Narrative as an Active Force and Izuku as an Embodiment of True Heroic Ideals
The Narrative in My Hero Academia is an Active Force for Heroic Ideals and punishes those that stray from the Path of a True Hero. Izuku is an Embodiment of True Heroic Desire and Ideals. Izuku has and can save those that stray from those Ideals. Izuku will someday be tested on those ideals.
(Oh geez this got so much longer than I thought it would be. Hhhhh I’ve been working on this for days...)
What do I mean by “the Narrative is an Active Force?”
The Narrative is just what I am calling the overarching path of the story’s morals. The core ideology that is present in each of the characters aiming to become heroes. And the question that must be asked while walking that road, “What is a True Hero?”
Based on my understanding of the series as I’ve read it, a True Hero: Saves Others Both Body and Heart, Gives Hope in Uncertainty, Pushes Beyond Limits
It is an Active Force because it affects characters in physical and symbolic ways. It lives and works through the characters in the story (Sort of like karma but I prefer comparing it to the Force from Star Wars. Appropriate given Horikoshi’s love of using Star Wars references). That Force is a living idea, the Heroic Ideal. The students and pro-heroes of My Hero Academia strive to follow those ideals - at least in part or facets of them - by their own choice, in their own ways, in their drive to be great heroes.
So, what happens when someone starts down the path of the True Hero, only to stray or turn their backs on core aspects of it? They are punished by that living force.
Examples of the Narrative punishing those that stray from the True Hero Path:
The Symbol of Peace, Pillar of Society, an Embodiment of a True Hero.
We are shown that even as a kid, he had a vision of a better world - one that had a Pillar. Someone that could save with a smile and put the public at ease. He became that hero, changed society, and for decades was the Number 1 Hero because at that time he embodied what it meant to be a True Hero.
That is until his first fight with All for One. My understanding is it was during that first fight that All Might lost his temper - much like he started to do at Kamino. In his rage at AfO, he started fighting with the intent to get revenge. This is the moment he “fell from grace.” He fell off the path of the True Hero.
He intended to kill and believed he did. In that moment, he turned from the ideals of a true hero. (A True Hero doesn’t aim to kill his enemy. Exception might be made if there is someone innocent in direct danger because of the enemy, but even then that is iffy. A True Hero certainly does not seek revenge.)
As punishment for turning from the path of a True Hero, Toshinori is slowly stripped of his ability to be a hero. His injury slowly weakens him and steals time away from him. And before meeting Izuku, he is also stripped of his hope and optimism that fueled his dream to begin with.
And that hopelessness leads him to at first say Izuku could not be a hero without a quirk. Something he must have been battling internally because he was losing the use of his quirk. And Izuku’s question is probably reminded him of what he had to face every day in the mirror as he grows weaker. What is he without the use of his quirk? Certainly no hero, he thinks.
(So much more under the cut. I’m so sorry mobile folks.)
Much like All Might, he briefly strays from the heroic path by seeking out revenge for his brother against Stain. This is the kid that defined himself by following in the footsteps of his family and especially his older brother who he idolized much like Izuku idolized All Might.
In this moment, he swerves off the path of a hero. He is so caught up in his own revenge, he forgets that a hero would be trying to save the Pro-Hero in more danger. Iida was blinded by the desire to take revenge himself that he nearly paid with his life.
Stain ends up taking the payment in the name of the Heroic Ideal and Iida pays with the stab injury to his arm and health complications.
*** See below for Stain as an example of an extreme, an embodiment of ideology.
One of the Big Three. An upperclassmen U.A. student being trained and raised by Sir Nighteye to be a successor to All Might. An incredibly disciplined young man with a difficult-to-master quirk. Someone who has learned from Nighteye to put the success of the mission first.
He prioritized a no-conflict/no-suspicion plan, ready to ignore Eri’s fear in their first meeting for the sake of keeping Overhaul lulled into a sense of security. Like Nighteye trained him, he was too busy looking toward the end goal and was blind to the help he could give in the present. He didn’t move to comfort an obviously terrified child. He was ready to abandon her in that moment while working under the idea that Well, they’ll save her when the time is right.
After realizing what a terrible situation Eri was in, it was then Mirio moved to act like a True Hero.
Too little to late until he proved it.
And he proved it with sacrifice.
He made amends, comforting the girl that he didn’t comfort before, and he sacrificed the price to be paid to the Ideals. He lost his quirk, and his ultimate goal of saving 1 million people is cut down to saving only one.
Nighteye was All Might’s sidekick. Loyal and hardworking (and super fan). He was there to aid and support All Might in his work as the Symbol of Peace.
When All Might falls, Nighteye tries to pull All Might from his duty as the Symbol of Peace by telling him his fate. That was an act of desperation, of genuine concern, and incredibly selfish and cruel. It was said to make Toshinori afraid of that predicted fate. That perhaps if he wasn’t going to stop to heal, then he’d stop because of Nighteye’s grim warning.
In one moment, Nighteye strips Toshinori of hope and only gives him grim, fated certainty. He will die if he continues.
And when All Might pushed himself to continue down the path of a True Hero, Nighteye left his side.
Nighteye tried making up for it. Looking for ways to avoid it. But he did it his way and didn’t take into account the desires and decisions of other people.
Going so far as to select and train a student (Mirio Togata) that he believed would be a good successor for All Might. A hero with One for All and could not be touched, could not be gutted. A better version of All Might in Nighteye’s view. It was, quite frankly, another selfish act that took autonomy from both Mirio who was not aware that Nighteye was training him for that and Toshinori Yagi whose quirk was his own to pass down, his choice.
Nighteye went as far as reject All Might’s choice and discourage Izuku before an important part of his hero training under his own wing.
Nighteye only sees things his way. It may be a personality trait built on his belief that his Quirk Foresight is absolute truth. That he knows best because of the way he sees things turn out according to his visions. He is stuck doing things his own way and only his way. He, in his selfishness and arrogance, took away hope and tried to do everything himself to obtain a certain end goal without properly handling the present. In those ways, he went off the path of a True Hero.
While he did end up seeing that he made those mistakes, and he hoped for a better future where he is proven wrong, he still pays for his years of arrogance and selfishness with his life. (And his death symbolically allows for his certainty to die with him. It is no longer a certain thing that All Might will face a grim end, Izuku proved that Nighteye could be wrong. This allows for the existence of uncertainty and hope. Because there cannot be hope without first uncertainty.)
(Oh boy, here we go. The impetus that finally got me to actually write this damn thing and get it out of my head and on paper.)
Previous Number 2 Hero, defacto Number 1 Pro-Hero that abused his position and family. This is a man that, through his career as a pro-hero has:
Not Saved the Hearts of People, in fact keeping distant and cold toward people, scaring them.
Stole hope from his wife and family. Abusing them and driving them into hopeless despair. Causing trauma to his wife and children.
He misunderstood the kind of hero All Might was. Gave up on his own abilities. He didn’t push himself beyond his own limits until recently. Instead “entrusting” his own dreams and ambitions to Shouto by pushing him way too far as a child.
Endeavor was only recently faced with the reality of the depth of his mistakes. (See my recent post on that here.)
And to my surprise, Endeavor has been showing self awareness. He realizes that he doesn’t fit into All Might’s shoes, he never gave hope to society and it shows with the rocketing crime rate. He is aware that he isn’t good enough, isn’t on the right path. And he begins his attempt to fix things or at least better things from this point on by asking All Might for advice.
Endeavor is an incredibly flawed man who has recently been making an attempt to make amends. But that by itself does not erase what he did in his past.
He is currently being punished by the narrative with symbolic scars to mirror the scar on his son’s face and the scar on the side of the man he tried to force his son to surpass. As if to say, you may change, you may better yourself, you may even be forgiven, but you are marked by what you have done because those you’ve affected have been marked for years. It is only fair he too bears the marks of his sins.
If the Dabi is a Todoroki as theorized, it may be that Dabi is the embodiment of all the worst feelings toward Endeavor and the results of Endeavor’s actions. Endeavor is literally facing the consequences of his sins in the form of his possible son.
His punishment isn’t finished yet. I think we will soon see the depth of it soon. Also, we will see whether or not this will affect Endeavor’s standing as a hero and society’s views of him. Because right now, he’s the strongest hero they have and his defeat of the noumu only just gave them some sense of security after the retirement of All Might. A very complex situation.
How is Izuku the Embodiment of True Heroic Ideals?
Izuku grew up watching and studying all heroes. Especially All Might. He emulated All Might from an incredibly young age. During those formative years, All Might was the Embodiment of Heroic Ideals. Izuku learned from him and those ideals became what he lived for. “Save with a Smile” neatly packages it.
His main desire is to become a hero, but not just any hero. A hero that saves everyone. His body moved on it’s own to save Bakugou in the beginning and that impressed All Might, changed him, and Izuku was given the opportunity to earn One for All which allowed him to chance those heroic desires.
Izuku doesn’t embody quite the same thing as All Might did. Where All Might was the Symbol of Peace, bringing peace through his cleanup of the villain underworld, Izuku is growing in a now tumultuous time, a shifting away from peace into uncertainty. So while All Might grew into the Symbol of Peace, Izuku must grow into the Symbol of Hope (See my short thoughts for that here and @aoimikans expansion on it here).
Izuku embodies this living ideal of a True Hero: Saves Others Body and Heart, Gives Hope in Uncertainty, Pushes himself Beyond his Limits
These ideals drive him ever forward.
Many of the other characters embody these in part or at varying levels or prioritize things not necessarily a core tenet of a True Hero (for example, being the strongest. Being the strongest is certainly helpful when being a hero, it makes saving others easier when strength is needed. A fine trait, but not a true end goal of a hero by itself.)
*** Let me note here, Izuku and All Might aren’t the only ones that are shown to be the Embodiment or the Extreme of an Ideal or Desire. My Hero Academia has a few others. Bakugou is a bit of an embodiment of Ambition and deals with the complications of unregulated ambition - He has been learning, growing, and maturing as the series progresses. Endeavor is or was an embodiment of Envy and deals with the wounded pride and fear that usually sticks to envy - though he is now trying to change. Sir Nighteye was the embodiment of Obsession and Consuming Desire for Control that follows obsession - super fan, need to fix everything himself, not taking into account others’ desires. All for One being an Embodiment of Evil, Greed, Timeless Undercurrent of Unease in All Societies. And Stain.
Stain is an example of an Extreme, Fanatic Ideology. It’s one thing to live as an example for others and influence them by merit of the good in what you do yourself (i.e. Izuku, All Might). It is another thing to force your ideology on others with violence. Stain recognizes what it takes to be a True Hero, but in his Fanaticism he deems anything less than perfect to be unworthy of the title and must forfeit their life. That and once he judges someone unworthy, he does not allow for the individual to leave and change.
During the Stain Arc, Stain scolds Iida as if trying to teach him in his own way, but then proceeds with trying to kill him as if he has no faith in a person’s ability to change which is hypocritical since he recognizes that his crimes do change other heroes in the areas he’s been too. And he himself does not live by the rules he holds above everything else.
So while he holds these ideals of a True Hero above all else and acts upon what he views as the narrative’s will, he is not embodiment of them. He is only the embodiment of his own fanaticism.
Izuku has and can save those that stray from those Ideals.
(Hhhhhh nearly done. It’s almost finally out of my head.)
SO. Izuku is an embodiment of a True Hero, and because of that his actions speak to and affect those around him whether or not that is his intent. He can save their hearts and help nudge them back onto the True Heroic Path. Giving them that nudge saves them or gives them the opportunity to change and save themselves or go on to save others.
Those he has affected for the better and perhaps saved them from worse punishment by the force of the narrative:
Izuku has saved All Might’s heart twice.
When they first meet, All Might is in a deep hopelessness. He is running out of time, unable to be a hero when he can’t use his quirk, and thinks himself a pathetic doomed man. Granted, we didn’t know the extent of that at the beginning, but now I think we can draw those conclusions.
Because Izuku ran out, acted heroic without a quirk, All Might was knocked out of his malaise and remembered what it meant for him to be a true hero. He pushed himself beyond his limit - perhaps after not doing so for years - and beat the slime villain.
Not only that but he went to Izuku after, recognizing the same spirit of a True Hero in him, made amends and gave him back the hope he’d momentarily taken from him.
The second time was at Kamino. All Might went in thinking This is it. This is likely what Nighteye saw. This is the end. But Izuku’s presence there and the reminder that he had to survive to teach him was what pushed him to not only defeat All for One but also
He got his hope back for survival. He got back his will to live, his will to fight for it. Even started jogging and caring for his body so he could properly train Izuku with the only body he has left.
And (after a bit of a rough patch post-Nighteye) even more recently growing as a teacher - giving his advice to students and even Endeavor when he was asked for it. Also, he is growing as Toshinori Yagi, the man he is as a retired hero (and Dadmight).
This is one of the more obvious ones.
Todoroki was only using half his quirk due to his view of his fire half as a result of childhood trauma. Using only half of his power was never sustainable and would have kept Todoroki from becoming a hero. In this case, Izuku lost the physical battle, but his actions won him the moral battle and pulled Todoroki onto the path toward coming to terms with his own power and growing as a hero student.
When Iida briefly strayed to seek revenge and almost got himself killed, Izuku was the first there to save him, quickly followed by Todoroki who is shown using his left side because of Izuku’s previous actions.
Because of Izuku’s and Todoroki’s actions here, they are able to snap Iida out of it and help encourage him to get back up on the right track and Iida is able to grow from this.
And Iida uses this experience as motivation to get involved when he believes Izuku and Todoroki are going to make a similar mistake at Kamino.
Which brings me to my final thought (thank fucking goodness).
Izuku will someday be tested on those ideals.
I believe there will come a day that Izuku will be tested much like All Might was. Something or someone will be put in a great amount of danger, Izuku will be at risk of losing something and will be faced with a difficult decision. Do the harder right thing or fall off the Path of the True Hero.
Izuku will either make the proper choice himself or with emotional support from those he has saved/affected in a positive way (like Iida at Kamino). He will finally decide on the right course of action and be rewarded by the narrative with the return of the thing or person at risk of being lost.
I personally think that person at risk will either be All Might or his mother. It will look incredibly grim, but should Izuku stick to the right courses of action as it is his wont to do for the most part then it will turn out alright.
He’s already twisted fate once. I have faith he can do it again and give hope to us as readers even in the darkest points of the story should they come.
Nighteye said something on his deathbed that I think strengthens this idea of this Living Force of the True Hero Ideal working through Izuku and Izuku embodying it.
Energy. Force. Ideals. Wishes. Anything you’d like to call it. It’s there. It’s been there since before Izuku and will be there long after I think. It’s been living and moving and affecting characters that choose to follow it. Working through them too.
The only truly certain thing now is that I’m excited to see how it continues to do so. When it comes down to it, it’s just damn good writing and a damn good story with damn good characters.
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