Deku and the rest of Class 1-A have proven they have what it takes to face off against the League of Villains and come out the other side. Unfortunately, there’s no rest for heroes in the making, and with the annual U.A. Sports Festival upon them, tensions are high as the students of U.A. compete to show off their quirks to try and get scouted by the various pro hero agencies. Having had a recent and heavily publicised encounter with villains, Class 1-A have unwittingly become the class to beat at this year’s competition as their peers target them during a series of obstacles and challenges. But Class 1-A aren’t just competing against students from other classes, to show off everything they have they must also contend against each other. As if the pressure wasn’t enough already, All Might has also chosen the festival for Deku’s big reveal as the new symbol of peace. But if Deku’s going to have any chance at coming out on top in the festival, he needs to gain greater control over the “One for All” quirk so he isn’t put out of commission in the first round – and of course, figure out how he’s going to take on his classmates.
With the basic introduction to the series and its characters taken care of in the first season, My Hero Academia Season 2 Part 1 launches straight into an action-packed school tournament arc that pits Class 1-A against their U.A. peers and one another as they show off their quirks in a variety of challenges and battles. Since all the introductions have been made, these episodes focus on exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the U.A. students in various situations and the creative ways they utilise their quirks to their advantage as they progress through the competition. This is especially true for Deku, who still struggles with the power of his quirk and needs to be careful with when and how he applies it to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself so badly he can no longer compete. While all of these challenges and the various strategies Deku has to come up with are exciting and fun to watch, these episodes are at their best when we reach the one-on-one battles between the students and the show becomes an exercise in who would win in the various match-ups. It’s fun, flashy, creative and animated in such a way that the quirks feel intense and larger than life as students go head to head (for a rant on why quirks and their depiction in this series are great see my review of the first season). What makes it so engaging is the strategic way in which these fights are, and sometimes are not, approached. My Hero Academia Season 2 Part 1 pits amazing powers against each other in battles of skill, showing how Bakugo’s explosion quirk and Ochaco’s zero gravity quirk work in a one-on-one fight and the ways they use their abilities to get the better of each other. But the show also acknowledges that there are just some bad matchups, and there are quirks that are simply not compatible when it comes to fighting specific quirks head on. This action is all delivered with the flourish and high-quality polish of a Studio Bones production, and is engaging from beginning to end.
But high-energy battles between quirk users isn’t the only thing My Hero Academia Season 2 Part 1 has going for it. Alongside the U.A. Sports Festival challenges, the series makes time to bring several Class 1-A members into the spotlight for some character drama and development, all while introducing a ton of new characters in the way of Class 1-B, and students from the U.A. Support, Business and General Studies branches. Each new character brings with them a big personality and a fascinating new quirk, and their addition to the sports festival alongside Class 1-A really spices the challenges up and keeps the other characters on their toes.
Importantly, these episodes start developing Deku’s classmates Todoroki and Bakugo into deuteragonists of the series, spending a lot of time highlighting their motivations and aspirations for becoming heroes. Todoroki in particular is given a lot of screen time to develop his relationship with Deku, their rivalry, and the different relationships the two have with their respective pro hero mentors – with Deku as the student of All Might and Todoroki as the son and legacy of the number two hero, Endeavour. Similarly, the audience is given plenty of insight into Bakugo’s motivations, who has really grown on me as a character since the first season. Despite Bakugo’s initial introduction which paints him as casually cruel and antagonistic bully, these episodes contextualise his behaviour and make his motives clear in a way that makes him an excellent and endearing character to watch throughout the series.
This is the most enjoyable school tournament arc I’ve seen in a while, with a great balance of character drama alongside well-choreographed and exciting battles. Deku’s journey to master his quirk continues, but the progress he’s making is evident and his growth throughout the sports festival is a lot of fun to watch. The addition of multiple new characters is even more exciting as the series begins to expand beyond Deku and include the back stories and motivations of more of his classmates, making the world of My Hero Academia richer for it. These episodes encapsulate the best of what My Hero Academia has to offer, and is a strong start to the second season of the series.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.