Fitting for a show about a superhero school, My Hero Academia often reflects on what it means to be a hero. The series grazes the idea via the gaps between students (talents, quirk v. no quirk, class 1-A v. class 1-B, Midoriya v. Bakugou v. Todoroki), the inspiration that All-Might represents, and most directly through dialogue. In episode 24, it comes to light again when All-Might is trying to console Midoriya, who effectively lost to Todoroki because he had too much compassion for him.
I love All-Might’s explanation of heroism: “…meddling when you don’t need to is the essence of being a hero.” Simple and demonstrative, it perfectly reflects what a hero does, and also what the less-than-heroic do. They don’t interfere; they don’t involve themselves in others’ affairs. They won’t help. Non-heroes are the people who are bystanders, while heroes are the upstanders.
Midoriya is, by All-Might’s definition, a hero. From the beginning, he physically gets involved in others’ lives. He won’t let Bakugou get killed by the villain at the beginning of the series, even though he has no quirk with which to fight back. He gets involved at great personal price. And then, on a more intimate, relational level, Midoriya pushes Todoroki to grow, causing him to work through the part of himself he had abandoned and become stronger. And again, it costs Midoriya a great deal – a crippled hand and a loss at the U.A. Sports Festival.
Still, Midoriya isn’t happy with what happened. He isn’t happy that he helped Todoroki. He isn’t happy that he got as far he did. Midoriya is, in his own words, “frustrated.”
I feel the same sometimes, especially when I help others. I don’t do it for myself – I try not to at least – but I still can’t help but feel bitter, resentful, sad, or angry when I receive nothing in return from those I invest in, or worse, when they make me feel like nothing, meaningless. That’s unfortunately often the case when I invest in relationships – I realize that while someone may mean a lot to me, I might mean nothing to them at all.
Maybe that’s part of this definition we’re looking at, though. After all, someone who “meddles” is often seen as annoying, inconsiderate, and bothersome. Bakugou certainly saw Midoriya this way when he tried to rescue him; I’m not sure if Todoroki sees him as much better. There are people in my life, recently, who I think also feel the same about me. But the hero must carry this burden, too, the one that says he doesn’t get what he deserves, and sometimes, so much less. It’s part of the burden Christ carried, dying for a people that hated him, and for a people who claim to love him, but frequently desert him. This is why being that meddler, one who won’t stand by while people are suffering, is in a sense heroic – it costs us so much, and in returns gives us grief as often as delight.
That’s why All-Might’s definition of a hero is as good of one as I’ve ever seen – it’s not only tells us what they do, but what they carry. And the pain received in caring for ungrateful people, whether it be while saving physical lives or caring for those in need – is the biggest burden of all.
Boku no Hero Academia can be streamed legally through Crunchyroll.
5 thoughts on “All-Might’s Essence of Heroism”
great article..synopsis u create is just awesome…
Interesting take. I haven’t watched My Hero Academia, but I don’t quite agree that “meddling when you don’t need to” is the essence of heroism. Or at least not how it is worded.
First, jumping into a problem you don’t really comprehend may not only – as you mentioned – annoy the parties involved, but at times further damage situation. This is more pronounced in problems of the personal/emotional sort. I vaguely recall a VN I read ways back in which the MC (going through a particular route) tried to help the potential heroine by constantly being around her to the point of babying; this ended up suffocating her and destroying their relationship. Somehow, this also made me recall all the yanderes out there who believe they are doing what’s best for their target interest, without noticing the problem actually stems from their own actions. Unless you are willing to invest the time and effort into understanding the person/situation and to see it all the way through, sometimes it is better not starting it in the first place. At times, people mistake “playing hero” to “being hero”.
Second, I think the phrase “meddling when you don’t need to” could be better worded, or interpreted as “meddling when nothing’s apparently in it for you”. Sure, at that particular moment you may not think much about it. But down the line you may have potentially set in motion something bigger than you can ever imagine. Such is the case when Goku decided to save Satan and co. before Earth was blown up by Evil Buu – in the end he became instrumental in saving them all. I love this quote from the late Rachel Joy Scott, “…if one person will go out their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.” After all, Jesus also did mention that “whatever you did for the least of these brothers, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:40).
Thanks for the commentary! I can’t argue with you. “Meddling” as we define it connotes a selfishness, a “butting in” that doesn’t help the injured party. It’s not help at all, and as you say, can result in something very negative.
I think you have to watch the episode to understand what’s meant here – it’s not “meddling” at all. It’s investing in someone, pushing them to grow, and just in line with your comments about showing compassion for others, which is ultimately what Deku did, helping Todoroki at personal cost. Thank you for the quote and verse, too – those both illuminate this idea of love very, very well.
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