In anticipation for season six of My Hero Academia I’ve been re-watching the series (again), however this time around I’ve been doing it as a sort of ‘Highlight reel’, skipping around to watch my favorite moments and arcs. It’s gotten me all fired up for the show again and as I was re-watching I began to notice that many of the highlights for me were fights, and it really makes sense when you think about it. Shonen live and die off the strength of their action scenes, and the more of them I re-watched the more I thought it would be fun to rank these. However when ranking things it can be hard to come up with a solid method for deciding between close fights, and it can be difficult to communicate the things you like concisely. To remedy these problems I’ve decided to make a numeric grading scale for the fights in this series to help showcase what these do well and give solid placements for each entry. I’ve separated these into four categories that will inform what I like about the fights.
Visual Stimulus, Narrative Significance, Characterization and Plus Ultra. These will each be graded on a scale of 1 to 10, and I’ll add together each result for a total score out of 40. For reference, anything that gets 20 or above I consider a good fight as that means it averages out doing everything adequately, 30+ range would be fights I consider nearly perfect since that means each category is averaging about 8/10 (which is amazing), and a 40 would indicate a perfect fight that can’t really be improved in any meaningful way. When I discuss each fight I’ll give my reasonings for each grading, my personal thoughts, things I think the fights excel at, and things I think they could have done better.
Visual Stimulus refers to the crunchy parts of the fight. How visually appealing it is, interesting strategies and tactics used, the fight choreography and how interesting and epic the physical exchanges of the fight are. Narrative Significance is grading the more external factors. How greatly will this outcome shape the narrative going forward, how much anticipation has been built up for this fight, and how important is it to the overarching? Characterization will be referring to the way the characters are portrayed in the fight. How well does this fight convey the story of each character, how accurately do they feel represented, what kind of growth do they show over the course of the fight, and how strong are the underlying themes between the characters? Lastly Plus Ultra will cover miscellaneous factors that don’t fit into the other categories, the ‘wow factor’ of the fight, and my own personal thoughts and admitted bias. This is a subjective list after all, so bias is gonna play an important part in it from the get go, so why not give it a numerical value!
A few quick notes before we dive into the list. Firstly, this will be covering only fights from the anime up to season 5 so as to avoid spoiling things for those who like to wait for all the episodes of a season to be out before watching it. There will obviously be anime spoilers, so you’ve been warned. Another important thing to remember is every fight in a show can’t and shouldn’t be a 40/40. We need less impressive fights to really help the phenomenal and typically more important fights to have an even bigger impact. Also remember all of these fights have made it into my top 10 which means they’re all amazing. While I may harp on some shortcomings I hope you’ll remember that these fights are held in extremely high regard for me, and that my acknowledgement of shortcomings is not me hating on a fight but rather attempting to show how even the best of fights can still be improved on, and that we can always improve our craft!
#10: All for One vs. All Might
Visual Stimulus– 5
Plus Ultra!– 5
Alright before you stop reading the article and/or crucify me for having this fight at only number 10 give me a chance to explain why it’s here. This fight is the most hyped up one in the series thus far, with the consequences of its outcome having bigger ripples on the world and overarching story than anything else. It easily gets a 10/10 in the Narrative category and is by far the most plot important battle of the series, however that’s where the rest of the fight’s shortcomings come forth. Everywhere else it’s just average and as you’ll see later on I think more fights just have a better complete package than this one.
Visually not a lot happens for most of the fight. While the attacks look cool there isn’t much interesting back and forth at all, and the choreography is quite lacking overall. It’s just All For One (AFO) blasting All Might (AM) away several times before they clash fists at the end and the winner is decided. The ‘United States of Smash’ adds a few points to this for how visually stunning it is, but that’s the only standout moment. While I get that the bait and switch AM does at the end is interesting, it’s the only strategic move in the whole sequence. It would have been great to see AFO use his plethora of powers in a more interesting way, all we really see him do is combine power boosters to amp up his destructive capabilities. He’s been hyped up as an evil mastermind whose plans are complex and dangerous, it would do a lot for his character to show off his intelligence more in the way he fights. Maybe he uses a quirk that creates a tornado that he sends at AM that he then hits with a heat quirk to ignite. Really any sort of interactivity between his stored quirks beyond power amps would have been cool.
As far as Characterization goes All Might is better established in other fights, this one doesn’t really add anything to the character like many other fights I’ll be covering do for their key players. All Might it still a great character and overall represented well here, and they show his determination well when his back is in a corner, but we don’t get anything new here. While I like AM winning by sacrificing his limb similar to how Deku did when he started out, I wish they really would have driven that home. Have him think back to the way Deku used to fight before their clash or mentally thank him for the idea. Even a single line can go a long way to inter-twine Deku and All Might’s overall story into the fight itself. On top of that All For One is pretty stereotypically evil here and doesn’t really stand out at all. Sure we see he knows how to hit AM where it hurts with his words, but he doesn’t have any clever strategies or interesting motivations or philosophies brought forward. He’s pretty generic and that holds this back for me quite a bit.
As for why I only gave it a 5 in the Plus Ultra category, I find myself re-watching this fight the least out of any fight on the list by a long shot. It has a great initial viewing but fails to hold up upon closer inspection. ‘United States of Smash’ is visually quite stunning but overall that’s the only moment I look forward to in the fight. It’s also important to know that while I’ve said a lot of ‘negative’ things about this fight, it’s still a great fight, especially when I compare it to others in similar shows. This fight is a masterclass in how to set the stage for a truly epic confrontation, all the story elements and buildup culminate here. I simply wish that the fight was more engaging, because it almost feels more like a short story or narrative beat than an actual fight.
#9: Kirishima and Fatgum vs. Rappa and Tengai
Visual Stimulus– 7
Plus Ultra!– 8
Having this fight above AM vs AFO? Are you crazy? Probably, but to be honest this fight did so much for developing both Fatgum and Kirishima that it has changed the way I look at all of their scenes before and after this fight. Fatgum was shown to the audience almost as a joke character, at the minimum he wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. He contrasts the seriousness of other pro heroes, munches on food the whole time he’s on screen, and even his voice and lines take a light-hearted and comical tone to them. Kirishima is also a character we’ve seen alot but don’t really know or understand that well. Sure he values manliness and guts, but we never knew why it was so important to him.
One point this fight really drives home is that courage can take many forms. While we see Deku acting heroic and brave as early as episode two, he said it himself that his body was moving without him even thinking about it. With Kirishima’s flashbacks we see that he’s always believed a strong spirit can make up for an individuals shortcomings, but when he was faced with a scary situation he froze up in fear, and his regret and resentment for that weakness pushed him to become the person he wanted to be. I think many of us (myself included) want to believe that we would act heroically like Deku in a crisis situation, but the truth is most people panic and freeze like Kirishima did. We aren’t born with that kind of fearlessness, but I think that’s what makes his bravery so compelling. The villain destroys his ultimate defense in a single punch and it shatters him a bit, but remembering his past allows him to stand up again and save Fatgum.
Fatgum protecting Kirishima like he did made me like him already, but for me the moment he become one of my favorites was when he acknowledged his mistake. He owns up to the fact that he underestimated Kirishima’s resolve and praises him for it, and it takes a lot of character to own up to a mistake like that. The reason it sits at only a 7 for Characterization is mostly just Tengai being about as cookie cutter as it gets, and for something to have a 10/10 I think everyone involved needs to have perfect characterization. I don’t think it’s fair to expect one-off villains to be great, nor should they be given too much screen time to make us care, but Rappa was honestly done quite well so it’s a shame Tengai was so lacking.
Visually speaking this fight is pretty visually appealing even with as simplistic as it is, which really says alot. Most of the fight involves Fatgum being pummeled but the way his body recoils from the blows is done so convincingly that even as he takes the massive amount of punches we can still clearly sense the power behind his blows. It does a great job of making Rappa look powerful and Fatgum looking sturdy at the same time, not to mention Kirishima’s stance looking great.
The main thing holding this fight back is that there’s little narratively significant involved here. There’s no buildup for the fight, the stakes are as simplistic as it gets, and the fight has little impact on the overall narrative regardless of who wins. I think adding more to the stakes would have gone a long way. Having Fatgum or Kirishima find out some crucial information that the other heroes can’t win without would have added even more tension to the scene and could still happen believably with how Rappa openly talks about everything. Even something as basic as them figuring out Overhaul perfected the quirk destroying bullets and them desperate to escape to warn the others would add a level of desperation to their struggle.
#8: Endeavor and Hawks vs. High End
Visual Stimulus– 8
Plus Ultra!– 6
Probably another one people will be mad at for having only at #8. This fight has a few jobs to do: It has to help establish Hawks, let us see how the new #1 Hero is doing filling All Might’s shoes at the top, and most importantly make us care about Endeavor. It does all of these with flying colors.
With all that said you may be wondering why it only has a 6 in the Narrative category, and that’s for a few simple reasons. Firstly there is little to no buildup for this battle or his foe in question. We don’t see High End until the fight starts and it happens with little warning, so rather than us feeling like “yes this fight is finally happening,” we’re left feeling “oh shit I guess there’s a fight now.” Not inherently a bad feeling mind you but it has no where near the impact as a fight that’s well built up. It also has the issue that Endeavor is fighting essentially a faceless nobody which dispels a bit of the tension in the situation. It’s believable that All Might could lose to All For One because we’ve known about him for so long, but this character showing up out of the blue gives us little reason to believe they’re important and thus we expect them to be beaten. The fight is also narratively drawing many parallels to the AM vs AFO battle. Fights drawing or mirroring other fights is something interesting and good when done well, but for me this fight doesn’t do this in a meaningful way that adds to it. The nods to All Might’s fight here detract from the uniqueness and triumph of Endeavor’s battle rather than accentuate it. I understand what they were going for with this being the epic battle for the new #1 hero to show the world ‘Hero Society’ hasn’t fallen, but I wish they’d have let it stand on its own a bit more. The fight is referenced and compared several times in the battle even down to him sharing All Might’s victory pose at the end.
Where it’s Narrative feels lacking, its characters don’t. This is our real introduction to Hawks and it does an amazing job setting up his character. He’s intelligent, shrewd, fast, quippy and has absolute mastery over his quirk. Seeing him using his quirk to feel out vibrations and sounds in order to save the civilians in the collapsing building is epic, and him using his feathers to speed up Endeavor is the kind of teamwork I love seeing. High End itself is pretty boring, but the fight uses it to its advantage. It’s a sentient Nomu that cares only about being the strongest and is a monster that lashes out at the world around them. This is an eerie mirror to how Endeavor was and what could have potentially become of him. This leads into the main reason his scores so highly here though: Endeavor. I love that this fight doesn’t excuse or absolve him of the horrible things he’s done, but rather show us his perspective and let us see that it was ultimately many of his positive traits that drove him to do those deeds. He was the only one that earnestly tried to surpass All Might, and his indomitable drive lead him to realize that he wasn’t enough; that he would have to make someone who could be. In that pursuit he lost sight of his ideals, and we see him now taking steps to make amends and be better. It leaves us with a mixed bag of feelings; we still don’t like him or what he did, but want to see him become a better person and eventually earns his redemption.
Visually this fight is appealing but that’s pretty standard for this show, many of Endeavors attacks are flashy and aesthetically pleasing. There’s also some tactics involved, with the High End ripping its head off and throwing it out of the way of an attack and Endeavor taking the monster up into the clouds so he can go all out without risking collateral damage. However one issue I have is that while a lot of the attacks look awesome and cause large scale damage, they don’t always feel powerful. Take Todoroki vs Sero for example: When Todoroki shot his ice out that envelops half of the stadium, it’s presented in a way where it feels absurdly powerful. Here we see the High End split a building with its attack and Endeavor also uses his ‘Hell Spider’ attack to chop up the falling building into small pieces, but they don’t feel as epic as the aforementioned ice attack. Even though what the attacks accomplish is more destructive, they don’t feel as impressive as Todoroki’s ice barrage because of the way they’re presented. It’s really hard to explain what I mean, but compare these two gifs and hopefully you might get what I’m getting at, and if not well there’s bound to be subjectivity on a topic like this.
#7: Deku vs. Gentle
Visual Stimulus– 8
Plus Ultra!– 7
Now for a fight that is much different than pretty much every other fight in the show. While this time Deku is facing off against a villain alone, it’s quite different in that the goal of the villain isn’t to hurt or kill anyone. Hell they aren’t even trying to beat Deku for a good part of it, they’re simply trying to escape him. This fight does a lot of cool things that no other fight in the series offers, like how even though there are lower stakes than many other fights, that reality actually adds to the tension of the fight. We know a villain won’t kill Deku so those kinds of fights inherently have more predictability, but a villain defeating Deku by simply managing to distract and escape from him is entirely within the realm of possibility.
One thing I like a lot about this fight is the deceptively important stakes at play. Many times when shows introduce a new villain the only way they know to make us feel invested is to keep raising the stakes over and over, and this can lead to what’s known as ‘power creep’. Here though we went from a fight with a cutthroat gang leader to a fight with a criminal who simply wants to record himself breaking into UA during a festival in order to gain fame. Yet we still feel extremely invested in the outcome of this fight because the consequences are so personal. Eri is a child that had an unimaginably painful and torturous childhood where she was literally taken apart and killed every day and then revived and put back together. She was also the victim of extreme psychological abuse. Finally free of it but still understandably skeptical about life she finds out about the UA’s culture festival and is for the first time in her life extremely happy and excited for an upcoming event. We see Eri hurt so much in the last arc that we just want her to be happy, but if Gentle succeeds the festival will be cancelled and her excitement would turn into sorrow. It would set the precedent going forward that good things don’t happen and that she shouldn’t expect anything good to happen. They also do a good job foreshadowing this confrontation with Deku seeing the videos Gentle has uploaded and us seeing scenes of him scheming against UA. Deku meeting the duo initially is also a tense scene. They’re incognito so we know who they are, but watching them do their best to be inconspicuous but ultimately being foiled by Gentles love for tea is really engaging (and great characterization).
The characters in this fight are all quite well portrayed. Gentle and La Brava both have interesting and fairly sad backstories that really help us understand them. Gentle failing at being a Hero and trying to save the day with his quirk but instead causing someone to die is really sad, and the feeling of trying to help others but messing up and making things worse is extremely relatable. Deku coming to understand his enemies over the course of the fight and showing them compassion at the end, as well as realizing how similar their stories could have been if he hadn’t met All Might, is also some really compelling stuff.
For me though the reason it’s not any higher on the list is that once La Brava activates her quirk everything unique and compelling about the battle goes away. Gentle’s quirk was extremely tricky with a lot of cool applications that Deku really needed to get creative to overcome, and Deku’s new ‘air force’ was really cool to see in action. The problems come with the last section of the fight. While I can appreciate that La Brava’s quirk comes from her love and all the characterization that gives her, the fight afterwards loses all the creativity in exchange for a fairly straight forward slug fest. Once he receives the power boost from La Brava Gentle just begins threatening him physically, which wasn’t what made the fight tense until that point. It’s also when I knew Deku had won the match; this villain is now trying to beat Deku at his own game in hand to hand combat and we’ve seen how good Deku is at that, so I personally felt that there was no real threat of Deku losing from this point onwards. If I were to improve this fight I would give La Brava’s quirk a different type of power up for Gentle that requires Deku to think on his toes again. Rather than giving him better stats maybe it makes him constantly emit heat that forces Deku to find a way to restrain him without getting too close. It would also fit with the theme of it being a love based power-up with the warmth of love becoming something tangible. There’s alot of avenues they could take it, but in general I would have loved to see something more creative for the last part of the fight.
#6: Deku vs. Muscular
Visual Stimulus– 7
Narrative Significance– 7
Plus Ultra!– 8
I’ll be honest, I’m surprised that this is only sitting at #6. This was the first fight I re-watched when I started my ‘Highlights’, and was the fight that got me to want to make this list in the first place. On initial viewing of this fight I didn’t like it much. I thought the ‘One Million Percent’ line was stupid because I didn’t understand what it meant and took it literally, but repeat viewings of this fight continue to increase my appreciate and enjoyment of it like a fine wine. Understanding now that the ‘1,000,000%’ like was Deku’s way of mentally shattering the limits he’d put on himself in conjunction with hysterical strength (which is a real thing that happens) helps us understand a lot about him too. He got that boost in strength not when he thought he was about to die, but when he heard Muscular talk about killing Kota.
Visually speaking this fight is simple but still beautiful at the right moments. Muscular’s quirk looks terrifying in action and is extremely powerful, and Deku’s smashes are accentuated by his signature green lightning effect that look beautiful. In fights Power, Speed and Durability are three categories that are used to define physical powerhouses, and usually people only excel in one category. Kirishima’s extremely Durable but lacks in speed and power, Iida has extreme speed and decent power but no points in durability, and at this point in the story Deku has extreme power at the cost of his durability. What makes Muscular such a terrifying foe is that he excels in all three, there’s no weak category for you to try and take advantage of. Deku is entirely outgunned here on top of being at a disadvantage since he is trying to keep Kota safe. He’s also all alone with no way to call for backup. All of this sets the stage for a terrifying battle for Deku.
This is Deku’s first true moment to be a hero since receiving his quirk, and it’s against one of, if not, the strongest villain we’ve seen up this point. Deku lays his life on the line for Kota and has a terrifying moment in the fight where he realizes he’s about to die. Muscular also has a straightforward and terrifying reason for acting the way he does. He simply likes fighting, tormenting and killing people. He didn’t join the league for any profound reason, he simply wanted to be unleashed on the world and knew they’d give him the chance to kill to his hearts content. He’s a textbook psychopath and it makes him in many ways a lot more interesting and terrifying. There’s no wondering whether or not he could have turned out different or feeling sympathetic for him, he’s a monster through and through. Deku tries to stall for time by trying to distract him with talking but due to his nature it does absolutely nothing. Kota gets a good bit of characterization here as well. He hated heroes and hero society because his parents died doing hero work (fighting Muscular no less). Everyone said their sacrifice was noble and heroic, but to him they just abandoned him. This fight allows him to finally understand his parents sacrifice, why heroes matter and we even sees him call Deku his hero.
To be honest there really aren’t any real weak points with this fight, it simply isn’t perfect in any categories. It’s a fight that’s extremely emotionally charged, especially the final shot with Deku standing shattered but triumphant. The fight isn’t as big or important as some of the crazier fights in this show, and really it isn’t meant to be. It’s an important fight, but not the most important of fights, and does a really good job of filling that niche of being well done without taking away from the more important fights that happen elsewhere in the series. Another really important part about this fight is that Deku is risking his life like this when there’s no one to see. A theme we’ll discuss in a later entry is how many heroes are only heroic for publicities sake or when the camera is on. This really drives him how Deku is a hero through and through because it’s something imbedded into his core.
And… that’s a wrap! I hope you guys enjoyed the beginning of this. I have a lot to discuss with each fight so you know the deal, the rest will come out next week! What are some of your favorite fights? Do you like my metric for grading them, or would you use a completely different ranking system? I’d love to see your thoughts, so feel free to share some comments about them! Until next time, thanks for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed, and stay healthy!