Katsuki Bakugo is my favorite character in My Hero Academia. While some in the fandom have cast him off as villainous, Kohei Horikoshi constantly made sure that the rival he created showcased the worldview of a child trying to be the best while not understanding his selfishness on others. A bully, Horikoshi and studio bones have ensured that across his story you’ve always understood that he wants to be All Might in the same way Midoriya (Deku) does. They’re different, yes, but their drive to be heroes and to help people is the same even if how they go about is the same. With all of that said, My Hero Academia Episode 122, “Katsuki Bakugo: Rising” has the moment I’ve been waiting to see adapted since I read chapter 285.
Last episode, the stage was set and everyone was in trouble. Against the League of Villains, the U.A. Students were trying their hardest against the unstoppable force of Gigantomachia and our central characters were struggling against a quirkless Shigaraki. Having shot a deleter round at Aizawa’s leg, the cliffhanger made many fans’ hearts drop. Would Aizawa lose his quirk? Would they all turn to ash once Shigaraki’s decay came back? The opening of My Hero Academia Episode 122 answers that immediately by showcasing Aizawa’s grit and determination.
He isn’t a warm and fuzzy hero, but he is a hero who will sacrifice his body continually in order to keep people, his students, and his colleagues safe. Beginning with Aizawa cutting off his leg where the bullet struck even before the opening credits, studio bones is setting the tone for the entire episode. It’s going to be painful, but it’s going to show fans exactly who each hero really is. As one of Aizawa’s defining moments, he cuts off his leg without flinching, maintaining eye contact and unwavering despite the pain. Even when he’s maimed by Shigarkaki he tries to keep focus. Aizawa has always been the man in control, the strongest, the wisest, even in his cold demeanor. And here, we get to see him be tweaked and yet still be strikingly strong.
The truth is that My Hero Academia Episode 122 manages to showcase the stakes by highlighting what has already been lost. With a news report listing the cities destroyed by Gigantomachia’s rampage, animating a sequence to see the injured and those left alone, and by taking to show the emotions and thoughts of the students who failed, it’s all downhill. There is an encroaching sense of doom that studio bones has managed to create even without changing its animation style or color palette. It’s striking and it’s all driven by scripting and the performance from the seiyuu. Particularly Marina Inoue’s performance as Momo who drops the audience into hopelessness.
And that’s the truth of this episode, every hero, every student, everyone is in a hopeless situation. Gran Torino may be dead. Aizawa has been maimed and can’t get back up despite his attempts. Cities are destroyed, bodies are destroyed, and there isn’t a way to see a future. This is where we see the importance of perseverance and how even through his tears, Deku is able to channel and open quirks from One for All that he hadn’t been able to access before. Nothing about the setup of Deku unlocking his new powers feels unearned. Every step forward he has taken is because he’s had to break his body or because he’s had to watch those around him hurt. Watching Deku fight with Black Whip in the air is one of the most beautiful moments of action. But even with the power on display, studio bones also takes time in the last half of the episode to showcase how deeply the relationship between Bakugo and Deku has changed.
By showing how Bakugo was central to Deku learning how to control his new quirks, the audience is clued into understanding how they’ve moved from rivals in opposition (driven by Bakugo) to rivals helping each other thrive, because of the respect they have for each other. Bakugo is the only student who knows Deku’s secret which puts him in a unique position to protect Deku.
Bakugo is questioning All Might out of concern atonement is a theme of the series and Bakugo is aware of how he’s harmed Deku in the past and has tried to make up for it by protecting him. Their relationship has changed and Bakugo has too, even if his loud and brash demeanor is still his calling card. It’s what makes the last moment of My Hero Academia Episode 122 so emotional. Yes, Bakugo moved to protect Deku because his body moved on its own and because that’s what a hero does. But it also moved because we know now, he knows Deku won’t protect himself. It’s a change in character that showcases the complexities of rivalry and how you can grow even after mistakes, especially as a child. Horikoshi and the team at bones have never once forgotten that Bakugo is a child.
Unlike Endeavor who made all of his willful abuse as an adult, Bakugo’s bullying and harm came from jealousy, inferiority, and ultimately from his immature ability to handle those emotions. In Season 3, we saw him begin his growth from a petulant child to someone with respect for those around him. And now, with My Hero Academia Episode 122, we see his growth complete. We see his atonement for his past with Deku, and we see it on a grand scale, sacrificing his life and body for the kid he used to bully. Bakugo is aware of everything he put Deku through, as the flashbacks show, and that’s why it means so much when he atones. It’s out of respect and care, and he knows it doesn’t overwrite the pain he’s caused, but he can stop more harm from coming to touching Deku. Add in the use of Bakugo and Deku’s theme to score the emotional last moments and my heart is broken and filled at the same time.
My Hero Academia Episode 122 states clearly, Bakugo is a hero. And that should unequivocally shut down the hatred the character has gotten in the fandom, but more importantly, shows teens and young adult audiences the path forward after you hurt someone. A mistake, a choice, or a transgression made as a child doesn’t set you on a path of abuse for the rest of your life. You can change, and you can atone, but like Bakugo, you have to carry the weight of the pain you’ve put others through. You can’t pretend it didn’t happen, you have to acknowledge it, remember it, and make the choices to be a better person.
Rocklock tells the audience, as the final moments of the episode approach, “they’re just kids.” Unlike the shonen before it, My Hero Academia never once loses sight of the unthinkable tasks being completed by children. It never once acts like its young cast of characters should face trauma. Rather, it showcases how they are thrown into it only after the adults around them have failed. This helps situate even their most heroic action with an air of sadness because they shouldn’t have to do it. They shouldn’t have to fight a man who has leveled cities and killed heroes. They shouldn’t have to carry the number one hero on their back to help him succeed. And yet, they do.
My Hero Academia Season 6 is a fantastic season and one that has expertly adapted one of the most emotional and beautiful arcs in shonen, and that has hit an apex with My Hero Academia Episode 122. It’s filled with action and violence and yes, even death, but this arc exquisitely captures character journeys and mirrors past lines to show growth. When Deku saved Bakugo, his body moved on its own. And now, Bakugo has experienced the same thing and said the same line. Add in the clever naming of episodes like “Encounter Part 2,” and this season may be one of the best ever made. There is so much more to get into based on the manga and I absolutely can’t wait.
My Hero Academia Episode 122 — "Katsuki Bakugo: Rising"
- Rating - 10/1010/10
My Hero Academia Season 6 is a fantastic season and one that has expertly adapted one of the most emotional and beautiful arcs in shonen, and that has crescendoed with My Hero Academia Episode 122. It’s filled with action and violence and yes, even death, but this arc exquisitely captures character journeys and mirrors past lines to show growth.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime.