Leading up through Easter Sunday, Beneath the Tangles will be running a series of posts based on a theme with the hopes that it will lead our readers to consider the meaning of this week and especially of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our theme this year is loneliness.
Although it seems almost everyone in My Hero Academia has a quirk, fully twenty percent of that world is quirkless. Deku, then, is in the minority as the series begins, though he’s far from alone. I don’t have to think hard to consider what groups I’m only 20% or less of: Korean-American, government employee, anime fan, hapa, and many besides. But because Deku wants to have a quirk so badly, he feels left out. Not part of the group. Not included. It doesn’t help that his parents have quirks and that seemingly his entire 9th grade class does, too.
When All-Might rescues Midoriya (twice no less), it leads to a series of events that change Deku forever. Most obvious, of course, is that All Might gives his quirk to him, fundamentally changing who Deku is and what he’s now able to accomplish. There’s an interesting comparison to be made here—as All Might diminishes, he literally saves Deku’s life and gives him a new one, filling him with power. On this Easter weekend, the apt comparison would be to Christ, who died in our place to give us life, and leaves us with the Holy Spirit to guide and empower Christians to live a new life—born again.
But what All Might also bestows upon Midoriya is more subtle. It’s something that Deku probably doesn’t think of, but which he cherishes very quickly, and which pushes him to become stronger and stronger, as he does in return to it. All Might gives Deku community.
Now armed with a powerful quirk, Midoriya is able to physically accomplish what he is emotionally and mentally already ready to do, passing the exam to get into U.A. High School. Once there, he joins Class 1A, and there finds companions, friends, rivals, and even a love interest. Deku’s entire world is opened up. A lot of us experience something similar when we changed schools. For me, it was a similar leap from middle school to high school. I left behind friends who were into petty criminal activities and attended a diverse school full of high achievers. It encouraged me to try harder and become better.
Midoriya is constantly encouraged to do the same by his classmates—some subtly through presence; others directly by their words of encouragement (Tsuyu); a small group through intimate friendship (Iida and Ochako); and even a few through direct rivalry (Todoroki and Bakugou). In turn, Midoriya’s heroic qualities press everyone toward growth, including and especially all those characters I mentioned. Deku’s time in Class 1A is a powerful time of physical and character growth for all members. I’m not sure any of the characters expected that they would push each other in such a way, to give and to receive. The latter is maybe even more surprising, that people whom you might immediately and only see as rivals, are demonstrating grace in helping you grow.
Although I’m out of school, I have a place that’s similar in its intent—the church. In fact, church probably has more resemblance to U.A. High than a school does, at least in what it should be doing. It presses us to use our talents to grow and help others around us grow. And we are also encouraged—commanded—to love the church, from those that are easy to love to our own Bakugous and Minetas.
I sometimes feel discouraged by church life, but My Hero Academia reminds me of how great it can and should be. All Might delivered Deku into life, but also into life with classmates, and those of us who know Jesus and are in a good church community have experienced the same. Our loneliness is gone if only we choose to be part of it, in both giving and more unexpected, receiving.