I don’t have a special affinity for Deku, the previous little cinnamon roll who is destined to become the number one hero in the world of My Hero Academia. He’s a little too sugary sweet for me, a confection that isn’t particular to my taste. That analogy to a cinnamon roll is actually spot on, I think, with Urban Dictionary’s top definition for the phrase explaining it as a “character that is very kind and sweet but faces more hardship and suffering than they truly deserve.” There’s a balance that MHA is trying to achieve with Deku; he’s Mr. Everything—sweet, innocent, hard-working, strong, fierce, authentic, real. I shy away from such characters as being too much of everything, disingenuous and without an authentic personality. Thus is the shonen protagonist. But when a shonen is well-developed, as is the case with My Hero Academia, I also find myself swinging to the other side of the pendulum at times (and maybe quite often), thinking the opposite and seeing both myself in the lead characters as well as who I want to be.
For me this feeling of intimacy with Deku begins when he first enrolls at UA High. After the initial hardships of his pre-adolescent years, Deku is now happy. He’s within a cocoon filled with wonderful mentors, intimate friends, and an experience where he gets to do what he’s always wanted. Then life happens—the hero life. Stain appears and awakens both the school and the world to painful realities. The League of Villains arrives next, and continually pushes Deku and the others to places where they don’t want to go. Not that he desires to live with blinders on, but Deku can’t even do so if he wanted to because of the events happening all around and to him. Life has changed dramatically.
However, I didn’t see this as analogous to my own life until recently. While struggles with addiction and poverty were always crouching at the door during my childhood, I was basically and almost always happy and content. With notable deviations and seasonal shifts, that line that pretty much continued into adulthood, but 2020 threw me for a loop. As much as I protected against COVID and tried to stay grounded about politics and social issues, like Stephen King’s horrific fog creeping in, I was slowly being impacted and infected. There was no escape, and especially into and during the opening month of 2021. Like Deku, I’m knee-deep in it, and my perfect little world proved to not be so perfect anymore.
There is one big difference between myself and the smol bean, though—he refuses to blindly accept a false, beautiful world. Although I can’t say I have intentionally done so (I’m particularly sensitive to worldwide injustices), I’ve in effect swallowed the blue pill. Now, the effects of it are wearing off.
Wasn’t this supposed to last a lifetime?
What I’ve come to realize, though, is that I’m in love with the world—at the least the world I can control, the one I’ve arranged in my life and mind. I enjoy it so very thoroughly that it’s an idol to me. I bow down at the life I’ve created, the world I see, and “supporting cast” all around me. I’m on a mountaintop built on beautifully fine but still slippery and powdery sand, while the Mt. Everest of “real life” rises behind me, casting its shadow but safely out of my sight. And I don’t want to turn around to face it.
Deku, however, does turn around. In fact, he probably never was faced the other way in the first place. Continuing to push forward, guided by strong principles laid down by his worship of “an all-mighty,” his strong sense of integrity and character, and an iron will, Deku faces the challenges in front of him and rarely wilts. If he fails, it’s only because his physique will give out, not his heart.
It’s a humbling lesson to take in. As I preach from the pulpit of Twitter and this blog, I’m not as introspective as I would like to believe I am, nor as faithful a Christian here hidden away at home as I am in social media circles. But that green-haired cinnamon roll (as fictional as he may be), who I rather look down upon, is doing exactly what I should—rejecting a false vision of the world and following a righteous path.
And perhaps the lesson for me from 2020—and maybe one for Christendom in general—is this: The world I’ve created is still as sinful and problematic as the Bible tells us it is, and maybe worse since I’ve pridefully built it up and adorned it with Christianese, and it needs to be revealed in my own life for what it really is and met by a response that’s closer to what Christ desires as I think upon and act according to the Kingdom of Heaven now and into eternity.
I’m not sure how all that looks like or how faithful I can be to it. And while I don’t face the physical obstacles Deku does, I do face significant ones of my own (as do we all), and without the power of One-for-All. But then again, that seems like another excuse, for the Holy Spirit empowers and indwells, and I know, too, that God’s promises ring true. I’ve seen it time and time again. And in light of that and who he is, there isn’t one good reason to fall in love with a broken world, even one I’ve shaped into my own creation, because the real thing is a far greater, truer, and more moving story.
Featured illustration by 板烧鸡腿堡 (reprinted w/permission)