This article contains spoilers for My Hero Academia?s third season as well as parts of the manga that have not appeared in the anime at the time of writing.
Season 3 of the widely popular Shonen series My Hero Academia begins with the Summer Training Camp arc which sees our prospective young heroes embark on an intense trip to the forest to strengthen their individual Quirks. This arc is perceived by many, including myself, to be one of the best in the entire series thus far. My personal favourite part of the arc, besides that scene at the hot spring, comes as a result of one of the most crushing moments for our protagonists, Katsuki Bakugo?s kidnap.
At the time of writing, the anime?s most recent episode sees Bakugo taken away by the League of Villains and a distraught Midoriya ends up hospitalised. The Vanguard Action Squad had a number of targets, Todoroki and Midoriya being among the students they had permission from Shigaraki Tomura to kill. The reason they wanted Bakugo alive echoes a sentiment many followers of the series have espoused at some point or another, that Bakugo?s aggressive personality coupled with his explosive Quirk would make him an ideal villain.
Shigaraki misjudges Katsuki Bakugo in the way that I feel so many fans of My Hero Academia have. He confuses Bakugo?s meaner qualities for genuine badness and assumes that the boy will not be difficult to turn to the dark side. Shigaraki attempts to get Bakugo to understand his way of thinking, to instil in him the belief that society?s ideas of what heroes are and what justice is are wrong. Bakugo attacks Shigaraki with an explosion, finding it genuinely amusing that Shigaraki felt he could sway him. He tells the leader of The League of Villains that he has always admired the triumphs of All Might, his idol and the Number 1 Hero in society. All Might is the world?s symbol of peace, the man who was able to single handedly suppress villainy while in his prime and the hero that many kids, Bakugo included, aspire to surpass.
Bakugo tells Shigaraki why he?ll never join him.
Katsuki Bakugo wants nothing more than to be the greatest hero there is. He is fiercely determined to rise to top and wants nothing more than absolute victory, as seen during the U.A. Sports Festival. Bakugo is a jerk, he?s mean towards others and screams ?DIE? far too often for someone that?s meant to be one of the good guys but he?s also a fifteen year old boy with a lot of maturing to do. Bakugo is going to have to grow a lot as a person before he is able to become the great hero he aspires to be. All Might and his childhood friend Midoriya exemplify the fact that it takes more than a destructive super power to be the greatest hero.
Many seem to think and/or want Bakugo?s violent persona to mean that he is destined to tread a path similar to that of Naruto?s Sasuke Uchiha. People believe that he will follow the fallen hero archetype and eventually descend into evil. I for one think this would be boring and personally, I think Kohei Horikoshi, the series author and artist thinks so too. From the moment that the audience is introduced to Bakugo it is made clear that this is a mean spirited boy with a massive superiority complex, he refers to the background characters in his middle school class as literal extras and questions how his teacher could have the audacity to lump him in with people with such inferior Quirks. Everything about Bakugo screams antagonist in waiting and I think that this is kind of the point. He starts out as the antithesis of Izuku ?Deku? Midoriya, a shy Quirkless boy who aspires to be a hero because he wants to help people. Deku and Bakugo are great foils for each other and I admit that seeing Bakugo become a villain would make sense narratively but I disagree that that would be the most interesting arc for the character and the choices Horikoshi has made indicate to me that he agrees.
Uraraka catches Bakugo by surprise.
In my opinion, Horikoshi?s characterisation of Bakugo has been purposely designed to play with audiences expectations and subvert the fallen hero trope. While it would make sense for Bakugo to become an antagonist somewhere down the line, it would be far more interesting to see him gradually develop as a person and grow to understand what it means to truly be a hero. To be honest, this development has already been displayed, even if it has been subtle and gradual. Bakugo starts out as viewing himself as the absolute best but upon entering high school he is confronted with the fact that there are others his age that are just as impressive as him and he doesn?t like it. In the aftermath of his match against Ochako Uraraka, Bakugo is mocked by his classmates for the brutality with which he fought against her because of her supposed frailty. Bakugo tells the other members of Class 1A that there?s nothing frail about Uraraka. This may not seem like much but it is indicative of the fact that Bakugo is beginning to recognise the ability of others and has started to understand what determination can do for a person?s strength. Later on in the manga, we even see Bakugo reluctantly give Deku advice on how to improve the use of his Quirk.
Bakugo and Midoriya clash.
The route Horikoshi seems to be taking with the character of Katsuki Bakugo, that of slowly turning a mean and aggressive young boy into a man worthy of being called a hero, to me seems far more compelling than turning him into a villain for Deku to eventually defeat. It makes watching Bakugo?s journey just as interesting as seeing Izuku grow over the course of the series. In chapter 120 of the manga, All Might tells Deku and Bakugo that the individual characteristics that define them both need to be combined in order for them to become great heroes. Bakugo?s obsession with victory can only lead to greatness if that victory is pursued with saving others in mind and Deku?s desire to help those in need will only make him a great hero if he does so in pursuit of victory.
All Might?s words in chapter 120 seem to foreshadow the direction in which Horikoshi wants to take these two characters. Bakugo and Deku are foils to one another but that doesn?t mean they need to be on opposing sides. Katsuki Bakugo is not being set up as a villain, he?s being set up as character that will grow alongside the series protagonist as both of them strive to go beyond. My Hero Academia might be the story of how Izuku Midoriya became the greatest hero but Bakugo?s journey from an angry little brat to a true hero seems like a story that is just as worth telling.