Review: My Hero Academia Season 2

Izuku “Deku” Midoriya has done the impossible — he has gained a powerful Quirk and made it into the top hero school in the world. He’s even fought villains, even though his Quirk shatters his bones when he uses it.

But his life promises to get a lot more complex in “My Hero Academia Season 2,” which crams together a few shonen anime standbys (a tournament, strength training with an old master) even as it spins up a truly harrowing, bloodsoaked subplot. Not only does the anime show Midoriya growing as a combatant, but it also fleshes out the history of his Quirk and the superhero world as a whole.

Mere days after the USJ attack, UA holds its annual, world-famous sports festival — a competition for the students that will allow them to show their Quirks to the pro heroes. All Might encourages Midoriya to show the world what he can do, but the boy is still struggling to use his Quirk without injuring himself. To make matters worse, he is competing not only with his classmates, but the other hero class AND the general studies students.

So on the day of the competition, Midoriya does everything he can to succeed without using his Quirk. But when he learns more about his reclusive classmate Shoto Todoroki, Midoriya is spurred to help the other boy with his… well, family issues. Let’s just say Shoto hasn’t had the best childhood, and he hates his abusive father with a passion.

Then the hero course students are faced with a new challenge: they have to intern with pro hero agencies. Midoriya is sent an offer by All Might’s old mentor, Gran Torino — and he soon discovers that Gran Torino might be just the teacher he needs to get One For All under his control. But he’s soon pulled into a chaotic attack on Hosu City, where Shiguraki has unleashed a trio of Nomus. Even worse, a vengeance-fueled Tenya Iida is on the hunt for the fanatical hero-killer, Stain — and even multiple UA students may not be able to take him down.

And no sooner have the UA students returned home from their internships than they are faced with the most terrifying threat yet: finals. Though they think they’re up against more mindless robots, the students quickly learn that they’ll be up against the UA faculty, all trained heroes with powerful Quirks. Worst of all? Midoriya has to fight All-Might… with Katsuki Bakugo as his partner.

If the first season of “My Hero Academia” was about Midoriya achieving his lifelong dream, than the second season is about how he’s going to live that dream now that he has it. He’s in UA, he has a Quirk, and he’s being mentored by the greatest superhero in the world. Now he has to tame that Quirk, and is thrown headlong into some extremely serious training and competition, as well as more encounters with actual villains.

And this season fleshes out the world of UA considerably, partly because it also fleshes out the students around Midoriya. There are a LOT of students in the UA hero course and beyond, and we see more of what makes them tick — Asui’s adventure on the high seas, Yaoyorozu’s collapse of self-confidence, Kirishima’s friendship with Tetsutetsu, Ochaco’s realization of her own limitations and her attempt to learn combat, and Tokoyami’s sensible and serious nature.

This development even extends to minor characters, such as a boy with a brainwashing Quirk who desperately wants to prove that he can be a hero. And we get some new characters, such as Todoroki’s cold and abusive father Endeavour, who sees him as nothing more than a project that he’s going to use against All Might. No wonder the poor kid is socially stunted and has major issues.

There’s also a lot of energetic and colorful fighting, Quirk against Quirk, even as Midoriya learns more about his own abilities (“The frozen pastry in my hand… is me!” “No, it’s not. Are you okay?”). The shonen cliche of the tournament is here, but it moves along much faster than most anime tournaments, blasting through major rounds in less than an episode. And the same goes for the internships and the final exams, which provide us with plenty of interesting fights, often with teachers that we haven’t really seen much in combat situations (like Mr. Cementoss or Midnight).

But the heart of the second season is the presence of the Hero Killer Stain, a freakish noseless fanatic whose hatred for “fake” heroes leads him to slaughter or disable them. The most piercing aspect of this character is not only his ideology, but the fact that it begins to subtly creep into the society around him with just a few videos on social media. And to make matters even worse, the League of Villains is still in the mix, with some unpleasant revelations about its leadership.

The second season of “My Hero Academia” springboards off the first season, and flowers into an action-packed, dynamic adventure streaked with darker moments. It relies a little too heavily on the sequential-fighting-episodes of shonen anime, but that’s a small price to pay for such a solid season.

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