One of my favorite shonen series currently running is My Hero Academia (or Boku no Hero Academia for the cultured folk). It’s an interesting take on the superhero genre, with 80% of the world’s population having a super-ability called a Quirk. The series has had plenty of fantastic arcs, but my favorite by far is the Meta Liberation Army Arc (or My Villain Academia, as it’s known by fans). By the way, spoilers for those who haven’t read the manga.
This arc takes a detour from the main heroes, and instead focuses on the main villains, and their conflict with a new enemy, the Meta Liberation Army. I love the arc because of the character arcs that the author gave to the villains, most notably Tomura Shigaraki, Himiko Toga, and Twice, and to a lesser extent Spinner. I also really like the world building that the arc gives us, including the origin of the term “Quirks.” But for this topic, I really want to talk about Shigaraki and his development as a villain.
When Tomura Shigaraki was first introduced, he was, as the heroes put it, a man-child. He was reckless, impatient, and quite childish, which definitely made him unpopular with fans initially. Heck, I couldn’t take him seriously because he reminded me of Kylo Ren too much. But where he differs from Kylo Ren is that he gets significant development from encounters with smarter, more competent villains, like Stain and Overhaul.
With Stain, he uses his ideology, that heroes are corrupt and only seek money and fame, to recruit more criminals to his League. Through Stain, and his talk with protagonist Izuku Midoriya, he realizes that his goal, his mission, is to kill All Might, as All Might represents the hope and faith that people have in heroes. However, after recruiting the likes of Dabi, Himiko Toga, and Twice to the League, plus the retirement of All Might following his battle with Shigaraki’s master, All For One, he still doesn’t have a concrete plan to destroy the society he and his followers hate so much. As a goal without a plan is merely a fantasy, which leads us to:
Overhaul, like Stain before him, ridicules Shigaraki for his lack of a plan, and offers to give him one if he joins him. Nevertheless, this frustrates Shigaraki, who now has to navigate the criminal underworld without his master. After losing a member of his League to Overhaul, he decides to play along with his plan, hoping to backstab him when there’s an opportunity, which happens shortly after his loss to Deku. Overhaul’s work, the Quirk-Destroying Bullets, are taken by Shigaraki, along with his arms, stating that “someone who wishes to destroy Quirks shouldn’t have one himself.” Both of these encounters show that Shigaraki has grown as a villain, and it’s put to the test when he fights his next enemy, Re-Destro.
Re-Destro is the main antagonist of this arc, the Grand Commander of the Meta Liberation Army, with over 100,000 members in its ranks. He is the son of the famed villain Destro, and, publicly, the CEO of Detnerat. He and his organization believe that people should be able to use their Quirks without any regulations from higher authorities. Like Stain and Overhaul before him, he insults Shigaraki, declaring him and his league an “enemy to his ideals.” However, unlike the previous two villains, he recognizes Shigaraki after he is defeated by him. He now sees him as the result of his ideology, a truly liberated human. As a result, he proposes to merge the two organizations together, with Shigaraki as the Grand Commander, to form the Paranormal Liberation Front.
Tomura Shigaraki is the most dangerous villain in the entire series. The circle is now complete.
One thing I really like about Shigaraki is that his development is a dark reflection of Deku’s. While Deku works to be the greatest superhero, Shigaraki works to become the most dangerous supervillain. Also, I like that his backstory shows how his Quirk manifested, and how it killed his entire family. It’s also sad that had a hero been there for him when he wandered the streets as a kid, he probably would have received proper counseling for his dangerous Quirk. Instead, he was picked up by the most dangerous villain in the world, and the guy who murdered his grandmother before he was born.
With this arc coming to the anime at the end of this season, I hope people begin to have more appreciation for Shigaraki’s character once they see how dangerous he can get, as well as his tragic backstory. If you have read the manga, please let me know why you like or dislike Tomura Shigaraki in this discussion.
Up to this arc, Shigaraki hadn’t been all that good of a villain. Early on, he seemed too whiny and temperamental to be a top-tier bad guy. But with the MVA act, he became a much better villain, a real threat.