My Hero Academia: Season 4, Episode 18 Review

This review contains spoilers for My Hero Academia Season 4, episode 18, “School Festival,” aka episode 81 overall. To refresh your memory of where we left off, check out our review of MHA Season 4, episode 17.

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Back in Season 2, My Hero Academia confidently proved it had the chops to inject new life and excitement into the tired shonen tradition of the ‘tournament arc’. The UA Sports Festival turned out to be one of the show’s highlights, and was, arguably, the arc that allowed My Hero Academia to flex its muscles and show that it is one of the best shonen anime to ever grace our screens. And now, as we enter the final stretch of Season 4, we are treated to a whole new, vibrant, and fun-filled arc: the School Festival.

This episode is split into three acts: the first is the announcement and planning of the School Festival, the second is a sweet extended scene between Midoriya, Mirio, and Eri. The third is a villain-related final act that’s too good to spoil here. Every one of these acts is tonally perfect, full of color and vibrancy, and feels custom-designed to cheer fans up. This is the kind of episode to be re-watched on a rainy Sunday afternoon, so bursting at the seams is it with cheery melodies, optimistic and enthusiastic characters, and excitement for things to come. Everything is on the up; the whole episode is about the clouds clearing and the sun coming out.

After an impactful and emotionally draining arc that ended with the most explosive conclusion we’ve seen so far in My Hero Academia, followed by two episodes that were marred with issues of theme, tone, and pacing (amongst other issues), it feels so good to have an episode not only deliver on hype, humor, and happiness, but to also do so by nailing every aspect of its execution, from its animation to its writing and voice acting.

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The music of this episode is especially outstanding, with experimental blends of guitar-led rock riffs and choir-infused classical pieces. One particular track late in the episode begins with a jaunty acoustic strum, is injected with a groovy bass line, and suddenly a flood of synths and strings enter the fray to make for one of the sweetest melodies ever heard in the show’s history. All of this stellar music doesn’t just add to the bright fun factor of the episode, but also provides some gravity to the surprising emotional range on display here.

In the most exciting moments, as members of Class 1-A throw out their ideas for the School Festival, and in the most uplifting and inspiring, like when Kyoka is encouraged to talk about and be proud of her passion for music, the accompanying tracks are always outstanding. In an episode so centered around song and dance, it only makes sense to have the music be as good as it can be, but it really is phenomenal here, and does a lot to elevate the already electric atmosphere of the episode to new heights.

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Beyond the music and the emphasis on jolly festivities, “School Festival” still manages to give us some excellent character-focused moments filled with insight, growth, and introspection, with Eri and Kyoka taking center stage. In the first act Class 1-A are given the good news by a grumpy Aizawa that they’ll be hosting the School Festival; following this comes a machine-gunning of hilarious one-liners and pitch-perfect banter, with Mineta getting satisfyingly strung up as the punchline. But the character focus comes in the form of Kyoka’s relationship with her passion for music which she convinces herself has no place at school or in the hero business. It’s touching and humanizing, made even better by a few choice moments shared between her and Kaminari that prove to be suitably brief but sweetly touching.

Having more face time with Eri is hugely appreciated as well. So much of her character until now has been defined by her relationship with Overhaul, and the impact of that relationship is both seen and felt here. The way in which the show implies her PTSD is affecting and brutal, and yet she has also been rounded out and provided solid dimension that we’re only going to see grow from here.