My Hero Academia‘s “Symbol of Peace” planned on cuffing the many hands of Tomura Shigaraki (Koki Uchiyama). Busting through dive bar walls, entangling villains in roots, and smashing the League of Villains’ Nomu factory to smithereens, the heroes instead force the hand of the man in the shadows: All For One (Akio Otsuka).

Unlike most people in this show’s world, All For One is not limited to a single Quirk. The Quirk with which he was born has allowed him to manipulate, and even harvest, the Quirks of others for decades. With this seemingly boundless variety of abilities at his disposal, he makes quick work of the heroic trio at the Nomu factory. Best Jeanist (Hikaru Midorikawa) takes the brunt of the attack, flinging Mt. Lady (Kaori Nazuka) and Gang Orca to relative safety, but none of them are fit to fight. All For One casually hovers above their collapsed bodies and, by simply pointing his finger, blasts a hole through Best Jeanist’s torso. With so many possible options–and at such a high intensity–who could possibly counteract this monster’s abilities?

Using one such pilfered power, he opens inky black portals all around Shigaraki’s dive bar. Some of the portals consume Bakugo (Nobuhiko Okamoto) and his villain captors, while others spit out a horde of Nomus. Back at the Nomu factory, the inky void spews out the underlings and their prisoner. While Shigaraki’s goal was to recruit Bakugo, it seems far more likely that All For One would just steal the boy’s Quirk and be done with it.

Huddled behind the factory’s crumbled wall, Izuku (Daiki Yamashita) tries to puzzle out the situation while Iida (Kaito Ishikawa) anticipates stopping him. Luckily, they’re all equally (suddenly) as afraid of breaking the rules as they are of the boundless malevolence hovering nearby. The parameters for doing so are made clear as All Might (Kenta Miyake) leaps onto the scene.

Trading barbs about how they’ve both grown weaker with age, All Might and One For All begin their fight; All Might’s punches versus One For All’s manipulating tendrils and arsenal of tricks. Bakugo’s presence is a burdensome complication, though. He knows it. All Might knows it. And, behind the wall, Deku knows it. With the most immediate threat occupied fighting All Might, Izuku cooks up a plan to not only save Bakugo, but to do so without fighting the villains or wounding his rival’s tempestuous pride.

Bracing themselves against the neighboring wall, Kirishima (Toshiki Masuda) hardens himself into a battering ram while Izuku and Iida combine their Quirks to blast him through the remains of the Nomu factory wall. As they vault forward, Todoroki (Yuki Kaji) summons an enormous ramp of ice towering over the battlefield. As always, Momo Yaoyorozu (Marina Inoue) is completely sidelined in the mighty heroics. The three boys launch skyward, opening an opportunity for the plan’s linchpin: Kirishima’s friendship with Bakugo. While an offer of aid from just about anyone would usually spur Bakugo into a prideful rage, Eijiro Kirishima is the one person to break through that barrier. Their friendship is genuine, and as close to equal as anyone could hope to be with Katsuki Bakugo–and on a less cowardly show, they’d probably be dating.

My Hero Academia

Lookit that smile!

With a smirk, Bakugo blasts off like a rocket, grasping his best bud’s outstretched hand. It’s such an impressive aerial display that you have to wonder why he needed someone to catch him, at all. Why not just fly away at the start? A generous viewing might permit Bakugo some unspoken fear that prevented Bakugo from seeing a way out, but that’s a degree of subtlety beyond what My Hero Academia offers.

Back on the ground, the ragtag villains try to figure out a way to get airborn and catch those dang teens. Magne (Satoru Inoue) winds up using magnetism or whatever to blast Mr. Compress (Tsuguo Mogami) after them, but is blocked by a headbutt from a briefly-recovered Mt. Lady. With the kids clear of the fray, All Might is finally free to focus his full effort on putting down All For One, once and for all.

The trouble is, that’s already happened once before. In his taunting, All For One mentions the last time that All Might killed him. It didn’t take. Now, shrouded in a pseudo-Darth Vader helmet, The Symbol of Hate is pulling every trick out of his sleeve to negate and reverse all of All Might’s attacks. When the Number 1 Hero lunges in for a Smash, an inky portal opens in his path planting the face of his mentor–Gran Torino (Kenichi Ogata)–on the receiving end of his fist.

Intent on getting the cliches in while he can, All For One starts in on the whole, “You became the ‘Symbol of Peace’ by practicing violence on villains, Isn’t that hypocritical?” shtick. Having just been manipulated into punching his beloved teacher, All Might is more than fed up with this guy’s feckless preaching.

Summoning all of his strength, All Might sweeps Gran Torino away, crushes All For One’s arm in his hand, and lays a punch into his head. The villain crumples. His mask shatters. Steam rises from All Might as his powered up form dissipates. From the ground, All For One’s taunting prattles on once more. All Might’s fist rests on the bruised stump that should have been his greatest enemy’s head. Whatever was left of All For One after his first death now lives as something beyond conventional human anatomy. Are his eyes and brain elsewhere in his body, or has his collection of Quirks allowed him to transcend such limitations?

Laughing, he recalls another foe with All Might’s conviction: the previous wielder of All Might’s Quirk, One For All. A friend to Gran Torino, and quite possibly the only muscular woman this series will ever even hint at, Nana Shimura.

Tom Laurie
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