Animation
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Summary
This is one of the best MY HERO ACADEMIA episodes out there. Bakugo and Midoriya's fight was radically enhanced from the manga with superb fighting animation and voice acting. The characters make the series, and this episode extolled that.
93 %
Damn Near Perfect

If you were wondering where the MY HERO ACADEMIA budget went these past few weeks, I’ve got news. It was in this week’s episode. Like, all of it. Apart from the amazing action and thematic development within the episode, it looked fantastic. Midoriya and Bakugo’s footwork, subtle movements, and Quirks were animated to perfection. The result was a fight so fluid that it shocked me.

Seeing Midoriya start spinning and hitting Bakugo with the just fanciest footwork was one thing. Seeing him turn those spins and leans into a disrespectful kick to the face made me rewind. Twice. This was beyond a lot of fights with emotional backing we’ve seen in shonen anime in the past. Oftentimes, anime will utilize too long flashbacks or unfounded emotions. This fight was different in that both its combat and feeling felt substantiated. This makes it uniquely compelling to MY HERO ACADEMIA as a series and just plain pleasant to watch.

And this is where Episode 61 “Deku vs. Kacchan, Part 2” really struts its stuff. The title of the episode alone implies the longstanding nature of these rivals’ conflict. Even now, every interaction between the two UA students contained breadcrumbs of Bakugo’s frustration. But, due to the very real dangers and evolving plots of the series, it was never properly fleshed out. Bakugo is a very divisive character in the MY HERO ACADEMIA fan base. While everyone is capable of acknowledging that he serves an important role, some disagree with his particularly abusive demeanor. But, this is somewhat forgivable in terms of his character.

Episode 61 gave us the context to see Bakugo as more than a bully. He is a brilliant depiction of an inferiority complex and mental struggle. This episode and the fight within substantiated that.

Bakugo’s Pain

Bakugo has been carrying the burden of All Might’s retirement within himself for 3 seasons. This detail, something most watchers will inevitably overlook eventually, changes everything. It helps us understand that what ostensibly seemed like childish outburst were merely catharsis. Bakugo feels the same motivations as the stereotypical depiction of a bully, sure. He puts others down in order to create a common level of lowness. But that lowness is the result of his own interpersonal guilt and inability to understand his powerless. Undoubtedly, this peaked after his kidnapping by All For One and Shigaraki Tomura. He was powerless to rescue himself. Even when he was rescued, he was only able to be encouraged by Kirishima, a Grade A bro who unconditionally acknowledged him as a human worthy of saving and respect.

Bakugo confronting his thoughts in MY HERO ACADEMIA
Bakugo’s internal struggle. | Image: Crunchyroll

Being able to fight was not a matter of Bakugo wanting to surpass Midoriya. Rather, it was an expression of emotion in the only way that made sense to him: a literal explosion of it. Ironically, it’s only Midoriya who is capable of receiving that. Only Midoriya has the life experience and context to understand Bakugo as a person. And, Midoriya knows what it feels like to be truly powerless. Bakugo was subconsciously trying to restructure his life into the position he always saw himself in. While the need to always be the best isn’t really a fantastic one, it is Bakugo’s. And in that regard, Episode 61 did wonderful work.

As usual in these episodes of the MY HERO ACADEMIA anime, voices and faces make a massive difference. Reading sadness on a page is a lot different than hearing a voice break. Rivulets of tears and strained yells filled the episode. In this way, the steady action got a great enhancement.

All Might’s Twin Legacy

More than anything, the episode’s pure focus on just the fight and nothing else was great. There was no discussion of adolescent romance, no worries about looming threats. No villains crashed the scene at the last minute. This fight occurred in a little segment between the past and next arc. Because of that, it was able to communicate its message in an unadulterated way. Both Bakugo and Midoriya carry a portion of what it means to be a good and ideal hero. Good to note is the implication here: neither one of them has all that they need quite yet. Just like when they fought All Might in the Exam arc, Midoriya still somewhat lacks confidence. Bakugo does too, but his response to it is aggressive overcompensation. Both, however, have the unique charisma that makes a Symbol of Peace.

Midoriya punching Bakugo in the face in MY HERO ACADEMIA
Midoriya is done being a punching bag. | Image: Crunchyroll

In the context of this season and the series, this a great implication for both Midoriya and Bakugo’s continuous growth as characters. MY HERO ACADEMIA has never been shy about getting close and deep this way, and that’s great. Like what was explicated during the Provisional License exam, the future of heroism is teamwork. The kinds of deep, coordinated assaults like Hosu City are precisely what the world needs. And while a dynamic duo of Bakugo and Midoriya will probably never descend on crime in matching suits, it does seem cool in theory.

An Impactful Fight in MY HERO ACADEMIA!

MY HERO ACADEMIA has had some weaker points these past few weeks in the anime. The story wasn’t entirely as strong or substantive as it could be. As we approach the beginning of the next major arc, it certainly seems that the transition has been a bit slow. And, just a couple weeks ago, there was the issue of the awful filler episode that completely threw off the season’s momentum. This week, however, make’s is clear that the anime is bringing things right back.

MY HERO ACADEMIA has clearly carved its niche as a shonen able to explore emotions on a deep level. Instead of just basic, surface level depictions of friendship, the show weaves in the complex motivations. invisible suffering, personal complexes, and interpersonal relationships are even present in some of the best fights of the season. Above all else, that’s what makes this episode, and MY HERO ACADEMIA writ large, a very special series.

Featured image via Crunchyroll.

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