In a relatively short space of time, Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia has become a key pillar of Weekly Shonen Jump and a certified international phenomenon. This is in no small part thanks to Studio BONES’ anime adaptation, which has helped raise the profile of the series most especially in the west. Even so, the studio’s anime is much more than just a simple publicity project. Through the hard work of the entire creative team, the anime has taken on a creative life of its own that matches up to, if not surpasses the original source material. Examining the My Hero Academia anime’s fight scenes provides some of the best examples of this.
My Hero Academia is a shonen series with battles and clashes at its core, so it’s quite natural that the most iconic fights of each season end up sticking out the most in our collective memories. But it is Studio BONES who recruit the necessary talent and put aside the necessary production time to make this possible. In examining some of My Hero Academia’s most iconic fights from season one all the way up to season three, I hope that this allows us to appreciate more than ever just how lucky we are to have a studio such as BONES working on the adaptation.
All Might vs. Nomu (S1)
To start off, we start at the beginning with My Hero Academia season 1’s most iconic fight between All Might and the artificially engineered ‘Nomu.’
Revisiting My Hero Academia season 1 to rewatch this fight in episode 12 and compare it with the original manga chapters 18 to 20 was a surreal experience. It seems like so long ago that I saw this fantastic fight for the first time and was compelled to pick up the original manga as a result – in more ways than one, you could call the All Might vs. Nomu fight the real starting point for Studio BONES’ anime adaptation.
Things are relatively faithful to the original manga for the most part, including All Might’s iconic entrance and swooping into action to save the students of Class 1-A, but Studio BONES truly come into their own starting from the moment where the Nomu regenerates its arm in a flurry of connecting fibers.
This moment, beautifully animated, gets the ball rolling on a My Hero Academia fight that soars even higher than it did in the original manga. As All Might rains blows upon the Nomu, the camera swings wildly, matching the force of the powerful punches as Deku and the others struggle to stand.
All Might then takes the battle to the air, flinging the creature to and fro while destroying the environment around them. This amplifies the excitement of a clash that was, in the original manga, relatively static and contained to the ground.
Not satisfied with inserting this entire sequence from scratch, Studio BONES decided to go even further when All Might himself decides to ‘go beyond’ for the very first time. They insert that visual of the connecting One for All that is now iconic, but is entirely unique to the anime fight, before the Symbol of Peace smashes the Nomu out of the Unforeseen Simulation Joint (USJ) in an explosive finish that really sells the sheer power of the number one hero in a much more visceral way than in the original manga.
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© 堀越耕平／集英社・僕のヒーローアカデミア製作委員会・MBS pic.twitter.com/vrN5iLmYlG
— BARIKIOS (@Barikios) June 23, 2016
When comparing this fight to the original My Hero Academia manga as a whole, it must be said that Studio BONES’ anime version comes across as a lot more expansive and instrumental. Perhaps it’s just due to the way that I read manga, but Horikoshi’s presentation of the fight in the manga is a lot more rapid-fire, bouncing from one key moment and turning point to another in a fashion that was typical of the series’ early storytelling.
As a result, this moment in Studio BONES’ anime adaptation soars much higher and achieves a greater overall impact. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that this was one of the best moments in a first season that was largely hampered by pacing issues and inconsistent, often off-model visual direction.
Studio BONES were clearly aware of this, as these issues would largely be remedied going forward. No doubt this was because the My Hero Academia anime proved a much more important property for the studio once this season had wrapped up – and in no small part because of this fantastic fight. Indeed, it was the sheer impact of Studio BONES’ adaptation and the way that it truly evoked the feeling of ‘Plus Ultra’ that pushed me to pick up the manga after this first season had ended – a habit that I still maintain to this day.
Todoroki vs. Deku (S2)
In this sense, if the fight between All Might and Nomu in My Hero Academia season 1 was our first hint that this anime adaptation might become something truly special, then the fight between Todoroki and Deku in My Hero Academia season 2 only proved this to the world.
Todoroki vs. Deku did much more than simply combine chapters 38 to 40 of the original manga into one solid episode (23), but also showed off one of the most compelling elements of Horikoshi Kohei’s shonen storytelling in style – combining conflict with character development.
The clash between Deku and Todoroki comes down to a lot more than the fact that they are pitted against each other in a tournament arc. As is revealed throughout the fight, Todoroki’s entire thought process – win without using the power of his abusive father, Endeavor – goes against the entire being of Deku, who has no choice but to use whatever power he can in order to win, even if this comes at the cost of his own body.
This fact is stressed even further in Studio BONES’ version of the fight in the My Hero Academia anime as they add in a couple of extra anime-original moments while other characters narrate, showing off even more of the One for All successor’s painful struggle.
Yet this conflict is also something that weighs on Todoroki’s mind, as he knows that he would be so much more powerful if he utilized his father’s fire powers, but he refuses to do so out of past trauma. It is Deku’s biting comments, delivered wonderfully by Daiki Yamashita, that help him to realize that he can make his power his own, that he does not have to take after his father.
All of this coalesces into a beautiful climax that wowed audiences at the time and still proves its worth as one of My Hero Academia best fights to this day. Deku and Todoroki go at each other, now at full power, in a theatrical set-piece that moves much more dramatically than it did in the original manga as we see the slow build-up to their explosive clash – Deku flying through the air, and Todoroki readying his fire powers.
And what an explosive clash it is. We already got a real palpable sense of how powerful both Deku and Todoroki’s attacks were earlier in the fight thanks to the usage of sound effects in Studio BONES’ anime adaptation, but it is at the moment where Deku and Todoroki meet that they pull out all the stops – Cementoss’ walls rising in the middle but failing to stop the impact as the cold air suddenly expands in reaction to Todoroki’s fire powers.
There’s a much better sense of scale and power in the anime version of this fight, all of which is brought to life by Studio BONES’ excellent animation work. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that it was this fight that cemented the My Hero Academia anime as a clear favorite in many early fans’ minds, along with the rest of the excellent work already put into season 2.
That was even the case for myself, someone who had already experienced this fight in the original manga before watching the anime. It had a tremendous effect that immediately cemented it in my mind as one of shonen’s all-time best clashes. Revisiting the fight now, I find that that opinion still holds true.
U.A. Students vs. Hero Killer Stain (S2)
Nevertheless, My Hero Academia season 2 did not prove entirely satisfying. It was the U.A. Students vs. Stain fight in the second half of My Hero Academia season 2 that ended up being my first disappointment with Studio BONES’ anime adaptation – something which still looms large over me to this day.
Covering chapters 51 to 55 of the original manga and taking up episodes 29 and 30 of the My Hero Academia anime, this fight was important as it both capped off a developmental arc for Iida and acted as a coda of sorts for Todoroki’s own development, shown through the previously explored Todoroki vs. Deku fight. It was, therefore, necessary that Studio BONES get this one right.
At the time, I reckoned that BONES’ anime adaptation didn’t match the sense of claustrophobia that was evoked in the original My Hero Academia manga. But, having reread the manga and rewatched this episode for this piece, I have to disagree with myself. If anything, the anime version feels even more claustrophobic thanks to the dark color palette and the constant presence of the alleyway setting in the background, which contrasts greatly with the manga’s use of white backgrounds and unavoidable usage of white in the linework itself.
I also reckoned, for some reason, that the anime version of this My Hero Academia fight didn’t quite capture the same sense of verticality that was present in the original. Again, I have to disagree with myself on all counts when it comes to this question. If anything, the anime evokes even more verticality than the original manga, thanks to the power of animation – one standout moment has to be the moment when the camera pans around Deku and Stain in mid-air.
All of this makes me think that my memory of this My Hero Academia fight was perhaps quite faded by the time that the anime rolled around to adapting it. Comparing it side by side with the original manga now, there don’t seem to be many ways in which I’d say that Studio BONES dropped the ball.
In fact, when it comes to the iconic coda of this fight – where Stain lets off a distinctive malicious aura before losing consciousness standing up – the anime version is even better as it lingers on the scene much longer than the original manga ever did.
All Might vs. All For One (S3)
But for however disappointing the Stain fight may or may not have been in comparison with the My Hero Academia manga, Studio BONES definitely did not disappoint with their handling of the All Might vs. All For One fight. There’s a reason why, after episode 49 aired, the word ‘All Might’ began trending worldwide on Twitter – even among all of the great My Hero Academia fights that have been and will be explored in this article, All Might vs. All For One stands out as perhaps the best.
Part of this comes from just how important the events of this battle, adapted from chapters 89 through 94 of the original manga, prove themselves to be. It marks the end of the Symbol of Peace and the true transfer of One for All from All Might to Deku, closing out the U.A. Beginnings saga and setting up the events of the Rise of Villains saga, as per fan distinction.
Yet, this narrative importance would have been nothing without the incredible creativity that Studio BONES brought when adapting this monumental clash into animated form. This starts to become evident from the simply gorgeous sequence where Bakugo flies into the air to grab Kirishima’s hand and flee from the League of Villains, the animation here evoking a real sense of scale and speed that goes far beyond the original manga.
Things don’t slow down one bit as the fight heads into All Might vs. All For One proper. For starters, almost the entirety of episode 49 is dedicated to this, giving BONES the time to let the key moments of this fight breath in much the same way that we’ve seen in previous key clashes.
One of the best examples of this is when All Might saves a civilian from a blast of power emitted by All For One, as the camera first reveals his trembling, sticklike arm before panning out to reveal his deflated, battered state proper. In the original manga, this action is expressed in a single panel, but the anime version gives this moment a much more tangible sense of quiet gravitas.
In fact, Studio BONES’ adaptation of this key My Hero Academia fight is, as a whole, surprisingly quiet. Obviously, what sticks in our minds is the bombastic United States of Smash and the gorgeous sakuga moment that goes with this – All Might’s face literally bursting through the dying last flames of One for All – but it was only when rewatching this scene in comparison with the original manga that I realized that BONES switched around the scene where the embers of One for All finally go out from before the iconic super move and instead place it afterward, ending the fight as a whole on a surprisingly somber, silent note that matches the gravity of the event.
This continues into the coda for the fight, as All Might proclaims ‘Next, it’s your turn’ to both the world and his successor, Deku, who realizes how profoundly the world has now changed in a quiet moment of inner monologue and reflection.
Make no mistake, it was because of these adaptational choices that Studio BONES took that this fight has become as lauded as it currently is. I certainly enjoyed the fight when I read it in the original manga – as my luck would have it, this was more or less the latest chapter released once I decided to catch up – but BONES’ adaptation went even further beyond. Much like season 1’s All Might vs. Nomu fight, this was surely one of those moments were casual fans become diehard devotees.
Bakugo vs. Deku (S3)
Speaking of devotees, I distinctly remember that the Bakugo vs. Deku fight, at the time of its broadcast during episode 61, pushed many diehard fans of the shipping kind over the edge as the final scene with Bakugo on top of Deku, panting, proved far too much for them to handle. Thankfully, however, that wasn’t enough to overshadow the brilliance of what may be one of the best fights in My Hero Academia in terms of pure animation thus far.
The fight takes place over chapters 117 through 120 in the original manga, but I don’t remember anyone getting quite so excited about the clash around the time that it was published in Weekly Shonen Jump – it was Studio BONES that really ran with the creative potential of this My Hero Academia fight and elevated it to even greater heights.
In comparison with the past couple of My Hero Academia fights that we’ve explored, Bakugo vs. Deku is much of a ‘pure’ physical clash. What I mean by that is that it has much less narrative heavy lifting to do through exposition and dialogue, as it is the action of the clash itself that tells the story of this scene – a reconciliation and a recognition of sorts between the two childhood friends.
Deku’s initial hesitation to face up against Bakugo given that it is against the rules is perfectly demonstrated as the latter cuts him off mid-sentence to launch a blindingly fast assault, which Deku merely defends against.
Once Deku realizes the importance of this clash for Bakugo, however, he quickly changes his tune and launches into a gorgeously animated spinning kick sequence that Bakugo can only barely dodge, before responding with an explosive attack of his own.
It is in this sense that Studio BONES were able to render the personal clash between Deku and Bakugo in more visual terms, instead of relying on dialogue and exposition. That’s not to say that there isn’t any dialogue or exposition, but it definitely takes a backseat to the visuals.
In this sense, it is no wonder that many point to the Bakugo vs. Deku fight has gone down as one of their favorites in the My Hero Academia anime’s relatively short history. Nevertheless, there is also the fact that this fight was one of the only standout moments from the second half of My Hero Academia season 3 as a whole, which spent most of its runtime setting up new conflicts and arcs for the story’s future.
Strangely enough, it is in this sense that it was almost a shame that Studio BONES didn’t go with the old Studio Pierrot-style of constant shonen manga adaptation. While it was exactly the fact that BONES did not go with this route that drew many people to the series in the first place, if they had gone with this approach they wouldn’t have had to leave off the anime on a relatively sparse third season before coming back with the fourth – a fact that was only further highlighted in the excellent Mirio vs. Class 1-A fight at the very end of the season.
None of this was the fault of Studio BONES, mind. The serialized nature of shonen storytelling and the differences in the medium between the My Hero Academia anime and manga meant that the studio was dealt a bad hand, albeit one that could’ve been avoided with a different broadcasting schedule.
My Hero Academia Fights: Hopes for the Future
Studio BONES’ My Hero Academia anime continues, however, meaning that there’ll be plenty of opportunities to make up for the pitfalls of season three. The premiere of season four this fall season provides, in turn, much excitement for what kind of My Hero Academia fights we might get to see in the future.
As of the time of writing, we’ve already had one fantastic fight put to screen – the battle between Deku and Sir Nighteye – but there are so many more exciting clashes to come. Of course, the entire Shie Hassaikai raid is going to be incredible, but even within articularly looking forward to Kirishima’s ‘origin’ fight and the clash between Deku and Overhaul.
Yet, all of that is going to positively pale in comparison with the Deku vs. Gentle Criminal fight, which is overflowing with personality and narrative catharsis.
Of course, this exploration of the fights of My Hero Academia is far from comprehensive. There are many more clashes in each season, in each cour that would be worth talking about, but here I’ve chosen my favorite examples to illustrate how incredible Studio BONES’s work on this particular adaptation is. Let’s not even talk about the fact that I haven’t mentioned anything from the theatrical movie…
Still, just as long as Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia manga moves forward into bold new pastures within the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, Studio BONES will continue on delivering the fantastic fights that have made their anime adaptation, as well as the series itself, so compelling and so successful. Here’s to you, Studio BONES.