After four years of high-school shenanigans and the slow ascension of a villainous organization, My Hero Academia seems to be entering its darkest chapter yet. Last season saw Japan’s number one hero, All Might, retire after losing his power. Villains started coming out of the shadows to threaten the balance brought by All Might’s status as the “Symbol of Peace.” While the show has introduced its fair share of villains before, they’ve mostly served as vessels for ideologies about how superhero society is damaged, without much of a plan to properly overthrow it. That changed this season as we met Overhaul, a supervillain member of the Yakuza bent on selling bullets with the ability to shut down all quirks.
Even if the show has never shied away from painful imagery, this season has taken it to a whole new level. In episode six, we found out that Overhaul’s plan involved literally destroying and then repairing the body of a little girl over and over to harvest her blood and turn it into the bullets. The operatic music, the horror-infused imagery of the little girl being caught by a giant, the creepy beak from Overhaul’s plague doctor mask setup—all of these served to make the stakes higher than they’ve ever been before.
Though this season has been a bit lighter in action, it has significantly raised the tension by focusing more on all the nasty things Overhaul does in his mission to make things miserable for everyone. Even on how he amassed a cult following of abandoned and forgotten people seeking a second chance, blurring the line between heroes and villains.
Without the deus ex machina that is All Might, the fight scenes this season have become a whole lot more dangerous, and a whole lot bloodier. Previous seasons gave us thrilling and visually stunning action via traditional shonen tropes, such as school tournaments and exams that allowed the students to showcase their quirks in relatively safe environments. Even when they faced off against All For One, they weren’t really directly involved in the fight. By and large, the students were either at a safe distance from the main fight or at least accompanied by stronger heroes. They were in danger, but we didn’t feel like they could die at any second. All of that has changed this season.
The show has taken advantage of the fact that some students are now working side by side with pro-heroes, legally able to fight against villains to the full extent of their powers, Just watch these fight scenes involving Red Riot, and Suneater. Despite the likes of Red Riot or Suneater, for instance, being secondary or even brand-new characters, their fight scenes this season have shouldered all the emotional gravitas usually reserved for main characters.
Complementing its incline of darkness and treachery, the season has doubled down on the idea of what exactly makes a hero, focusing on the importance of fighting to save someone rather than to defeat the villain. My Hero Academia‘s latest chapter has challenged the notion that strength and ability should outweigh spirit when it comes to heroism, showing what its truest heroes are willing to sacrifice to save just one person.
The bulk of the first half of season four dealt with a task force of pro heroes, and a couple of students, raiding the Yakuza hideout where Overhaul was hiding in order to capture him and save Eri, the girl he was harvesting. Our main character Deku’s instinct was to leap into battle and fight to save Eri, but Lemillion countered that they couldn’t give away their later plan to raid the hideout later, even if it meant letting Eri suffer a little bit more. It was a tough decision, but one that confronted Deku’s ideas of what constitutes a heroic action.
Moreover, even when Lemillion was hit with a quirk-destroying bullet, he still fought his hardest against a villain capable of disassembling and reassembling anything he touches, because that’s what a hero does. Sure, this is a YA show, so the villain was eventually defeated, but several heroes were gravely injured and one of them even died in battle, again emphasizing the sacrifices a true hero makes to save the innocent.
My Hero Academia has always told us that heroes are those that inspire others with their selfless actions, and this season they’ve gone further and darker to actually show what it means to be a hero.
Featured Image: ytv/Funimation