My Hero Academia Season 2 – Anime Review
Synopsis: In a world where eighty percent of the population has some kind of super-powered “quirk,” Izuku was unlucky enough to be born completely normal. But that won’t stop him from enrolling in a prestigious hero academy. Now, the promising freshman class is making its debut at the world-renowned U.A. Sports Festival! It’s Quirk versus Quirk as our young heroes face off in the ultimate showdown. (Official Funimation Synopsis.)
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: My Hero Academia isn’t the most visually impactful anime on TV, but it may be the most visually even shonen anime currently running. The series offers a uniform, if not always perfect, quality, that makes it easy to get sucked in and follow without any off-putting surprise dips in visual fidelity.
Linny: Storywise, the tournament arc that kicks off the second season of My Hero Academia really helps to widen the universe of U.A. High School, which had previously been limited to Midoriya’s class. The audience learns about not only how the school is set up to have three different types of classes and students but some students from the other class add a whole lot of personality and even some twists to the show. In comparison to this more in depth look at U.A. High and its student and faculties, the League of Villains a.k.a the big bad guys from last season return for an arc that feels cramped and sidelined, especially when their big attack this season is overshadowed by another solo villain. This is, of course done, purposeful but also undermines the threat the League poses. In fact, their next big plan of attack is still somewhat vague right up to the final episode of the season. Now this can be excused by the fact that a third season is already assured but it does make for a lukewarm ending, one that feels more like a mid season point that a true season wrap up.
Tom: The tournament takes half the season, followed by one of the franchise’s most popular arcs from the manga, and then another school focused exam arc to round things out. As Linny points out, the League of Villains feels crowded out. If you were hoping for a ramp up of villainous activities after the last season you’re straight out of luck. Academia is a slow build, even in manga form, meaning there’s so much world building and character focus that the absolute villain vs hero mayhem takes quite a long time to really blast its way to the top.
Linny: As Tom mentioned, there’s a whole lotta school focused arcs this season, which means outside of one big combat and action oriented arc in between, the rest of the season is a lot more relaxed. The tournament arc and the practical exam arcs are by no means boring but they might disappoint someone who enjoys villain versus hero showdowns more. The plus points of the school-centric arc is that it allows for a healthy shot of comedy ever so often and watching the kids get creative or aggressive with their powers still makes for one entertaining watch.
Tom: That’s definitely true. Academia’s playful and comedic nature often shines through, alongside the methodical world building that helps to really flesh out the story and make this world of a quirk capable populace feel real. The season isn’t all comedy though, outside of a brief villain centric arc, the series offers insight into its eventual big baddie, and the history of All Might himself, making things feel deeper, more poignant and serious for our heroes. It’s all really foreshadowing and tension building for later on though, potentially leaving audiences with serious blue balls.
Linny: This season almost puts Midoriya in the backseat, instead choosing to explore his classmates such as Todoroki, Iida, Yaoyorozu and to a smaller extent, even Bakugo. Todoroki’s back story is one of the more emotionally charged back stories explored so far as we get to see the unhappy circumstances of his childhood. It’s a story that has a lot of impact, not only adding to Todoroki’s character but also giving weight and pause to the villain’s message this season about how heroes need to stop being mass produced and blindly worshiped in part due to how some so-called heroes can engage in despicable behaviour despite their noble occupation.
Tom: Midoriya, our star, really feels like a side character sometimes in his own series. While Shonen are often known for fleshing out the larger side cast into fan favorite characters themselves, Midoriya spends a lot of this season on the sidelines. That said, a lot of this comes from Academia’s desire to really set up and flesh out a world, including elements that eventually come into play later on. Midoriya does grow in this second season, and gets a few focus episodes himself, so it’s not as if he’s been abandoned. The same can be said for the League of Villains, our mainstay baddies, who as Linny mentioned are cramped in. Part of this comes from Academia telling the rise of both Midoriya and League of Villains leader Shigaraki, but if you’re looking for a central all mighty bad guy that Midoriya and Co. need to overcome we’re really not there yet. But it all comes back to Academia’s slow-build nature, one that will eventually start to pay off as things are foreshadowed to take nasty turns for our heroes, and the manga has gradually started to hit home with. But that’s still a ways off for anime viewers, even if a 3rd Season has already been announced.
Linny: Going back to the other characters, Iida’s storyline is one that feels very shonen-deep, in that it covers all the big and basic emotional points i.e the need to avenge someone but is played out at a pace and style that ultimately might not be as convincing as the other tales in the series. It’s not a failure by any means, just one that might feel less impact laden comparatively. If you’re someone who’s absorbed in the world of My Hero Academia, it will still leave a mark on you but the same may not apply to a less enthusiastic viewer. And the same could be said for the little exploration Bakugo gets this season which seems to be trying to make viewers understand him better but flies by so fast that it’s likely to escape a less invested audience.
Tom: As Linny mentioned earlier, the season kind of ends on a whimper. There’s no big clash between good vs evil like last time, and that can leave less enthralled audiences feeling detached or lacking in enthusiasm. A 3rd Season announcement keeps it from feeling entirely tension-less, as Academia’s 2nd Season finale really teases what’s about to come, but without a big bang to send us out on, Academia tries to hype you with more subtle, nuanced character tension between the bads and goods. The anime even attempts to add more weight to this, with a lot of effort put into upping the tense, threatening atmosphere of the final episode, but it’s very much a YMMV situation and one that hinges entirely on how much you’re already sucked into the series.
Linny: If you’ve been madly enamored with My Hero Academia since its debut as a manga or as an anime, you’re going to find plenty to love this season. Our main cast beyond Midoriya gets exploration and development raising your chances of finding more or new character to love. While the season wrap up was underwhelming and the season lacked a grand scale hero versus villain showdown, the school tournament arc and practical exams arc are fun filled and action packed. However, more lukewarm audiences should know that the season continues to stick to the slow pace that the series has become known for and the emotional character stories and character exploration vary in impact and efficiency. Overall, this second season is still an enjoyable continuation, keeping its visual fidelity more consistent that most other shonen series, and telling a story that only continues to build and grow its entertaining and heartwarming cast.
Tom: Overall Academia season 2 improves upon the first season in near every regard. While Midoriya is more on the sidelines than previous, what replaces him, world building and side character focus, is often times quite solid and well done. The season may end a bit lukewarm, predicated on how you feel about the League of Villains as a threat, but is likely to be a minor sticking point once season 3 begins. Personally? I can’t wait to have more Academia, as what’s here is just as good, if not stronger than the manga thanks to all the effort put into realizing the story through quality animation and additional content.