Miss the last review? You can find it here!
This week’s episode brings a formative moment in the My Hero Academia story to life as Midoriya (Deku) and Bakugo come to terms with their rivalry, and reflect on how their shared admiration of All-Might has led to an inevitable conflict.
Picking up from last week, Bakugo confronts Deku about the nature of his powers, having made the connection between All-Might’s dwindling power and Deku’s meteoric rise. Deku is anxious upon being confronted, knowing how important it is to All-Might to keep the nature of his powers a secret.
Still, Bakugo is fired up. Unwilling to accept that All-Might chose Deku as his successor, he challenges him to a fight right then and there to determine who is actually worthy to follow All-Might as the symbol of peace.
Of course, Deku thinks that conflict isn’t necessary, suggesting that they get a training room or arrange a proper spar later on. Bakugo dismisses this option because they couldn’t “fight seriously”, and begins to go after Deku properly.
Throughout the fight, Deku and Bakugo reflect on their long relationship. It would be odd to call it a “friendship” considering its tenuous nature, and how Bakugo essentially bullied him throughout their childhood. What makes these memories a bit different is that they almost exclusively focus on their admiration of All-Might. Bakugo relishes the spirit of victory, while Deku admires All-Might’s ability to save those in need.
Bakugo feels as though his admiration was “wrong”, since All-Might chose Deku to be his successor instead of Bakugo. Layered on top of this is a sense of guilt that Bakugo accelerated All-Might’s retirement, starting with the sludge monster and culminating with his abduction by the villains that ultimately led to All-Might’s confrontation with All For One.
Bakugo demonstrates his keen battle sense as the fight continues, knowing that Deku often takes time to analyze and attempt to predict movements in the midst of battle, he changes things up enough to land some devastating attacks. Deku, however, realizes the severity of the fight and that Bakugo needs to work out his feelings – so he goes all in on the bout as well.
The fight peaks with Deku pushing his Full Cowling from a base 5% to 8% unconsciously, landing an extremely powerful kick on Bakugo, followed by a powerful punch in the air.
Victory seems to be his, but Bakugo’s stubbornness wins out as he grapples Deku and uses an explosion to drive him into the ground, ultimately securing the win.
As Bakugo reflects on his win over Deku, despite having been blessed with All-Might’s powers, the former “Number One Hero” and Symbol of Peace himself arrives. He offers his apologies to both of them for not recognizing the tension he’s caused, and is particularly apologetic to Bakugo.
He insists that it’s not his fault that he’s been reduced to his weakened form, and confides in him the full history of his power. Bakugo recognizes that it needs to be kept a secret, and volunteers to keep his mouth shut – much to All-Might’s surprise and relief.
The boys make their way back to the dorms alongside All-Might, and Eraser Head is ready to issue harsh punishments to the both of them – house arrest and cleaning duty!
This week’s episode was a powerful and important one. The dynamic between Bakugo and Deku can seem pretty 1-dimensional at first, but there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to their childhood and growing rivalry. Bakugo thought that Deku’s continued pursuit of him was his way of saying that ultimately he would surpass him. Being Quirkless, it always seemed like it would never happen. However, the recent developments have resulted in Bakugo’s emotions being thrown for a loop when the “weak loser” that had been tagging along with him for his whole life is suddenly coming to his rescue.
Of course, Deku was blind to Bakugo’s interpretation of his help. His respect for All-Might’s ability to help other people influences his own methods of being a hero, so every time he extends his hand to Bakugo to offer a hand-up, he’s doing it sincerely. Bakugo instead sees this as Deku looking down on him. The revelation strikes Deku in the middle of the brawl, and he makes it clear to Bakugo that he’s always looked up to him and respected the “amazing things” he could do.
The conflict and emotion in this episode reminded me of a recent article on the VRV blog that called out the relationship between Kaneda and Tetsuo – the central protagonists from the anime hit Akira. As the article points out, just when pubescent boys are struggling with changes to their bodies, and the hormones that come with it, there’s a simultaneous and contradictory expectation for boys to have their emotions under control. All-Might rightly recognizes the stress he’s put on the both of them, and ultimately the failure of the “adults in the room” to allow these young men to work out their feelings. Without a healthy outlet, the two explode in conflict instead, resolving their tumultuous feelings with their fists (and feet).
Complementing this emotionally packed episode was some tremendous voice acting, particularly on the part of Bakugo (Nobuhiko Okamoto). At one point he asks why he was the one that had to end All-Might, his voice cracking in characteristic teen fashion and emotional distress. You can feel the burden he carries of seemingly bringing his childhood hero down low due to his weakness, and it’s amazing to watch.
Visually, the episode is stunning. While the fight isn’t as iconic as the All For One fight, or even Todoroki vs. Deku, there’s a different level of finesse when it comes to the choreography. Deku’s final combo features some fancy footwork – expertly captured in animated form as he spins and attempts to deliver a knockout kick.
Bakugo’s explosions are also channeled well throughout the battle, demonstrating his practical battle-smarts and superb control.
Overall, My Hero Academia episode 61 will be one that fans will look back to and remember for quite some time. Narratively, we’ve reached a fork in the road. Deku and Bakugo’s rivalry has evolved and changed in a healthy way – and now we can look forward to what that brings in the weeks and months to come.