The gravity of pro hero work has always been kind of been in the background throughout the past few seasons of My Hero Academia. However, Season 4 of the show puts the situation the members of Class 1-A are going to be getting into once they graduate into much sharper relief.
The first half of the season is probably the heaviest arc that HeroAca has had thus far – possibly even heavier than the arc leading to All Might’s confrontation with All For One: The Overhaul Arc. The arc involves several of the heroes of Class 1-A getting work-study jobs at several pro-hero firms – all of which turn out to be part of the investigation of a Yakuza clan, the Shie Hassaikai, led by a villain known as Overhaul.
On the one hand, the climax of the arc – a direct assault on the Shie Hassaikai’s compound – is probably one of the more conventional shonen action arcs the show has had since the Sports Festival. There’s a lot of fights in this arc which basically end up with the various Work Study students and their mentors pairing off with some of the Villains in the Yakuza for individual fights that last an episode or so.
On the other, the stakes of earlier seasons have always been relatively light for our protagonists. The most serious things had gotten was with the fight with All For One, with the potential that All Might and All For One were going to kill each other – and even then the show stepped away from the conclusion, with All Might exhausting the last of his power and having to retire instead of actually dying.
Here, without getting into spoilers – since as of this writing the season hasn’t gotten a physical media release yet – things are weightier. Part of this is due to the story taking the idea that society has become reliant on a Symbol of Peace to lean on for support, and in that power vacuum Villains have become emboldened, and heroes, including the pros, have become more fearful.
The other part of this is that the members of Class 1-A have generally been on the periphery of pro-hero work before. Yes, they’ve fought villains – they’ve even been targeted by villains. However, it’s never really been serious. The League of Villains members in the Training Camp attack were generally rookies (with a few exceptions), and the hordes of general muscle involved in the attack on UA at the start of the series were just that – generic muscle.
The villains in the Shie Hassaikai, on the other hand, feel more experienced, and more dangerous. This is helped by Overhaul, in his introduction, killing one member of the League of Villains and maiming another just in the first episode of the season. It set up the stakes pretty well, in a manner that works for what is basically a beef between crime organizations, and while also having more gravitas than Stain’s murders, which generally happened to people the audience hadn’t encountered yet, with the closest we get to someone close to the characters being Iida’s brother – who is forced into retirement but is not killed.
The second half of the season is a dramatically lighter palate cleanser involving a showboat villain who posts his crimes on not-YouTube as a sort of super-powered Gentleman Thief. There’s a lot more comedy in this arc as a whole, combined with the fact that while the antagonist – Gentle Criminal – is an obnoxious YouTuber, he’s also not of the potentially grating prankster/trickster type ala Jake Paul in the real world, and Screwball in comics.
It puts a lot more focus on the other members of Class 1-A, particularly those who didn’t take part in the Work Study, while also allowing the people who did a chance to decompress and emotionally recover from that arc. There’s generally more comedy here, most of which is executed well. Mineta is present here, and he does slip some crappy jokes in, but he’s also less actively perving.
We’re not quite at a point in the series where I could see the story just outright kicking Mineta out of the story entirely – while he’s obnoxious, I think just sending him out of the story completely would represent a tonal shift in a direction the story’s not quite ready for yet (think the point where much of the original Dragon Ball cast gets shuffled to the back burner – or off camera entirely in Dragon Ball Z).
Currently My Hero Academia is available for streaming on Crunchyroll and on Funimation. Funimation’s web site also has the show available as a dub, but as of this writing while the season has ended, the dub has not been completed due to COVID-19 and other issues.
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