MY HERO ACADEMIA Episode 39: "Game Start"
Animation 85%
Characterization 65%
Story 80%
"Game Start" provided incredibly useful flashbacks and recap to reintroduce viewers after a year-long break. Although, the recap was slightly overdone and occasionally unnecessary. But while the opening episode of Season 3 is less exciting than expected, it's still fantastic by any reasonable standard.
77 %
Strong Start
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It’s back! MY HERO ACADEMIA is finally hitting the world with an exciting third season! When we last left the kids of UA Academy, they were finishing up their first forays into the real world. Rather than merely train in heroism in an abstract way, the students found professional internships. But, these weren’t your standard finance jobs. These internships granted the students the opportunity to work with real pro heroes and save citizens. Season 3 will show these wannabe heroes gain more real-life skills and get closer to the pro level.

For those yet to see this amazing anime, MY HERO ACADEMIA follows Midoriya Izuku. The world Midoriya lives in is quite similar to our own, but with one crucial difference. Almost 80% of the population is born with some with some sort of special power or quirk. These quirks give people incredibly powers or superhuman strength. But with the rise of superpowers comes the rise of supervillains, and superheroes to keep them in check. Unfortunately for Midoriya, he is one of the rare people to be born completely Quirkless.

That is, until he meets the world’s number one hero, All Might, and finds a way to acquire a powerful Quirk that he can reach for his dream. Armed with the power to radically increase his physical parameters, Midoriya enrolls in UA Hero Academy. But with the struggles of his newfound power and dangerous villains around, Midoriya has a lot to surpass.

Spoilers for MY HERO ACADEMIA Episode 39 “Game Start” follow.

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Slight Bait and Switch

What most fans very quickly noticed about this episode was the almost false premise of it. Rather than jump immediately into the Training arc of the series, MY HERO ACADEMIA started with some gentle exposition to re-introduce fans back into the show. This is pretty standard fare when it comes to anime, especially between seasons. After all, it’s been a whole year since some people watched the series. Even loyal watchers forget little details about the final episodes. So, rather than jump directly into a new arc, MY HERO ACADEMIA did a quick recap of the show’s past seasons and reminded us of the students’ Quirks. Following that, we got a taste of what appeared to be a beach episode. This kind of episode is something of a quintessential trope in anime, but even with this MY HERO ACADEMIA made its uniqueness clear.

The girls of UA Academy wearing various swimsuits as per Mineta's imagination. MY HERO ACADEMIA
Mineta’s idea of what a pool day would look like | Image: Crunchyroll
The boys of UA Academy stretching before swimming MY HERO ACADEMIA | Image: Crunchyroll
What it actually ended up being, much to Mineta’s dismay | Image: Crunchyroll

A day at the pool quickly turned into a training exercise for the guys of the Hero class. This was a welcome shift, however; the show has always done a great time of keeping Mineta’s perverted antics and other fanservice to a minimum. Starting Season 3 with something egregiously sexual would have been jarring.

But the training exercises were a fantastic way to remind us of the subtle improvements to everyone’s powers. Just as the entry exam provided exposition while indirectly showing fans every student’s strengths, having characters race across a pool showcased physical abilities. On top of that, competing in contests involves lots of motion. This allowed MY HERO ACADEMIA to show off some of its usual incredible animation. Every jump, stretch, or dive was satisfyingly detailed.

Some Missing Elements

One of the most noticeably missing parts of the episode was the show’s female characters. Despite being physically at the same location as the boys, they were incredibly underused in the episode. Granted, this is partially due to a standing issue in the show wherein the female students’ powers are generally not combat oriented. For physical contests like swimming, most of the girls’ powers would’ve been irrelevant (besides Tsuyu, for rather obvious reasons). But even then, there are plenty of pool related activities that could have shown off the unique quirks like Creation, Zero Gravity, or Earphone Jack.

While the flashbacks and neat callbacks to the show’s older trophy fights were nice, fuller representation would have been a bit better. This is not to say that this neat take on the classic anime pool/beach episode wasn’t enjoyable. The contests were funny and amusing and provided a gentle welcome back to the show. But it was entirely possible to do the same thing without shutting out a large portion of the show’s students.

All Might has Eyes in New MY HERO ACADEMIA Movie Trailer!

Useful vs Unnecessary Detail

Recap is certainly useful, but there are limits. Nearly 60% of the episode is a recap, and that’s of the content between the opening and closing themes. Some of it, like references to newer characters from Season 2 like Stain, were useful. Flashing over to see villains making plans is a useful way to deviate from standard flashbacks while still achieving a level of exposition. However, other parts were entirely gratuitous. The prime example of this came early in the episode when every students’ power was explained. While a year break between seasons might have caused someone to forget minor details, forgetting the Quirks of main characters seems unlikely.

Midoriya activates One For All in preparation for a powerful punch.
For an anime where Quirks are inextricable from the character, reminding fans of every single one is a bit much | Image: Crunchyroll

In fact, some details about the basic premise of the show were so central to past seasons that they would only be useful to some who had literally never seen the show. As a series that eclipsed several other shonen anime in popularity last year, it’s possible this was intentional. The curious viewer could watch this episode and have a good understanding of MY HERO ACADEMIA. But for the loyal fan instantly clicking that episode when it was available Saturday morning, the recap was a bit much. Even then, however, I can’t deny that it was exciting to see some of the series’ best fights while watching some hilarious antics and fun contests. For that reason, I can forgive the recap, especially if it means more anime watchers check out the new episode and turn to Season 1 as new loyal fans.

A Soft Opening with Potential for MY HERO ACADEMIA

Ultimately, while there are some minor problems with the episode, that’s only due to the absurdly high bar the show has. Rather than open immediately with the juiciest parts of the next arc, it’s smart to establish a nice base. Manga readers already know this, but the next arc introduces a lot of new heroes and villains. If we were to get overloaded with too much information, we’re liable to forget some important things about the past seasons. “Game Start” provided a preferable way to have exposition that is engaging even if it’s not the edge of your seat excitement that we got with fights from the Sports Festival.

All in all, this was an incredibly fun episode with a neat spin on a usually overdone trope. Anyone who has been following MY HERO ACADEMIA for a while will know that the show builds. The show’s true action is only so impressive because it’s always meaningful to the show’s plot. MY HERO ACADEMIA will almost certainly be one of this season’s best.

How did you feel about the first episode of Season 3? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image from Crunchyroll.

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