My Hero Academia is an anime that is rich for analysis. It takes the aspects of various battle shonen anime and executes them well. Executing those tropes deeper than some others in its genre. In the anime’s latest arc, the Sports Festival, My Hero Academia shows a deep understanding of how to utilise the fights that make up a large chunk of a battle series’s narrative.
What Makes A Fight?
While not required to create a great fight, many fights benefit from an understanding of the narrative arc of the show as a whole. Something other then person A defeating person B should be accomplished through the fight. Either developing the characters or the furthering of a theme in the series. The characters should have clear conflicting ideas, which are worked through (at least partially) by brawling it out. A personal favourite fight of mine is the rooftop battle from the season one finale of Higurashi. The fight presents a clear goal and at the same time, the battle displays the respect that the fighters have for each other. It provides a cathartic finale that makes the central themes of the story more clear. This is what makes a great fight, and what My Hero Academia has down to a science
The Boy Born With Everything
The big fight of My Hero Academia‘s Sports Festival revolves around Izuku “Deku” Midoriya and Shoto Todoroki. Deku, born without superpowers, was granted the power of All Might, the number one hero. Todoroki is the son of Endeavor, the number two hero. The passing of the torch is a recurring theme in My Hero Academia, so a battle between the next generation is of clear relevance. Much of the importance of this fight comes from the development of Todoroki’s character, used as a clear counter to Deku’s character.
Todoroki resents his father for the abusive treatment of him and his mother. As Endeavor couldn’t overcome All Might, he had children for the specific purpose of raising them to become the number one hero. Todoroki inherited ice from his mother and fire from his father. Out of hatred for his father, Todoroki only uses ice in combat to “deny his father of everything”. This sets up a clear difference between Deku and Todoroki. Deku received his powers for his bravery and wants to work hard for acceptance. Todoroki, on the other hand, was born with everything Deku could have wanted as a child, but suffered greatly for it. The two boys had very different circumstances as children but suffered in different ways from those circumstances.
My Hero Academia‘s Fight of a Lifetime
My Hero Academia clearly sets up the positions that Deku and Todoroki are coming from before they enter the ring. Deku wants to save Todoroki from the life he feels trapped in. Even though Todoroki is fighting Deku, Deku is fighting for him. Despite the fact that it’s a tournament, and the traditional goal of a tournament is to preceed to the the next round, that is only a sub goal in this battle of ideas for Deku. This is important when looking at how fights do more than just advance the plot when they’re this grand. A fight such as Iida vs Hatsume doesn’t need a complex conflict between its characters, it’s just for fun. Deku vs Todoroki however, is not solely plot advancement, it is also a crucial part of it’s characters development as people.
Todoroki fears becoming a man like his father, hence his rejection of his fireside. In response to this Deku tries to tell Todoroki that it’s his own power as well, not just his fathers. This is narratively juxtaposed with Todoroki’s mother in the past telling him it’s ok to want to be a hero like All Might. It’s ok for Todoroki to be a hero, as not all heroes are like his father. Todoroki doesn’t have to define himself in relation to his father. The set up of precisely why he doesn’t use his full power makes it all the more impactful when he does. The spectacle that ensues when Todoroki is finally at full power is jaw dropping, though I think some of the biggest importance is after the battle.
This isn’t the End
The road to the acceptance of an aspect of yourself is not as simple as being told your wrong and moving on. While Todoroki uses his fire power on Deku, that doesn’t mean all his problems are solved. Todoroki still feels trapped by his past, and guilt for his mother’s position. The path of accepting his flame is not quick, and a lesser show might’ve ignored the aftermath of Todoroki’s battle. This is just the beginning of Todoroki’s journey, and it’s not an easy one. It’s the little things that battle shonen sometimes forget that makes My Hero Academia so rich in depth. The show is a delight to analyze as well as to watch.
Within the confines of a fight, Deku and Todoroki also had an ideological battle. The punches and blasts of ice were conduits in which ideas were presented. Fights are, ideally, miniature narratives, and have satisfying arcs. There are of course exceptions to the rule.
The Future of My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia perfectly encapsulates what makes a fight scene memorable with Deku vs Todoroki. What makes the show truly impressive is not only this fight. Fights like Deku vs Shinsou and some fights in the manga show that this thought wasn’t a one-time thing. My Hero Academia is only beginning to show how much it knows its genre in and out. Horikoshi knows where to put the extra thought in to make the series the best it can be. I await the future developments in the new big thing.