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Analysis / My Hero Academia

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A breakdown of My Hero Academia's sagas, story-cycles, use of reoccurring motifs, and how we can use them to predict upcoming arcs (Spoilers)

Story-Cycles and Sagas

With several years having passed since the series began, a reoccurring story pattern has begun to emerge as follows:

  • 2x School Arcs:
    • These arcs will be generally focus around UA, an aspect of the UA Hero course and/or the UA students and staff. Generally, these will also contain one or two "mini-arcs". Major parts of these arcs will focus on Worldbuilding and/or character development.
    • If a villain is introduced during these arcs, expect the stakes to be relatively low in comparison to other villain-based arcs.
    • If located at the end of a saga, expect the second School Arc to be replaced with a League of Villains Arc instead. Examples of these arcs include The Battle Trial Arc (Season 1), The Final Exams Arc (Season 2) and The Culture Festival Arc (Season 4).

  • League of Villains Arc
    • These arcs will focus on Shigaraki and/or his followers. Generally the plot of these arcs will focus on some manner of conflict between Shigaraki's organisation and Hero Society (usually involving Class 1A).
    • These arcs will introduce one or more Knights Of Cerebus who will greatly raise the stakes of the series in general.
    • Examples of these arcs include The Unforeseen Simulations Joint featuring Shigaraki (Season 1), The School Trip Arc featuring The Vanguard Action Squad (Season 3) and The Pro Hero Arc featuring Hood (Season 4).

  • Tournament Arc

  • Major Villain Arc
    • These arcs will introduce a major Arc Villain and/or villain organisation.
    • The central antagonist of these arcs will be a Knight of Cerebus who will drastically raise the stakes of the overall series. In addition, each Arc Villain will act as a Foil to their predecessor.
    • The antagonist will usually be in competition with Shigaraki and his organization, if not outright hostile. In addition, they will act as a foil to him in regards to where he is at in his current stage of character development.
    • During these arcs, expect additional or primary focus to be placed on developing Shigaraki and his followers, and for the series to delve into previously unexplored areas of moral complexity.
    • By the finale, these arcs will have long-term consequences from both an in-story and thematic level.
    • Examples of these arcs include The Hero Killer Arc featuring Stain (Season 2), The Internship Arc featuring Overhaul & Shie Hassaikai (Season 4), and The Meta Liberation Army Arc featuring Re-Destro & the titular Meta Liberation Army (Season 5).

A story cycle will begin with a Saga Prologue Arc, repeat once or twice before concluding with a Finale Arc:

  • Prologue Arc
    • These arcs will act as an introduction to the saga in general.
    • Expect these arcs to deal with the aftermath of the previous finale as well as to begin focusing on the themes and motifs of their respective saga.
    • Examples of these arcs include The Entrance Exam Arc (Season 1) and The Heights Alliance Mini-Arc (Chapters 98-101, Season 3).

  • Saga Finale Arc
    • These arcs will act as the climax to their respective saga.
    • These arcs will be focused on a major conflict between Shigaraki's organisation and Hero Society.
    • Expect them to follow a League of Villains/Paranormal Liberation Front Arc in which the plot has been set up.
    • Expect a major Knight of Cerebus to appear.
    • Expect the events of this arc (especially regarding the aforementioned Knight of Cerebus) to act as a Game Changer to the series on both an in-story and thematic level.
    • An Example of this arc is The Hideout Raid Arc featuring All For One.

Using the 'U.A. Beginnings' and 'Rise of the Villains' sagas as examples we can break them down as thus and predict the approximate nature of future arcs:

  • Prologue Arc: The Entrance Exam Arc
  • School Arc: Quirk Apprehension Test Arc
  • School Arc: Battle Trial Arc
  • League of Villains Arc: Unforeseen Simulation Joint (USJ) Arc
  • Tournament Arc: Sports Festival Arc
  • Major Villain Arc: Hero Killer Arc
  • School Arc: Final Exams Arc
  • League of Villains Arc: School Trip Arc
  • Saga Finale Arc: Hideout Raid Arc

  • Prologue Arc: Heights Alliance Mini-Arc
  • Tournament Arc: Hero License Exam Arc
  • Major Villain Arc: Internship Arc
  • School Arc: Remedial Course Arc
  • School Arc: Culture Festival Arc
  • League of Villains Arc: Pro Hero Arc
  • Tournament Arc: Joint Training Arc
  • League of Villains/Major Villain Arc: Meta Liberation Army Arc
  • School Arc: Endeavor Intern Arc
  • Saga Finale/League of Villains Arc: Paranormal Liberation War Arc

Reoccurring Themes and Motifs

With this pattern of story cycles in mind, one will begin to notice a similar pattern regarding themes and motifs in each saga, related to the development of Midoriya, Shigaraki and their respective associates in terms of both individuals and achieving their ambitions.

  • General Themes and Motifs

    • Order Versus Freedom:
      • While the development of Midoriya and his classmates will generally revolve around learning to think outside the box and become less rigid in their approach, the development of Shigaraki and his associates will generally revolve around becoming more focused, unified and disciplined.
      • The flaws of Hero Society highlighted throughout the series generally revolve around it being morally, socially, or structurally inflexible, while the numerous villains showcased throughout the series are undone by being careless, short-sighted, monumentally outmaneuvered, or through their own callous behaviour.

    • Moral Complexity:
      • As the series has progressed, Hero Society and the in-universe society of Japan has been gradually revealed to possess numerous fundamental flaws in the way they operate, while villains (in particular Shigaraki and his crew) have been portrayed in an increasingly sympathetic light.
      • Pro Heroes are often forced to resort to ruthless measures to keep the peace, while numerous villains have been revealed to be products of their environment.

  • Cycle-Related Themes and Motifs:
    • In addition to its overall themes and motifs, each story-cycle will focus on a particular theme/motif.
    • Each cycle-related theme can be generally expected to adhere to the following criteria:
      • It will be focused on a key aspect of either the Superhero sub-genre (I.e. motivation and ideology) or combat theory (leadership and teamwork).
      • Said theme will be telegraphed throughout the previous saga (I.e. Midoriya's recklessness in combat throughout the 'U.A. Beginnings Saga' foreshadowing the focus on strategy and foresight in the first half of the 'Rise of the Villains Saga')
      • Each story-cycle will focus on the main characters (heroes and villains alike) dealing with this theme.
      • Each major Arc Villain will typically embody the theme of their respective story-cycle, while the theme of the following cycles will play a key part in their defeat (I.e. Stain embodying the theme of motivation and ideology in 'The U.A. Beginnings Saga' but is outmanoeuvred due to the strategising of his opponents - strategy and foresight being a key theme in the following cycle).
      • The themes of each story-cycle will play a major part in the finale of their respective saga. In addition the themes touched upon in the proceeding saga will by a deciding factor in the aforementioned finale.

    • Using the aforementioned criteria sagas as examples we can break them down the 'U.A. Beginnings' and 'Rise of the Villains' sagas as thus:
      • 'U.A. Beginnings Saga' - Motivation and ideology
      • 'Rise of the Villains (Part 1)' - Foresight and strategy
      • 'Rise of the Villains (Part 2)' - Teamwork and leadership

    • Furthermore, again using this criteria we can work out the approximate nature of proceeding arc thus:

      • 'Pro-Hero Arc': Hawks is revealed to be infiltrating the League of Villain as a triple-agent.
      • 'Joint Training Arc': Despite numerous members of Class 1B being formidable strategists, in many cases their plans quickly fall apart due to being based on out of date intel.
      • 'Meta Liberation Army': Shigaraki takes over the Meta Liberation Army and gains the services of Dr. Garaki, both of whom have managed to conceal their activities from both the public and Hero Society.
      • 'Endeavor Intern Arc': Endeavor separates himself from his family, in part due to concern that they will used as an indirect means of attacking him.
      • 'Paranormal Liberation War Arc': The Paranormal Liberation Front have their cover blown and are caught off guard by a surprise raid from the heroes thanks to intel leaked by Hawks.
      • Other: Suspicions are raised among the U.A. staff that there is a spy among either themselves or the first year hero course.
    • We can thereby conclude from this that there is a strong likelihood that the following story-cycle will touch upon intelligence-gathering and secrecy.