When I finished watching episode 22 I kind of had to take a minute just to sit and process. That doesn’t happen often as usually I get to the end of an episode and either flick to what’s next on my watch list or just start jotting notes about the episode. With the exception of ACCA and Kado which both have a similar effect due to having to try to piece things together with the plot, the last action anime that gave me an episode that had me so still at the end was Assassination Classroom after THAT episode. It took me a fair while to get over that.
What this means is, I’m not touching this episode in 100 words. So let’s get into it.
A few spoilers below if you haven’t watched the episode.
Episode 22 is very creatively titled Bakugo vs Uraraka. Then again, My Hero Academia isn’t exactly known for imaginative episode titles, nor does it need to be, and at the very least it can’t be accused of false advertising. What we got this episode was Bakugo vs Uraraka. This shouldn’t have been an exciting episode. The victor was almost absolutely guaranteed because of character arcs and plot necessity if not just common sense about which one had the more combat ready quirk. And yet, I think a lot of us went into the episode expecting some sort of showing from Uraraka which meant we couldn’t just dismiss the very smallest chance that she might actually win (or at the very least land a hit). Yeah, people who read the manga probably missed out on some of that pre-episode anticipation which would definitely change how they related to the pacing and delivery of this fight but that’s true of any anime or movie where you’ve read the source material compared to someone watching it blind.
I’m going to be honest, the fact that Bakugo even remembered Uraraka’s quirk kind of surprised me. Given he’s been shown to be totally negligent in paying any attention to his classmates I was thrown for a moment and then I realised why he would know her quirk. She’s spent the entire first season and most of this one hanging around Midoriya. Given after the fight, Bakugo confronts Midoriya about him being the one planning Uraraka’s strategy (something Midoriya is quick to correct) it seems like that is the reason Bakugo knows anything about her. I like that character consistency for Bakugo. If he’d just suddenly pulled some random information about a classmate out of thin air when he doesn’t even remember most of their names it would have really broken the plausibility of his personality. I also liked that even though he remembers what she looks like and her quirk, he doesn’t remember her name, or at least he doesn’t acknowledge it at the start of the fight.
And then Uraraka pulled off a nice opening move. It didn’t land her a blow but it was an impressive feint against an overwhelmingly strong opponent and part of me kind of thought, ‘oh, she tried but now it’s over’. I expected the fight to end fairly abruptly after this point, Uraraka to feel sad and Iida and Midoriya to cheer her up before we moved in to the next round of the tournament. This is where this episode when from being interesting enough with a good character moment for Bakugo to highly impressive. It’s no secret I do not like tournament arcs and battles that seem to have no point given there is no real consequence of losing. Yet both of these characters have so much desire to win for reasons beyond just wanting to be the very best. My Hero Academia does a very good job this week of making you want both these characters to not lose this fight and yet you don’t really want either to win either.
What that means is you are an emotional mess as you watch what is a fairly visually interesting fight play out. The combat itself isn’t spectacular. There are better fight sequences out there. Its the combination of decent enough visuals and pacing with those very complicated emotions of wanting to cheer for a character and just enough clever twists to keep things from getting too predictable even while they aren’t exactly pulling the rug out from under you and turning this into a case of ‘look what secret move I was hiding’.
At this moment I kind of despised this section of the audience. Even though I didn’t know what the actual twist was, it was obvious that Bakugo wasn’t playing with Uraraka. He was genuinely trying to beat her within the limitations of the tournament because he couldn’t just blow her away without risking seriously harming her which would get him removed from the tournament. The blasts he was using were intended to knock her out of bounds and she was just really persistent. I felt that the audience were devaluing Uraraka’s fairly heroic efforts. Describing her as a poor girl was so belittling to how hard she’d been fighting. As an added bonus, it belittled Bakugo as well for assuming he wasn’t giving his all to the fight. Fortunately, Eraserhead put them in their place really quickly and then I realised how well this episode had manipulated me. I was supposed to despise them and it was supposed to make me feel that both students were getting the raw end of this. Emotional manipulation like this usually makes me roll my eyes but in this case I just got swept away with it. And, this idea came back after the fight giving Bakugo yet another very cool moment in this episode when another character mentioned they couldn’t have gone all out against a frail girl.
I couldn’t believe it. Actual character development for Bakugo. He actually acknowledged another student in the class besides Midoriya. I’d love for this tournament to be over right now because I would love to see if in future classes if Bakugo actually does start paying more attention to some of his class mates. That would be an amazing outcome for him and might even lead to the development of a personality besides explosively angry all the time.
Right, so I just smashed the thousand words on a single episode of a shonen tournament fight so I’m going to wrap this up by pointing out that Todoroki’s father, Endeavor, is definitely a new candidate for the anime father of the year awards. This guy deserves his own post, and an on call therapist, but I’m wrapping up my episode review there by saying this episode was awesome, go watch it if you haven’t.
My Hero Academia is available on Crunchyroll.
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