Boku no Hero Academia Season 2 - Review


Boku no Hero Academia Season 2

Boku no Hero Academia Season 2 - Review

Introduction

The second season of Boku no Hero Academia is – sadly – a rare example of a sequel improving upon its predecessor. I really enjoyed the first season and I entered the second with high expectations which were exceeded, for the first time ever.

When I first watched this season, I realized that this was the season that made Boku no Hero Academia what it is; it demonstrated exactly how much effort was put into the franchise, how clean the plot was, how detailed all the characters were, and how entertaining it still was to sit down once in a while and watch some a simple battle shounen anime.

This season takes the features of the first season that were great and ramped them up to the next level. There are a few rocky components; despite all that’s good with this season, it’s definitely not a masterpiece, but I’m definitely satisfied with my experience having watched it, and I have a lot to say about it.

This season originally aired between April and October of 2017, and was originally produced by Studio Bones, just like the original. It currently enjoys an 8.57 rating on MyAnimeList.com, the highest rating for any Boku no Hero Academia season, and marginally higher than the first season.

I agree with this rating passionately, for reasons that will be made clear below. Spoiler alert, I’ll be discussing a lot of major plot points throughout the review, just to make sense of things, so I recommend that you actually watch the series before reading this review.

The element of surprise is a key factor in forming emotional responses, so true investment in this series requires low foreknowledge of events.

Story and Plot

The second season of Boku no Hero Academia picks up right where the first left off, the middle of the school year, with Midoriya and his classmates slowly recovering from the USJ incident at the end of the last season.

The pacing of the events in this season is excellent; almost no time is wasted throughout the entire season, with the show jumping right into the first of its three arcs within the first episode.

The first arc is a tournament arc, with all of the students of UA participating in a sports festival - basically a glorified excuse to have all of the characters participate in a bunch of minigames with a tournament at the end.

Somewhere around the middle I began to feel like the entire arc was artificial, as though it was created with the sole purpose of giving the different characters the opportunity to take it out on each other and fight, but it really makes up for that when the action starts to kick in.

As usual for Boku no Hero Academia we get to experience great creativity in the fight scenes and challenges, which is really a requirement for Midoriya, what with the double-edged nature of his quirk at this point.

Most other battle shounen at this point would have the protagonist surpass his limits with the “Power of Emotion” or some other cheap tactic, but Boku no Hero Academia keeps things firmly grounded, reminding us how far Midoriya is behind his classmates as he runs around during the obstacle course while powerhouses like Todoroki and Bakugou tear it up with their quirks.

However, where the Sports Festival Arc really shines is in the final tournament, where the top-scoring members of the previous qualify fight to determine who the greatest hero in the year is.

It’s really enough to say that the fight choreography and design are spectacular, as well as the intentional pairings have taken for the initial draw in the tournament. However, besides that, what makes the tournament so special is that it’s more than a physical battle.

It’s really a battle of wills, as the different characters are put into the same crucible with only the strength of their will and their drive to augment their Quirks, most of which often are horribly inadequate.

The entire arc also gives us insight into a slightly larger universe than Class 1-A, which the first season exposed us to, showing us the different backgrounds Midoriya’s classmates have and how much they all want to be heroes, as well as all the players in Class 1-B.

This gives us a great opportunity to learn about all the different Quirks that are present in society as well as the possibilities for performance elsewhere, and it eventually brings up a lot of interesting questions about the fairness of the hero society, the entire hierarchy of heroes, and the unfair distribution of quirks at birth. There is quite a bit I'd like to say about Todorokim, which I will delve into when discussing the characters.

My only other complaint about the Sports Festival Arc, besides the possible artificiality of the concept, is a stylistic choice about the composition of the different episodes. Throughout this arc, I really felt as though a lot of runtimes were being spent on the recap.

This drops significantly later on, but throughout the majority of this arc, usually the entire cold open as well as a few minutes after the OP was spent either recapping the previous episode or recalling significant events characters’ history.

Normally this isn’t a bad thing; there were a lot of occasions throughout the season where flashbacks were utilized perfectly, like Midoriya’s flashbacking to Bakugou’s rant about how strong Todoroki was back in the first season one, just before Bakugou and Todoroki’s fight in the tournament, but the effect in the first couple of episodes was just annoyance and frustration.

Sometimes it’s better, stylistically, not to spoon-feed your audience content and let them figure things out on their own. It makes the satisfaction from understanding the characters that much greater.

On my rewatch, I fully expected things to drop a little once the Sports Festival Arc had concluded, but I was pleasantly surprised with how effective both the Internship and Final Exam Arcs were at keeping up the story.

They definitely felt more organic than the Sports Festival, and the internship introduced us to probably the coolest weapon in the series: Midoriya’s One for All Full Cowling, and his slow gain of mastery of his power.

The fight with Stain was also an incredible piece of choreography and served to show the growing bond between Midoriya and Todoroki, as well as how Todoroki was dealing with the fallout from his battle with Midoriya.

There’s Stain’s incredible ideology. If anything, this season begins to poke holes in the world it so scrupulously built in the first season, showing us the flaws in the hierarchy of competing heroes that we’d all gotten so used to and enjoyed from the first season.

Stain’s entire ideology throws all that on its head and asks the real questions, giving fantastic opportunities for Iida’s character to grow, as well as to spur the growth of the League of Villains for later seasons’ activities.

The pace was definitely a bit slower during this arc, but it was more satisfying than the previous one. The occasional filler episodes went a long way towards fleshing out the supporting cast a bit more, as well as providing necessary breathers between intense emotional events.

As important as Midoriya and his close friends are, watching Kirishima and Tetsutetsu picking up trash and Uraraka learning to judo-flip an adversary were equally satisfying. This is also where I felt like the recap problems were fixed up a little, with a lot of adjustments being made to how much content was in each episode, and just how much time was devoted to each event.

The Final Exams arc was definitely the shortest of the three and it definitely didn’t have as strong an effect as the previous two, but I appreciate it for reminding us that Midoriya and his classmates were still at school.

To be frank, the practical exam definitely had a lot of issues, and this is where I’m beginning to notice an issue that becomes much clearer in the third season, but just like the Internship episodes where we got to watch the supporting cast, watching all the different characters work in unique pairs together and overcome some of their own problems was really satisfying.

I especially enjoyed Jiro and Koda’s fight against Present Mic; Boku no Hero Academia’s creativity really shines in situations where the combatants are at a severe disadvantage but find some intelligent way to get the edge over their opponent.

Obviously Midoriya and Bakugou’s battle against Evil All Might (by far the scariest villain in the show) takes the cake, but Bakugou’s character development is nowhere on the same scale as that of Todoroki or Midoriya throughout the season.

The fight itself was enjoyable and creative, but it definitely felt to me as though the studio was running out of time and needed to end the season; the fights were definitely a bit rushed, and the Bakugou I have in my head is still seething about how brief the fight was and how little we got to see his character crushed and reformed.


Characters

Speaking of character development, Boku no Hero Academia 2nd Season definitely gives us some of the best character growth around.

While the first season was busy building the world we would get to play around with throughout the rest of the series, the second season introduced a large number of characters, developed many others, and employed the Quirks of others still to great effect.

The characters introduced mainly hail from Class 1-B, who played the largest role in the lead up to the final tournament although we got to meet a lot of pro-heroes and staff members. As usual, the character designs were excellent, with Quirks still maintaining a similar level of power and diversity, while remaining unique to each character, with physical Quirks like Kendo’s Big Hand, and the exceptionally creepy Hypnosis employed by Shinso, from the General Studies course.

A lot of the pre-existing characters were developed as well, from both physical and mental perspectives. Characters like Uraraka and Iida definitely got a lot of great personality development, with us learning about Uraraka’s motives and her fighting prowess through her fight with Bakugou, and Iida dealing with the injury of his brother at the hands of Stain and learning what it truly means to be a hero.

However, all this pales in comparison to Todoroki’s character development. While Todoroki was mainly sidelined in the first season, the tournament arc gives us a lot of insight into Todoroki’s background and motivations; the son of the second most powerful hero after All Might and one in possession of an incredible Quirk like his definitely warrants a lot of interest from the audience.

The way that the Sports Festival Arc breaks down Todoroki’s character and background through the simple fight scenes in the tournament is truly a work of art.

Watching Todoroki struggle to hold back his left side from engulfing in flame and watching Midoriya brutally break his own fingers to fight as both warriors strive to be the greatest they can get me every time.

A lot of attention was given to the fight with Stain after the season ended, but the moment where Midoriya yells at Todoroki “It’s your power, isn’t it?” will always be the most moving moment I’d ever seen in Boku no Hero Academia.

Just the combination of desperation, fear, and finally resolution on Todoroki’s face as he forgets his anger at his father and unleashes his fire in earnest for the first time gets me every time.

That begin said, I feel like the season didn’t treat Todoroki too well after that point. It might be a result of Todoroki’s character, he was always the strong and silent type, and we do see him open up a bit during his exam when he has to fight Aizawa with Yaoyorozu, but other than that he usually remains pretty quiet.

As a pretty strong fighter and a great supporting character, I would love to see him more involved with the other characters. Just seeing him going to intern at his father’s agency shows just how strong his character is, and seeing him cooperate more with the other characters would definitely make for some interesting interactions.

Art and Music

Pretty much in line with what happened in the previous season. The art style is very bold with a lot of strong colors and heavy outlines reminiscent of Western comics.

All of the characters have unique designs and their Quirks are always represented in interesting ways, to the point that I very rarely confused any two characters.

If anything, I feel like the art style has established itself a bit better in this season, with the homogeny from the usage of the gym uniforms in the Sports Festival Arc helping show off the characters’ natural designs better, as well as the colorfulness of Quirks like Todoroki’s and Tokoyami’s.

The soundtrack also remains very similar to the first season and still quite effective, setting the tone for each and every scene very subtly while slowly powering the scenes emotionally.

Both opening themes are excellent from both a musical and compositional perspective, although I do need to give special recognition to the second ending theme for its video.

The medieval-themed spin on the cast of Boku no Hero Academia was incredibly entertaining to watch, and imagining a Frodo-like Midoriya teaming up with similarly magicked classmates and teachers to fight strange evils is incredibly satisfying and makes me strangely hungry for a doujin or OVA based on this theme exclusively.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Boku no Hero Academia 2nd Season does battle shounen exceptionally well. A lot of emphasis on character growth and development, a large creative cast, and significant events asking serious questions about a world not so different to our own in an incredibly intelligent setting and progressing plot make for an excellent shounen-targeted anime.

On their own, each element that makes up the season is of the highest quality, and watching the season was an absolute joy. However, what I did notice on my rewatch, and the reason why I could never deem this series a masterpiece was its lack of innovation.

The formula it employs is the tried and tested battle anime formula, and while the world-building and characters are unique enough that I’m very interested and highly engaged with the fate of all the characters, I can’t help but yearn for a more creative progression that could push battle anime to new heights.

Still, there’s always next season, and the one beyond; it’s still too early to label Boku no Hero Academia as just another show out of millions, and I await the next seasons and what creativity they’ll bring.


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