This My Hero Academia review contains spoilers.
My Hero Academia Season 5 Episode 2
“Have you ever thought about the feelings of those they left behind?”
“I’ve thought so much about it that I’ve gone crazy.”
My Hero Academia season 5 technically started last week with “All Hands on Deck! Class 1-A” and it’s become an unofficial tradition for each season to begin with an episode that functions as a recap or primer for new audiences, but this premiere was especially superfluous. Sometimes there’s enough of a fresh perspective that can analyze past events critically, but “All Hands on Deck!” Class 1-A” merely covers the characters’ hero names and Quirks as they work through yet another mock battle.
It’s a slow start that feels more like a tease, but what that premiere does effectively establish is the larger roster of characters that this season will balance. It’s clear that a lot of Class 1-B is on the way, but episode 2 “Vestiges” takes a very focused look at three characters in comparable situations before it embraces the chaos of Class 1-B.
“Vestiges” is an episode that shouldn’t work as well as it does and structurally it’s kind of a mess. The episode is largely stuck in the past and consumed by major passages of exposition that aren’t the most elegant way to explore this material. It’s a very dense installment that bombards the audience with important information, yet the revelations are satisfying enough and are surrounded with gorgeous visuals so that “Vestiges” is still a successful episode, almost despite itself.
The title “Vestiges” explicitly refers to the former One For All relics that visit Midoriya, but it’s a term that’s applicable to all of this episode’s major characters. This is an episode that’s about the future, but it depends upon the past. Midoriya and Endeavor are completely separated throughout this episode, but “Vestiges” unifies them over how they both just want to do All Might justice, whether it’s as the new Number One Hero or the current bearer of One For All. Endeavor and Midoriya experience the same anxiety, but in totally different ways.
This episode also draws exciting parallels between Midoriya and Hawks. The first half of “Vestiges” could just as easily be called “Keigo Takami: Origins” and it’s kind of beautiful to see how Hawks’ admiration towards Endeavor mirrors Midoriya’s own obsession towards All Might. It’s honestly comforting to see that Hawks is not in fact a traitor and is just playing the long game with his infiltration of the League of Villains. It’s great to see that the Number Two Hero isn’t actually a Number One Asshole, but it also seems unlikely that this scenario is as clear cut as it seems.
It’s possible that Hawks is actually aligned with the League of Villains and there’s an extra level of double crossing that’s afoot, but what seems like the more likely development is that Hawks has now opened himself up to some very big dangers in this new, vulnerable position. This is bound to intensify in some big ways and hopefully this injection of The Departed into My Hero Academia blurs the lines between heroes and villains. Hawks might not actually be a traitor, but that doesn’t mean that every other hero is still on the level.
Hawks sees the good in Endeavor and he’s one of the few people that’s actively excited for the “Age of Endeavor”to begin. The end of My Hero Academia season 4 worked hard to begin Endeavor’s redemption arc and it’s encouraging that this is still a slow work in progress for the hero. “Vestiges” really leans into the Todoroki family and they’re far from reaching a healthy place, but it’s a valuable change of pace to spend so much time with a hero’s family.
The campus nature of My Hero Academia often segregates the students and so this brief moment where the Todorokis attempt normalcy really stands out. Endeavor’s family still has put up a lot of barriers, but Shoto genuinely wants to give his father the benefit of the doubt, which exhibits tremendous growth from where he was at during the first two seasons. “Vestiges” chronicles the emotional connection between Shoto and his father, but it also actively creates more physical similarities between them now that Endeavor has a scar on his face that matches his son’s. Shoto’s matter-of-factly, “That’s a bad scar” is a subtle and perfect response for the situation. This relationship is one of My Hero Academia’s longest running arcs and it makes the payoff here all the greater.
Fractured families continue to be a strong throughline to “Vestiges” and even play a major role with the very nature of two of My Hero Academia’s most important Quirks. There’s an extended sequence spent in Midoriya’s subconscious that’s one of the more surreal moments from the series. The animation is fantastic through all of this and there’s an operatic quality to this dream where every element just screams that what’s going on is vitally important. A fascinating detail that comes forward is that All For One is the older brother of the original One For All bearer, which brings so much of the anime full circle and likely means that a major return of All For One is imminent.
It’d have seemed contrived if All Might and All For One were brothers, but this variation on that theme and how All Might and Midoriya are just fragments of this original sibling rivalry is an unexpectedly poetic turn for My Hero Academia’s war between good and evil. My Hero Academia has always looked towards the future and pushes a message about how important it is to value and empower the next generation. However, this glimpse into the origins of these two fundamental Quirks is such an elegant extrapolation of this premise.
Every action that Midoriya takes has been in service of doing All Might justice and being the best successor imaginable, yet now Midoriya has the collective expectations and legacies of seven other heroes placed on him. His mission remains the same, but it’s now substantially magnified. It’s no coincidence that the original One For All bearer is also an individual who was born Quirk-less, just like Midoriya.
The most exciting detail from this stylized flashback that plays out in Midoriya’s subconscious is that All For One might have had altruistic intentions at one point. There have been comparisons made between My Hero Academia and X-Men in the past, especially in regards to how Quirks manifest across the planet. This influence has always been present on some level, but it now evolves from beyond subtext. It may be a glib oversimplification, but there are definite shades of Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier in the early relationship between All For One and his brother as a rift forms between them over the right application for Quirks as well as society’s perception of these “special” individuals.
“Vestiges” gets a little too expository during these segments and the same sequences would be just as effective if All For One’s actions could just speak for themselves. It still opens up a rewarding new chapter of the series that feels like it’s the start of My Hero Academia approaching its endgame or final conflict. To the episode’s credit, these developments feel organic and baked into the anime’s DNA even though it’s a major piece of information that gets dropped out of nowhere. It’s also impressive how this sequence retroactively makes All For One even more frightening and succeeds in building anticipation over a possible return of the major villain.
“Vestiges” does an excellent job with how it establishes the larger themes of this new season and the major conflicts that will overwhelm the characters. There’s two episodes’ worth of information in “Vestiges” and this does make up for the disposable nature of last week’s premiere. This is still an entry that functions as an introduction to the new season and technically characters spend the bulk of “Vestiges” in bed and in various states of recovery. My Hero Academia can begin to indulge in pure action and entertainment now that it’s got some of this season’s heavy lifting out of the way. There’s already a grandiose feeling that’s not typically present right when a new season begins.
Much like what All For One’s brother tells him about his comic book-esque plan to radicalize the future: There’s more to this story.