My Hero Academia Season 2 Series Review: Shining the Light on Heroes and Villains

Overview:

There’s no denying that season 1 of this show made me sit up and take notice when I picked it up mid-season after reading many positive reviews. The second season continues Midoriya’s journey (as well as the rest of the students’ journies) to becoming a hero.

Earlier I covered some of the ideas in this series in Friday’s Feature: Not a Character, an Idea.

Review:

With the exception of Bleach (which even I’ll admit isn’t all that great when you break down the story) I’ve never been much for straight shonen action shows. I can’t stand the shouting, the long drawn out fight, the pointless arcs where a villain is built up to be beaten down, the random hero power ups, and all the other silliness that tends to infect those kinds of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good action story, I just prefer something a little less aimed at teenage males. Surprisingly, My Hero Academia kind of has all of the qualities of a shonen story that usually annoy me and yet, much like Bleach before it, instead of turning me away it kind of manages to draw me in a little bit more with every ridiculous fight sequence.

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The first season was utterly charming and just plain fun to watch, and season 2, despite launching into firstly a tournament arc, and then a training/power up sequence, before going into an exam sequence (all of which should have killed any fun or momentum for me) managed to not alone maintain that sense of fun, it also fleshed out a very real and meaningful dialogue around the nature of heroes and villains. All of this while characters continued to grow and develop and come to a greater understanding of themselves.

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Now, there is nothing new to be found in My Hero Academia. We have seen each of these characters before and asking the question of what makes a hero is pretty much story-telling from cave-man days. So it isn’t the novel content that is keeping me fixated. It is all about the delivery.

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This world and these characters are bright and larger than life. Their actions, their ideals, their emotions, everything is heightened unapologetically and then dropped into a world is becoming more and more real with every point we learn about it. While we don’t have Quirks in the real world (or at least not that I’ve noticed), there is something extremely relatable about this social media, popularity focused society that has taken a noble calling (being a hero) and made it a vocation. One that is highly sought due to monetary rewards and social recognition. All of this makes for a very grand and highly energetic narrative even when not a lot is actually happening with the main characters. I’m pretty sure these students could make catching a bus entertaining at this point.

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Part of this is because of the sheer number of characters and their diverse personalities. While some of the less important classmates are still pretty one-note, a lot of these characters have had their moment in the spot light and have started to become far more interesting as the series has progressed. My Hero Academia is very big on giving characters clear motivations for their behaviours and attitudes and ensuring the audience understands these. That way, when a character begins to change or grow, or even just acts out of character, it is immediately apparent and the impact is even greater because we’ve understood why that trait was significant in the first place.

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It also helps that the characters are just fun to spend time with. Even Bakugo, the overly angry and shouty one, is always great fun on the screen. If he could learn to focus some of that rage he could be a truly awesome asset in the future, though at the moment he’s more of comic relief and occasional bringer of tension to an otherwise fairly happy group of kids.

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This season saw Todoroki and Uraraka both gain ground as characters. Each had a number of moments to shine throughout the series and learned from their own actions and the actions of others to progress toward their goals. Seeing the these two characters finding their way and seeing how that changed their relationships with other characters in the story, felt very rewarding. Both kind of gained ground in terms of being my favourite characters from this show by mid-season.

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However, the real spot-light this season needs to go on All Might and Midoriya’s relationship. If growth along a journey was the theme for the season, Midoriya truly personified this as he fought hard to gain control of his ability and also really considered why he wanted to become a hero. Early in the season he loses a fight in the tournament to Todoroki, not necessarily because he couldn’t win (although arguably at the time he couldn’t) but because he needed to help Todoroki. Midoriya chose a tournament loss to ensure a greater victory, helping a friend. And that more or less defined who he was. But, there are greater dangers coming and All Might is trying to prepare Midoriya for those. We see the greatest change in Midoriya, spurred on by Bakugo, when he actually strikes All Might during the exam. Season 1 Midoriya couldn’t have even tried to strike All Might. This transition from idolising All Might, to working to surpass him as a symbol of justice, is just another step on the road for Midoriya though for the audience, there’s the added tension of kind of suspecting All Might’s time is more limited than Midoriya knows. All Might is definitely holding back from telling Midoriya everything so that is one puzzle piece we’ll all be waiting for in the next season.

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Turning our attention to the villains, we see the Hero Killer rise up during this season and his impact on both the narrative and the characters is enormous. Even other villains are launched into renewed vigour because of the Hero Killer’s actions. For me, this part of the season was by far the strongest and most interesting. Mostly because the rest of the season focused on the growth of the future heroes but didn’t really give them a real world challenge to face. Though, the final episode this season leaves little doubt as to where the story is going.

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To begin bringing things to a close, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the openings this season. They worked and they definitely grew on me after several episodes, but initially I was kind of underwhelmed by them. Also, some of the fights in both the tournament and the exam arcs just felt like they were there for the sake of completion rather than for adding anything into the story. But these are minor complaints when considering the season as a whole.

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Season 2 gave me more of what I loved about season 1, and continued to grow both the world and characters in an  immensely satisfying manner. While I would have liked a little bit more from the narrative as we seem to be moving very slowly forward, this is a minor nit-pick to what is a fun series to get into.

I’d love to know your thoughts on My Hero Academia so be sure to leave me a comment below.


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My Hero Academia Episode 38: Setting The Stage

Review:

It is odd where I don’t mind a final episode that so clearly is nothing but set up for future engagements, but with a future series already announced and knowing it is very likely to actually be delivered I found myself pretty hooked by this story. So far, the visible leader of the villains has been individually unimpressive and his taking steps this week to find some conviction really does up the tension a notch in the series.

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Midoriya’s face after he realises he may have just insulted someone who can disintigrate him.

Once again this story questions the idea of heroes, villains, morals and justice and it does it in a fairly non-preachy manner that seems to just make this universe far richer and more believable. However, the episode itself doesn’t really deliver anything. It is a transition with the students finishing their first semester at UA (all of this and we’re only one semester along) and preparing for the training camp. But with the villain recruitment underway by the end of the episode it certainly suggests big things are coming.

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this season of My Hero Academia and I’ll be doing a full review soon.


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My Hero Academia Episode 33: All Might’s Hesitation

Review:

This episode certainly continued with the idea of social media and looking at how Stain’s influence is spreading in the world of heroes, at least those ideas were running around in the background and permeating the set up for what is apparently to come. I’m glad I spent some time on this idea in my last Feature and I’ll hopefully revisit the idea later particularly if it remains a prominent theme here.

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However, My Hero Academia doesn’t like to dwell or hold its narrative hostage to its themes and as a direct result while this idea is still sitting there and bubbling away just waiting to explode onto the centre stage again, our hero students are back in class and training. All Might is also ready to reveal more about the past to Midoriya but this is where things took an unexpected turn.

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Not in the story itself. That was pretty stock standard villain and hero origin material to be honest, though like most of the generic points in this anime it managed to be very enthusiastic and dramatic in the delivery. No, the surprising part was that All Might blinked. That’s the best way to put it. He realised Midoriya still didn’t understand something fairly critical and yet hesitated and then chose not to explain it.

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It will be interesting to see if that omission comes back to bite them in later episodes. So, you can probably gather that I am still very much enjoying this show and hopefully it can continue strongly.


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Tuesday’s Top 5: Sailor Moon Episode Villains

While I was a big fan of the 1990’s Sailor Moon, I remember how useless some of the individual episode villains were (and how ridiculous some of their costumes looked). I guess when you are a throw-a-way villain of the week it doesn’t really matter. Still, here’s my list of top 5 Sailor Moon episode villains. My criteria here are that they had to be introduced and killed in the same episode, they came from season 1 of the original 1990’s anime, and they made me actually remember them. As an added bonus, their outfit had to be totally ridiculous (though that more or less goes without saying).

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week: Murid (because of her dream or illusion ability) and Petasos (because she looks ridiculous).

Number 5: Ramua

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Early in the series, Serena and Ami are investigating some cursed clock and they end up encountering Ramua who apparently has the ability to control time.  What’s interesting is that while Sailor Moon gets transformed into a child at one point, Ramua doesn’t just cause her to die of old age instantaneously which is what I would think an effective villain would do at that point in time. Anyway, Ramua makes the list because of her striking facial features, and because they make such a big deal later on about Sailor Pluto being the guardian of time and yet here’s a villain playing with it like it is nothing.

Number 4: Garoben

Garoben isn’t exactly spectacular as a villain and her appearance is pretty cliché, though that weapon attached to her hand looks pretty deadly. The reason she’s on the list is because she was the first villain who made me realise even as a younger viewer that Sailor Moon wasn’t your typical girl’s cartoon. She literally grabs Ami by the head and shoves her face at the computer screen. That kind of hands on violence was almost unheard of in 90’s shows aimed at young girls. Whenever I think monster of the week, Garoben is one of the faces that immediately comes to mind.

Number 3: Cameran

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Not entirely sure if I got the name right and googling this one got me more confused as I saw more variations. While she was a later villain in the story and wasn’t particularly noteworthy, except for the part where she foolishly zapped herself with her own power which kind of makes her memorable, Cameran is on the list for the sheer ridiculousness of her design. What is with those shoulders? I honestly had to wonder if she would actually be able to even move her arms properly.

Number 2: Blizzar

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Okay, take in that outfit for a moment. Are we actually supposed to take a villain literally wearing snowmen that look like they are screaming in pain seriously? Despite that, Blizzar was actually a pretty decent villain of the week. She transformed from a skier who was very fit so actually had some good moves on her. Plus the scouts were separated so it wasn’t like they could gang up on snow-ball girl.

Number 1: Shakoukai

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I don’t know if it is the fact that she was a villain who didn’t resort to screaming or empty threats, or whether it was because she’s covered in clam-shells that somehow shoot clay, but Shakoukai (or the English name: Polite Society) was always one of my favourite villains. I liked that even mid-battle she felt the need to correct Sailor Moon’s grammar and was so upset by getting conflicting commands she literally just stopped fighting and waited for Sailor Moon to heal her. All and all, she was an interesting villain though not perhaps the most effective.

Okay, that was my list of Sailor Moon monster of the week villains. Who would you have chosen from Sailor Moon or who is your favourite monster of the week villain from any anime?


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Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 24

Review:

Apparently this show wants a season three as once again we’ve introduced a new villain in the dying minutes of this season. The thing is, after how unsatisfying this final episode was, I wonder how many viewers will stick through yet another season of messy tone and inconsistent story telling? And why is everyone celebrating? The whale dropped right in front of the city. I’m not great at science but something tells me that if the Moby Dick falling was going to destroy the entire city that dropping it in the water should have caused massive waves and some severe tremors still heaping piles of damage on the city. But no, we get a splash and move on. All and all this was a less than thrilling conclusion to the season and right now I’m kind of annoyed that I got my hopes up for anything more earlier this season. Oh well. Done now. I’ll write up a whole series review soonish.

However, one positive point, I liked Kyouko’s moments in this episode. It was nice her character arc finally got some closure.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 5

Review:

It always goes so much better when the established villains have someone with a brain on their side. It makes for intrigue and actual suspense as you wonder when everything is going to get turned on its head. After the disaster of an episode that was episode 4 (okay, comparatively to other shows it wasn’t that bad but compared to the other episodes in this series it was pretty terrible), episode 5 kicks things into high gear as we establish the witch as a fighting force to be reckoned with. And of course, we knew that the ‘my power only works in certain places’ was going to be exploited as a point of tension (though I didn’t expect it to be exploited in the very next episode). There were some great developments during this episode and the energy from the first couple of episodes was back.

Jonas (glasses wearing soldier who apparently is bullet proof) is also back and he is definitely going to need some plot armour in the next episode or he may very well be the tragic victim of the series.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.

Tales of Zestiria the X Episode 12

Review:

Well, aren’t we all glad of second season announcements. Except that it leaves us with pretty much no resolution. Okay, Alisha is fine. A bit too fine given how much blood she lost. You would think it would take her longer to be up and bouncing around but at least she didn’t die.

Actually, my main complaint coming out of this will be the Lord of Calamity. Clearly he has never read a story in his life because otherwise he would know that any villain that lets the hero go (in order for them to become hope before being crushed) has just raised their own death flag. To be honest, it is a lame reason to let someone live and doesn’t make any sense from a self-preservation point of view no matter how arrogant a villain is supposed to be. The only purpose of such declarations is to delay a confrontation the hero can’t yet win and why would any self-respecting villain give the hero a chance to win?

Tales of Zestiria the X is available on AnimeLab.

Cute High Earth Defense Club Love Episode 3

Review:

There’s something about the deadpan delivery of some of the lines in this show that just makes me laugh. Sometimes the lines aren’t even particularly funny and it’s the same every episode. One of the members of the Earth Defense Club will say something that is either beyond stating the obvious or is entirely left field of the main concern but they’ll say it in just the right tone to get me giggling.

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Yeah, questioning someone’s mental health isn’t particularly funny but in this episode it worked quite well as a running joke and the character in question most certainly had it coming.

I found episode 3 a vast improvement on episode 2, probably due to the reduced presence of the villainous twins (though they did make their presence felt) and the back to formula approach of the Defense Club just kind of trying to get through the day without too much fuss when aliens and weird monsters (or being forced into doing a recital which somehow became play) ruin their day.

Cute High Earth Defense Club Love is available on Crunchyroll.

Haven’t You Heard I’m Sakamoto Episode 8

Review:

They put a scar on Hayabusa’s face. I’m not getting over that for awhile.

In the meantime, we now visit the cultural festival as we continue through our clichéd school events with a Sakamoto twist. This episode came dangerously close to having a plot and unlike previous ones, we didn’t win the villain over by the end. Some of the classmates also got a bit more time this episode to actually be people and not just squealing fan girls.

By the way, I was right. Sakamoto is definitely an alien.

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Haven’t You Heard I’m Sakamoto is available on Hanabee.

Trigun Series Review

Overview:

Two insurance agents, Meryl and Milly, are sent to attempt to minimize the damages caused by Vash the Stampede (who is apparently a Humanoid Typhoon). Every town Vash visits is pretty much destroyed and because of that a massive bounty has been placed on his head. Only, once they catch up with Vash they kind of realise that it is the bounty hunters and circumstances beyond Vash’s control causing the problems.

There is definitely more to the story and it is a great science fiction, but I’m not going to include any spoilers so I’ll move on to the review.

review:

I had to wonder when I first started watching this series what all the fuss had been about. It was a not so well drawn, cliché comedy with a main character whose hair just kind of made me want to pour a bucket of water on his head.

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Really, really, glad I didn’t stick with my first impulse on this anime.

Yep, it starts out as a screwy comedy with a character who hops around in the desert, dodging bullets like Daffy Duck, and B Grade villains who really need to learn the meaning of restraint but don’t seem to offer any genuine tension.

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But somehow, after you get to the end of the series, you realise this show couldn’t have started any other way. Vash the Stampede is one of those shows where you don’t even know where the tone changed, but by the end of the series you are left feeling you’ve just watched a dramatic masterpiece. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but for something that starts the way it does, the character development and the way the plot is revealed just work so well. There isn’t a moment where you think, okay now it will get serious. It’s just that the blend of comedy and drama in each episode shifts more and more to the drama end of the spectrum while still holding onto some of the comedic elements and you don’t even realise its happening.

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Part of that transition comes because a lot of the story is filtered through Meryl’s perception of Vash and it takes her awhile to a) recognise who actually is Vash and b) begin to understand that there is more to Vash than the goofy persona he deliberately chooses to portray. Meryl’s growth as a character and her increasing empathy for Vash work well as a frame for so much of the story. Because, like Meryl, the audience is coming in to this half-way through.

Vash has a very complicated back story and while I’m still not entirely convinced by the seemingly subjective amnesia or the overall villains plot or even some of the twists that lead us to the conclusion, it didn’t matter while watching. I was engrossed by these characters as they slowly revealed themselves.

I do want to talk about Wolfwood though.

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He’s an interesting character. Like Vash, he plays the fool far too well, though his facade has a lot more chinks in it than Vash’s. More importantly, Wolfwood get’s the distinct role of playing a character while knowing he isn’t convincing anyone but pretends he doesn’t know that he isn’t convincing them. It’s interesting to watch given the animation isn’t amazing and yet Wolfwood’s nuanced expressions and the subtle (and sometimes less than subtle) shifts are well used to show us that he is well aware his antics aren’t convincing and yet he’s enjoying the chance to just play for awhile.

Far and away Wolfwood is my favourite character of the series because of his similarities to Vash, and yet the distinct path he chooses. And they use the contrast well. While they both play the fool, at the end of the day, Vash is an idealist whereas Wolfwood is firmly grounded in reality. Which is probably why the outcomes for these characters vary so deeply.

So should you watch Trigun?

Absolutely.

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It’s funny and heartbreaking and has fast paced action followed by some excellent characterisation. It builds a rich world where humans fight for survival and shows the history behind the current circumstances. Characters respond in not necessarily realistic ways, but in consistent ways to the conflicts surrounding them and there are some very cool characters who will appear throughout the series. While the villains are of the over-the-top and bad for the sake of it nature, the hero is also good for the sake of it so it kind of balances out and ultimately the story isn’t about who is good and who is bad but about choosing your own path.

That, and there’s a lot of gun fights and some fairly great weapons to admire.I love Vash’s sunglasses and coat but really would love to fix his hairstyle.

Have you watched Trigun? What were your thoughts?