Many fans felt the fourth season of My Hero Academia wasn’t quite as consistently strong as past seasons, with some fans even outright feeling it was the show’s first bad season. While calling the season objectively bad may be a stretch, it’s not hard to see understand those who feel it was a bit of a mixed bag. We here on this site were a bit underwhelmed by the season — that is, until a tiny scene in Episode 86 blew us away.
That tiny second scene is of course the emotional double whammy of Eri’s huge smile, coupled with something even more powerful: Mirio’s tearful message to Nighteye.
Don’t get us wrong. Seeing Eri finally break free of the physical and emotional torture Chisaki had put her through and finally being able to smile was hugely rewarding. Deku and Mirio have been trying their hardest for months to teach this powerful child how to smile once again. This by itself would have nicely wrapped up the season and given fans ample closure. But we got more than that. We got Mirio.
With the show focusing on so many characters at once, from Deku to Eri, but also the likes of Jiro and even Gentle Criminal, it’s easy to forget just how much Mirio Togata has gone through recently. Formerly the U.A. student with more potential than any other – who took his Quirk from confusing to nearly unstoppable in a fight – Mirio was stripped of his power, seemingly forever. As if that wasn’t a devastating enough blow, his mentor, Nighteye died of injuries suffered during the same battle Mirio lost his powers in.
At this point in the anime neither the viewers nor Mirio know if he’ll ever get his powers back. Nevertheless, he has pushed onward, smiling for Eri, Deku, Nighteye, and himself. Mirio is determined to be good and do right regardless of being super or not.
Nearly 20 episodes ago he vowed to save a little girl and now, after losing his quirk and his mentor, he sees that girl safe and smiling in his arms. He uncontrollably starts to sob. “She smiled…she smiled!” he tearfully thinks. He then asks Midoriya, and more importantly, Nighteye, his mentor who’s left this world, if he can see this from wherever he is. Mirio holds no resentment about what happened to him or Nighteye. He knew he wanted Eri safe, he knew Nighteye wanted Eri safe, and it’s now happened. They did it, together.
Mirio, Deku, Nighteye, and the others saved Eri. Now, Eri’s smile saved Mirio. He’s free.
And while we’re focusing on these perfect five seconds, it’d be irresponsible not to mention that Jiro takes us on a third emotional trip this episode with her expressive vocal performance and mid-song flashback. Huge props to Studio Bones and Horikoshi for their ability to depict emotion.
Make no mistake. It was a loooong season. Even with all the combat, 10+ episodes spent raiding a single area is a lot of time. That’s not even looking at the hit or miss prologue to the raid, or the pleasant but snail-paced slice-of-life Sports Festival followup. But the positivity in the face of uncertainty that Mirio maintained through it all, coupled with him finally allowing himself to let his emotions out, made this season all worth it.
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Words by Corey van den Hoogenband @CoreyOnline