“Have a Merry Christmas” is another low key My Hero Academia episode, which works hard to establish a clear demarcation line between what will presumably be the two major story arcs of this season. At the same time, “Have a Merry Christmas” represents a strange stretch of lethargy for the series and these past three episodes could honestly be pared down to one and a half installments.
I can understand the temptation to not have the series’ 100th episode also double as a Christmas installment, but this run of episodes has killed any of the momentum that was built up by the triumphant conclusion of the Joint Training competition. Clearly big things are ahead, both with the return to work studies and what’s been quietly brewing behind the scenes with the League of Villains, but none of that excitement is capitalized on “Have a Merry Christmas,” which feels just as much like disposable filler material as season five’s expositional premiere.
The highlight of these Christmas festivities is to bask in all of these characters’ joy as they let down their guards and treat themselves to a much-deserved day of celebration. This turns into an excuse to dress up everyone as members of Santa’s workshop and engage in a cute gift exchange. It actually wouldn’t come across as ridiculous if this episode were to introduce that Santa exists in My Hero Academia and that he’s able to spread gifts around the world because of a Quirk, but “Have a Merry Christmas” is a much more modest and simple episode. That being said, it absolutely carries the cloying energy of an episode where Santa shows up to teach a lesson.
Gift time at U.A. High may not seem incredibly exciting, but it turns into one of the sweeter sequences from the season. Every combination between hero and gift is satisfying in its own way, whether it’s something obvious or a strange mystery. Mineta’s present seems to be an autographed photo of Yuga Aoyama, which is perfect, and Eri seems to acquire a massive sword that’s meant for Tokoyami through the Secret Santa exchange. Eri’s presence cannot be underestimated here and her arrival in a Santa costume is almost too sweet to bear (as is the adorable nature of her “Trick or Treat” greeting and her attempts to hand out painted Easter eggs out of confusion). My Hero Academia’s efforts to make Eri more of a natural supporting character continue to work and hopefully won’t be absent during the second half of season five.
Outside of the pleasant Christmas levity, the rest of the episode is concerned with media interviews and a focus on the heroes’ public images, which evidently is a lot harder to manage than their Quirks. Bakugo and Todoroki have just proven themselves as newly-minted provisional heroes, yet they take completely opposite approaches to the media blitz that follows. Bakugo hurls insults at the interviewer and freaks out at Todoroki whenever he exhibits affection or gets so bold as to refer to him and Bakugo as “friends.”
It’s incredibly entertaining for Bakugo to be so concerned over whether his aggressive side makes it through to the public while his Pro Hero image gets established. The audience has seen an increasingly softer side to Bakugo, especially over the past few episodes, so this regression into explosive behavior when he’s put under pressure is one of many enjoyable digressions in “Have a Merry Christmas.” Of course, Todoroki is a consummate professional throughout the interview and views it as an important experience, even if he still gets tripped up over the awkward experience. The glimpse of everyone else’s abject horror over how candid Bakugo gets during the interview is another strong opportunity for My Hero Academia’s more humorous instincts to be fully on display in this episode.