My Hero Academia took the anime community by storm last year, and for good reason too. As contender for Anime Trending’s Anime of the Year Award, the show boasted a strong theme that resembled the charisma of western superhero comics, and those who doubted the show due to its typical shounen synopsis were blown away by its excellent execution and surprisingly deep themes. Season two is a great addition to the series, exploring new territories that the previous season had not yet ventured into while refining what the first season accomplished to even further heights.
Season two continues off right where season one left off, and with a sprinting start to boot. The first part consists of the tournament arc, a common trope typical of most shounen shows. However, the average shounen fails to convey a compelling tournament arc because of their tendency to focus solely on the main character. This ruins the backbone of the tournament arc, as the only interesting battles that the audience have attachments to are the few that includes the main character. Most of the fights have a clear “good guy” and “bad guy”, and the results are often predictable and cliche. My Hero Academia manages to avoid all of these issues, and then some. Because the show spent a considerable amount of time developing the background for side characters, I was able to feel empathy and connection with characters on both sides of the fight.
Every fight featured participants with a principle or a background that had been introduced before and seeing these ideals clash made the fights much more interesting and intense. Having well-developed characters fight each other also meant that the victor was often unpredictable, and I often found myself biting down my teeth as the battles led to a conclusion.
One example of this is the fight between Uraraka and Bakugou. Both characters are equally important characters in the show, and Uraraka’s will to become a hero for her family was as strong as Bakugo’s ego and desire to become the best. As the fight went on, their ideals collided as one tried to outsmart the other. Uraraka’s comeback towards the end made me doubt my guess for the victor, and having her ultimately lose to Bakugo made the fight much more impactful. The animators did an outstanding job of expressing both characters’ raw emotions, and Uraraka’s face of defeat was a punch to the gut. Overall, this arc was the most impressive addition to this already strong franchise and set an example that other shounen will hopefully follow.
The next memorable arc for season two was the hero-killer arc. Compared to other parts of the show, the hero-killer arc had a tone shift into a much more grim and sinister theme. We see Ide’s sense of justice falter for the first time as his role-model for justice itself is taken away from him, giving him the development we expected. This arc also expands the social influence of heroes, especially gag heroes who don’t take their job seriously. While the show mostly introduced them for humor and fanservice, this arc takes these characters to a much more serious light as the hero-killer challenges what it means to be a hero. Despite taking on an unusual color that the show had not previously explored, it did wonderfully well to balance between this new theme while still staying true to itself.
I also want to give a special mention to the opening for this half of the season, “Sora ni Utaeba” by Amazarashi. Amazarashi is known to sing openings for dark and dreary shows such as Tokyo Ghoul Root A and Ranpo Kitan, so people wondered what he was doing in a shounen action anime. However, the upbeat yet melancholic song was a perfect match for the atmosphere of the show and became one of my favorite openings of the year.
One of my biggest qualms about multi-season anime or long-running anime shows is that their animation quality tends to drop as more and more seasons are released. Naruto (or any Pierrot production, for that matter) is a well-known example of this, and the third season of Shokugeki no Soma took quite a hit as well. This is, of course, understandable, as producing large quantities of episodes mean that some of the qualities must be sacrificed. However, MHA does not fall into this category, and in some cases actually showcases better animation than season 1. Todoroki’s frosty breath after freezing his enemy, the recoil of Ishida’s engines, and the delayed impact of Deku’s punches make their every move feel so much more powerful and impactful.
The fight between Deku and Todoroki is the best sakuga of 2017 in my opinion. A sakuga is a scene from an anime that has a higher frame rate and detail than normal animation. Sakugas are a way for key animators to show their skills by handling all parts of the animation including in-between frames which are usually outsourced to other companies. Animated by Bones’ ace action animator Yutaka Nakamura, this scene was a beautiful and eye-gasmic conclusion to the confrontation that had been building up this entire season. This scene will most likely go down in animation history as a work of art. Overall, the season kept a mostly consistent level of high-quality animation, and Bones has made this their signature standard.
In My Hero Academia Season 2, Bones gives us yet another refined look at the shounen genre. It beats its previous seasons in almost every aspect, and that was quite a high fence to overcome. With amazing development, animation, and a quality that is hard to maintain in a long-running series, this series is easily one of the greatest anime to come out this year. Plus ultra.
Found out on February 18 if My Hero Academia won Anime of the Year on the 4th Anime Trending Awards.