Have you ever stopped to consider how many characters there are in My Hero Academia? A lot, the answer is A LOT! And most of them are given at least a modicum of development. Just enough to make you think they’re more than just set pieces and actually do continue existing once the main characters leave the room. I have to assume that’s one of the reasons I enjoy the show so much. And as such, it’s pretty baffling I’ve never taken the time to explore any of said characters in my posts!
How about we fix that today?
One of the basic elements of any hero centric narrative is the villain. Without a strong and/or interesting antagonist to stand in our Hero’s way, the story can get pretty boring, pretty quickly. However, in three whole seasons and roughly 63 episodes, we’ve yet to learn much at all about Tomura Shigaraki, ostensibly the main antagonist of the entire series since day 1.
For such a deliberately character driven narrative, this seems rather odd. So why does it work so well?
It should be noted that I’m not against an “unknowable evil” as a plot device. Some huge oppressive force that’s just out for destructions and whose motives and inclinations are never explored because they are so far beyond our understanding. But this isn’t the case here. My Hero Academia has been slowly and deliberately building a universe in which the difference between hero and villain is at times almost arbitrary, and that’s part of what’s fascinating about it. In the end, everyone is a flawed individual, victims to their own demons and limitations.
Within these particular constraints, Shigaraki should only work if he is humanized. However, the only inkling of backstory we’ve gotten so far came only this last season, and it was to establish a previously unknown connection to All Might and hint at a difficult childhood. Otherwise, he’s just a guy with a very interesting character design that seems hellbent on bringing down the hero system for…reasons…
He’s allegiance to his own side even seems suspect at times as he’s shown to be impatient and somewhat disillusioned with the League and All for One’s plans. He’s not some unparallel destructive force either. He has a powerful quirk but he’s hardly the only one and in any given direct confrontation, he’s by no means guaranteed a victory. There was a reasonable chance that even Bakugo could hold his own one on one. His strategic powers haven’t been put to the test either, as he hasn’t had the chance to be a true mastermind and doesn’t seem to inspire that much loyalty in others either.
Yet he remains both menacing and effective as an antagonist (at least to me) and this deserves some praise. When thinking about it, on a personal level, I believe that his failings as a villain are part of his strength as a character. Personally, I tend to be much more intimidated by the everyman bad guy. It’s because Shigaraki is just a random dude with quite a few weaknesses that he’s so much more flexible as a character. He’s path isn’t dictated by his strength. Heck, he could even decide all of this is just too much trouble and go become a surfing instructor in Hawaii or something. I really want to see that particular beach episode, I think it would be a hoot. And this aspect is what makes him tangible to me. He’s not an ideal, he’s a person. Villains are straightforward, people are tricky.
And the fact that the narrative itself seems to be pointedly ignoring him, makes him a loose cannon. I honestly don’t know what he’s going to do next. But I know he’s definitely going to do something. Up until now, My Hero Academia has imbued most of its characters with a purpose and drive. Minor students we only see for an episode or two have hang ups they need to work through, or specific reasons they want to prove themselves. Quickly disposed of villains have backstories and disappointments that have driven them to a life of crime. As far as the plot is concerned, Shigaraki seems to have appeared out of nowhere and we are not given any clues as to where he will go next. That’s really scary.
It’s way too early to assume that he’s merely underdeveloped. In fact, I am certain that his lack of development is on purpose (I haven’t read the manga yet, please don’t spoil it for me). So this means, that the plot is keeping secrets from us. That makes me suspicious. It also means the Shigaraki is proof that there’s more going on than meets the eye. His entire existence within the story in his current state is a warning to not take things at face value. I’m sure there’s some foreshadowing going on that’s sailing miles above my head right now.
I’ve read a lot of My Hero Academia posts and very few dwell on Shigaraki at all. In my opinion, we are all playing right into their hands here. Mark my words, overlooking this character will come back to bite us just as it will our heroes!
Consider yourselves warned.
16 thoughts on “The Man Behind the Hand – Tomura Shigaraki”
I think Shigaraki is going to be built up as a parallel to Deku, someone who was given a chance but by the wrong person. I also think we’ll get to see him humanized in some subplot about how society treats undesireable quirks. Someone with a quirk like Shigaraki’s would have a hard time being a likeable hero. I need more backstory on him!
A foil for Deku is a good guess – I can see that!
Shigaraki brings a whole new meaning to “giving someone a hand job”. (Not that I’d ever do such a thing…)
Impulsive, petulant brat whose moral compass has all screws loose.
I personally find him too childish & cartoonishly evil to find him intimidating. (I’m still stuck in season 2.) On the other hand, early Orochimaru scares me shitless… In my defense though, he’s hella gross & has a creepy ass funeral theme.
Hisoka should teach Tomura the wonders of delayed gratification, icy composure and/or pedophilia.
But Hisoka isn’t a villain… I wrote a post…it’s a long story
I was more referring to Hisoka’s menacing presence, affecting the audience as well as the characters! Thinking about it, there are no traditional villains in Hunter x Hunter, just a lot of seedy folks with a broken moral compass whose agenda sometimes aligns with our protagonists.
That being said, for the sake of discussion, here’s how Google defines the term.
“Villain: a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.”
So, Hisoka’s a hedonist who lives for the thrill of the fight. Testing his skills against & overcoming a powerful opponent excites him to no end. Orgasms aside, Gon is a similar beast, in that he subconsciously seeks competition & overcoming obstacles fiercely drives him.
However, Hisoka doesn’t mind forcing a fight to the death onto folks who’d otherwise not fight, and he has no qualms killing innocent people just to set-up these fights. In the narrowest sense, since the actions Hisoka is willing to undertake in order to fulfill his motive are decidedly evil, you could consider him a villain. Trouble is, you’d have to consider most characters a villain solely based on their actions.
Moving on from this particular label or category…
Where Hisoka differs from say the Troupe or King or Guard or Bombers or even Illumi (!) is that he doesn’t pretend to care for anyone else, and would never sacrifice himself for anybody’s sake. Uniquely, Hisoka is very emotionally intelligent but ultimately devoid of genuine love towards any person beside himself. Fundamentally, that’s what makes him the scariest character in the show for me!
Hisoka is cary. Just like the majority of hunters for that matter. and Killua, he’s also terrifying. Don’t get me started on Gin. All of them work within the laws and confines of their own universe which is populated by selfish brutal individuals. To me Hisoka was entertaining in that context. I was always happy to see him and really didn’t want him disposed off unlike the chimera ants or even the spiders. Maybe I just dislike bugs?
Of course fear is also subjective. But seeing that Hisoka was rarely the biggest threat on screen and his presence was more entertaining than devastating to me, I wasn’t that afraid of him as an audience member.
You’re very right on that last point, I suppose I am looking at my reaction to what makes the character tick outside the narrative.
And man, did Chimera Ant play a number on my boy Gon :’S ‘Twas a long time coming though! Plus, a silver-lining of Gon’s pitiable state was the pleasure of hate-watching Pariston. Wow, what a douche!
I think Shigaraki has the potential to be an interesting villain. My Hero Academia seems willing to play with typical troupes regarding heroes and villains.
I think so too – they could simply make him into a wounded bird but I have hope for he franchise
Shigaraki has always struck me as a child throwing a tantrum only in this case the child has a really powerful backer and so other kids are willing to play along with his tantrums leading to fairly destructive and unpredictable results. I’ll admit, I’ve wanted to know more about his character and what he’s really after for awhile, but at the same time, his randomly showing up and causing chaos kind of moments or capitalising on someone else’s chaos have been kind of fun.
Besides, as you said, almost all the characters in My Hero Academia are real characters, so I kind of have confidence that eventually this character will have more information revealed about him.
He definitely has does moments – I’m curious about his actual relationship with All for One
Anyone who hates All Might (the hero-persona) has my sympathy. If only he weren’t doing villainous things…
Well, that’s also debatable. They do seem to be setting up a villains and heroes are essentially the same type of storyline… At least in my head…
I remember I never really thought much of him as a villain (I mean sure he was villainous) but he never really scared me the way a good villain ought to, then came Episode 25 of season 2, the season 2 finale and he just straight up confronts Midoriya in the middle of the shopping mall in what was otherwise a pretty low-key ‘shopping’ episode. That was the moment where I felt his true potential as a villain and moreso just how good this show was at writing him even if we don’t know all that much about him.
The distinction between the unknown evil vs the unknowable one