Two sides. To every argument, to every coin, to every argument about coins. The problem is, that idiom fails to factor in that there are plenty of actions that involve far more than two…except the tango. And as the number of participants increases, so too does the number of opinions, the amount of voices calling out into the night…some other third thing. Realism aside, this has a tendency to tilt fiction towards the confusing, unless every character is in a particularly talkative mood.
Just going to throw this out there, Tomura Shigaraki is one creepy dude. Disembodied hand suit aside, he is so focused on wanton destruction that he has never taken the time to wonder why he does what he does, or where what he does is leading to. Until now, of course. With two new recruits ready to call the League of Villains home, ol’ Shigaraki is given somewhat of a wake-up call and comes to the conclusion that he must come to a conclusion. This grants us the lovely opportunity to see this villain-in-the-making without his identity concealing limbs, venturing into a world beyond his secret lair…and right into the path of Midoriya. Coincidence aside, the casual nature with which Shigaraki takes Midoriya hostage in public is chilling and creates one of the more abjectly tense situations in the series’ entire run.
There’s no fanfare, no diabolical grandstanding, just a calm utterance that one wrong move on Midoriya’s part will spell his death and maybe those of a few dozen more, if Shigaraki is in the mood. The ever present hand around Midoriya’s throat is also a pretty strong visual reminder, calling back memories of what Shigaraki is capable of with a single touch. Although, to briefly lean into optimism, it seems as if Decay can only activate if Shigaraki places all five fingers on a target. Possible lie? Yes, but given how villains and Quirks work in this series, chances are high that this is the truth and the first disclosure of weakness that is not Shigaraki’s overall attitude. However, that weakness may now be a non-factor. After his little talk with Midoriya, Shigaraki attains the truth that All Might is the reason he should fight. Every obstacle that has ever stood in his way is due to All Might. Even Stain himself was born out of a twisted admiration for the Number One Hero, not to mention the beatdown the man himself dealt to the first Nomu. He doesn’t even fully understand the connection that Midoriya and Gran Torino have to All Might and they trashed his plans pretty thoroughly as well. Also, Endeavour hates All Might…so that probably counts. So, Shigaraki’s viewpoint isn’t exactly wrong, just evil. Which is bad.
This episode also provides us with a slightly more sombre look at the hero in question himself, with Midoriya asking All Might is he ever fails to save everybody. Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes. Though impossibly strong, All Might is a single person and cannot be everywhere at once. It sounds incredibly obvious, but the mystique built up around All Might tends to obscure that fact. He has created an unreachable figure, an infallible hero who never succumbs, who always saves those in need and who never lets his smile falter. The irony of this is that even Toshinori Yagi himself is unable to live up to this. From the moment we learn his secret, All Might is living in the shadow of himself. Emaciated beyond the point of recognition, broken, battered and bruised, he is far from that image he has cultivated. Though his sheer tenacity is admirable and his refusal to throw in the towel is Shonen-level imitatable, All Might is far more human than the world is led to believe. Though this weakness is guarded in the hopes of keeping the Symbol of Peace alive as a deterrent for villainy and bastion for heroism, there lies a heretofore unforeseen downside to the symbol itself: Fanaticism.
Stain was a bad guy, we know this. But he was an odd duck of a bad guy. He didn’t think he was the hero of his own story, in fact he designed himself to be the villain. The villain who would cull the pretenders and call forth the truly just heroes to stop him. It is this very same charismatic villainy that has seen, and will most likely continue to see, changes in the world of My Hero. One of the more depressing aspects of this villain’s existence however, is that All Might created him. Though his actions are inexcusable, Stain’s ideology exists as a response to All Might’s lofty presence. The hero to top all heroes, the one truly pure force of justice in the world. By those standards, heroism is a joke, a bunch of selfish kids trying to play grown-up. Far from All Might’s intentions, yes, but nevertheless a conclusion reached by Stain…and now Shigaraki himself. All Might isn’t a hero, he is the hero. Only in defeating All Might can Shigaraki truly succeed, truly become the force of destruction he so longs to be. It’s all just so painfully ironic.
Speaking of irony, despite lacking a mask, All Might is the only hero in the world of My Hero who retains a secret identity. Endeavour is known to be Todoroki’s father, Aizawa makes no effort to hide that he is Eraserhead, it seems to be only simplicity that leads people to call heroes by their Hero Name. Granted, we have not had prolonged exposure to the world at large, but the nature of training to become a hero comes with the requirements of enrolling in school, or at the very least registering a Quirk with the government. With that in mind, Stain’s view of fallen heroes does ring true, as they are now forced to reveal every aspect of themselves to the public. The entire reason All Might stands so far above everybody, apart from the power capable of destroying a city block with an arm movement, is that he has no flaws. Society is not aware of his injury, nor his fear of his Master, his less-than-stellar teaching skills or the legacy of One For All. They merely know that when villains appear, so does All Might, ready to non-lethally pound them into the dirt and save the day, smiling all the while. The Symbol of Peace has, and always will be an ideal, but with people like Stain and Shigaraki crawling out of the woodwork we are ever forced to realise one painful truth: Ideals can be misinterpreted.
Despite beginning with the promise of a Class 1-A shopping trip, rife with clashing personalities, excessive reactions and Uraraka’s continuing realisation that she has a crush on Midoirya this episode took a sharp turn away from joviality and flew careening off a cliff into the pros and cons of clashing ideology. Though dangerous since his introduction, Shigaraki is now in the works to being an actual threat. Sure the first season ended with an awesome fight, but it was between All Might an a non-character, Shigaraki was just kind of…around. He injured Aiazawa, he threatened Tsuyu, but only because they crossed him. He never sought anything, he never had any direction, just an indiscriminate hatred for the world. But now, now he has a target, a purpose. And since irony is ever so poetic, just as All Might was the cause of Stain’s action, it is Midoriya who inspired this change in Shigaraki…by talking about All Might. Okay, so the analogy isn’t one-for-one, but you get the point. There is a new dawn breaking in the world of My Hero Academia…and it may be far darker than we are prepared for.
It’s fine now. Why? Because My Hero Academia is on Crunchyroll