Hey all, and welcome back to Why It Works! With the spring season fully underway, I hope you’ve all found a few new shows to savor. Personally, while there are a fair number of new shows I’m enjoying, I’m probably most excited for the return of My Hero Academia. The adventures of Midoriya and his friends have only gotten more thrilling and well-executed from season to season, and having already read the manga material that this third season will cover, I can confidently say this has the potential to easily be the show’s best season yet.
That said, in spite of having read the original versions of these arcs, the episodes released so far have me realizing there will still be some surprises coming. Both the first and second episodes of season three are largely anime-original – the first episode mixes classic recap with an entirely new pool visit, while the second expands a battle in the forest that was only a couple panels in the manga into an episode highlight in animation. And all of that is interesting to me!
In particular, the second episode’s expansion of that forest battle gives us the rare chance to step outside of the narrative the anime staff can’t avoid, and see how the characters are viewed by the storytellers themselves. Not just who they are as people, but what roles they serve in the narrative. Anime staff adapting ongoing manga don’t make significant narrative changes for no reason – they adjust the story to accomplish the anime’s own goals, and looking at their changes can give us insight into those goals. The overarching purpose of this segment was certainly “hype up the audience by reminding them how cool all the members of Class 1-A are,” but can we draw a little more from it than that?
Well, we can try. The scene’s opening sequence offers our first small insight, as we see a giant mud monster taken down by Midoriya, Todoroki, Iida, and Bakugo. This sequence, largely based on one single panel of Midoriya staring up at a monster while Mineta cowers, seems to demonstrate that My Hero Academia has at least somewhat solidified around this core group of four heroes. The dramatic placement, extended length, and the fact that the show cuts from them back to the teachers’ reactions before moving to other characters clearly sets these four as the characters with top billing in My Hero Academia. Additionally, the fact that Bakugo is here roped into a combo attack with Iida could very well imply his character has softened a bit; he’s willing to collaborate now, something the show wants us to understand without having to spell it out.
From there, the sequence runs through a rapid medley demonstrating all the unique Quirks of the rest of Class 1-A. We’re introduced to this segment through a rallying cry by Iida and Yaoyorozu that underlines Yaoyorozu’s growth from the first semester exams. Yaoyorozu was essentially a Sera-tier background class member up until that arc, so I was happy to see this segment give her such prominence. Given both that cheer and the fact that she gets the dramatic killing blow on one of the biggest monsters later on, it seems like she may be getting bumped up to the main cast.
Other reveals here act more as confirmation of things we already know. In spite of triumphing during the exam arc, Mineta returns to pure, cowardly comic relief here, implying he’ll continue to be the unheroic counterpoint to all his teammates instead of experiencing any sort of growth arc. And other segments simply reflect the fact that this ensemble cast is too large for all its members to have really stood out yet; Shoji and Jiro are grouped together as “reconnaissance” while Sato and Kirishima once again represent “brainless muscle,” underlining the fact that the manga hasn’t given them enough to do for the anime staff to really extrapolate on their personal friendships or unique uses for their powers.
Still other sequences here gave me some ideas as to what not to look too deeply into. The fact that Tokoyami was given a solo highlight made me question whether his collaboration with Tsuyu during the exams arc was actually an indicator those two would become close friends – after all, this is the perfect venue to demonstrate that kind of shift. Instead, Tsuyu’s segment simply reemphasizes her friendship with Ochako, while Bakugo’s last segment emphasizes his rivalry with Todoroki. And of course, there’s that big Yaoyorozu sequence, which implies both Yaoyorozu’s growing confidence and the fact that Mina seems to be a whole lot more effective when someone other than Kaminari is guiding her.
All in all, this anime-original segment doesn’t offer any true mindblowers, but it does serve as a very handy illustration of My Hero Academia’s view of itself. These are the relationships the staff wants us to be minding, the arcs they want us to be considering, the power-ups they want us to remember before we get into the serious action. This is where our heroes are now; let’s see where they can rise from here!