My Hero Academia’s Himiko Toga may have a sympathetic backstory explaining her fall to villainy, but Uraraka won’t allow that to excuse her actions.
Warning: contains spoilers for Chapter 342 of My Hero Academia
The My Hero Academia manga has done a fantastic job establishing sympathy for its villains, but in chapter 342, Ochaco Uraraka makes it clear in no uncertain terms: Himiko Toga’s actions can’t be forgotten or forgiven.
Developing the characters in the League of Villains to have sympathetic motives and backgrounds has been a big part of the series’ success. The most prominent example is, of course, Tomura Shigaraki, who wears the hands of the family he accidentally slaughtered and was singled out by All for One mostly because of his grandmother’s identity as Nana Shimura, All Might’s mentor and previous holder of One for All. Every character in the League has received this treatment to some extent, and in Himiko Toga’s case, it’s revealed that the very nature of her blood-based quirk had people, including her parents, treating her as a monster from an early age simply for wanting to use it. Toga’s obsessive feelings towards both Midoriya and Uraraka are the ultimate result of that, but it’s clear that there is some genuine emotion there, as she would not have been able to use Uraraka’s quirk while transformed otherwise.
Toga had previously gushed about Uraraka to her face, causing the student hero to recoil in disgust at the idea of being friends–and clearly hurting Toga’s feelings in the process. In chapter 342, Uraraka admits to Midoriya that she did feel guilty about hurting her in the moment, perhaps surprising some readers. In spite of all the horrible things that Toga’s actions have caused, the death and destruction that resulted from the Paranormal Liberation War which she helped to start, Uraraka still felt bad about rejecting her. That moment allowed Uraraka to see Toga not as a villain, but as a fellow young woman who’s suffered and deserves some sympathy.
While there were undoubtedly some fans who were momentarily excited at the thought of a Toga redemption arc, Uraraka goes a step further than most manga do by stating that none of that can excuse the damage she’s caused. It’s a complex position to be in, and one that many series that revel in bringing villains over to the heroes’ team like Dragon Ball or Black Clover completely neglect to address. The world isn’t black and white, and even a love-filled character like Uraraka can separate her feelings about the circumstances that led a person to evil actions, and those actions themselves. There’s somewhere in between the revenge killing of villains and allowing them to change sides without any consequences for their previous misdeeds. It’s a nuanced position that rarely gets addressed in the shonen action genre, and it may provide a glimpse at how Midoriya intends to approach the issue of saving Shigaraki as well.
Sympathetic and compelling villains are often the key to a good story, especially one as oriented towards traditional ideas of good and evil as superhero media like My Hero Academia is. The fact that both fans and characters can wish better for Toga while realizing that she can’t go unpunished simply goes to show how well-written many of the villains are, and why this series has sustained its popularity for so long.
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