Following up on last year’s hit first season, season 2 of My Hero Academia (MHA) sees the U.A. students picking up from the villain attack and trying to promote themselves to pro heroes through the U.A. Sports Festival. This festival is the Olympics of the hero world, or at least the non-professional hero world. In it, students compete to show off their quirks, cooperation, and quick-thinking to pro heroes in the hopes of increasing their future career prospects.
If last season was about overcoming adversity through determination, this first cour of season 2 is a commentary on social hierarchies and expectations. We learn how students not accepted into the main hero courses are relegated to the lower level courses such as general studies, and as a result they find it difficult to stand out and prove their worth compared to hero course students. While class 1-A (Midoriya’s class) has certainly not had it easy, to those below them, and even to Hero Course 1-B students, it still easily appears they have had everything handed to them on a silver platter. After all, its students are the ones receiving all the attention and who seem to be on the fast-track to becoming professionals.
The series goes even deeper, examining how some of those other students did not make the cut for the hero course because their quirks aren’t battle-savvy. When the admissions test is largely focused on defeating menacing robots, it can be quite unfair to anyone without an offensive quirk, regardless how powerful their abilities. (I do have to wonder how some of 1-A scored so high. Looking at you, Mineta, Hagakure, and Koda.) Adding on to some of these students’ despair is when their quirk does not neatly fit into the category of what most people would consider heroic and instead is one commonly associated with villainy. Not only is it hard for people like that to prove their mettle, but it is difficult to even convince people they could be a hero in the first place. Everyone at U.A. wants to be a hero, but just like in real life, the feasibility of one’s career path can often be dictated by factors outside one’s control.
One thing MHA has always seemed to nail is making its fights genuinely fun. Regardless of if the stakes are high or even nonexistent, the shows’s battles are always satisfyingly engaging to watch. That’s thanks in large part to the emotions brought to the table by the characters. Hotheaded or rowdy characters like Bakugo and Kirishima keep fights lively, strategic characters like Midoriya and Uraraka provide creative twists, and then there’s just characters who are so flashy or likable that you can’t help but get hyped, such as Todoroki or Iida. The fluid integration of personalities helps elevate the fights beyond just a physical clash of two forces. Action scenes can’t be all bang with no bullet. There has to be a substance to them to make them come alive themselves, and MHA places that idea at the forefront of its production priorities by highlighting the characters themselves just as much as the action within its fight scenes.
A noticeably lacking aspect of these episodes is the presence of an antagonist. Shigaraki’s group is still lurking in the background but ultimately does very little. A new threat is introduced toward the end of these episodes, but the first half of season 2 focuses almost exclusively on the Sports Festival. It seems to be a trend with MHA to switch between character-building arcs and plot-relevant arcs, and that balancing act seems to work in its favor as we learn more about the cast before they get thrust into further terrifying circumstances. Midoriya and Bakugo were at the forefront of development last season. They’re still very much a focus, but this season takes time to examine Todoroki, Iida and Uraraka more directly before tossing them into what could be a villian-related arc relevant to them.
The animation for the show is somewhat divided. For non-action scenes, the character movements and perspectives are not particularly standout, although they always manage to remain aesthetically pleasing. The show really never looks bad; it just sometimes appears a little bland with a few of its scenes…but still in a pretty way. However, when the series does decide to ramp up the visuals, its animation becomes some of the best. The battles, especially Todoroki’s, receive the best animation, and rightfully so considering that’s where the meat of the show lies. There’s not much room to complain about the more mundane animation segments when the show does in fact hand us truly glorious-looking scenes such as Sero’s 1v1 fight and the climactic battles for each Midoriya and Bakugo during the tournament. If there’s truly a gripe, it’s that Midoroya’s arms just looks weird in some scenes. That and the fact that the show’s stylistic choice of showing high emotion in characters’ eyes through sharp lines in their sclerae isn’t made as effective as in some other shows.
My Hero Academia proves itself yet again by delivering an arc that would easily have been dragged out for far too long in many other popular series. Despite brushing over a few fights too quickly, the show knows how to properly pace itself to maintain interest, hitting the high points and then moving on. Sports festival and tournament arcs are hit-or-miss in anime, and it’s safe to say My Hero Academia hits a home run this season by focusing on the psychological drivers of its cast as its primary selling point. It’s got another cour to go before season 2 is over, and it looks like things will be turning grim again quite soon thanks to an incident involving Iida’s brother Ingenium, an exciting prospect considering how fun the low-stakes battles have already been this season.
My Hero Academia - Episodes 14-26
- Examines the complexities of society's definition of heroes
- Strong character writing
- Animation for action scenes is some of the best
- Illustrates unique quirk interactions
- Continues to slowly incorporate its side characters
- Several rushed fights
- Lack of antagonists
- Many characters remain sidelined despite efforts otherwise
- Iida and Midoriya's placement in the first event is questionable