Image source: 僕のヒーローアカデミア_アニメ公式‏ on Twitter

When you’re at a school for superheroes, who’s going to be the villain during training exercise tests? Obviously, it’s the world’s greatest hero.

Our hero Izuku “Deku” Midoriya is finishing his semester finals with a physical test. The objective: Partner with his childhood friend (rival?) Katsuki Bakugō and either arrest the “villain” or simply escape the mock encounter. But, the villain they’re up against is none other than the worlds greatest hero, All Might.

The idea of All Might as a villain is more than a little intimidating because of his sheer power and speed. But it’s made even worse when you consider, during training exercises, All Might isn’t one to be to soft on his students. While he takes great care in making sure no harm comes to his students, he tries to push them to their limits. Thus, in the latest episode of My Hero Academia Season 2, when he’s playing the part of a villain, we see exactly what kind of damage he can dish out—albeit restrained by super heavy weights—so he can get the best performance out of Izuku and Bakugō. But it’s not only that: He’s also teaching both characters important lessons in heroing.

Image source: 僕のヒーローアカデミア_アニメ公式‏ on Twitter

Of all the characters who need a lesson in heroing, it’s surprisingly not Bakugō. While he’s certainly the embodiment of pride, he’s a sharp and skilled hero-in-training. It’s actually Izuku who needs a reminder of what being a hero actually entails. Throughout the series, we’ve seen Izuku develop his skills, but we rarely see him show the qualities All Might expects from him. This comes from Izuku believing he has to control his powers so he can be on equal footing with All Might. Without control, he views himself as inferior.

But, that’s not what All Might wants. Going back to the very first episode of the series, what prompted All Might to make Izuku the successor to his powers is Izuku’s selfless act of saving Bakugō. Yet, after receiving All Mights power “One For All,” Izuku’s first instinct in general is to run away from physical challenges presented to him. That’s not to say when push comes to shove he doesn’t step up to the task when there is no other option, of course. It happens when he battles the villain Stain and to a degree when he first encounters the villain Tomura Shigaraki.

During the exam, we see a similar pattern in Izuku’s actions. He knows fighting All Might is a fruitless effort—a notion reinforced by his obvious hero worship of the man. So, rather than taking All Might head-on, Izuku suggests a different approach, namely avoiding All Might at all costs. Yet, Bakugō raises an interesting point. Even if they try to avoid All Might, eventually they’ll have to face him. This really shines a light on Izuku’s weaknesses. Izuku is supposed to be the successor to All Might, after all.

Image source: 僕のヒーローアカデミア_アニメ公式‏ on Twitter

Yet, being All Might’s successor means when Izuku faces these sorts of trials in the future, he needs the courage of his convictions to overcome them. In this case, it means facing his mentor. And when Izuku does face All Might, we see he understands it’s a losing gamble, but he is still willing to take the risk because he remembers what Bakugō said about All Might when they were children: No matter what kind of a pinch All Might’s in, he’ll win. While this is important for Izuku to realize, it all leads back to why All Might chose him as his successor. Izuku is willing to sacrifice himself to save others, and he’ll do it with a smile on his face.

It’s not that All Might wins, it’s that he wins because he’s altruistic. Without fully understanding this Izuku can’t grow as a student, let alone as a hero, and in the episode we see him come to grips with this.

Image source: 僕のヒーローアカデミア_アニメ公式‏ on Twitter

Bakugō, on the other hand, is his own interesting case. For Bakugō, he believes every new challenge is something he can overcome with ease. Even if it’s overcoming All Might. Yet, what he quickly learns is he needs help in certain situations. While Bakugō believes this to be a sign of weakness, especially when the help is coming from Izuku, we see him begin to realize how important teamwork is. It’s shown by Izuku using one of Bakugō’s armaments as the two flank All Might. This isn’t something we’d expect from Bakugō because he’s not the best team player. Yet, his desire to win means he needs to adjust his strategy because even he understands All Might can’t be defeated one-on-one. Therefore, it becomes a battle of which part of Bakugō’s pride he’s willing to put aside. And since losing isn’t an option for him, he chooses working with Izuku.

Image source: 僕のヒーローアカデミア_アニメ公式‏ on Twitter

But, what makes Bakugō grow as a character isn’t the fact he’s willing to throw out a portion of his pride. It’s the realization that Izuku’s developing more because he has more to learn. All Might says it beautifully as he’s duking it out with Bakugō: (roughly translated) “Of course the growth potential for level 1 and level 50 are different.” In other words, All Might is telling Bakugō it only looks like Izuku is developing quickly because Bakugō is on such a higher level than Izuku. Thus, Bakugō needs to find new outlets to develop his talents and not rely so much on raw power.

That’s a shocking moment for Bakugō because he still feels as if Izuku will outpace his growth and soon. And through the episode, we see Bakugō begin to come to terms with this by understanding it’ll take more than just raw strength to defeat All Might or even pass the test; It’s not to win in a physical fight, but pass with the best strategy. And when All Might is the wall you have to face, the best strategy is creative solutions and teamwork—qualities we see Bakugō demonstrate by the end of the episode.

All Might is the perfect mock villain for Izuku and Bakugō because he’s fundamentally understands their growth potential. And by not holding back during the test, All Might has brought a little bit of that potential out in both characters.

My Hero Academia is currently streaming on FUNimation, Crunchyroll, and Hulu.

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