The last time we got some between-season MHA OVAs, it was a pretty forgettable time. Not terrible, but a very obvious retread of ideas both the main series and previous OVAs had covered more than enough without any new twists to make them stand out. Thankfully, while these new extra episodes aren’t essential viewing, they’ve got a lot more energy and character to them than yet another training exercise. They even work that good ol’ anime magic and make the world’s most boring sport into something fun to watch!
“HLB” is definitely the more attention-grabbing of the two up-front, taking place during some nebulous period in Season 4 during Class 1-A’s work studies, and exists mostly to continue the grand tradition of anime baseball episodes, pitting two teams made up of students and pro heroes into a no-stakes (and thus, the highest stakes) super-powered baseball game. The setup of superhero baseball is already a pretty great one, and as a bonus the episode features a number of side characters who almost never get the spotlight in the main series. Along with fan-favorites like Gang Orca and Jiro, you get the return of Fatgum, Suneater, and even some left-field inclusions like Mt. Lady and Kamui Woods. If you’re a viewer who gets tired of seeing Deku, Bakugo, and Shoto taking up the lion’s share of screentime, this offers a reprieve that lets other characters’ personalities and powers enjoy some leg room.
It’s a fun time, but part of me can’t help but feel a little disappointed. There’s some funny moments and clever implementation of Quirks during the game – Mineta of all people gets one of the funniest gags in the whole episode – but by the end of it all it still felt underwhelming. If you’re the kind of superfan who’d check out any scrap of MHA media you can find, you could almost certainly come up with wackier ways for the characters to implement their powers, and with the running gimmick being characters getting knocked out of the game, there’s not a lot of room for the kind of fun banter you come to side content like this for. Slapstick violence is all well and good, but after the fourth or fifth time Gang Orca tossed a character into the air, the joke was done. It all ultimately comes together as an alright time, but compared to the likes of Gundam Build Fighters‘ baseball gunpla showdown, it can’t quite compete.
OVA number two, “Laugh! As If You Are In Hell” goes through the opposite arc, initially seeming like a wacky comedy bit before transitioning into something a little more sentimental than you might expect. The premise of Deku, Bakugo, and Shoto chasing after a goofy-looking street artist whose Quirk makes people laugh uncontrollably sounds like a simple setup for gags, and it is for a bit. All three boys wind up doubled-over laughing, and it’s funny to see the different ways they handle it. Deku ends up a mess, flailing headfirst into cement walls and can only laugh through his own bloody head wounds. Bakugo is vocally furious over the humiliation, growing through his own laughter until he sounds like an angry chihuahua. Shoto is too naturally stoic to actually laugh, so instead he winds up wheezing on the ground in a way that’s honestly funnier. Even Endeavor gets in on the action and spends the entire episode chasing Mr. Smiley like a cartoon dog catcher, practically foaming at the mouth over being defeated by a man who looks like Stretch Armstrong had a love child with The Lone Ranger.
But it’s in the back half of the episode that it takes a surprising turn towards serious sentiment, as Dekus their nefarious villain discoverin’s story as a failed artist, and recognizes a bit of himself in the man’s insatiable desire to pursue his dream. It’s not particularly deep, but it’s a more interesting way to ultimately resolve the conflict than just finding a way to knock the guy out without looking at his face, and a nice example of pro heroes in this show achieving something besides arresting supervillains and bank robbers . It has some resemblance to Gentle Criminal’s character, though obviously less fleshed out or consequential, but it’s an interesting continuation of MHA’s more sympathetic treatment of its cadre of morning cartoon villains.
Neither episode amounts to anything amazing – certainly not in comparison to the high points of MHA’s canon narrative – but as supplemental side content they do provide moments and scenarios you wouldn’t find in the main series. They’re light and mostly silly, but that may be just the right kind of palette cleanser before Season 6 arrives to continue the heavier action and plot of the main storyline.