WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 5, Episode 16 of My Hero Academia, "Long Time No See, Selkie," now streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation and Hulu.
Many animated series of all genres are known for having a token "beach episode," when a handful of the main characters retire to a sunny, idyllic beach for some fun in the sun. Such episodes can either serve as feel-good filler, or they can set the stage for some solid character development through comedic mishaps, serious drama or anything in between. My Hero Academia just took its turn in Season 5. Or rather, it tried to.
My Hero Academia works hard to pay tribute to countless shonen manga series and American comics that came before, but its effort at a token beach episode in "Long Time No See, Selkie," feels both short and unnecessary; little more than a brief nod to the entire concept of a beach episode. In fact, the way things turned out, My Hero Academia might as well have skipped the idea entirely.
Selkie Sends Ochaco, Tsuyu & Nejire to the Beach
In Episode 16 of Season 5, the semi-filler character -- and seal-themed Pro Hero -- Selkie reappears, who once coached the frog-like Tsuyu Asui in the ways of aquatic hero work. It's good to see Selkie again, and it's even better to see a squad of girls working hard to get the job done while Izuku, Shoto and Bakugo train with the mighty Endeavor elsewhere. The entire episode is dedicated to Ochaco, Tsuyu and Nejire Hado of the 'Big Three,' and the narrative sees fit to use them as fodder for a brief beach episode, at Selkie's suggestion.
While there's certainly nothing exploitative about either beach scene the episode features -- they're both done in good taste -- these interludes do feel entirely unnecessary, with the only justification given in the context is how the villains won't make their move until evening anyway. Selkie encourages the three girls (and his ally Sirius) to take some time off and enjoy themselves, and the four girls are delighted to do just that. The problem is that this is done merely because it's possible, not because it adds anything to the plot or characters, and the beach sequences are too short for any meaningful developments. The girls could have -- and probably should have -- used this time to rehearse their moves, scout the area or done literally anything to keep themselves in work mode without exhausting themselves. Ochaco looks up to Izuku as her idol; she won't catch up by playing volleyball and frying fish on the grill. Her big beach vacation could have waited.
What Beach Episodes Normally Aim To Accomplish
Beach episodes aren't just a "fun in the sun" fantasy for viewers to vicariously enjoy; they are a ripe opportunity for a handful of major characters to get away from the story's main plot and setting and hash things out in a setting where no one else can bother them. This gives the characters serious breathing room to settle grudges, repair damaged relationships, clear up misunderstandings, or even make a long-awaited love confession. The beach can have a therapeutic effect that way.
But not in My Hero Academia. Its beach sequences prove that Sirius likes and gets along well with the three U.A. girls, but that is easy enough to infer anyway, and these characters don't do anything unique to their tastes or talents, just routine beach fun. Episode 16 reveals nothing about them or their relationships, or even their hobbies or worldview, nor does it let us properly enjoy the time the girls spend there because the sequences are far too brief. Clearly, beach episodes need to go all out or get left on the cutting room floor -- they must be fun, but with a purpose.