Exam day approaches.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Up until this point, My Hero Academia has kept me captivated by its unconventional take on the superhero formula. In its third episode “Roaring Muscles,” however, Izuku’s pursuit of becoming a hero takes an unexpected turn that undermines the idea that even those without incredible power can achieve great things.
At the start of the episode, Izuku’s heroic idol All Might reveals the origins of his mysterious superhuman strength, which was passed on to him “like a sacred torch.” All Might inherited the power to transfer power, an ability called “One For All,” and in order for Izuku to receive it, he must train his body to become a physically-fit vessel that is capable of bearing this new Quirk.
I was a bit disappointed by this revelation, hoping that My Hero Academia would commit itself to embracing a protagonist who is without any special talent of his own. What Izuku lacks in supernatural ability he more than makes up for with passion and drive, and I would have liked to have seen the Quirkless hero achieve his dreams by defying the notion that one must have a special power to become a hero.
Instead, Izuku has just 10 months to train his body using All Might’s “American Dream Plan” so that he can inherit the “One for All” power before the U.A. High School entrance exam. At first I feared this training process would monopolize the entire episode and potentially the next few to come, but fortunately that wasn’t the case.
Izuku’s transformation process fits neatly within “Roaring Muscles” and was primarily conveyed through a montage that had clever bits of comedy peppered throughout. I particularly enjoyed watching Izuku tirelessly jog with large metal safe atop his shoulder, while his emaciated mentor rolled at his side on a Segway. I also appreciated how Izuku’s training was tied to cleaning up a beachside trash heap, serving as a simple reminder that being a hero is about doing good in a multitude of different ways, not just fighting crime.
All of Izuku’s hard work culminates in him having to swallow one of All Might’s golden hairs, as ingesting a piece of his mentor’s DNA will make his transformation complete. It’s a wonderfully silly moment, thanks to its perfect juxtaposition against a triumphant and dramatic look at Izuku’s new muscular body.
The final portion of the episode is set at U.A. High School, providing a brief introduction to the top-tier superhero academy that Izuku and his rival Katsuki so badly wish to attend. During these last few minutes we learn Izuku is going into the entrance exam having yet to try out his newly-acquired power, as he runs into the aforementioned Katsuki and a girl who uses her levitation Quirk to prevent Izuku from falling flat on his face. It’s a cute little moment that teases a new cast member and potential love interest.
Just as the examination is about to begin, the episode credits roll, rounding out 25 minutes worth of setup that feels like required primer for what promises to be a more exciting journey ahead. As such, there is a noticeable lack of action — as well as the dynamic animation and visual splendor that comes with it — ultimately yielding a third episode that fails to reach the emotion-packed heights of the two that came before.