My Hero Academia Season 2 Part 1 (Episodes 14-25)(Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Sony Pictures) Running time: 287 minutes approx.
Please don’t look for a review of season one of My Hero Academia on this site as you won’t find one. As a title unavailable for me to cover, a change in distributor means season two can get the MIB review treatment, but first a brief recap of the central plot for any other newcomers to this franchise.
Through a newborn baby in China disseminating magical rays across the globe, 80% of the world’s population developed superpowers called Quirks. Some use theirs for good, some for evil, other just go about their daily business. A young lad in Japan, Izuku Midoriya longs to be a hero like his idol, All Might, but Izuku was born without a Quirk.
After meeting All Might, Izuku asks of he could become a hero despite the lack of Quirk, which he is told he couldn’t, but as All Might reveals himself to be a wizened old man whose power is on the wane, he trains Izuku to become a vessel to take over his Quirk, One For All. Izuku can now fulfil his dream to be a hero, but first he has to graduate from the U.A. High School for Heroes.
Studio Bones’ adaptation of the manga by Kōhei Horikoshi, takes the unusual route of the trainee heroes fighting off the League of Villains in the climax of season one, only for this follow-up to focus on the academic side of their journey to becoming heroes. Having not read the manga I can’t say if this is a faithful replication of the story, but with only 13 episodes in season one, there is a sense of expedience suggested in this backwards move.
With double the episode count this time around (well, 25 to be exact) members of the extensive support cast are afforded the time to share their backstories and motives for becoming heroes they didn’t have before. These vary from the honourable to the tragic, going a long way in adding depth to the central cadre of characters who end up closest to Izuku – nicknamed Deku – in the story, regardless of their friend or foe affiliation with him.
Primary amongst these are Ochako Uraraka, the giddy but well-meaning girl who can make things float and Izuku’s first friend at the Academy; serious and studious Tenya Iida with jet engines in his legs and an older brother who is also a hero; and Shouto Todoroki, possessor of both fire and ice capabilities controlled by each side of his body. His is the tragic story alluded to earlier and makes for a far more interesting one than Izuku’s sadly.
The range of Quirks covers physical, mental, and psychological abilities which for some reason also manifest themselves in the appearances of their possessors – for example, Fumikage Tokoyami’s head is that of a crow, whilst Tsuyu Asui’s frog Quirk explains her long tongue and rather squat appearance. Most Quirks are represented by limbs, facial features and appendages clearly formed to signpost what the ability, but most of the time the wielder is usually normal looking.
One interesting aspect to the rules of possessing a Quirk is that they seldom come without a caveat, especially at this early stage. One of the reasons All Might isn’t always the mountain of muscle as per his public appearance is down to the declining time limit on the usage of his Quirk. For Izuku, this limitation comes from the bones in his body breaking every time he uses his Quirk, a pain he often fights through to attain victory.
In the 12 episodes in this first half of season 2, the majority are centred on the school’s annual sports festival, a series of events in which the students get to hone their Quirks in both team and individual competitions in the hope of catching the eye of a pro-hero and becoming their sidekick. A points-based elimination tournament, this isn’t so much about separating the wheat from the chaff or who has the more powerful Quirk, but measuring the heart and determination of the competitors.
Action is aplenty, which is one boon to the sports festival format, but not overwhelmingly so that occasional breathers are taken to give both the cast and the viewer welcome respite from the boisterous bombast of the fighting. Between using the Quirks and sheer, physical hard fought graft, no two bouts are the same and the list of winners and losers doesn’t always favour the obvious choices, reflecting the character development part of the story.
Current in the midst of a one-on-one tournament the Dragonball Z Martial Arts tourney leaps out as a major influence, just one of many references seasoned viewers of fantasy/shonen anime will be able to determine in the DNA of this show. This will differ depending on what shows you have seen prior to this, but I personally see reflections of One Piece, Fairy Tail, Naruto, DBZ, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Tiger & Bunny, One Punch Man and Soul Eater in the storyline, art style and character designs.
Therefore, it is tempting to dismiss My Hero Academia as another derivative shonen fantasy show and ponder the question as to whether we really need another one; indeed this was my feeling after watching the first season. However, the improvement in the writing and attention paid to the development of the cast beyond Izuku in this second instalment reveals an ambition of being more than a mere tribute to the superhero genre, adding much needed substance to the colourful visuals.
You won’t find much in the way of new ground being broken with My Hero Academia but as a composite of familiar ideas and tropes, this second season eclipses the first in showing it is capable of putting them all together to produce something worth sticking with. I am actually keen to see what the second half has to bring us, and I encourage anyone else unimpressed with season one to check out this release.
English Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0
Episode 13.5 “Hero Notebook”
Disc Two (Blu-ray Only)
Inside The Episodes (11 Featurettes)
Anime Expo 2017: Interview with Yoshihiko Umakoshi
Textless Opening Song “Peace Sign”
Textless Closing Song “Dakara, Hitori Ja Nai” vers. 1 & 2
Textless Closing Song Ep 13.5
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black