I know of the man. You know of the man. It’s Yutaka Nakamura, people. He’s had his hands in virtually everything anime.
You’d almost think he has dozens of arms and time manipulation powers. Or he’s just extremely talented and has taken on lots of roles in the industry. Either way, he’s contributed an incredible amount to animated action in anime (notorious for his work on FMAB, Soul Eater, and of course, Sword of the Stranger). His impact when it comes to visuals and fight choreography in anime is quite substantial. If you have no idea what I’m talking about however, perhaps a few seconds from this video will show you what I mean.
“Nakamura seriously has a god living within in his hands” – comment from sakugabooru
Episodes 06 (19): “The Boy Born with Everything” and 10 (23): “Shoto Todoroki: Origin”
I can’t talk about the match without talking about the build-up first. And I gotta say I really liked the private chat between Todoroki and Deku (with Bakugo eavesdropping). There’s a mixture of respect and resentment here, and while Todoroki doesn’t bear any ill will or hard feelings towards Deku, he acknowledges him as someone who is strong and must be bested in order for him to progress outside of his father’s shadow. And the reveal of Todoroki’s upbringing under his Endeavour, his father and world’s second-best hero, made the encounter feel more meaningful (to use the term loosely). What really made it endearing was his flashbacks of his mother, which I’m glad was prioritized in level of significance over the fight itself later.
What a glorious fight. Just the kind of thing I needed to give me that fist-pounding zeal I was looking for in this show, along with an appreciation of the art and craft that went into animating all the gorgeous visuals and spectacular fight sequences. I won’t pretend I loved it as much as my other favourite moments from this year, but it’s definitely a highlight when it comes to moments in anime this year. It certainly evoked more in me than I had anticipated.
It wasn’t until Deku lost to Todoroki that my respect for this episode became truly solidified. I’m glad Deku lost. Not just to enhance the focus on the themes and characters over the outcome, but because if he had won his body would’ve been too damaged to continue, so it was really a blessing in disguise that he lost here. This here to me, was a great example of losing, but still coming out on top; in this case Deku may have lost the match, but did so with great gusto and epic GAR friendship forming skills.
What made this match stand-out of course, was Deku’s heart-to-heart with Todoroki. Even though he still has victory on his mind, Deku destroys his body (handicapping himself) all just to get Todoroki to use both of his Quirks. And as it goes on, the sentimentality is laid on very thick through flashbacks of Todoroki’s mother telling him it’s okay to use his left side if he wants to be a hero. And in Deku earnestly reaching out to Todoroki, bringing to light the hero inside. He wanted the flames. He wanted a proper match. And he certainly got it. As did I.
Though I still think this was just pretext disguising his true intention: to wake up Todoroki from his inauthenticity. I loved it. This is what made the whole episode and everything leading up to it so worth it for me. Tears of acceptance, a newfound friendship, and big steps towards becoming heroes. Here, Todoroki is reminded of love in a beautiful and emotional and awesome way that makes it a shining moment from anime this year.
But it’s not my favourite moment. That honour instead, goes to Deku’s strategic moment of awesome against the minefield.