In defense of Katsuki Bakugou

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My Hero Academia has a huge ensemble cast of heroes in training and professional heroes. Without a doubt, if you asked a dozen fans of the series who their favorite character was, chances are they’d all give you different answers. Although, there is one character that’s reviled by most fans. One that stands out as the most unfairly hated out of Hero Academia’s entire cast.

That character is… Minoru Mineta.

However, we’re not talking about him today. We’re talking about another character that I think fans poorly understand because of the way that he is framed for most of the earlier points in the story, Katsuki Bakugou.

I’ve touched on Bakugou slightly before when I talked about how Hero Academia reinvents superhero tropes. You ask me, Bakugou is one of the best written characters in shonen manga but, I hear a lot of people often downplay him as a mean-spirited bully, which is an insane oversimplification of his character.

Kohei Horikoshi, the mangaka behind Hero Academia, has stated that originally, Bakugou was meant to have a completely different personality. In previous drafts, Bakagou was going to be a polite, well-mannered young man who had a penchant for insulting people unintentionally.

Horikoshi would end up reworking the character because he felt that was too boring and thank the stars he did. What we got instead is far more appealing and has more to offer to the story. Now, instead of a simple one joke rival, we get a nuanced reinvention of the “gifted prodigy rival” we see so often in shonen manga.

It’s stated in a later chapter by Bakugou’s mother, Mitsuki, that he’s been praised for having the correct qualities and power to become a hero for much of his early life. This praise that he received during his formative years shaped his personality and made him obsessed with success. So much so that he cannot handle the embarrassment of defeat, a quality that helps him grow throughout the series.

A perfect example is the UA sports festival. Every single student has a strong desire to stand out since such recognition could have a strong effect on their future as heroes. Here, Bakugou shows his aggressive drive to succeed but, also his ingenuity and surprisingly, his respect for his rivals.

During his fight with Ochako, despite the jeers and boos from the crowd, Bakugou fights her with all his power. He acknowledges that everyone competing in the sports festival is trying their best so, going in half-assed would disrespect everyone’s determination. This concept is fully explored in the fight between Midoriya and Todoroki but, it’s introduced with Ochako versus Bakugou.

The most misunderstood relationship I see is the one between Bakugou and Midoriya. I see people describe Midoriya’s relation to Bakugou as a bullied kid finally getting to one up his bully but, that’s simply untrue. Bakugu and Midoriya are rivals in every sense of the word. Their interactions with one another allow them to grow in surprising ways.

Unfortunately, people still see it as a simple bully/bullied relationship and I honestly must blame that on the meek nature of Midoriya’s personality. Currently in the manga, Midoriya Izuku has grown into his own as a determined and bold hero but, in earlier arcs of the story, we still see the shy, anxious Midoriya we were first introduced to.

On the other side of the equation, our early introduction shows us that Bakugou is a very aggressive, rude but, above all, he’s prideful. Bakugou’s fierce pride in his abilities, which was formed by the praise he received as a young child, is a major factor of his personality.

It’s his pride that makes him reluctant to work with others and refuse the gold medal at the sports festival after his opponent in the finals, Todoroki, refuses to use his full power against him. Now, can we think of another character from shonen manga that is known for being intensely prideful?

You could easily say that Vegeta is one of the most popular characters from Dragonball. Since his introduction in 1988, he’s become an iconic symbol of the rival character archetype. I would even go so far as to say Horikoshi took Vegeta as inspiration when he was working on crafting the character that would eventually be Bakugou.

They’re both prideful, aggressive and, determined to prove their superiority among their peers. However, let’s not forget that Vegeta is a murderer. Like, he’s murdered A LOT of people. Yet, why is Vegaeta so highly regarded while, Bakugou gets branded as a simple bully? I feel like most of this can be attributed to characters that they work off.

In the case of Vegeta, we have Goku, the happy-go-lucky martial artist who loves to fight, get stronger and, eat, not in any specific order. Goku’s penchant to one up Vegeta without even trying endears audiences to Vegeta as he tries his darnedest to be the best.

On the other hand, while Midoriya is an excellent foil for Bakugou, he makes it difficult for readers to relate to Bakugou’s more nuanced problems. Bakugou’s a kid who wants to be the best. He admires All Might just as much as Midoriya, he just expresses that admiration differently.

As such, his actions often go misunderstood. He’s becomes so annoyed about losing to Midoriya or receiving help from him because he feels that a guy like himself, one destined to be the greatest hero, like All Might, should never lose or rely on others. That being said, Bakugou doesn’t yet know that support form others is a key factor to All Might’s powers. Chances are, that will lead to a big revelation later in the story.

I’ve often told people that if Hero Academia was written 10-15 years ago, Bakugou could have easily become the main character. If you look at Shonen Jump heroes from the previous decade, he certainly has more in common with them than Midoriya does. Bakugou is a strong character in a series full of amazingly well thought out characters and I can’t wait to see where he develops from here.

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Noel Rodney Jr.
Noel Rodney Jr.
Comedian from the New York/Long Island area who has allowed anime, video games, and wrestling to consume his life.

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