This lackluster season of My Hero Academia looked like it could finally be improving after the 8th and 9th episodes but continued to bare its flaws in the most recent episode this weekend. Despite picking up after 8 episodes in, the series continually missteps below mediocrity.
For starters, let’s state the obvious that the different mediums have a different pace, where a manga chapter has an ending that works for a written medium it would not translate over very well to a visual one. That said, it doesn’t always mean a manga chapter’s ending is necessarily bad for an anime. The first 7 episodes of this season roughly covered 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 manga chapters each. That kind of cut off is extremely bizarre and was one of the major factors that made the season feel off to a lot of viewers. Even now you could still argue that the episodes just seem to abruptly end with a cliff hanger, but that is because this arc is almost impossible to find an intermission for an episode to end. The only way to avoid this is if the entire arc was made into a 3-hour movie, otherwise it is going to have a lot of jarring cliff-hangers for each episode.
Despite being a major issue, there is nothing that can be done about it. Instead, the series stepped up the quality by adapting roughly every 3 chapters into one episode. This has helped the anime in its last three episodes reclaim that intense, enjoyable goodness that the series is known for. The pacing no longer feels like a snails pace and the action scenes are packing more of a punch than episodes 6’s Suneater of the Big Three. The issue in that episode was that you had a very intense battle between him and three of Overhaul’s minions. A 1 v 3 battle where the odds are stacked against him and he isn’t a pro-hero so there is a lot of meaning behind his decision to fight them alone and have everyone continue the pursuit.
There are a lot of touching moments and such like usual in this series but the one thing about action, superhero shows in general is that during intense moments there is always a soundtrack playing in the background. Sounds effects are crisp with the punches and attacks and the transition to each shot are powerful and build tension. In a lot of the battles including this one, all of that is absent. It’s odd to have intense battles with quiet to no sound effects and music. The tone feels passive with the amount of focus on the flashbacks instead of the ongoing fight. Everything feels rather muted and breaks immersion. It’s just impossible to be really into the episode when it feels like it was written and directed without passion.
In the 10th episode that released this weekend, the other side of this pacing issue became apparent. While the pacing is working well for a visual medium, studio Bones refuses to take any slight creative liberties when adapting the series from its manga form to the anime. Where manga chapters work well for a written medium they do not always work well for the visual, the 10th episode started at the beginning of chapter 149. The chapter opens up in the very same way as the anime with Toga and Twice becoming temporary members of Overhaul’s gang. The same situation plays out with them revealing their quirks and uses to him and Overhaul using his minion to affirm that they had no intention to betray him since his minion has a truth serum ability. This slow opening works well for the manga but when adapted to the anime, the spent too long on this slow scene around from the ongoing action where Midoriya and everyone was falling down a hole towards one of Overhaul’s minions.
In the anime it feels like the focus is more concentrated away from the action despite this series being a superhero show with the main appeal being the action scenes. The minion is defeated within the first few minutes of the episode but that took precious time away from this episode when it could have been fit into the very end of the previous episode. The issue here is that the main focus of the episode revolves around Mirio fighting Overhaul which was a very good episode until the end where studio Bones had to condense the rest of the fight into the last few minutes they had which ultimately destroyed everything they were building up.
Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead for the latest episode.
During the Overhaul fight, Mirio is shot with the finalized quirk destroying bullet that ultimately erases his quirk for good. In the manga this scene packs more intensity with narration, which can’t be adapted, but also, Mirio saying to Eri “I won’t let you get hurt anymore!” Which almost signified that he knew he was going to lose his quirk but defending her meant more to him as a hero than having his power.
That line is absent in the adaptation and more implied to the point that it feels lost in translation. This is also a very long fight so Bones’ decision to reach a milestone was more important than telling a good story. They just wanted to complete the fight in the one episode instead of drawing it out. What better way to condense it than to make the rest of the battle all still shots!
While still shots are common practice in this industry and serve a purpose, they do nothing but hinder the overall quality and importance of this episode by encompassing an emotional and powerful scene. After Mirio is shot he continues to fight off Overhaul and his last minion without the use of his quirk. This moment is coupled with a flashback to Mirio having his entire life flash before his eyes as he became the hero he is today. a bittersweet goodbye to everything he built his life around up to now. During this scene there is also an emotional soundtrack that plays that really highlights the importance of this one moment. This is what shounen, superhero shows were created for. Ultimately, that is all cut short with the rest of the battle being replaced with still shots of Mirio fighting to the bitter end to protect Eri. While everything is an A+ on the emotional scale, the lack of animation breaks the intensity and immersion of Mirio’s defining moment.
It would be no surprise to say that these still shots allowed them to cut content from the chapter they were adapting. The latest episode started on the 149th chapter and adapted until the very end of the 152nd. Those still shots easily removed 2/3rds of the final chapter just to get to that final panel of Midoriya entering the scene.
But that isn’t the only time in this arc where studio Bones removed content. At the beginning of this arc there is a scene where Shigaraki forms an alliance with Overhaul in purpose and discusses his reasoning to do so. This missing scene alluded to the League’s involvement before Toga and Twice show up. In the manga that missing scene hints at them being involved ahead of time instead of the anime where they seem to come out of nowhere then have the flashback to back peddle and explain why they were with Overhaul. The missing scene also lays the groundwork for future arcs to come where Shigaraki forms an alliance with other organizations but has ulterior motives at play. This all becomes important later down the road since we know that Shigaraki is meant to be All for One’s successor.
While studio Bones cuts content to make for a cleaner adaptation, they aren’t exactly cutting away the less important stuff. There is too much of a focus on the events outside of the ongoing action and bad creative decisions being made with the use of still shots, lack of soundtrack and sound effects in critical moments. The biggest issue My Hero faces this season is Bones’ direction to follow the manga verbatim in terms of structure of events instead of evaluating how the content can be better displayed for a visual medium, while staying true to the source. Just because a flashback happens after a specific scene in the manga doesn’t mean it needs to in the anime if the structure would have more impact in the visual medium. The only thing that could save this season of My Hero Academia is if studio Bones appointed a new creative director that made choices to better the series for its respective medium and put more passion into making every episode as good as the previous season. Otherwise, My Hero will eventually become a series that can only be enjoyed to its fullest by the manga readers.