My Hero Academia is an official juggernaut of an anime today. However, coming off Season Three it is clear while My Hero Academia remains a good time it is far from perfect. Season Three was especially a rather uneven season in retrospect. With Season Three in the can and Season four likely in six months, now is a good time to look back at My Hero Academia Season 3.
Coming off one of the most hyped seasons of anime in recent memory with Season 2, My Hero Academia set itself a high bar going forward. Surprisingly, the series managed to match and even exceed Season Two in few key moments. The issue was that almost all these moments, save one, were located in the first half of the series. In fact, the first two arcs of Season Three were among the most emotionally resonant and important to the story up until that point.
With the United States of Smash, All Might not only leveled half a city block, All for One, but also the My Hero Academia status quo. By retiring from public life and heroing this event marked the end of the beginning of the series. As All Might had always been an outsized influence on the series, often more important than its central heroes themselves.
All Might suddenly sidelined, it became time for My Hero Academia to live up to its name and become Deku’s story. The series also hinted at many changes in society the wake of the fight created. Which proceeded to only further destabilize the status quo.
The issue is that even with a fight as amazing as the United States of Smash was all the set up will it produced will not be realized until next season. The problem was made more pronounced as Season Three transitioned from its most important moment to a low energy arc. One little more than a Heroes driving test.
To date I feel one of My Hero Academia’s greatest strength has been its ability to blend Super Hero tropes and those of a Magical High School series. All the while without ever feeling too unbalanced. Season Three was the first time that balance failed.
The Provisional Licencing Exam arc was to be blunt boring. Unlike Season Two’s excellent UA Sports Festival Arc, the Provisional Licencing Exam did not have the same genre backing. As the UA Sports Festival was a Tournament Plus arc - one of the most beloved formats in all of shonen battle manga. What was even better is that the series managed to use this format to blend quick action and emotion. Resulting in some of the best fights in the entire genre: Todoroki vs Deku and even Ururaka vs Bakugo was up there.
There were no equivalent moments or even one that came close to those highs in the Provisional Licencing Exam. Shifting from a Tournament to a Battle Royale just does not have the same effect on viewers. Now unable to focus on one fight, much of the emotional heft of the conflict was pushed to the side. They felt more like filler, ignoring the filler that actually punctured the arc.
Sadly one of the arcs most surprising decisions, the choice to fail two of the most important characters, was minimized at the end. Where Bakugo and Todoroki’s failure to advance proved only a temporary setback. Of course two of the series MVP’s cannot be benched indefinitely, but this seemed rushed even by the standards of the series. I can say because of these issues, the latest full arc was the weakest in the series.
This compared with the first half of the series in the noted United States of Smash and the Forest Invasion Arc - an arc that saw My Hero Academia go as dark as it has ever been - was disappointing to say the least. Luckily, My Hero Academia Season Three managed a masterful recovery act with its final four episodes. Giving the audience Bakugo vs. Deku and the introduction of The Big Three. My Hero Academia roared back to show why this show is as big as it is.
Some have said the finale was a defining moment for Bakugo, one that changes him going forward, I disagree. While the moment was a long time coming. His emotional vulnerability and inferiority complex were readily apparent in the series already. The fight did lay the character bare for the first time. What it showed though was not a radically different character from before or after.
During the entirety of Season Three Bakugo was the quintessential hero if a bit headstrong. Whereby he put himself in danger to spare others pain. I make the argument Bakugo is no different now then who he was in Season One, the series is just making it more explicit. While it is good others are finally getting glimpses of Bakugo’s complexity. These are not new developments as Bakugo was always a hero.
As the season came to a close it teased us with Season Four. Which promised a shift away from the Magic High School side back towards Super Heroes. Where I argue the series most shines. With the concept of work studies and a new villain taking center stage in the next arc.
The seasons also promises to set up All Mights replacement; narratively and literally in Mirio Togata. Being the character most likely to truly take on the Number One Hero spot, as Endeavour has shown to be not up to the job in the mind of the public. That being said unlike All Might who was a mentor, Togata is an obstacle Deku must overcome to become the worlds greatest hero.
How their relationship will play out over the next season is unknown to me. It is clear though Togata and the rest of The Big Three will play a role in the series going forward. Especially in the next arc, which to be honest is an exciting prospect.
As the Big Three represent a return to a stance that My Hero Academia is quite adept at. That of taking standard shonen tropes and working them masterfully. The UA Sports Festival was a knock-off of the Chuunin Exams Arc from Naruto, but it did not matter as it executed so well. The Big Three looks like any other hero trio in manga but I do not mind much as I have faith the series can make it work.
After a lackluster back half, the final few episodes were genuinely interesting. They revived my excitement for more My Hero Academia going forward. While the world building they have sprinkled in, shows more changes are afoot. In many ways Season Three was a transitory season, one limited by the fact its biggest moments were merely stepping stones to a changing status quo.
When My Hero Academia returns for Season Four in several months time I fully expect that set up to pay off. Just the set up without payoff can feel unsatisfying at the time. But hey the United States of Smash was PLUS ULTRA at least!