WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for My Hero Academia, Season 4 Episode 16, available now on Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Funimation.
Despite its length, My Hero Academia doesn't inundate with too many filler episodes, and overall has solid pacing between its high stakes fights and slower, character-building moments. The "Remedial Licensing Exam" arc does the latter, as Katsuki Bakugou and Shoto Todoroki assume caregivers' roles to a group of misbehaving children, while Endeavor and All Might discuss what it means to be the "Symbol of Peace."
While the storyline itself seems silly, Episodes 16 and 17 of My Hero Academia's fourth season make sure to pack in the series core themes and some not-so-subtle character development. Endeavor dives into some serious soul searching, as Bakugou and Todoroki return from the sidelines after failing their Provisional Licensing exams, leaving them out of the work-study programs Izuku Midoriya/Deku and other class 1-A students took part in.
All Might Vs. Endeavor: Passing the Torch
While affording Bakugou and Todoroki some much-needed screen time, we also see the former and current Number 1 heroes, All Might and Endeavor -- Todoroki's father. Getting these significant players into one room presents all the elements of the recent societal shift, and it raises cultural questions accompanying All Might's retirement and the lack of a new Symbol of Peace. Just as Quirks continue to change and evolve, this test -- and the episode -- is designed to show how heroes must address these new issues.
All Might and Endeavor are received in entirely different ways from one another as they enter the exam site arena. All Might is incredibly aware of his position in hero society and the effect his presence has. He knows how to exist humbly, even when his image, and what he represents, looms over society as a whole. By comparison, Endeavor has a complete disregard for the other students present, immediately calling attention to himself and berating Todoroki in the process.
Despite his new status as Number 1, Endeavor's welcome isn't nearly as warm as the one All Might receives -- even in his deflated form. Where All Might offers security and relief, Endeavor knows how to suck the oxygen from the room just like the fire he's known for. Still, there seems to be a revelation at work within Endeavor, and as he speaks with All Might, it's clear he knows that this problem within hero society is bigger than himself. His decision to even approach his biggest rival to ask for his opinion and guidance marks a clear turning point for his character.
A Different Symbol of Peace
Endeavor tells Todoroki that "You are not someone who should be suffering in a setback like this! Show them why you are in a different league from them!" Though initially sounding like a typically prideful thing for Endeavor to say, it is also a manifestation of his feelings towards his current standing. Despite all of his achievements, Endeavor struggles to live up to All Might's image.
The "Remedial Licensing Exam" arc is crucial to highlighting the larger meaning of the series, asking the critical questions of how hero society can transform and how Endeavor with this new generation will rise to meet this challenge in their own way. Just as All Might and Endeavor are inherently different characters and styles of hero, Bakugou and Todoroki learn that there are various ways to teach this younger generation what it means to use their Quirks for good.
Teaching the Next Generation
The task to win kids' hearts and be a positive force that keeps them from becoming villains sounds like it should be easy enough -- though arguably not in Bakugou's wheelhouse. But the exercise proves the tricky world heroes have to navigate when it comes to how they are perceived and the effect they can have on the impressionable people around them.
How Bakugou and Todoroki respond to the test of dealing with the kids mirrors the things that Endeavor realizes he must learn. As they challenge the kids with their Quirks, they can create a solution that shows that being a hero isn't just about having the strongest power or smiling to get people to like you but trying to make an overall positive impact.
Bakugou, Todoroki and Shiketsu High students Inasa Yoarashi and Camie Utsushimi are forced to work together to solve a problem with more than just brute strength or will power, putting aside their conflicts with one another too. It is the perfect example of what top heroes must do to succeed. A large underlying conflict in My Hero Academia is how society can and should move forward in a post-All Might world. And as the new Number 1, Endeavor takes the first steps towards the changes his role requires.