As a battered and bruised Mirio makes his last stand, Deku and Sir Nighteye come to save the day in My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12. But things are far from over, as Overhaul undergoes a terrifying transformation and puts the heroes on the ropes. Will they be able to fulfill their mission? Will they be able to save Eri? Is everything all but lost? This episode isn’t just one of the most intense so far, but also one of the best.
In terms of adaptation and structure, this week’s episode follows Kohei Horikoshi’s original manga relatively faithfully. It begins with the events of chapter 153 and ends at the climax of chapter 155, only seeing fit to make one diversion in moving one scene featuring Eraser Head and Kurono to the beginning of the B-part to make the story flow a little better. But two chapters don’t ultimately provide enough content to make up 19 minutes of TV anime, and so Studio BONES do add in a couple of anime-original scenes and sequences. These scenes, however, aren’t just filler content – they actually contribute a large part to what makes this episode so great.
My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12: The Burden of Heroism
Before we get to that, however, the theme of heroic burden is evident throughout this episode as the U.A. interns struggle with the realities of heroism and the horrors it can bring. This starts at the very beginning of the episode, as Sir Nighteye’s team contemplate their next move after their attack at the hands of the League of Villains. Rock Lock chastises them for wasting time as they do this, and Deku’s shocked expression as he points out the efforts of Suneater, Red Riot, and Fat Gum – as well as his baby daughter that is waiting for him at home – clearly signals that the successor to the Symbol of Peace is in the midst of realizing that heroism isn’t some kind of game, but a real battle with real stakes and consequences.
Indeed, this a thematic throughline that has been evident in My Hero Academia 4 ever since Lemillion and Deku first came into contact with Eri, and realized what the consequences were for letting her get away. But the events of My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12 take this one step further, as tragic event after tragic event push Deku further and further into a corner. After he breaks through to where Chisaki and Mirio are fighting, the realization that the former candidate for One for All has lost his Quirk forever drops like a bombshell. This further highlights the sacrifices that the heroes are making in order to ensure the success of their mission – further increasing the burden on the young hero. Eri, too, is troubled by these sacrifices and eventually makes the choice towards the end of the episode to give herself up, rather than have anyone else suffer for her sake.
Goodbye, Sir Nighteye
Yet, by far the biggest of these bombshells has to be the death of Sir Nighteye. The death of All Might’s former sidekick was one of the most dramatic developments in the original manga, so it’s great to see that Studio BONES has managed to translate its weight and gravity so well into the animated medium. Part of this is down to Yuki Hayashi’s music, organs and harpsichords coalescing at the moment of his death in a grim funeral dirge. Some credit should also be given to Shinichiro Miki’s impassioned performance, as he gasps for air and implores desperately to whoever might be listening to somehow change the future.
Even so, it is my belief that the adaptational approach taken by Studio BONES to Sir Nighteye in general, not just in My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12 but the entire season, deserves the most praise. The studio has constantly taken steps to better explain the mechanics of Nighteye’s ‘Foresight’ Quirk, representing it as a piece of film reel in extended anime-original sequences that go far beyond the bounds of the original manga, and it is this visual motif that makes the death of Sir Nighteye in this episode so dramatic – the pro hero desperately looking into the future to see whether or not the heroes will succeed in their mission, only to have the film reel abruptly cut off as he not only slips from this mortal coil, but also abandons any hope for the future.
There’s also an anime-original scene between Sir Nighteye and Gran Torino that better explains the gravity of the moment where Nighteye looks into the far future, as he is haunted by the fact that the future he sees can never be changed ever since he predicted All Might’s death during his time as a sidekick.
This approach is a little less subtle when compared to how Nighteye’s death was presented in the original manga – Horikoshi uses a giant panel of black followed by a small reaction panel to signal this without – but all of the studio’s additions are more than welcome and play a large part in making this episode one of the best so far. Will the heroes be able to break through the seemingly inevitable future? I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.
One Step Forward
Now, I will admit that it does seem quite bizarre to focus so much on the production aspects of Sir Nighteye’s death in an episode such as My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12, as it relies more on strong cinematography and consistent visual direction than flashy animation and sick sakuga moments. This actually makes the sequence stick out in an episode where so many big names associated with Studio BONES make an appearance, showing off their stellar animation chops. But that only speaks to the strength of this sequence, even if it isn’t going to get added to Sakugabooru any time soon.
Nevertheless, so much of the animation work in My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12 is absolutely stellar. It’s certainly a step-up from last week’s episode, which used a lot of still frames to fan chagrin. The collaborative sequence between Benjamin Faure, Mehdi Aouichaoui, and Yutaka Nakamura where Deku slams down on Overhaul from the ceiling is wonderfully impactful, and Haruka Iida’s impact frames in the sequence where Overhaul transforms is immediately eye-catching, even if the linework is a little rough later on.
But my favorite cut this episode is a little more subtle. It comes from Chinese animator Chengxi Huang, whose eye for character acting makes the initial moment where Sir Nighteye’s team catch up to Mirio and see the fallout of his fight with Overhaul that much more impactful, Mirio’s body swaying in pain and exhaustion as he tries to keep up a brave face.
Huang contributed another, more action-packed cut to My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12 that demonstrates that he can stand up there with some of Studio BONES’ biggest names and most frequent collaborators, but the previous cut managed to catch my eye in a more immediate sense. That probably comes down to personal taste, since I tend to prefer more subtle animation over flashier sakuga-centric sequences.
Even so, this improvement in production quality (at least, when it comes to flashy animation sequences) does beg the question: why was last week’s episode so limited in terms of production, and why did it fell so flat as a result?
My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12: No Steps Back
Before this episode came out, I would’ve guessed that this was due to production pressures – perhaps the production schedule beginning to creep up on the team. But if such pressures did indeed exist, then it would surely have taken them more than a week to catch their breath and put out an episode as excellent as this. Plus, the team already had a one-week break between episode 3 and episode 4!
The only conclusion that I can, therefore, come to reach is that the usage of still frames was, in fact, a conscious creative decision on the team’s part. That, in turn, only makes the fan backlash sting that much more.
Nevertheless, My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12 comes as a massive improvement on last week’s episode and marks a return to form for the production team over at Studio BONES. If not just because of the increased production quality, then because of all of the choices that the team made in terms of adaptation, which have all paid off in spades. These include the ones I have just mentioned, but also the fact that the episode actually opted to include explanatory dialogue and narration from the original manga this time, making for a much more comprehensible narrative overall. Combine this with the dramatic events within the story itself, then it’s not hard to see why this episode might just be the best one yet.
You can watch My Hero Academia 4 Episode 12 via Crunchyroll.