The Lesson Lost in One For All

As much as I love Boku no Hero Academia, there was something about the series that irked me right at the beginning, which I’d conveniently forgotten about until now. Midoriya started out as someone so desperate to have a quirk, who longed for it in a pure, childlike way, and who proved worthy of it by putting his life on the line to save Bakugou. If the story ended there, with All-Might telling Midoriya something like, “You don’t need a quirk to be a true hero,” the series wouldn’t have gone anywhere, but the lesson would have been encouraging. Instead, All-Might basically reiterates the idea that you have to have a quirk to be a hero, no matter what’s inside of you, by passing One for All onto Midoriya.

Don’t get me wrong – the themes of BnHA are terrific and worthy. And to be completely honest, there’s truth in what All-Might teaches Midoriya – earnestness and desire sometimes – oftentimes – aren’t enough. You could practice a sport, for instance, for 10,000 hours, but contrary to the rule, never become a master at it or anywhere close to being a professional. Innate talent is still important, sometimes critically so.

But I wonder what Midoriya would have done if All-Might never gifted him his power, if he just said, “You got some moxie, kid!” and flown away again. Although he’s (thankfully) become less whiny, I bet Midoriya would have continued to sulk, and perhaps exhibited that trait his whole life. But I also bet he would have been successful in something related to his determination, courage, and intelligence. Maybe he would have been a police officer, or some sort of administrator at U.A. High, or a researcher of quirks. He would have likely done something special, even if it wasn’t showy or quite as great.

bnha deku all-might
All-Might isn’t always all-mighty with his words.

I have a habit of wishing for something greater for myself, too. Yesterday, I received my yearly evaluation at work and received outstanding marks, far better than I anticipated and higher than I deserved. I’m good at what I do, directing a large number of very different programs and the biggest division at my agency. I’m the youngest director at my work and earned the job at a younger age than any of the other current directors. But I don’t celebrate any of that. I’d rather be able to shred on the electric guitar, or dunk a basketball, or manage a professional sports team, or be a successful animator, or, yes, be a superhero. In my mind, I just don’t measure up.

Sometimes, jealousy ensues: why those guys and not me? Maybe in that way, I compare more closely to Bakugou, who is now not only envious of Deku, but also of Todoroki. It’s silly, right? Bakugou is very powerful, but he’s upset because he sees himself as less than both the guy who inherited the greatest hero’s power and the son of the second greatest hero. But I’m no different. I have my professional accomplishments, but I also have a full life outside of work, and one that keeps me on my toes, challenges me, encourages me to grow. And it’s a life I fail at a lot, leading me to think that if I can’t do well with the “little” that’s been given to me, how great would I fail if I were, say, a highly paid actor?

I’m best off throwing those thoughts away when they cross my mind before they set in, making me feel that what I have is mundane. I want to remember that living in the here and now is an adventure. It takes strength and growth and courage to face the challenges that come before us, and I am no less valuable because I don’t have some world-class ability. My value isn’t in my talent or even the skills I develop, it’s in simply being human. I can do great things, you can do great things, all of us can – and it doesn’t require a quirk to do so.

Boku no Hero Academia can be streamed legally on Crunchyroll.


2 thoughts on “The Lesson Lost in One For All

  1. Oh hey, I actually wrote a post about this topic, praising it in fact.
    There’s a real lack of equality in the world of BnHA, and the show does seem to recognize this. Unfortunately due to the many spiraling plot-lines, the idea of a story about inequality is lost to the typical shounen battle formula, and though characters such as Stain or hand guy exist to preach and mock the inequality respectively, little interesting is being done with these characters.
    I wish the show would just focus on this, but I understand that—as a manga—it exists to sell chapter after chapter for as long as possible, and as such the sidetracking is inevitable. Still sucks though. I imagine Bakugo will be the one to eventually push this plot point forward, as his opinion on the issue has been hinted at previously.

    Funnily enough we end on a similar note…
    “Even if you aren’t a hero… There’s a life to live, and a world to change.”
    Great to see people talking about the aspect I find most interesting about the show. It’s been sorely overlooked.

    1. Thanks for the input! I also hope that we get some more depth from this series – it’s greatly capable of delivering, and I think ultimately will (at least in the short run) as far shounen series go. I guess we’ll see how far this type of series will push these ideas!

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