The Bullying In My Hero Academia Goes Beyond

Bullying has always been a problem. As a result, this theme has become a mainstay in our entertainment, such as anime. In the Pokemon series, Gary Oak is always challenging Ash to a battle. In Sailor Moon, Mamoru Chiba, AKA Tuxedo Mask, teases Usagi and calls her a “bunhead.” In My Hero Academia, Katsuki Bakugo is always yelling at his classmates.

Bakugo pointing at something while a few friends cheer him on and with Midoriya standing back.
My Hero Academia (2016) is written and illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi.

In each of these cases, the type of bullying varies based on the tone of the show. However, what purpose does bullying serve in animated TV shows?

Katsuki Bakugo Is A Hero But Also A Bully In My Hero Academia

The anime series My Hero Academia is based on the superhero manga of the same name. It is written and illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi. Both series follow Izuku Midoriya, who was born without a quirk, a unique superhuman ability. With his bravery, he was able to catch the attention of the number one hero, All-Might. Midoriya trained every day and became a student at the U.A. Academy, as well as All-Might’s closest pupil. It was this event that ignited a heated rivalry. 

Midoriya and Bakugo getting ready to strike the first punches in a one-on-one combat.
Midoriya and Bakugo fight in My Hero Academia (2016) written and illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi.

The series opens with young Midoriya defending a kid from a bully. What makes this even harder for Midoriya is the fact that the bully is none other than his best childhood friend, Katsuki Bakugo. Years later, Midoriya helped save him from the grasps of a supervillain. One would expect a rekindled friendship, but Bakugo directed only anger towards him. It was unclear to Midoriya why he had such strong and negative feelings. Midoriya had always admired his strength. Regardless of how Bakugo felt, Midoriya was certain that he could fix their friendship.

All Bullying In Anime Are Not Created Equally

The point in storytelling is so that we can share life lessons with others. With the rise of bullying in schools, bullying in TV has become a sensitive topic. So it is important that any bullying on TV serves a greater purpose. In order to do this, shows will often use bullying to help with the main character’s development. One common scenario is when two childhood friends become rivals, such as Midoriya and Bakugo.

Young Midoriya offers his hand to help up young Bakugo from the river.
Midoriya is helping Bakugo in My Hero Academia (2016) written and illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi

Throughout the series, Midoriya feels challenged by Bakugo. This, in part, compels Midoriya to become stronger. Eventually, Midoriya is given more insight into Bakguo’s motives for bullying him. This results in the two developing respect for each other, as well as a deeper understanding of each other’s hardships. As they spend more time together, they also help each other grow and develop.

Bakugo’s Motives Are To Become All-Might

Midoriya trains hard to be the greatest hero he can be. He does so with the hope of becoming the next number one hero. However, Midoriya’s goals and dreams are the same as every other student at the academy, including Bakugo. Of course, the thought never crossed his mind at first. It would be his ignorance that would give more fuel to Bakugo’s rage.

Bakugo's eyes are full of rage and his mouth is wide open as he grabs hold of his shirt.
Bakugo is opening up in My Hero Academia (2016) written and illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi

One of the academy’s first tests was to pit students against each other. Some played the part of heroes and others were villains. Midoriya was a hero. His opponent was Bakugo, of course. At this point, Midoriya was still figuring out how to control his newly-acquired quirk. This meant trouble for him. Bakugo has honed his skills every day since he first got his quirk. He was also ranked as one of the best students in the class and he would not be beaten easily. Midoriya was quickly motivated to out-think him and best him. Sadly, the result of this put more strain on their complex friendship. 

Bakugo’s Bully Narrative

All Bakugo did was yell at Midoriya. While most would have walked away from this kind of bullying, Midoriya did not. He never forgot that they used to be friends. He wanted to know why Bakugo was so angry at him. As the storyline progressed, Midoriya came to understand Bakugo more. It wasn’t until after all the fighting that Midoriya and Bakugo settled their differences. What Midoriya learned surprised him.

Midoriya and Bakugo exchange menacing glares as they walk in the middle of the street behind All-Might.
Midoriya, Bakugo and All-Might in Academia (2016) written and illustrated by Kohei Horikoshi

There are many reasons behind Bakugo’s feelings towards him. Midoriya had no idea that Bakugo wanted to be the number one hero too. Bakugo also explained his frustration with Midoriya having no quirk and then suddenly getting one. He was also shocked that Midoriya’s quirk was so strong. What frustrated him more was that All-Might was also his idol. To him, it seemed that All-Might cared more about Midoriya. This convinced Midoriya to own up and answer all of Bakugo’s frustrations. It was through this argument that the two of them were able to understand each other.

My Hero Academia: Dream To Be A Hero Who Stands Up To Villains

My Hero Academia is not based in the real world, though the show does address real-world issues. One of the series’ main themes is learning to overcome adversity, like bullying. It was Midoriya’s desire to understand Bakugo that helped them be friends again. The story of their friendship gives hope. There is hope that changing your perspective and being understanding makes a difference when dealing with conflict. It also shows the value of being honest and talking about one’s feelings. Midoriya would never have known why Bakugo was bullying him if they never talked it out.

Yet talking with a bully is not always a solution. Despite even the best efforts, some bullies cannot be reasoned with. Some bullies remain intent on inflicting pain on others. My Hero Academia inspires viewers to rise above bullying by choosing to be heroes. Instead of letting ourselves be affected by a bully, we can try to understand the reasons for all the rage and anger behind their actions. With a better understanding, there is hope to empower others against bullying.

For an in-depth review of the animated series, you can read, My Hero Academia Anime Review: Talent VS Effort. You can watch all episodes of season one to three on Hulu. Season four will begin airing in Japan on October 12, 2019. You can also learn more about mental health here.

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