There are strange points in Boku no Hero Academia that allow one to take a step back from our pre-conceived notions and ponder something. The 9th episode of Boku no Hero Academia’s Second Season truly set a standard for battles moving forward in the series and our perception of characters. There is a big stigma towards tournament arcs, especially when it feels like tedious battle after tedious battle for some shounen battle series. Now that we have finally have reached the fighting point of Boku no Hero Academia and for all extents and purposes it is surprisingly solid. From the small character fights to the more magnanimous moments where main characters face off against deserving foes or each other. The first round of this fighting section of the UA sports Festival has truly spectacular moments building towards a second round that is hopefully just as effective.
Spoiler Warning! As this is the second season and a spoiler in its own right since this is talking up to episode 9, you have been warned!
First off there was a lot of quirky little character battles which allow us to take in some of the secondary characters. Enjoyable bouts like Aoyama and his Naval Laser against Ashido’s slippery athleticism brings a smile to our face with their antics. Maybe even the selling tactics of Hatsune and her tricking Iida’s good nature in order to show off her beauties. These moments really allow smaller characters to take the spotlight for a moment in the sun and to fans of those characters it gives them a sense that their favourite will not be sidelined. Effectively these battles break the tension between bigger moments brewing around them. While we have Endeavor, All Might, Todoroki and Midoriya building towards a climactic battle of ideals in the second round, we have these fun little moments that give us a bit of a breather.
Then we have the battles with the leads of that prior climactic battle facing off against opponents. Todoroki’s feelings towards his father are building to an unhealthy conclusion as he faces off against Sero. Letting his emotions unleash, Todoroki’s battle was more superficial as he quickly dispatched Sero in a burst of rage towards his father. This battle meant more than just a showy scene of animation, instead it shows the emotional turmoil Todoroki is in as he fights against what his father wants him to become, a tool to surpass All Might. On the other hand, Midoriya facing off against Shindou was a fun match to watch about the idea of perception. Midoriya faced prejudice his entire life by the hands of people like Bakugou for not having a quirk and Shindou was quite similar. His dream of being a hero is out of his reach because of his quirk being considered a “villainous” one and his appearance feeling like a villain. Both have fought hard to make it to where they are and the battle is more a clashing of dreams than it is a bout. Both of those fights were nice to watch and helped build towards the climax many people are waiting for throughout the run of this second season’s first half, yet they were both overshadowed by one fight in particular. Katsuki Bakugou and Uraraka Ochako’s fight was one that felt powerful, not only in its emotional base of Ochako struggling against impossible odds but with how it showcases the true Bakugou.
The fight itself is a rather dramatic one with stakes for both sides worth looking into. Ochako this entire season so far has been building up to a point where her resolve will be tested. What better test than to face off against one of the best in the school in terms of ability. Ochako’s road is one built on trying to stand out in the crowd and move forward from just being an emotional support for characters like Midoriya. All she wants to do is to help her parents by giving them a better life and that drive allows her to take on Bakugou with an unwavering determination. That is what makes this match worth watching and why it happens in the first place. Ochako is trying to break down the boundaries she has placed upon herself and trying to step out as the hero she believes she can be. Watching her take blow after blow from Bakugou’s sweat explosions is hard to watch as we see her try and try again to get in close to him.
Ochako’s determination is only matched the laser focus of Bakugou, fighting just as hard as he would any other battle. This side of Bakugou is why I think he is one of the better characters of Boku no Hero Academia, it’s his resolve and character. After his defeat to Midoriya, Bakugou has a shattered ego. His inferiority complex soaring to new heights as he sets his sights on becoming the best harder than ever before. This match proves that he is someone who can respect his opponent and pay attention at least to those he believes can pose a direct threat to his own goal. He acknowledges who Ochako is, at first only by her ability but by the end of the fight he acknowledges her by name ready to fight honestly with a smile on his face against an opponent that forced him into a corner. This is the Bakugou that shines, the one that accepts the validity of his opponent and the scenario when others (even pro heroes) lack the wherewithal to see it themselves. After eating a piece of humble pie against Midoriya in season one, this little battle between Bakugou and Ochako shows that Bakugou is progressing towards being a hero who can see the greatness in others.
Bakugou even progresses the notion of what Shindou was talking about when Shindou fought Midoriya. This is just as much a battle of perception coming to a culmination by the crowd lashing out against Bakugou for giving his all. This is a mentality that demerits those trying to be a hero for purely based on their past actions and how they act. Yes Bakugou has shown himself to be an abrasive person, aggressively looking after himself and fighting with anger rather than protection but that is just a facet of who he is. Here we see that shading others perception of him as he tries his hardest against a worthy opponent. Bakugou is just as much a victim of perception that Shindou is, yet both strive for victory in a world that would rather see them fail. That is some true valour there, rather than lashing out against the world and becoming what they want to see them as. One could say the crowd was the reception to Bakugou before this moment from the viewers of the show. Looking at his aggression and not seeing the person behind the sadness and anger of not coming to terms with the world. It is quite poignant in that aspect.
These two combatants are going about this in the same way, fighting to achieve their dreams against opponents they have acknowledged. Seeing Bakugou trembling a bit after knocking away Ochako’s final move shows how close he felt to losing the match. This is a dirty fight, one that is more about the raw will to succeed than it is about the precision of one’s ability. This is a battle for dreams and goals, one that never flinches no matter how hard it might be. We have Ochako trying to outplay Bakugou and his unwieldy nature and Bakugou who realizes that she may be up to something all along because she is friends with Midoriya. Both unleashing their best thought out plans and abilities as they struggle against one another’s tenacity. Bakugou may seem flawless in this battle, but even he feels the tension of Ochako’s final gambit with the voice actor giving a great line read showcasing the strain in his voice after repelling the debris. This is a battle of hopes and dreams for both combatants and a chance for them to get that much closer to their goals. The sadness of Ochako feeling like she is falling short of her dream is hard to take in the final moments, you can see the life in her eyes wanting to to fight for longer but her energy has flickered out. Even when she is on the ground crawling towards Bakugou, he still stays on his guard showing how much he was still focused on her as an opponent even when she was that injured. Both give a performance to remember, maybe even one of the better moments of the year.
That is what makes this the changing moment for me in Boku no Hero Academia, the moment where I can say I cried and fully enjoyed a fight. Ochako’s pain in losing, Bakugou’s progression as a character, and even Eraserhead’s impassioned speech on Bakugou’s behalf when another teacher (Present Mic) shrugged him off like the audience. Even the praise from Neito towards Uraraka, who previously denounced the likes of Class A in the previous round, helps to bolster the idea of not judging a book by their cover giving him a sense of redemption in the eyes of the viewer rather than a petty guy obsessed with looking better than Class A. There are moments that prove the worth of these characters tenfold within the world of Hero Academia and always staying true to the themes and goals of the series in the process. This is all in one battle, which is the prelude to yet another battle to come that may surpass it. To me Hero Academia has come into its own and finally made me want to pay attention to it. I was and still am a fan of the manga, yet this was the first time that I watched an episode of the anime and got swept away in everything it was trying to do. The tears won’t stop no matter how many times I watched the fight for this post…and to that all I can say is job well done.
This is the first of two posts I wanted to do for Boku no Hero Academia since the airing of its second season. There will be more down the line, maybe even one that makes it into a post for The Hunt for the Great Antagonist. I just wanted to run down my feelings on this series and thought what better moment than one of my favourite moments of the series.
So what did you think of the battle itself? What are your opinions on the two combatants? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have a fantastic day!