It has been said that every villain believes themselves the hero of their own story. The just, the correct, the one who stands against an antagonistic world and cannot be faulted for doing so. Then there’s Stain. A villain by his own design. A force to combat heroes, to kill them, cleanse the world of those who do not meet his standards. The necessary evil. The blinding irony of this all is that he still believes himself to exist as a force of justice. He’s also fairly insane too, so that probably helps with the contradiction.
With Iida and Midoriya paralysed by blood magic and Todoroki on the defensive, the situation for our heroes-in-training was not looking so hot coming into this episode. However, as the flow of Shonen combat dictates, this low exists to make the highs higher and the victories all the sweeter…though not without another helping of internal introspection. With the Sports Festival providing an evolutionary moment for Todoroki and Midoriya’s recent training propelling him to new heights, Iida is understandably feeling a little left behind. Luckily, he has rocket legs. So, with a few choice words of resolution and intention, he blasts forward and delivers a kick so powerful that he overcomes his recent bout of revenge induced anti-heroism and drifts back onto the path of justice. Also his arm gets busted up by knives. That’s not part of the semi-metaphor, it’s just a thing that happens. Looks like it hurt a bunch…because of the knives.
All (what could graciously be considered) joking aside, this episode mainly serves as an emotional double check for Iida. With Todoroki’s words of encouragement already spoken, Midoriya’s actions already considered and his own thoughts well worn, Iida finally pieces together that revenge is not the path of a hero and that the needs of others outweigh his own. An obvious lesson to be sure, but it has been one Iida has neglected to learn for quite a while. From his first introduction, Iida has cared immensely for rules and regulations and has adhered to them above all. Though mostly played for comedy, a subtle dark side has shown its face more than once. Need I remind you that he deigned to not save Uraraka from the giant robot during the UA Entrance Exam? Or that he was so devoted to performing as a villain that he lost the Bomb Retrieval test? Or that he spouts class rules even when nobody is doing anything wrong? Varied instances to be sure, but they show a distinct tunnel vision that plagues Iida and severely hampers his effectiveness and even his conscience. Let’s hope this encounter with Stain serves to widen that field of view.
Speaking of the Hero Killer, and confirmation, this episode also presents without a shadow of a doubt that our resident bloodlicking blademaster stands behind his words. After the combo of Midoriya, Todoroki and Iida manage to bring Stain down, he goes out of his way to save Midoriya from an errant Nomu. Sure he broke out of confinement and stabbed the Nomu in the exposed brain after having first paralysed it, but still, a net plus for the good guys and a perfect representation of what Stain is. Plotting to kill both Native and Iida not ten minutes ago, Stain respects Midoriya’s brand of heroism enough that he considers him worthy of his ideal society. This fact is also fairly visible in the degree of violence he inflicts on each alleyway combatant, though Stain’s acknowledgment of Todoroki was a little jumbled by his desire to survive an onslaught of fire and ice.
Still, said acknowledgement also provides us with a clear depiction of what a trained individual can do with a Quirk fraught with weaknesses, a subtle extension of Midoriya learning that 5% of his power used wisely is far and away better than 100% used dramatically. Though his Bloodcurdle possesses a short time limit that is unreliable at best, Stain managed to cement himself as one of the greatest threats of recent history, enough so to be officially dubbed Hero Killer and put Shigaraki on the defensive. Heck, his bloodlust alone was enough to intimidate Gran Torino and Endeavour and he was able to give an intimidating speech moments before passing out…and still remain standing afterwards.
Endeavour, of all people, also steals a fair amount of the show this week, by showing us all there is a reason he is the Number Two Pro Hero. Terrible parenting and horrible treatment of his wife aside, Endeavour is a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, combining intellect and overwhelming power with years of experience. In mere moments, he decimates a Nomu that was proving insurmountable to multiple Pro Heroes, seriously wounds another, saves a hostage and directs aid to Todoroki. It’s an impressive sight that, like All Might, reminds us that even the best and brightest of UA have a long way to go to reach their dreams. Still, I can’t really designate Endeavour a role model. Powerful or not, dude sucks.
And thus the Hero Killer is defeated, far earlier than I ever thought possible. With Iida’s revenge seemingly consuming him, everything wrapped itself up surprisingly well…which I think is the point. Though Iida thought of nothing but slaughtering Stain, the Hero Killer himself could not care less about Iida. Ingenium was simply another on a long list and thus he did not view his bout with Iida as destined or even that important. The semi-realism of dramatic moments not being reserved for finales also serves this series well. Iida sought Stain out and found him, simple as that. This notion is also present in Stain’s loss of consciousness. He wasn’t propped up by his bloodlust alone, nor was he speaking while already unconscious, as per Rule of Cool. His unconsciousness also wasn’t the result of accepting defeat, a rib pierced his lung. Which, in addition to sounding horrible, is an example of the thought process that makes me love this series. Because even in a world where a man can burn the skull of a genetically engineered monster to the point of carbonisation, sometimes broken bones hurt…a lot.
It’s fine now. Why? Because My Hero Academia is on Crunchyroll