So what happened to My Hero Academia's fifth season, and why did it go so wrong? Leading into the fifth season of the anime, you could feel the anticipating from fans as My Hero Academia continues to be one of the more popular action anime outings to release each time around. But it's been quite a long time since the fourth season ended, and the landscape of action anime entertainment has changed quite a bit. That ultimately makes the failures of the fifth season stick out that much more in how it chooses to adapt Kohei Horikoshi's manga for the screen.
Season 5 was already facing a major uphill battle before it even began. It would have to kick off with the Joint Training arc of Kohei Horikoshi's original manga series. This self-contained arc eventually makes sense much later in the series (and thus hits better in retrospect), but sitting through it from week to week in the original manga releases was an admittedly tough process. Then it was made even tougher by the fact that the more relaxed Culture Festival arc had come before. Meaning that the anime was inherently going to be facing that same issue.
The initial hook of the Joint Training arc saw Izuku struggling with a new quirk that had awakened within One For All (and thus starting to unlock its secrets), but this takes a backseat during the majority of the actual episodes themselves as the series shifts a focus to the members of Class 1-A and 1-B. It's filled with battles that show off what each of these young heroes can now do (which is great for the 1-B members we never get to see), and was an opportunity to plant seeds for Hitoshi Shinso to join the hero course ahead of some of the major events we'll be seeing in Season 6.
The problem with bringing it to life through adaptation, however, is that these episodes face the same issue as the original chapters in that there's no real narrative draw. Because it has to highlight so many characters, it's spread thin in the aspects that mean the most. There's very little actual character development from battle to battle outside of small bits from Bakugo and Uraraka late in the arc, and while we get a better understanding of Shinso, one character isn't exactly enough of a hook to keep watching through the episodes that don't involve that character. So it ultimately ends up feeling like a tournament arc without an end goal.
It's not necessary for every single arc to have high stakes, but since it comes after the Culture Festival, the anime really needed to stick the landing with the Joint Training arc. Or at the very least amp of the energy of the battles themselves and that's something that didn't really happen. Outside of one outstanding few seconds from Iida's Recipro Turbo, the battles themselves were missing a sense of dynamism that the manga at least provided through great angles and artwork. This can also be blamed on the opening theme sequence, which was inarguably a step down from the prior seasons.
The lack of energy for the Joint Training arc adaptation would have been fine because fans of the manga knew that it was only the preamble for the villain side of the equation. Just as how the arc demonstrated how each of the heroes had grown, the My Villain Academia (or Meta Liberation Army) arc revealed how the villains were growing in that same time. The two self-contained events are meant to serve as two sides of the same coin because while they don't directly involve a fight between the heroes and villains, they both help to set the stage well enough for what's coming next.
The problem is, once again, with the adaptation. Fans only keeping up with the anime might not have realized this, but the My Villain Academia arc was supposed to happen long before it does in the anime. Izuku, Bakugo, and Shoto's work with Endeavor was supposed to come after the events of the Shigaraki's fight with the Meta Liberation Army, and makes more sense as a the mandatory work study needed to help the heroes grow as much as possible ahead of the villains' attack. But that's not what happened, instead everything is just sort of swapped around in the anime for no real reason really.
There are theories as to why this happened, such as potentially shifting things around in order to match up with the World Heroes' Mission movie, but that doesn't explain it either as Heroes Rising technically spoiled the My Villain Academia arc by debuting Shigaraki's Paranormal Liberation Front look long before it debuted in the anime. Or maybe it was because the team didn't want to end yet another season on an Endeavor fight (with the Ending clash) much like they did with Season 4? Regardless of why it actually happened, this flip ended up really making a mess out of the second cour.
Not only did it ruin the work study with Endeavor as Hawks' investigation of the Paranormal Liberation Front was missing the much needed context (and was instead limiting to vague teases about a war on the horizon), but it was also missing the Endeavor side of the equation as he pushed as hard as he could to train his three young heroes knowing the chaos unfolding soon. This could only be briefly alluded to in the anime because fans had yet to see what the villains had done.
All of this would honestly have been fine if the anime stuck the landing with the My Villain Academia arc. Making fans wait this long to see the villains in full (which is technically our first real time seeing Shigaraki in action since briefly attacking Overhaul in Season 4), and then squeezing 22 full chapters into five episodes was like a kick in the teeth. There's just no recovering from this, or real explanation that can make this okay. In order to get everything into the anime, each episode would have to have adapted nearly 5 chapters worth of content in a less than 20 minutes. That's just wild!
Naturally, that's not what we got at all. Not only did we not get to see much of the build up for the Meta Liberation Army (which could have been planting seeds since long before their debut like the manga does), but because the events of the anime are swapped, the anime couldn't even adapt some of that build because it was technically already supposed to have happened by the time Izuku works under Endeavor. Then it just outright spoils a lot of it because of that problem. You see how that's an unnecessary headache? Then the fights themselves did not get the time for that emotional growth that each League of Villains member undertakes.
It's a game-changing arc in the manga both literally and figuratively as it sets a new status quo and properly establishes the villains as a totally new tier of threat before the Paranormal Liberation War breaks out. Instead, it's like Shigaraki blew past a filler villain without much problem. Such a massive arc is brushed aside for the adaptation, and it definitely takes the wind out of the sails for what could be coming next. Because if the anime couldn't be trusted with getting this solidly, what's the hope for adapting the war in Season 6? But what do you think?
How did you like My Hero Academia Season 5? Let us know all of your thoughts about it in the comments! You can even reach out to me directly about all things animated and other cool stuff @Valdezology on Twitter!