by Derrick Shaw
My Hero Academia, also known by its Japanese name, Boku No Hero Academia, has swept the world by storm. It’s a story of a teenager named Izuku Midoriya who lives in Japan in a very different world than our own. In this world, about eighty percent of the population is born with a quirk, a special power that allows them to do different things. Unlike superheroes in the world of DC or Marvel, people attend schools and get licenses to become heroes. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and all form factors, such as those who battle villains head-on and support heroes who ensure the safety of civilians during a villain attack. Our protagonist Midoriya is one of the few people who were born quirkless. This is quickly introduced to us to nail home of the theme of the series: Not all men are created equal. Things shift for Midoriya, however, when he meets his idol, All Might. After telling Midoriya That he couldn’t be a hero because he was quirkless he quickly changes his mind and gives him the chance at a life.
My Hero Academia has brought amazing storytelling and color not only to the world of anime, but to animation, storytelling, and the things that we look for in stories about heroes. We are greeted with characters who, for the most part, are written extremely well. We are given characters with motivations that fit the narrative and does it justice, and a story that dives into the trauma of different characters but notes that it doesn’t justify their actions. While it has done those things and has done them well, it has also brought us a protagonist who is emotional in doesn’t hide it from anyone.
In our story, Midoriya is the product of both the culture of bullying and an overbearing support system. My Hero Academia sets up the point that not all men are created equal and that is driven home by the treatment that the protagonist endures at the hands of his elementary and middle school classmates. Before he turned five years old, he had a crew he ran with that involved his best friend and a few classmates. After he turned five and his quirk didn’t manifest, they shunned him no matter how hard he tried. Not only that, but Katsuki Bakugo, his best friend, became his biggest bully. We’re talking throwing his things out of a window, using his explosion powers on his desk, labeling him a “Deku” which is described as someone useless and a waste of space and even told him to jump off the roof to get reincarnated as someone with a quirk. Although Bakugo has grown and is well on his way to making amends for this, it’s still things that Midoriya had to deal with.
This brings us to his mom. His mom, one of the greatest moms in Shonen, in my opinion, loved her son despite his being quirkless. But her words to him at the discovery not only stayed with both of them for years, but it caused Inko Midoriya so much pain and guilt, that she became an intense worrywart, and with good reason. She, without a doubt, watched her son get bullied day in and out by his classmates and saw him obsess over being a hero all the while knowing at the back of his mind that that goal wasn’t attainable and that his mom believed it too.
It’s because of his life that Midoriya is an emotional being. He tells people how he feels. He empathizes with others. And most importantly, he cries and doesn’t hide it. He’s not ashamed of crying and in fact, the narrative plays to this. His friends in class are so used to it that it’s not only played for laughs and gags but it’s expected that Midoriya is cry because it shows in his right frame of mind. Even in the latest chapters, his tears are mentioned by Todoroki.
Midoriya’s emotions are so pivotal to his character, he wouldn’t be the same without them! Many people feel that he cries too much and that his emotions are bad to see because they don’t want to see the main character be emotional, but in many ways that shows how society wants people to be. Society wants people, especially boys, to be hard and cold all the time. To walk around like Todoroki did before Midoriya saved him from his own darkness.
It’s so important that he cries and is emotional because everyone around him allows him to be that. It’s often exaggerated just how often Deku cries, but it’s actually not often at all! Aside from the instances when it’s played for gags, like when he cries so much he sank into the floor, his tears and emotions are reserved for those special occasions where he can’t contain them. Could you imagine how things would have been with Eri had he not been in tune with his emotions?
All this is to say that it’s so important that Izuku Midoriya expresses his emotions openly. It gives us a chance to have a main character who allows himself to feel what he feels instead of running away from the feelings! Let’s be honest, a few main characters could learn from this!
It begs the question of why do we expect main characters to be cold all the time? Why do we hate when they show emotions? Especially because many of the anime protagonists are teenagers. Midoriya starts the series off in middle school briefly and then becomes a first-year in high school. Ichigo began Bleach at fifteen. Naruto was eleven. Even Edward and Alphonse were fourteen and fifteen, yet we expect them to have a handle on their emotions because crying and emotions are seen as weak. But it shouldn’t be.
I hope we see more main characters like Midoriya. Bring it on anime world!