WARNING: The following contains spoilers for My Hero Academia Season 5, Episode 9, "Early Bird!", now streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hulu.
The match-ups in My Hero Academia's joint training between Classes 1-A and 1-B have been long, grueling affairs for those on both sides. With some teams relying on well-thought-out strategies, others have potentially rushed into the heat of battle without enough planning. Izuku Midoriya/Deku and Bakugo have been spectators until now, but the latter's turn to shine has come.
In match 4, Bakugo ensures that the trend of prolonged fights is broken. While it's unsurprising that the hot-headed hero would blast his team to victory, Bakugo shocked many with his approach to teamwork. Bakugo drops the gauntlet for Midoriya, but his aggressive strategy deserves plenty of praise.
Episode 9 begins with a quick breakdown of the current score -- Classes A and B each have a win, plus a tie. Whoever wins Match 4 will almost certainly have guaranteed their class's victory. Bakugo is paired with Jiro, Sato and Sero while Kamakiri, Awase, Bondo and their de-facto leader Tokage make up the other side. As the match begins, Class B's team reflects on how strong their opponents are and how well-balanced they are as a team.
At first, Bakugo's dynamic with his team plays out typically. He blasts ahead, yelling, "Hurry it up, slowpokes!" Unfortunately, it seems he's doing just as Monoma and most everyone else expected -- trying to do everything by himself while ignoring his teammates. Sero even mentions how Bakugo hasn't changed since the Sports Festival. However, in a flashback to before the match, we see their team discussing potential strategies.
Sero points out their opponent's strength at counterattacks and suggests they hang back and wait for an opening to avoid falling into a trap. Bakugo violently disagrees. He declares that since Class B is good at counterattacks, that means they have to move incredibly fast and aggressively so that the opposing team doesn't have time to react or form a strategy. As he entrusts his teammates with a grenade each, it's clear Bakugo does have something of a plan here.
Jiro's attempts at listening for their opponent's footsteps are quickly thwarted as Tokage appears, albeit in several different pieces. Tokage's Lizard Tail Splitter Quirk allows her to split into several parts which can move around independently. She uses these pieces to make a lot of noise, confusing Jiro. Then, Bondo uses his glue-like Quirk to trap Jiro, Sato and Sero in a massive spiderweb. To make things worse, Kamakiri uses his razor-sharp Quirk to cut down all the surrounding pipes the glue is strung along, causing them to collapse towards Jiro, Sato and Sero.
Bakugo arrives, blasting away the debris to protect his teammates and proves to everyone that he's changed his mentality. Still, Kamakiri tries taking this opportunity to take down Jiro, but Bakugo intercepts yet again. In that moment, All Might and Midoriya each recognize Bakugo's desire to both save people and win. Most shocked of all is Monoma, who comments on Bakugo's character growth.
Jiro remembers the start of the match, where Bakugo told his teammates that if they got in trouble, he would save them. He's determined to work with his team to win, and as he prepares to chase after the now-fleeing Class B team, he declares that he and his teammates will win 4-0, with no injuries. Bakugo wants to be the very best, and he demands a total victory to prove it.
Tokage's team is retreating, but they still have a trick or two up their sleeves. As Jiro fights through the noise and manages to locate Class 1-B, Bakugo rushes into a trap. Awase uses his Weld Quirk to trap Bakugo, fusing him to some nearby pipes. For just a moment, it looks like Tokage's strategy will work after all, but then Sato rushes in and uses his extreme strength to blast Bakugo free. Again, Bakugo rushes ahead and momentarily stuns Awase before Jiro and Sero combine to defeat and capture him.
We now get the final, most crucial flashback as Bakugo completes his pre-match speech: "And when I'm in danger... you guys save me!" Bakugo has fully put his trust in his teammates and accepted that he might make mistakes. This is a very different Bakugo from what we've seen before, even if his manners still need some fine-tuning.
Bakugo and his teammates quickly finish things up. Sato captures Bondo in an armlock; Sero snags Kamakiri with his tape, as well as binding down as many of Tokage's floating fragments as he can. Finally, Bakugo hits Tokage's floating head with an enormous blast, knocking her out and ensuring his total victory.
While everyone comments on the change in Bakugo, he retorts that his goal has always been the same: to surpass All-Might and become the #1 Hero. When All Might congratulates him a moment later, Bakugo seems to show no interest, but there's no doubt how excited he is. Still, his good mood doesn't stop him from screaming at Midoriya when he also tries to congratulate his classmate. He is still Bakugo, after all.
"Early Bird!" finishes with the final match-up getting ready. Monoma will be leading the last Class B team, including Shinso. His teammates are disheartened, knowing there's no way for them to balance their score and take their Class to victory. But, surprisingly, Monoma feels different; he's happy to see Bakugo has changed since the reason he dislikes Class 1-A is because of their bad attitudes. Still, it doesn't mean they'll give up easily, and they're aware of how strong Midoriya is -- planning on taking him out first. However, Midoriya will have something to prove after watching his rival shine.