My Hero Academia: Bakugo Sets Deku an IMPOSSIBLY High Bar to Beat

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for My Hero Academia Season 5, Episode 9 "Early Bird!" now streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hulu.

The Joint Training exercise has been an opportunity for countless U.A. students to show what they are truly capable of, and many Class 1-B students, in particular, are shining for the first time. Itsuka Kendo fought the genius Momo Yaoyorozu on even terms, and Kinoko Komori proved herself a cute but deadly mushroom master. But Class 1-A isn't about to fall behind, especially not Katsuki Bakugo.

Bakugo has always been a troublemaker and wild card, with his selfish ambitions and uncooperative, explosive attitude, among other issues. However, Bakugo isn't about to slip into villainy. In Match 4, he proves just what a heroic team leader looks like, setting a very high bar for his rival, Izuku Midoriya, to try and top in the next round.

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Before the match starts, Bakugo claims he's not only going to win the thing, but he'll do it without any losses for his team. It's easy to think Bakugo, at first, simply wants to defend his fragile ego by blowing up anyone who gets in his way, but he isn't an aimless bully. He's had his eyes fixed on a lofty goal from the start: to become the new, undisputed #1 hero who will one day replace All Might. At the start of MHA, All Might chose Izuku as the successor to his legacy and powers alike. But Bakugo isn't out of the running yet: His boyhood dream was to emulate his idol and become world-famous, and that dream won't die anytime soon.

Of course, Izuku is in a roughly similar situation. But he has the benefit of bearing One For All and getting private training from both All Might and the retired hero Gran Torino. Bakugo is now wise to all this, and he knows if he doesn't hurry, then that "damn nerd" Izuku will beat him there and truly become the new symbol of peace. It's a situation of two dogs and one bone, and All Might is carefully watching both Bakugo and Izuku as they strive to become his true heir.

Izuku is making astonishing progress. He was the one who defeated the great villain Overhaul during a previous raid in Season 4. Now, in Season 5, it's Bakugo's turn to catch up, and he sets a strong example for Izuku during the Joint Training Exercise's fourth round. By now, Bakugo has more than firepower on his side -- he is also learning to cooperate and act as a teammate, a vital skill for any hero. Both boys are power-type heroes who need a supporting cast to round them out, and sure enough, Bakugo acts as the leader and centerpiece of his four-man team while Hanta Sero, Rikido Sato and Kyoka Jiro aid him however they can.

Better yet, Bakugo demonstrates that, at last, he's learned to have the heart of a true team player... even if his words are as gruff as ever. He makes it clear that he implicitly trusts his three teammates to back him up in any situation, and even more remarkably, that he'll support them if they need his help -- including the use of three mini-grenades. This is Izuku-style teamwork, and Bakugo uses it to great effect against Setsuna Tokage's team, achieving the flawless victory he promised to deliver.

Both Setsuna and Neito Monoma (watching carefully from afar) are shocked by this development. Since when does Katsuki Bakugo play nice with others? The answer is, since he worked out that if he wants to beat Izuku at his own game and truly surpass All Might, he must play by My Hero Academia's rules, and his stubborn pride can be swallowed just enough to make that happen. How will Izuku measure up next week?

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