One of My Hero Academia‘s greatest strengths is its ability to showcase a multitude of characters with distinct backgrounds and aspirations, while simultaneously providing meaningful depth to those intended to drive the larger narrative forward.
And this avenue of accessibility has affirmed My Hero Academia as one of the most popular anime of the decade, and furthermore garnered significant praise amongst its competition in the genre for its simplistic but intriguing take on the superhero genre.
Referring back to the characters, there are a select few that have easily climbed the ranks in terms of importance: Bakugo, Midoriya, and Todoroki.
And deservedly so. This trio is explored with a beautiful profoundness in the context of their aspirations to be a hero. Specifically, time is dedicated to establish significant moments within their respective lives that proceed to define their present natures, while situating them for future growth as they continue to fill in the shoes of heroes that society will recognize.
Whilst I have grown to like each one for their own quirks (see what I did there?), even I must admit that I have come to relate to one of them on a more personal level than the other two.
Yes, the overconfident and aggressive personality of Bakugo Katsuki.
And the man whose on a great quest to kill off the germs of the world…
Now for viewers of the anime or readers of the manga, no one can deny the objective state of Bakugo’s staple personality traits as wholly unpleasant. His confrontational and arrogant nature has driven away the sympathy from his classmates. His stubbornness has often backfired to catalyze his animosity. His unrestrained actions have actively put others in danger and hurt his reputation.
It is so easy to clutch onto these characteristics as primary reasons to hold Bakugo in a lower regard, albeit justifiably so. Early on within the series, these same peculiarities kept me from holding Bakugo in high esteem.
But here’s the thing: Bakugo may be unlikable, but that doesn’t automatically discredit his worth as a character. And once I came to that realization after a powerful demonstration of his identity at the U.A. Sports Festival, eventually propelled my perception of Bakugo from a mere delinquent to an aspirational, troubled individual shaped heavily by childhood experiences that reaffirmed his own feelings of superiority for the worse, but sparked his unwavering drive for the better.
Before I extenuate the aspects of Bakugo that leave a great impression on me, there are two misconceptions that I would like to address beforehand:
Bakugo Lacks Intelligent
Most people point to Bakugo’s demeanor as evidence to talk down his state of mind. While he often displays a rebellious aura without much of a care for those around him, it is shown time and time again that Bakugo demonstrates an exceptional degree academic and practical judgement alongside his physical prowess. During the midterm exams, one of the most explicit indicators of that standing, Bakugo placed third within the class, higher than Midoriya and Todoroki.
Bakugo Appears Evil
If someone were to make the case that Bakugo was antagonistic, it would easily be founded based on his track record. But I would like to quell the notion that some people still have that Bakugo is likely to turn towards villainy. He has made it loud and clear that he aspires to be like All Might, and outright rejected the attempt by the League of Villains to convert him.
What Makes Bakugo Bakugo?
If one were to sum up Bakugo’s aspirations in My Hero Academia, it would likely be that he wants to be the unequivocal number one hero. Such a lofty goal is standard for most protagonists in these stories, but unlike other characters Bakugo is driven; his actions clearly back up his sentiment.
Part of that drive can be attributed to his parents, who conspicuously reserved themselves from bolstering Bakugo’s talent and ability to ensure that his personal motivation to become the best remains unwavering.
With every display of Bakugo’s power, it becomes clear that Bakugo has grown to the state he is at today by the result of his own merit, and will take upon all challenge to rise superior above everyone.
But as alluded to, this is only a fraction of the story. In fact, Bakugo’s parents are one of the few external influences in his life. This largely stems from his strong individualism with a tinge of egocentrism that he subscribes to.
Let’s make it clear: Bakugo is heavily self-centered around his own interests and puts self-growth at the top of his priorities. That said, he remains capable of acknowledging the strength of others and expects that every combative encounter will bring out the best in both of them.
To provide an example, Bakugo and Todoroki clash in the finals match of the U.A. Sports Festival. In the end Bakugo takes down Todoroki easily, but is ultimately pissed with the outcome because Todoroki failed to use the full extent of his power (fire) despite the fact that he used them against Midoriya when placed under significant pressure to do so in the moment.
As a reader or viewer, we likely view Todoroki’s actions as one spurred by a lingering conflict that he is yet to fully resolve with his father, Endeavor, by whom half of his power originates from due to personal circumstances.
But in the case of Bakugo, unaware of Todoroki’s background, retroactively compares his battle with Todoroki to Midoriya’s, an acquaintance that he hold a hostile grudge towards for reasons I’ll touch upon soon, and failed to battle Todoroki at his best. While his outward expression of anger paints the story of a maniacal brat, it is more likely that the sequence of events created a metaphorical dent in his self-confidence.
This cements that Bakugo’s thought process centers around the idea of the individual. As a result of the overflowing attention he received throughout childhood from his peers, he soon converted praise to pressure, forcing himself to live up to a heightened expectation of himself, even if it serves at the cost of other aspects of his life.
And believe it or not, these were the moments that left the greatest impression on me. Why? Because Bakugo nearly feels like a reflection of myself, or more accurately the other side of the same coin.
The Personal Similarity
Growing up, I often found myself surrounded by a heavy stream of praise for one reason or another. Mathematics used to be a strong suit of mine for example, and looking back I feel that it alone contributed significantly to my ability to make friends. And friends I did make as a result; the constant affirmation from peers was something that I appreciated greatly at the time and used as motivation to continue working hard.
But something weird happened when I moved away from Michigan to Georgia. Suddenly, I found myself in a new academic environment defined by a tantalizing urge for competition on all fronts. As the standards and expectations placed upon students felt more intense, I subsequently set a new bar for me to reach in order to promote my growth to the fullest extent.
This eventually carried into high school, where the demands placed upon me amongst others were through the roof. In the process, I admittedly placed enormous stress on myself to succeed and build the foundation for college. I started neglecting my social life, prioritizing work over play, thinking obsessively about academics, and dedicated to be superior.
It’s been an arduous, heavy-handed journey through high school. Yet in all honestly, I look back at myself as a failure. In many ways I improved and refined myself dramatically in ways that I can be proud of, but even then it’s evident that I didn’t put in enough work. Major goals I aspire to are still unfulfilled, opportunities available to me were not grasped.
Hell, I chose not to have a high school graduation party because I wasn’t proud of my work. I chose not to attend my peers graduation not out of disrespect, but it served as a reminder of my own personal failures in comparison to other accomplishments. Maybe it’s a petty thought, but one that nevertheless ran through my mind.
Yet regardless of all that, I still want to fulfill my potential. I’m undoubtedly disappointed for the lost time that I could have dedicated towards achieving those personal goals, but I am prepared to learn from those mistakes and do everything in my power to be the greatest at what I want to do.
Briefly Back to Bakugo
Something most of us forget is that Bakugo is a human being like all of us, with his own feelings and complexes that require acknowledgment to truly grasp his mental state. He might be storied in many ways, but even then he is looked down upon and misunderstood by those around him. During the U.A. Sports Festival, Present Mic explicitly vouched his support for Uraraka in her match against Bakugo as a commentator, while largely dismissing his ability as consequence.
Even earlier on, Bakugo is most notable by the public for a time when he was at his most vulnerable, trapped by a sludge-monster by which he struggled to escape without support.
And in spite of it all, it stands to reason that there are several moments in My Hero Academia that portray Bakugo as mature in the face of heartbreak.
When Bakugo inquires All Might about his connection to Midoriya, All Might lies by omission by not disclosing to him that he passed down his Quirk to Midoriya. Bakugo sees through this and puts everything together, politely walking off without any semblance of his typical personality.
While the shot composition clearly indicates that Bakugo is somber and reflective of his comments, it wouldn’t be a stretch to understand that he is essentially devastated. As someone who dreamed of becoming the next All Might, it hurts greatly for him to come to the realization that his idol is deeply entwined within the life of someone he deeply hates at the time.
But he doesn’t blow up in All Might’s face. He doesn’t vent his anger in a violent manner. He doesn’t immediately confront Midoriya with ill intention. Instead, he soaks it in, laments on the circumstances, and for the time being treads on with a heavy burden on his shoulder.
Moments like these garner sympathy from someone like me, who shares a wealth of experiences and characteristics that I can personally relate to. For one of the few times in his life that Bakugo truly comes face to face with hopeless circumstance, there is an innate understanding that his path to greatness will pan out differently from the prototype he maintained in his head for years.
I have complete faith that if I existed within the universe of My Hero Academia, Bakugo would easily be my greatest friend and ally; the similarities run too deep for me not to empathize with his situation and vice versa. There are plenty of other characters that may be more approachable on the surface and supportive in the short-term, but the unwavering philosophies and ideas that Bakugo and I both hold cannot be understated by anyone.
But some of you may still be wondering: why is Bakugo the best boy?
In it of itself lies that specific fallacy. Whenever someone interacts with art, their interpretations of the characters and events are entirely rooted in subjective observations. Regardless of the rigidity of any given story, no one person will likely hold the exact same experience as another.
So when I challenge someone to quell my notion that Bakugo is the “best boy”, they will have found themselves in an unwinnable conflict. Likewise, if someone challenged me to subdue the idea that Todoroki is the “best boy”, it would be impossible for me to win.
Because whether it be Bakugo, Todoroki, Midoriya, or any character from My Hero Academia in that matter, everyone will interpret the characters within a context that we see fit and that leaves a strong impression on the enjoyment (or lack thereof) that we derive from them.
So whenever you find yourself discussing who is the best boy or the best girl, or anything regarding preferences for that matter, know that the reasons can dive deeper than one can imagine.