Twas the night before Christmas
And all through UA
Not a creature was stirring
Save for Mineta, in his cage
That's right, against all temporal logic and reason, it's time for MHA to have a Christmas episode! Boy, I wonder what wacky hijinks will ensue here? Will Deku and Mirio have to rush across the city looking for a particular toy for Eri? Will Bakugo explode Santa, then be magically compelled to take up the red-and-white coat to complete the jolly old elf's deliveries? Will Todoroki make friends with a talking snowman, and have to learn a tragic lesson about the transience of life when his ice powers aren't enough to save his new friend when winter ends? Will Tokoyami help guide Santa's sleigh through the darkness, becoming the Fall Angel of Christmas? Will Krampus abduct Mineta and torture him until next Christmas, as recompense for all his naughty ways?
Unfortunately no, but what we get instead is still pretty fun, though discussing it gets a little more complicated since I'm familiar with the source material, and am thus aware of how things look to have been rearranged in the anime so far. Without going into any real spoilers, suffice to say between the events of this episode and last, there was a fairly long arc that didn't involve the UA students at all, so in the source material all this merriment was meant to reintroduce us to the students after several months away. Without that context, this episode is more like an extension of the cooldown from last episode, and the result is what I would call the closest MHA has gotten to a pure fanservice episode.
No, I don't mean Mt. Lady's butt – though that is definitely prominent when she makes her entrance for the kids' media training class. Rather, I mean this is largely a comedic episode where the appeal is to see all the various characters joking around, enjoying themselves, dressing up in cute one-off outfits, and just generally having a good time without advancing the story or character arcs. For me, that works just fine, considering how frequent and solid the gags are. Bakugo getting cut out of his own interview is great, as is the total flatline with Deku's new “move” for Blackwhip. The there's little details, like everyone's Santa hats having unique, character-themed poofballs. But of course the real star of the show is Santa Eri, brought to her very first Christmas party by her new dad, Aizawa. As I've said before, Single Father Eraserhead is the single best idea Horikoshi has ever introduced, and I demand a spinoff about these two. To top this whole thing off we even get a delightfully corny “Happy Holidays” song introduced to the OST to really sell it.
But if you're not as inclined to this kind screwing around, I can imagine this episode would feel largely tedious, especially after arguably MHA's weakest full-length arc in years. Though we at least get a few hints that there are larger forces moving outside of UA. The news is alight with stories about a villain-lead disaster in a place called Deika City, and we know from the cold open of this episode that Shigaraki was involved – and apparently having a delightful time. There are tensions rising over the capability of heroes to respond to these kinds of threats, and it's still questionable if the new #1 Hero is capable of holding things together in All Might's absence. And in between the merriment we learn that UA is restarting their Work Study arrangements, thought not by choice: it's at the direct request of the government's Safety Commission. That suggests even bigger dangers are ahead, and the higher-ups in Japan are trying to bolster the hero landscape for something potentially unprecedented.
All of that is interesting, but it's also stuffed into the fringes of what is an otherwise enjoyable but lightweight episode. Though things look to get moving now, since Todoroki has invited both Deku and Bakugo to join him for a work study at Endeavor's agency. There's a lot of potential for both action and drama with that premise. For one, it'll have 1-A's biggest powerhouses all together and working on the front lines of the Pro Hero circuit. For another, the entire Todoroki family is a powder keg waiting to explode, and putting Shoto back with his dad is sure to get messy very quickly. Time will just have to tell if all this misdirection and rearranging suits the story and overall season well, though.