In its fifth season, ‘My Hero Academia’ returns to its bright and colourful cast and showcases its best quality… growth. As Class 1-A and Class 1-B go head to head in a Joint Training Battle, we get to see how far these characters have come not only physically but also emotionally. The show has a consistent rewarding quality because we actually get to see the progress happen. We see ourselves in some of these characters and so, when they succeed, it feels all the more rewarding. Season 5 is the peak of that concept.
major spoilers for season 5 of ‘my hero academia’ are featured in this review.
With four seasons in, ‘My Hero Academia’ has had plenty of time to discover what makes it different from the other superhero shows on the air right now. The constant growth of the characters is just one of the many shining qualities this show has. Season 4 departed from this theme with a more action-heavy, plot-based season. Despite Deku getting the shining moment of the season, it wasn’t really earned. The focus of the season was never clear. There wasn’t a single character who got a fulfilling character arc. Mirio’s story was cut too short and ended up underwhelming, It even sidelines Deku’s growth by having him constantly fail until his big moment which wouldn’t have been possible without Eri. Even the second movie ‘Heroes Rising’ executed this theme better with Deku and Kacchan’s relationship reaching new heights. The trust and bond between them grew naturally and it climaxed in one of the best action sequences of the entire franchise but most importantly it felt earned. Luckily, Season 5 seems to be heading in that direction by focusing more on character development and dynamic changes.
One of the most exciting elements of the show was learning One For All’s abilities and the show has shied away from that from the past couple of seasons, the exception being ‘Infinite 100%’ and ‘Heroes Rising’. In Season 5 however, Deku’s entire arc revolves around One For All. There’s a mystery element involved and it genuinely makes you want to know more. You want to see Deku evolve as a hero. The huge reveal in ‘That Which Is Inherited’ feels like a turning point for the series. It changes everything we thought we knew about Deku and One For All. The sudden and chaotic reveal of the Black Whip quirk was successfully tense. It felt like a genuine sense of danger. It makes sense that One For All has the quirks of those who inherited it stored inside. It doesn’t feel like a cheap move to make Deku stronger or to move the plot along, it actually fits the over-arching story. When All Might and All For One fought it didn’t just signal the end of All Might, it more or less symbolizes the end of a generation, heroes and villains alike. In our eyes, Deku and Shigaraki are the new symbolic hero and villain. Seeing Deku uncover truths about his quirk that not even All Might or his predecessor knew about feels like the beginning of something big.
Looping in Bakugo about Deku and One For All is a genius move. They finally have something to bond over and to work through together. Deku and Bakugo’s relationship was one of my favourite parts of ‘Heroes Rising’ and it was completely ignored in Season 4. This season shows how crucial that relationship is because it strengthens both of them as characters. Deku becomes more strategic with his quirk while we get to see a side of Bakugo we don’t get to see that often. I love how invested he is in Deku, he isn’t that same bully who looked down on him, he has a sense of respect for him and he genuinely wants him to do better… not enough to surpass him though. Even the teamwork he exhibited in his part of the Training Battle was incredibly fun and rewarding to see. He was never this hollow bully stereotype because he never underestimated his fellow classmates. He never thought he was too good, he gave his all no matter who he was fighting. He took mental notes in Season 2 during the Hero Sports Festival. It’s just that now he’s not so secretive about it, he lets the others in on his analysis of the situation. If you think about it, Deku and Bakugo use or more or less the same tactics, it’s just the execution that sets them apart as heroes. What’s also so great about them is that their growth as characters and as well in their dynamic changes naturally. It wasn’t a sudden change of character, there are small steps each of them takes throughout the show not only to trust each other but to also be vulnerable.
As for the actual Joint Training Battle, it was a genuine fear of mine as I hate tournament arcs with a passion. I find them tedious and hard to get through so I was genuinely surprised to find myself entertained through most of this arc. There were definitely episodes where I got bored, particularly the ones in the middle, but the animation was so fluid and crisp that it never felt like a chore. There are so many characters who get a gorgeously animated scene all to themselves, the budget this season was non-existent it seems. I love how even in its fifth season, the characters are still growing and changing the way they use their quirks. I loved seeing Kaminari and Kirishima evolve so much because despite them not being part of the main trio, their growth was still evident. It was also nice that after four seasons and two movies, we actually got a better look at Class 1-B. I still can’t name most of them or their quirks but it was fun seeing them. They’re definitely the weaker part of the arc as there is no emotional connection to any of them so we automatically want Class 1-A to win. It felt pretty one-sided in that regard. Shinso is the one exception but he was on both teams so it doesn’t really count. I did come to enjoy his character far more here than in Season 2.
Overall the first half of Season 5 proves that ‘My Hero Academia’ is at its best when it focuses on character development. The growth within these characters seems to prepare for us for a bigger story later on in the season. The purpose of this arc is to not only show us how far these characters have come but to also act as a turning point for the rest of the series. Deku’s revelation with One For All and his connection to All For One set up a compelling future for the story and reinvent the goals we have set so far. I cannot wait to see where the second half of the season takes us, it will hopefully have a Plus Ultra mentality to it. (bonus points if you understood that reference.)