My Hero Academia: How the Endeavor Agency Arc Exposes a Cast Size Problem - VRGyani News and Media

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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

My Hero Academia: How the Endeavor Agency Arc Exposes a Cast Size Problem

Starting as a manga in Shonen Jump and adapted into an anime by studio Bones in 2016, My Hero Academia has always been monumentally popular, and it's easy to understand why. My Hero Academia borrows the X-Men “school for super-powered teens" idea and builds a whole world around it - there are all sorts of schools for heroes, and the characters we follow happen to attend the most prestigious one around. The show features a setting where heroes and villains are part of everyday life - it's actually more rare for someone to have no powers, or "Quirks" as they're called here - so there's an excuse for an action scene around every corner. For fans of shows with plenty of battles and crazy powers to marvel at, My Hero Academia is a sure-fire hit.

Since the protagonists of the story are all teenagers attending a super-powered school, there is no shortage of characters for viewers to fall in love with. The huge cast of unique characters is one of the series' greatest strengths. Class 1-A boasts 20 students alone, including our main character Izuku Midoriya, each with their own unique Quirks and charming personalities. There's also at least one other fully introduced class at the school, their various teachers, the professional heroes that represent what the kids are training to be one day, and of course multiple organizations of villains for the heroes to fight. Yet despite this huge cast of rotating heroes and villains, they always manage to leave an impression and stay memorable - every character is someone's favorite.

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That's why it's frustrating to see all of the potential of these characters go to waste as My Hero Academia continues to give its closest attention to the same stable of characters over and over again. We'll disregard the countless ancillary characters here - the pro heroes, the one-arc villains, and so on. The concern here lies with Izuku's own Class 1-A, the stable of heroes-in-training that the story follows most closely. As noted before, 1-A features 20 students, each of whom is interesting in their own right. The structure of a typical My Hero Academia arc has Izuku usually on some sort of mission or training with his classmates, so there should be ample time for everyone to shine.

That is, theoretically. In practice, only a handful of students - the angsty Shoto Todoroki, the explosive Katsuki Bakugo, and Izuku Midoriya himself - end up getting substantial amounts of screentime and development. Most of the kids manage to show up at least once per arc and show off something, usually an update to their powers or a small bit of characterization. Sometimes an arc will pick one character in particular to flesh out, such as Season 4's festival plot that allowed the sound hero Kyoka Jiro to shine. It's not a lot, but since they are so likable, this formula has mostly worked for My Hero Academia as a whole; the story is rarely particularly complex or thoughtful, so characters can stay involved by simply showing up and fighting a baddie once in a while.

As My Hero Academia goes on, though, the series has slowly started working in more nuanced plots and character development. The most notable of these is the anime's current arc, featuring the usual suspects of Izuku, Shoto, and Katsuki doing hands-on training with the current #1 hero, who happens to be Shoto's dad, Endeavor. Endeavor and Shoto's relationship has always been the most emotionally complex aspect of My Hero Academia. In his quest to best the previous #1 hero, All Might, Endeavor built a family with the intention of essentially breeding the strongest hero possible. Among his four kids, Shoto proved to have the most potential, leading Endeavor to neglect his wife and other children in favor of training Shoto.

Endeavor is quite clearly in the wrong, inflicting much more harm to his family than any super villain the heroes have fought. Shoto's arc for the entirety of My Hero Academia has been about healing from that abuse. Shoto has grown a lot, and it seems like he's arrived at an understanding that he owes nothing to his father and is trying to lead his own life free from his father’s influence. While complicated, it didn't especially stand out among My Hero Academia's many plot threads.

Now, though, the focus has shifted to Endeavor, who has come to regret the horrible things he put his family through. We've also been given more time with the rest of Shoto's family: His mother, still frightened of her husband; his brother, who can't stand to even be in the same room as Endeavor; and his sister, who wants nothing more than to somehow pick the pieces back up and try to restore the family. Meanwhile, Izuku and Katsuki have been thrust in the middle of this family drama, each with their own perspectives. It's not a story with easy answers for anyone, and it remains to be seen if My Hero Academia has the nuance to stick the landing, but either way, it is undoubtedly the most ambitious writing the show has ever attempted.

Contrast this with an episode produced in the middle of the Endeavor Agency arc, episode 104, "Long Time No See, Selkie". The My Hero Academia anime is known for including episodes not adapted from the original comic, usually starring characters that haven't gotten much attention lately. This episode, featuring by far the two most popular girls in the cast Ochaco and Tsuyu, is a tie-in to an upcoming movie project for the franchise. The kids are assigned to help Selkie, a pro hero Tsuyu once trained under, as they try to intercept a ship with suspicious cargo. It's a fun idea for a one-off episode; the stakes are low, but it features beloved characters who haven't gotten much screen time recently.

Unfortunately, though, the episode doesn't manage to deliver on even that basic promise. Despite being assigned an ostensibly important mission, the cast spends much of the episode frolicking on the beach. Selkie, who is a fun character in his own right, gives some weak reasoning for this pseudo-vacation, saying it is meant to inspire the young heroes when the going gets tough. The mission itself is over almost as soon as it starts, and then it's back to the beach for our heroes, with little achieved but some fanservice and a weak hook for a new film. Normally an episode like this would be merely forgettable, but it becomes comically insulting when presented in the middle of the ambitious Endeavor Agency arc.

The contrast between these storylines highlights an issue that has always plagued My Hero Academia: its cast is huge, but the actual plot is only interested in a handful of characters, leaving a huge amount of potential on the table. This has technically always been true, but it hasn't always been a problem. When the writing was less ambitious and the appeal was more about the moment-to-moment spectacle, My Hero Academia could cruise with its humongous cast, creating legions of fans for characters it never really planned on developing.

Now, though, the show's stories are more dense and thoughtful, exposing this flaw in a more impactful way than ever before, leaving many characters hanging, especially the leading female cast. Ochaco, the main heroine of the series, hasn't done much more than hug an enraged Izuku to calm down his new Quirk. Momo, a character whose impostor syndrome could easily serve as its own storyline, has her best moments always tied to Shoto. Tsuyu hasn't gotten a serious plot line for a few seasons. And these are the most popular characters among the cast, to say nothing of the other 1-A members and myriad heroes and villains who have yet to be given a shot even once.

How can My Hero Academia address this issue? With a cast so large, it is probably asking way too much for everyone to get their day in the sun. With the main plot ramping up more than ever, there’s simply not enough time to devote involved storylines to secondary characters without the show feeling bloated. We've also yet to see whether the Endeavor arc can prove the series can deliver on plots that aren’t resolved by punching a villain in the face. Still, justice should at least be served to the show’s female characters, who have thus far been denied the kinds of serious storylines that their male counterparts have been steadily receiving.

One thing's for sure: filler episodes like "Long Time No See, Selkie", which may have at one time been enough to satisfy fans of these characters, no longer cut it.

KEEP READING: 'My Hero Academia' Class 1-A Quirks, Ranked



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