Review: My Hero Academia s4 ep81: A Timid Artist and a Telegraphed Surprise

Welcome to the weekly collaboration review of My Hero Academia season 4 with Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime and me. MHA seems to have settled into a comfortable pattern in episode 81, “School Festival.” We get two mini-episodes for the price of one (with some foreboding scenes near the end). We also got to see the kind of character building that can only come from a long-running series like this one.

How are you this week, Irina? We had a bit of a cold snap the last couple of days (got down to around -10 Celsius). Reminded me of how much I don’t like winter!

We haven’t been above 0 Celsius for a while and I love winter. Granted I live in a warm house with central heating. Still everything is white and lovely and there are few things better in life than to be warm and safe during a snowstorm evening and watching anime.

Since the end of the first arc, MHA has been splitting its episode more or less in two and I don’t hate it. It sets up a different rhythm that works for weekly viewings in my opinion.

Within the two mini-episodes, we saw just how thoughtful and deliberate class 1-A can be, if they’re properly motivated. I also like how the focus was on Kyouka Jirou/Hearing Hero: Earphone Jack, who’s a character I’ve wanted to get to know better. It also featured a moment that gave me flashbacks to college, and not in a good way. Not sure I’ll have the guts to come clean on that one… We also saw how considerate both Izuku Midoriya/Deku and Mirio Togata/Lemillion can be, while at the same time seeing the recent conflict for the first time through Eri’s eyes. There were some interesting nuances there, as well as Deku receiving inspiration from an unlikely source. Before we dive in, any opening thoughts, Irina?

The first half of the season restrained the cast by focusing much more on Deku and Lemillion, as well as Overhaul and Eri. That wasn’t bad, but I don’t think it’s where MHA really shines. It seems that since then the show has been going back to the large cast dynamics. not only by adding the other characters back in, but by giving them some attention they had been lacking up until now.

First we got to meet the real Camie and see enough of her to get a good grasp of her personality. Plus we got to see Inasa and mostly Seiji more. We had already gotten a pretty good characterisation for Inasa, but Seiji got a lot of development which came as a surprise. 

Then we were treated to the great cheese caper last week. It might be the first time the series gave that much attention to Aoyama and it was pretty sweet if also very silly. 

This episode continued the trend of bringing the larger cast back into the narrative, and I couldn’t be happier! Well, I could, but I’m pretty happy about it. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

As such it’s not surprising that they would pick out another aspiring hero to put in the spotlight this week. 

Jirou is a pretty fitting choice, too. Despite never being that present in the main storyline, she’s been consistently a fan favourite with an interesting character design that’s easily marketable. I believe I come across fan works dedicated to her more often than any other female character in the series except for Froppy, who is loved by all fans. Both at a narrative and marketing level, giving Jirou some attention is a smart move in my opinion.

Today’s award for Most Self Confident (With Justification) goes to Mina Ashido/Pinkie. After some stretching exercises, she asked the class to look at her and she launched into an acrobatic demonstration of break dancing. The onlookers called out “Pow, pow!” I can only assume that’s a new thing the kids do nowadays, because it made no sense to me. But it did give Ashido a chance to show off her dancing skills, which were every bit as good as when we got a glimpse of her using breakdancing to defuse a confrontation back in episode 72. It also set up part of the solution for the first half, which in retrospect was kind of cool.

But I’m still wondering about the whole “Pow, pow” thing.

I have to admit I don’t know about the Pow Pow thing. It’s possible that it was lost in translation. Then again, breakdancing hasn’t really been a thing for a very long time, no? We got street dancing that’s more similar to jazz I think (I don’t really know that much about dancing styles, I can only judge based on what they look like). But I’ve only seen actual breakdancing in super old shows.

Is break dancing still a thing? The last time I saw what even looked like break dancing with in LMFAO’s Party Rock video, and that was — gasp! — 9 years ago! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I don’t know if it’s more popular in Japan, or if it’s actually popular everywhere and I just missed it because I’m not up on dancing trends. I sort of assumed it was just fun to animate and a silly quirk they gave Mina for the funsies. 

This said, I can’t discount the idea that Pow Pow may be some form of breakdance specific cheer that  just don’t know about. In any case, I don’t think it’s going to be super important going forward. Then again what do I know?

Deku gets major points in my book for asking her to teach him to dance. Yuuga Aoyama/Shining Hero, too. I would not have had the courage, especially at that age. But then, I hadn’t fought against Overhaul, either. I guess that would give one a different perspective on what’s frightening and what’s not!

This is where we differ. I actually don’t really see what’s frightening about asking a friend to teach you to dance. At this point it’s still a private lesson and nothing more, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I would probably have broken my neck, so I guess that’s a little scary. Never mind, I understand it now.

Now we get to the part where I got the flashbacks. As they watched Ashido try to teach the other two to dance, Denki Kaminari/Chargebolt said he was amazed at how Ashido had chosen such an amazing hobby. Then he turned to Kyouka Jirou and said, “Speaking of hobbies, you have an amazing one, too, right, Jirou?” He was really upbeat; I think he wanted to give her a chance to shine. 

But she got really self-conscious, which he unintentionally made worse by trying to explain that her dorm room, being more or less a professional-grade sound studio, was frankly amazing. She asked him again to stop, but he bravely pushed onward, but she got more embarrassed until she threatened to punch her left earphone jack onto his face. As she stalked off, Kaminari could only look bewildered as Momo Yaoyorozu/Everything Hero: Creati looked on with sympathy. 

I really think Kaminari was trying to be positive. Jirou sure didn’t take it that way! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

It was a bit of an odd scene. Mostly because Jirou had always been very open about her hobby in the past. There have been a lot of scenes where she is open about her musical talents in the past, and although she doesn’t like to be the center of attention, I never got the impression that she was embarrassed by her hobby at all. Just the fact that the whole class knows about it in the first place means she shared it with them willingly in the past. From my recollection, no one was learning anything new.  It’s also front and center in the new opening credits.

Maybe the whole scene was a little dissonant for me because I grew up thinking that a girl playing the electric guitar was the coolest thing ever and definitely not something to hide. Heck, my school had girls pretending they could play to seem cooler…

After praising Deku’s bravery, I might as well own up to what happened in college. It was in the library, and it was a similar situation. I knew this young woman who I had my eye on was particularly good at something. It was artistic, and I forget what it was because it’s not a memory I try to keep fresh. We were at a table with several friends, and I brought up her talent, but she tried to redirect the conversation. Having the emotional sensitivity of your average (but not above average!) cinder block, I pushed on, until I had embarrassed her so much she left. So I get poor Kaminari’s confusion. I can only tell him that he should prepare himself, because it’ll likely get worse.

No use sugar-coating it!

You figure I would relate to this being extremely introverted and having anime blogging as a hobby. Way more embarrassing than “rock star”. But I really don’t get it. If everyone already knows about it, the harm is done. I guess I’m just an insensitive jerk that way.  

What was cool about this sequence is that it reminded us that Jirou was musically talented and was self-conscious about her skills. Shortly thereafter, Shouta Aizawa/Erasure Hero: Eraser Head announced they had to participate in the school festival. Of course, with the villain situation being what it was, it would be school-only; no public access this year. The kids were understandingly excited, but what struck me was how they chose what to do. Tenya Iida/Ingenium and Yaoyorozu tried to lead the conversation. With Aizawa’s guidance, they decided that since they were heroes and had the sports festival to shine, they wanted to let the students from the support course, general studies course, and business course have their moment in the spotlight. So, they tried to think of something to do to support them.

Iida doesn’t so much put himself into his work. He hurls himself, mind, body, and soul, into it! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

You might be able to see where this is going.

What I really liked about this scene was Kirishima and Aizawa’s conversation. 

For one, Krishima’s concern about the growing unrest in society and the unpredictable movements of villains was fully justified. It’s not unreasonable to think that they should concentrate on something other than a school festival under these circumstances. What is more surprising though, is that it’s Kirishima who brought up the point. That is an unusually somber way of thinking from his part and it shows that the kids haven’t just snapped back into their previous personalities. What they went through has affected them more deeply and it has changed their way of thinking and viewing the world. That’s pretty nifty character development right here and it only took up a few seconds of screen time.

On the other hand, Aizawa’s explanation was perfect. You can’t give in to terror. You have to provide joy and hope to the people in times of strife. It was a good line of reasoning and one I agree with, but it’s the delivery that made it more impressive. Shouta spoke clearly and openly. He wasn’t annoyed or bored by the question like he usually is. He didn’t chide Kirishima for being short sighted. He spoke with some degree of respect to a young man that had gone through a lot.

Not only did we get sturdy character development in these few seconds, but we also got a reframing of the inter-character relationships in view of that development. It’s a lot of storytelling to pack into such a short time.

By the end of class, they hadn’t decided what to do, so they continued the conversation in the dorms. Iida spoke of how their hero work caused the other classes so much stress that he wanted to do something to relieve it. They eliminated almost all of their ideas for one reason or another, but the sense the group was building was that it was almost a moral imperative for them to help the other courses. I thought that was commendable, but it was also putting pressure on Jirou. She had started to suspect some kind of performance would be the best bet, and she suggested a skit. But Hanta Sero/Taping Hero: Cellophane pointed out that even watching such a thing might be stressful.

Jirou could see where the conversation was headed, so she tried to suggest a comedy skit. It didn’t work. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

As someone who regularly has to try to coax a consensus out of large groups of people, this scene was hilarious and hit close to home. Iida was pretty good at it too. You have to at least pretend to consider everything no matter how ridiculous it is. I’m considerably less good at it. I’m too impatient. 

You and me both… Those kinds of meetings are tough!

The conversation finally combined the ideas of Ashido’s dancing (which is definitely not amateurish) and music. You know, like Jirou can create. She tried again to object, but this time, Tooru Hagakure/Stealth Hero: Invisible Girl pointed out that Jirou was “really good at playing and teaching people how to play.” She really, really wanted to hear Jirou’s music. Jirou confessed that she felt like her music was “just” a hobby because it wasn’t rooted in hero work. 

Kaminari did something I found impressive: he made the connections. He put the pieces together. He went up to her and told her how cool he thought it was that she was so talented. But I think it was Kouji Kouda/Petting Hero: Anima who convinced her when he said her talents might make people smile. He was so earnest when he said it, too!

Kouda was so earnest! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I kept thinking about Present Mic! He also has a sound-based quirk. I have a feeling I’m overthinking these things, but I really thought her music was linked to her hero work. At least as much as Mina’s dancing or Kouji’s baking or Baku’s anger…. I just insinuated that Baku’s hobby is mood swings!

Seriously though, her quirk has a few utilities, but one of them is creating sound waves which can be manipulated to desired effects. It’s in essence just a refined version of playing an instrument. I always figured that her instrument playing was a way for her to practice creating and controlling sound waves in a different form. I was a little confused when she said it had nothing to do with her hero work.

And that’s not even mentioning this whole side of My Hero Academia where the story keeps insisting that it’s as much about what you inspire people to do as what you do yourself. Being a symbol and all that. Or to put it more cynically, hero work is as much about appearance as it is about actions. On that front, a rock star super hero would be among the best and that makes Jirou’s hobby one of the most useful ones to have as a hero. 

I guess my own thinking went completely differently to what the episode was expecting me to think, so I had a bit of trouble following it.

She finally relented, saying that it “wouldn’t be rockin’ at all” if she turned them down after everyone said so many nice things about her!

Jirou finally relented. Good thing, too. I was worried she was going to make a liar out of the OP. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I really enjoyed how the narrative showed us how sensitive Jirou was about her talents, then used the entire class to bring her out of her shell. It was an amazingly supportive atmosphere, which is something I should expect from a school teaching heroes to rely on one another. 

It was sweet. I also liked how it brought back her friendship with Kaminari. Their quirks are not completely dissimilar and they were pretty close in the first seasons. It’s nice to see that they haven’t drifted apart too much.

The second half was a bit heavier. Midoriya and Togata went to visit Eri, under the supervision of her doctor and Aizawa. It turns out that Eri was upset for a variety of reasons, but one of them was that she didn’t even know Midoriya’s name. After he told her, the first thing she said was that she felt horrible because they were all injured “because of me.” 

It was so heartbreaking that they haven’t been able to tell her about Nighteye yet. I totally get it. It was this small human moment of pain and helplessness where even the truth is just too sharp for a particular situation. In a story full of super humans, I find that the human moments are particularly powerful. I also wouldn’t have told her. Now I am very worried about what will happen when she finds out.

She apologized, and as she did, her feelings started to tumble out. She spoke of how it was her fault Lemillion had lost his powers. But we have to remember that Togata is Togata. He didn’t let her get up a head of negative steam. He gently placed his hand on her head and told her he was happy because now he could achieve his goal: to see her smile.

Eri doesn’t know how to smile. How sad is that? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I have to say I was a little misty eyed when she tried to smile, even using her hands to push the corners of her mouth up, only to fail. 

“How do you smile again?” she asked.

Some time ago I helped a friend adopt a retired greyhound. As in retired from racing. It was, and is, a beautiful dog. Because the races are so demanding, they retire them pretty early and the dog still has most of their life ahead of them. Without going into too much detail, the dogs are usually not raised in very good conditions though. They’re not hurt or anything since they need to be fast so they have to be in good health, but to put it mildly, no unnecessary care is given.

That adult dog had never seen stairs for instance and was baffled and terrified by them. We had to teach him how to navigate those stairs and it took a few weeks. He still isn’t 100% comfortable on them. He was often very anxious. He had lived his entire life in a not too big cage surrounded by other dogs. Having a big open space without any other dogs around was terrifying. It took quite some time and effort to create a home environment where he felt safe and secure. 

Don’t worry, I’m getting to the point. This adult dog didn’t know how to play. As in he didn’t understand the concept of playing. He had no interest in toys, he didn’t play tug of war. Oddly, he didn’t even understand fetching or just running after a ball. I had to hide treats in tennis balls to get him to follow them and it took a few weeks of regular pay time that consisted in mostly me throwing a ball and going to get it by myself before the poor creature picked up on the concept. Now he adores balls and regularly exhausts my friend through play time.

Eri reminded me of a dog who doesn’t know how to play. It’s a very sad concept but it isn’t an absolute. You can teach a dog to play. I bet you can teach a kid to smile.

Midoriya can be remarkably perceptive. He realized that Eri hadn’t been saved at all. The spirit of Overhaul still oppressed her. It was at this point that he received an inspiration from a character I didn’t expect, from a scene I’m still not sure I understand: Aoyama and the cheese scenes from episode 80. He wanted to give Eri a surprise! He asked Aizawa, who immediately warmed to the idea. And what was the idea? To let Eri attend the school festival! 

Togata immediately warmed to the idea, too, and I chuckled when he turned around to explain to Eri what a school festival was: he’s so huge that the wind of his turning blew her hair back. 

Togata is so huge that the wind from turning quickly blew Eri’s hair back. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Weird little details like that amuse me.

I didn’t notice that but it’s really cool. Togata is a great character, I like him a lot.

Eri was particularly enticed by the idea of candied apples. It’s the first purely kid thing I’ve seen her do. That might be the highlight of the episode, in fact. Eri just had a moment to be a kid, with no more concerns or motivations than any other child in a similar situation. That was seriously sweet.

Was she enticed or was it mostly Togata that got himself overexcited? She seemed slightly intrigued but the big guy was going on and on about it as if it was the best thing ever. 

Only slightly related, but I need to learn how to make apple bunnies. They are so cute.

My attempts so far have been, let’s say, less than stellar successes! 

The moment with Togata was so sweet that I wasn’t even creeped out when Togata said that he’d be her date at the festival. Though to be honest, I think he meant absolutely nothing untoward about it.

It didn’t even cross my mind that Mirio could have had ill intentions. Then again I also had no issues with Nighteye so I may be a bit more dense to these things. Still, Mirio is such an innocent I probably wouldn’t have thought he had a hidden agenda if he had invited Nemuri out on a date at the school festival. It’s just the type of guy he is. 

Eri has no idea what a date is. But I’ve rarely been so confident that Togata will give her a happy, age-appropriate experience. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Am I being too naive?

Man, if Lemillion turns to villainy I am going to have to go get my jaw from the basement.

The rest of the episode revolved around Kenji Tsuragamae (chief of the police force) and his attempts to figure out who released the newest video showing the exploits of the villain Danjuurou Tobita/Gentle Criminal and his camera person Manami Aiba/La Brava. I’m not sure what to make of these two. Tobita is apparently trying to make a name for himself by video taping villainous acts like stealing from a convenience store and posting it on the MHA version of YouTube. La Brava tapes it for him, and she edits out his battle with heroes — only showing that he defeats them. 

Is he the master and Aiba the servant? If so, then why is he (badly) serving her tea later? Is he with the League of Villains, or is he an independent with his own agenda? 

What do you think, Irina?

Do you think Kenji is based on McGruff the crime dog? They sort of look alike. If so that’s some deep cuts right there. Not sure anyone still remembers McGruff.

He had the “woof” down pat, that’s for sure!

Sorry I got distracted.

Well, whoever he is, the Gentle Criminal needs to work on his pouring skills. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I mention it a bit earlier in this post, but the world of My Hero Academia is very concerned with public perception. A villain that understands and is willing to play at that particular game is a new sort of conflict and I really like it. What if that beloved public opinion turns towards villains? If the masses start seeing them as the cool, more desirable option? This guy could do what Stain was hoping to accomplish. Only people aren’t always swayed by sincerity as much as they are by spectacle. This is what I saw in the set up and I think it holds promise. I guess we’ll see if it gets developed that way.

As for their relationship. I think La Brava is Gentle’s sidekick. Not his servant. I also think he was serving himself tea and not her. Somehow, I don’t see him fitting into the League. I mean, he wants to be a star and that’s always better solo. You don’t want to risk getting out shined….

Good point.

I have to say I’m enjoying the slower pace where we get to spend time with the students of class 1-A. I have few complaints about the arc that just wrapped up, but I’m finding I like the time to get to know these kids better. 

Any final thoughts on the episode, Irina?

I really liked the appearance of Gentle and La Brava. They reminded me of old school cheesy Batman or even Dr. Who villains and I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us. Not to mention that they seem a lot more lighthearted opponents, and I think the season could use a more easy going arc. 

Of course, I could be wrong about everything and this will go super grim. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

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7 thoughts on “Review: My Hero Academia s4 ep81: A Timid Artist and a Telegraphed Surprise

  1. That “Pow! Pow!” cheer is driving me batty.
    I did a quick search, but the only thing I could dig up was this:

    It may be nothing, but this is going to continue bothering me until something is found.
    The first thing I thought of was the cheer of “fight!” in Japan, or “fighting!” in Korea. (I watch a ton of Kdramas)
    Maybe they mix it with that cheer, but put a whole 60’s retro Batman twist to it…? Like “Pow!” “Wham!”???

    Ok, now I am realllly stretching it….

    1. Me, too! And thinking back on what we knew of how Overhaul raised her, I should not have been surprised.

      On the other hand, I can’t think of anyone better (well, assuming they get help from professionals, too!) than Togata and Midoriya to help her heal!

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