5 Point Discussions – My Hero Academia: “Gear Up for the Final Exams!”

by Sage Ashford

Hello everyone, I’m Sage Ashford and welcome to another series of 5 Point Discussions!  If you haven’t seen the other versions of this (located here), 5 Point Discussions offers commentary on a weekly airing episode of anime or television, ranging from bad jokes to offering insight on plot developments in the episode.  Since this is anime though, I won’t be spoiling the manga if I’ve read ahead. I know My Hero Academia is nearly over, but frankly I love this series far too much to let it close out without doing a bit of commentary on it.

Having said that, I hope you’ll join me in closing out the last of season two. With all that said, let’s get into it!

Our teenaged heroes have overcome much this season—from a nationally-televised sports festival to Hero Killers and even interning with professional heroes!  But are they ready for their newest challenge: Class Finals?!

1. The episode starts off with a discussion between two of the series most prominent lady heroes—Mt. Lady and Midnight—about the “sexy” factor of women’s costumes.  On the one hand, you think about a Japanese anime having this discussion given its current reputation with fanservice and you want to pull your hair out.  But in context there’s a lot to pick apart here.

For one, series creator Kohei Horikoshi really is an excellent world-builder. As much as this series is about the growth of one particular class of young heroes, much of this season has also been about showing us how superheroes would integrate with Japanese society.  They don’t “just” go around saving lives—they do commercials and product placement, they do press releases and interviews.  They’re not simply heroes, they’re a mix between public servants and super-famous artists/actors.  All in an effort to try and break down the barrier between the heroes and the people, to let them know it’s safe to trust them.

Second, Horikoshi did something noteworthy: he framed the conversation as happening between two women heroes. This could’ve easily been some old guy or some lech (or some lecherous old guy) lecturing Midnight about her overly sexy costume. Instead it becomes a hilarious argument between Mt. Lady and Midnight, heroes who obviously respect each other but approach the question of a hero uniform from different angles. Though normally someone like Mt. Lady would have no room to talk since she walks around in a giant, skin-tight bodysuit…when you’re arguing with a woman who’s outfit is so risqué they actually wrote legislature to decide what you should and shouldn’t wear, I guess the scope of the argument changes some.

2. Of course, this week’s episode isn’t about sexy costumes. It’s time for finals!  Yes, after several months of training, interning, and other adventures, our protagonists finally have to deal with end-of-term exams. For a series that’s ostensibly a battle shonen about young heroes mastering their superpowers, My Hero excels at dealing with the pressures to succeed in a Japanese classroom.  It’s presented lightly enough that you can ignore it if you want, but all the different archetypes are there.

This episode we get to see where each member of the class ranks in grades, which signifies their “importance” to the overall classroom, and how each person deals with that perception.  But it goes even further—just being members of Class “A” means excelling above everyone else in your grade.  Being the bottom of Class “A” is still the cream of the crop everywhere else, and so even people outside their class view all of them as competition. This is fittingly reflective of the competitive attitudes you see in Japanese society elsewhere, it’s just surprising Horikoshi cared enough to fit it in here.

3. I cannot be the only one who is well past tired of Bakugou. He excels at everything and yet still finds a way to be mad, one hundred percent of the time. Third in his class for grades?  Rage.   He’s so good at fighting that his rival mimicks his movements?  Rage. Viewed as one of the strongest students even away from academics?  Raaaaaage. The worst part is that the teachers are constantly coddling him through all these tantrums, when in reality someone in their first year of high school should really be more emotionally developed than this.

That’s why it’s always interesting to see him smash into the upper limits of his abilities—winning the tournament without actually beating the strongest person in the class, being unable to score the top grades because Yaoyorozu and Iida are smarter and work harder.   It’s supposed to make you feel pity but instead it’s almost cathartic to watch him fail because he never shows any gratefulness for the abilities he does have.  You’d almost think a heel turn was coming.

4. Early in the episode, as the protagonists are panicking over what the physical test for their finals could be, they’re informed that they will actually be battling the same robots from the entrance exam. As the group rejoices over how “easy” this will be, anyone who’s ever watched more than a few anime can sense something is up.

After the written finals, the group arrives to the physical test expecting robots…only to be told they’ll be doing something quite different this year: battling the teachers themselves in two on one teams. It’s an absurd test, but a great way to close out the season.  It’s rare that anime takes place in a world where Adults Aren’t Useless, but it’s certainly refreshing: the teachers are fully aware that whatever the League of Villains is planning, it’s not over and it involves the students.  So as unfair as it is, they have to make sure this group of kids is ready faster than any other, even if it means making them rise to impossible challenges.

As the series goes on, this will prove to be a smart idea, as this group certainly will be tested with much harder than what they’ve already overcome. As a random thought though, now I’m hoping Class 1A will form the first superhero group, because as far as we know right now there isn’t such a thing in the My Hero world.

5. One team has already fallen! Sato and Kirishima—with mostly strength-focused abilities, tried to face the hero Cementoss head on, and wound up exhausting themselves before the time-limit even ran out.  Next episode, series favorites Asui and Tokoyami go up against the fearsome Ectoplasm, while Todoroki and Yaoyorozu wind up facing…their homeroom teacher, Eraserhead?!  How many of these two-person teams will actually be able to overcome these pro heroes?

Promo stuff aside: It’s great that at least some of these kids actually failed to rise up to the challenge.  The teachers placed heavy handicaps on themselves—allowing the kids to either win the fight or escape, being outnumbered, and even slowing themselves down with artificial weights—but none of that should be able to fight the fact that these heroes have decades of experience on their side.  Not all of them should be able to escape scot-free, and so far they haven’t. These last few episodes are going to be intense!

My Hero Academia is available for streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll.