Out of all the shows that this anime season has brought me, I’d have to say that the most fun for me to watch has been My Hero Academia. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the more serious, gritty tones of Joker Game and the ridiculous psychological mess that is The Lost Village, but MHA has kept me entertained and interested in the characters in a way that resonates with me more than the other shows, and for good reason. It touches on aspects of my life that are very personal to me, both emotionally and mentally, and while it presents its themes in a simpler way than most shows, that easy accessibility is what makes those themes stand out. So without any further ado, let’s jump into it!
Like One-Punch Man, My Hero Academia is a super-power anime that pulls on a lot of shounen tropes to not only make it fun and entertaining, but also to kind of parody those tropes. I’m not going to go into all the similarities here, but suffice it to say that each show feels both familiar and fresh to those who’ve experienced the shounen genre. My Hero Academia, however, feels a lot more like a Saturday-morning cartoon in the way that it focuses on a teenage protagonist (Izuku), features a nearly all-powerful superhero mentor (All Might), and has the requisite annoying rival (Bakugo). As someone who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons and reading superhero comics, the show brings back a lot of nostalgia for me. There are a lot of shows out there that pull out deep ideas through their themes, but good kids shows always had a way of entertaining me and then revealing to me a life lesson that I’d figure out as I thought about the show afterwards, and My Hero Academia continues that trend.
As a quick recap, the story of My Hero Academa revolves around a world where nearly everyone is born with a superhuman ability known as a Quirk. Those with powerful or useful Quirks generally grow up to attend UA High, a high school that trains the budding youth into full-blown superheroes. The show follows Izuku Midoriya, a nerdy, curly-haired kid who was born without a Quirk. This makes him somewhat of an outcast amongst his friends, and a target for bullying from those with Quirks. Despite this, Izuku adores the heroic individuals that he sees around him, especially All Might, the most powerful hero of all. Midoriya’s heart in spite of his current state eventually pays off as All Might notices him and takes Izuku under his wing as his protégé, and gifts him with the same powers.
There’s a lot that could be said for Izuku’s relationship with All Might, and the way superhero society works, but I actually found Izuku’s rival, Bakugo, simultaneously more interesting and infuriating. Bakugo is the kind of person who just seems to have everything going for him: he developed a powerful Quirk early in life, he’s the top student in his school, and he has the instincts and talents necessary to become a powerful hero. He’s ambitious, driven, and ready to succeed. His main flaw, however, is in fact his ambition: Bakugo is so focused on becoming the best and being the best that he sees everyone around him as necessary obstacles in his climb to the top, and he treats them as such. This makes Izuku’s rise as a hero all the more infuriating to him: for someone inferior to him to suddenly develop a Quirk and start to challenge him just blows Bakugo’s mind, and as a viewer, you can really feel the frustration and rage that eats at him because of it. But why?
From the development of his Quirk to his acceptance into UA, Bakugo’s defining trait is his pride. His pride is what keeps him fighting for his top spot in his school, his pride fuels his efforts in his hero training, and his pride is what burns him within whenever he sees Izuku getting closer and closer to becoming a true hero. Bakugo’s pride is what defines him, and his entire outlook on life revolves around how the circumstances around him interact with his self-constructed identity. Without it he would be nothing. But what is he with it? He has no true friends: those who know him tend to have little respect for him due to his intensely competitive nature, and Izuku’s attempts at making things better only widen the rift between them as Bakugo’s pride won’t allow him to accept Izuku as an equal. In essence, he is his own biggest obstacle.
Self-identity is the foundation from which we as individuals live our lives: it is the house from which we peer out into the world, and the lens that colors how we perceive the world around us. Where Izuku sees potential allies in his fellow classmates, Bakugo sees potential rivals or even hindrances, and each of them acts accordingly. Everyone has an idea of who they are that is shaped by who they want to be, who they want other people to see them as, and what influences are the most prominent in their lives. As a Christian, my biggest influence should be the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that lives in me to prompt me to live for Christ, but how often do I truly live that way?
Like Bakugo, oftentimes my own feelings and ambitions tend to lead how I view myself and how I view the world around me: I’m a blogger, I’m a nerd, I’m an otaku, I’m a goof, I’m someone who is smart, loves games, wants to learn about the world. All of those things aren’t inherently bad, but when they are the first identifiers that come to mind when I think about who I am as a person, there is a problem. As a child of God, I belong exclusively to Him. After all, I was “bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20), so I belong to Christ. From Romans 6:18 to Ephesians 6:9, we as Christians are reminded that we were bought by Christ, made “slaves to righteousness” with Christ as our Master. Just as slaves have no identity outside of their Master, so we have no identity apart from Christ.
So why, then, do I fall?
Inasmuch as Christ is my Master, who bought me with a price, as a human my original master is my own flesh, and despite being bought by Christ I still suffer the effects of being enslaved to sin. The spirit belongs to Christ, the flesh belongs to sin, and the struggling dichotomy exists within me, pulling at me on both sides. The battle for my identity can only be won by grasping hold of the truth that Christ offers. Each time I give in to the flesh, I take for granted the sacrifice that was made to buy me back from the living death of sin. And so I fight. And so I die. Without taking hold of the identity found in Christ, I become nothing more than an empty shell, doomed to trying to scratch out meaning in my life through personal pursuits.
So let us learn from Bakugo’s struggle. Let your ambition and passions push your further towards Christ and the power He gives to realize those goals. Only He can truly bring out your hidden strengths, and make you into a true hero.