Episode 41 reminds us why MY HERO ACADEMIA is unparalleled in terms of character growth. Through multiple themes, steady exposition, and a stellar story, this anime continues to pass its own high bar.
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Incredible Episode!

MY HERO ACADEMIA is now progressing through its newest season in earnest. Episode 41 “Kota” continues the long-awaited Training Camp Arc with some useful improvements to our heroes’ Quirks. On top of that, there was a good deal of screen time spent on chronicling Kota and Midoriya’s relationship. Since the second season and the Festival Arc, MY HERO ACADEMIA has steadily introduced themes questioning the common conception of the hero. In a world where superpowers are commonplace, the idea of “hero” is deified to a fault. By introducing characters that critique and respond to these conceptions of heroism, the world of this anime gets much more thematically complex and satisfying.

In addition to the general movement of the story, we also met a few new characters, including the rest of the Pussycats and some new villains. The episode was essentially divided into segments, flowing from training to real-life danger. As with literally any training activity UA Academy tries to do, villains attack. While we didn’t see any substantial combat between the villains and our new heroes yet, we did get a strong end to keep us excited until next week rolls around. Personally, I was much more interested in the philosophical leanings of Kota, but this is an episode that provides something for any kind of anime fan.

Episode spoilers for MY HERO ACADEMIA episode 41 “Kota”  follow.

MY HERO ACADEMIA Episode 40 Recap

Bringing in Class B

One thing that was most notable in this episode was the near-constant presence of students from Class B. Oftentimes, due to how little of UA we see beyond one class in the entire hero track, it’s easy to forget other characters even exist. During the Festival Arc, we saw a few notable characters from lower classes fight against our usual cast. In the past, these characters were used as a way to illustrate the drive necessary to succeed at UA. For Class B, the path to hero isn’t as set as it is for those in Class A. Many of them don’t have incredible combat oriented Quirks. And unlike Midoriya’s friends, who have had their reputation boosted by several villain attacks, they have a pretty standard classroom dynamic.

But there is a pretty significant change in the way these other students appear now. Rather than the relatively more driven group they were depicted as halfway through last season, they’re clearly much less motivated than their counterpart class. Now that Midoriya and company have experienced some level of true hero life, they’ve quickly surpassed the others.

Class B reacts to Class A's harsh training. MY HERO ACADEMIA
Class B shocked at the intense training for Class A | Image: Crunchyroll

While a somewhat small detail, it is indicative of the kind of growth Season 2 provided. As episode 40 explained, most of Midoriya and his friends’ time at UA has improved them mentally but not especially in regard to the strength of their actual Quirks. What’s important to note however is that this mental fortitude is precisely what is needed to grow one’s power. Class B lacks the approach and desperate drive toward improvement that Class A has; at this point, their acting as a foil is most useful for understanding how truly exceptional Class A has become.

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A Real Understanding of Training

I was incredibly glad that this leg of training didn’t involve bad forms of recap. To clarify, this is referencing the catalog of Quirks from the first episode of the season, which focused on the strengths of everyone’s powers. For episode 41, which needed to remind viewers of shortcomings, the exposition was very much ‘show’ and not ‘tell’. Rather than simply state that Kyoka Jiro needs to increase the penetrating power of Earphone Jack, we saw it ourselves and arrived at the conclusion naturally. On top of that, episode 41 really capitalized on the comparison of Quirks to muscles. Repetition and moderation of intensity are super important just like in weight training in MY HERO ACADEMIA.

Those whose Quirks require consumption of food eat while training. MY HERO ACADEMIA
On top of the Quirk’s effectiveness, detailed training regimes indirectly remind viewers of how the Quirk actually works | Image: Crunchyroll

This is a great way to give every character some screen time. As usual, the bulk of the narrative focus was centered around Midoriya, but we still saw the others. On top of that, there were some neat moments sprinkled throughout the cooking and test of courage scenes. Todoroki found slight satisfaction using his Quirk to help people. This is incredibly powerful as a theme considering his own personal trauma. Recall that Todoroki’s scar came from his mother pouring scalding water on the side of his head that resembles his father. To him, the power over flames and cooking must have been incredibly painful to associate, but now he’s able to smile while lighting fires to boil water and helping out. Also, little tidbits like Tenya Iida apparently having no idea how to peel potatoes were quite funny.

Introspection via Kota

Despite the episode being his name, Kota was off-screen for a good portion of it. In this case, however, it is precisely his absence that speaks to his importance as a character and the way he and Midoriya relate to one another. The other students don’t even notice Kota. Despite Midoriya asking about him in front of his classmates, someone as observant as Todoroki completely forgot who he was. While the rest of the students eat together, Kota constantly wanders off and the pro heroes don’t even seem all that concerned. All of this is partially emblematic of Kota’s struggle and makes him a stronger character. Midoriya was correct in pointing out the object of Kota’s hatred: all of superhuman society itself. He does not deny one part of it, rather he would prefer a world similar to our’s outside of the anime.

Kota sneers at Midoriya. MY HERO ACADEMIA
Kota reacts to Midoriya’s words about the inspiring nature of heroes | Image: Crunchyroll

Ironically, Kota’s perception of heroes is quite similar to Stain. He feels that the flashiness and fetishization of ‘power’ are what leads to real heroes dying. This further complicates Midoriya’s development since he grew up having some understanding of how it felt to be an outlier in superhuman society. MY HERO ACADEMIA did an incredible job of juxtaposing these different upbringings with clever references to Stain and others. This is the deepest I’ve ever seen an anime examine the social ramifications of superhero culture. Even the anime’s villains are complex and unique, building up action to end the episode.

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Villains Descend!

This episode also brought in some new villains. While I love the heroes of the series, I can’t help but love the coolness and destruction that the villains bring. Dabi, with the power to create brilliant blue flames, is certainly a standout. Maybe it’s AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER supplanted in my aesthetic preferences, but blue flames just look too damn cool to ignore. While non-manga readers don’t know much about the quirks of the other villains introduced, we do know this; “Vanguard Action Squad” is pretty legit. They were able to fairly easily locate this top secret training camp. Beyond that, they also had a complete understanding of the training camp schedule. They infiltrated the private land at the perfect time.

Himiko Toga blushes in excitement as she stalks UA students in the forest. MY HERO ACADEMIA
Himiko Toga is one of the members of the Vanguard Squad and has incredibly complex ways of fighting | Image: Crunchyroll

Recognize that these villains are mostly the contingent that idolizes and embodies Stain’s ideology. This means yet another layer of hero philosophy is in play here. Certainly, the presence of Stain-esque villains and Kota will make for amazing dialogue in the coming weeks.

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While the episode was incredibly entertaining through the short bits of humor and the test of courage, I didn’t feel that was what really made it shine. Kota was truly the highlight of both this and last episode. Looking even more deeply at Midoriya’s selfless desire to save him, we can observe some of Midoriya’s growth too. In a bizarrely abstract way, Midoriya is trying to save himself through Kota. Rescuing a child from the pessimistic despair of hatred affirms Midoriya’s own entry into the world of the powerful. Just as Stain saw the fruits of true heroism while fighting Midoriya, Kota’s interactions reflect a degree of sincerity Midoriya has that is lacking in his classmates.

Overall, this episode of MY HERO ACADEMIA was very much a setup, but an extraordinary one. In fact, in terms of characterization, this may be one of the best episodes of the series. In the same way that Midoriya and Todoroki’s fight introduced another side of the hero world, Kota’s story resonates strongly. The episode developed the students of both Class A and B while introducing new antagonists. The calm side of villainy is a great change from Shigaraki Tomura’s almost naive outlook. Episode 41 “Kota” makes me even more eager for the next chapter of this incredible anime.

Featured image from Crunchyroll.

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