Alright you losers and dweebs, you’ve had your fun with these “training matches” and their so-called “balanced tests of skill” going across multiple episodes. Some of you have even had character development, or gotten cool flashbacks to show how hard you’ve trained. But Bakugo has been there, done that, and bought the novelty t-shirt with Deku’s lunch money. He’s past the need for some dramatic turnaround to spread out across multiple episodes, so he’s going to usher in the era of Kacchan Supremacy before we hit the first eyecatch. He’s Just. That. Good.
Wrestling heel promos aside, this really was Bakugo’s match to lose. He’s a highly mobile and adaptable offensive powerhouse, with battle instincts you rarely see in characters this loud and abrasive. Lacking a member with either the offense or defense to compete with him, it makes sense they’d instead target his team’s shaky cohesiveness, and they set up a pretty good plan for it all to boot. Even with the power advantage, Bakugo probably couldn’t win a 4v1 on his own, so splitting up Team A early on and setting up layered ambushes to whittle away at him is a solid idea that they execute near perfectly. There’s just one problem: they’re not dealing with the old Bakugo who ran off to pick a fight while his teammate was left scrambling. This a new and improved Bakugo who’s unlocked a new power; the power…of FRIENDSHIP.
Ok “friend” is probably too strong a word, but taking All Might’s philosophy of “Winning by saving” to heart has managed to shift Bakugo’s definition of victory from sheer individual supremacy to being a reliable and effective leader. Strength is all well and good, but if the people around you don’t trust you to have their backs, it ultimately won’t mean much, so seeing him step in to save Jiro (and the rest, I guess) was both genuinely surprising and a little bit heartwarming. It also marks the end of Team B’s chances of winning: a lone King Explosion Murder can be whittled down and picked off in time, but a King Explosion Murder with a pack? That’s a recipe for a Royal Detonation Execution if ever I’ve seen one. Also the idea that being part of 1-A’s band during the cultural festival helped him get in sync with others is just adorable. Give me a spinoff with Bakugo and Jiro as traveling musicians, Bones!
Plus, credit where it’s due, the rest of the team more than fulfill their roles. Jiro’s sensory capabilities prove useful even in the face of Tokage’s trickery, and her sonic attacks counter Awase’s defenses perfectly. Sato comes in with a save to get Bakugo free from the enemy’s trap, then wrestles an addled Bondo to the ground. Sero of all people even figures out a clever plan to flush Tokage out of hiding, and that ultimately leads to Team A’s speedy and totally clean sweep of their opponents. It’s a tad simple compared to the last few fights, but with how fast and explosion-packed it is, that’s perfectly fine, and combined with last episode serves to give this arc the shot in the arm it needed to get moving again. Plus as Aizawa points out, this is exactly the kind of fight you want to have as a Pro Hero – minimal destruction, efficient and effective decision making, all delivered with nary a scratch. Kendo’s team may have gotten the first sweep of this competition, but Bakugo gets the gold star.
What’s more, it all happened so quickly that the closing minutes of this episode have time to set up our final match of this arc:
1) Izuku “Deku” Midoriya – Quirk: One For All – Special Skills: Protagonist Privilege Powers
2) Ochaco “Uravity” Uraraka – Quirk: Zero Gravity – Special Skills: Weaponized dimples
3) Mina “Pinky” Ashido – Quirk: Acid – Special Skills: Has never read homestuck
4) Minoru “Grape Juice” Mineta – Quirk: Pop Off – Special Skills: Somehow not in jail yet.
1) Neito “Phantom Thief” Monoma – Quirk: Copy – Special Skills: Somehow wins the Loudest Jackass Award in a show with Bakugo
2) Yui “Rule” Kaido – Quirk: Size – Special Skills: Secretly the daughter of Ultraman
3) Reiko “Emily” Yanagi – Quirk: Poltergeist – Special Skills: Secretly cameo’d on an episode of Ghost Adventures
4) Nirengeki “Mines” Shoda – Quirk: Twin Impact – Special Skills: In Japanese his name is such a terrible pun that Horikoshi considers it a crowning achievement
Bonus: Hitoshi “Let’s Go Again” Shinso – Quirk: Brainwash – Special Skills: Technically has the most experience with this specific type of fight
Gee guys, I dunno how this one will turn out. I wonder if the hero of the whole show will win? But hey, this season has sufficiently built up that something’s gonna go sideways in this fight involving Deku and Shinso, and that’s enough to keep me interested for now. Heck, their first matchup was one of the many highlights of the Sports Festival arc, so there’s also room for some fun or interesting character stuff in there too. We’ll just have to see what surprises this arc has in its final hour.