My Hero Academia Season 2 puts the focus on the rest of the students, as they get a taste of what being a real-world hero is actually like.
My Hero Academia‘s first season entered 2016 as one of the most anticipated and hyped anime adaptations from recent years. Its manga was (and is) a complete hit in Japan, and it was said to be the leader of the new wave of shounen anime. Unfortunately, while Season 1 was a great watch, its slow pacing and a low number of episodes stopped it from achieving Attack on Titan-level of hype. Fortunately, Season 2 has solved all those problems.
Nothing fixes a shounen better than a Tournament Arc (something Youtuber Gigguk managed to turn into a meme shirt after his anime spring video). This tournament arc comes at a perfect time for the series because, while many other series use these arcs to present the main characters (Naruto, Hunter x Hunter…), My Hero Academia uses it solely to make us grow attached to those we already knew from the first season.
In that regard, the tournament is not so much to know the characters, their abilities, and the comparison between their power levels, but to learn about their feelings, backstories, and their relationship with the abilities they’ve been given. The best example for this is Todoroki, a guy we barely knew anything about last season, but that is now a well-developed character with a lot of room to keep growing.
In the case of Todoroki, the duality of his ice-fire powers is a representation of the differences between his sick mother, and his abusive father. Therefore, Todoroki’s role in the tournament is not so much to beat his opponent but to better himself and get over his traumatic past. On top of that, the series also uses this storyline to showcase how it’s up to us to choose to turn a weakness into a strength.
Despite that, I cannot say that this is one of the best shounen tournament arcs I have seen. In fact, I found it to be pretty lackluster. Taking the previous examples, Naruto and HxH had way more interesting and exciting battles and challenges, and there were direct consequences to everything that went on in them.
And while this season manages to develop many characters (mainly, Todoroki, Iida, Uraraka, or Asui), many others continue being a mystery, or just a straight-up comedy gag (Aoyama, Ashido, and even Bakugou). I’m expecting Bakugou to have an essential role in the future, but seeing him rage at everything for no reason became annoying swift (his fight with Deku had its moments, though).
The season has a second chance at developing its characters with the Internship arc, but it fails again. Sure, there are many comedic scenes and even a fun filler episode, but it’s still hard to feel an emotional attachment to many of these characters. It’s a shame because the idea of having an internship in a superpowers academy series is something rarely ever seen. Its only redeeming factor is that Deku gets to meet Grantorino, All Might’s previous master, who teaches him a new way to use One For All without destroying his arms in the process.
As per the highlight of the season, I’m going to have to give that title to the Stain/Hero Killer Arc. This arc alone serves to develop Iida, consolidate Todoroki’s new attitude, introduce a new threat, and make Midoriya come face to face with the hard reality of the world of heroes and villains. It raises the stakes without having to force anything (there’s proper build up), it creates a real sense of danger, and it delivers some of the best well-animated fight scenes in the series so far. If this is a taste of things to come, then we are in for an epic ride.
Season 1 was about studying what makes someone a hero, and how bravery and having a good heart can sometimes be a defining factor in the face of danger. While Season 2 carries on some of those themes, it switches the focus to some more thought-provoking questions on justice, as well as the responsibility that comes with being powerful, and an idol to the masses.