said….and fully agree. On that note comparing All Might to Endeavor….I don’t think All Might has an agency or sidekicks and such so not sure how he goes about making money….Is he just freelancing? I know right now he is getting some income from the school at the very least. On a side note…me being me…and fantasy being fantasy….I was hoping Todoroki would freeze stain while holding him captive but alas….we needed a plot device for his escape….Overall though brilliant episode again and i am reminded that all good things must come to an end….Will probably rewatch this one.

  6. iirc Izuku mentions in the first ep (while rambling on in his first encounter with All Might) that All Might’s agency is in Roppongi?

  7. All Might definitely has an agency, though there hasn’t been much said about it. The sense I get is that a guy in his position has to have an agency, but A.M. isn’t too involved in his – he doesn’t seem like the administrative type.

  8. Hmm, I was expecting the arc to be a lot longer. Stain felt like he had enough potential to be a long running villain, but we still have an episode before the arc is over so we’ll see.

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