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This Week in Anime
What's Stain's Real Problem With Heroes?

by Nicholas Dupree & Michelle Liu,

Welcome to our new twice-weekly format for This Week in Anime! Going forward, two members of our team will discuss just one hot new anime topic in each column, starting off with a discussion of My Hero Academia's new villain.

Joining your previous hosts of This Week in Anime (Nicholas Dupree and Michelle Liu) will be two more contributors, Jacob Chapman and Steve Jones. We hope you enjoy this more digestible version of our feature, and look forward to seeing Jacob and Steve join the discussion in future columns!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.

You can read ANN's weekly coverage of My Hero Academia here!

Nick D
Alright! New summer season, new This Week in Anime! Man, this season has basically everything air on Saturdays huh?

Yup, Heroboys and Heybot!.

And the best returning show of the season, Symphog--OH WAIT

Time to organize a protest outside of CR headquarters...

I'm planning a hunger strike as we speak. But until the gods of anime stop cursing me, we at least have the other kick-ass superhero action show to talk about!

The one with the GOOD BOYS. So, this week we've got Stain vs. the kiddos, huh?

Yep, and boy is it a roller coaster. Especially with the little speech Stain gives Iida while he's got him dead to rights on the ground.

"Use your power to save others, not for yourself." Big talk coming from a guy murdering people willy-nilly.

Now now, Stain's only doing what he thinks is right. And isn't that the real definition of a Hero--

Just kidding, Stain's philosophy is some BS, but it's an interesting angle to approach the show's premise from all the same.

At the core of it is the assumption that Iida's revenge is selfish - that a personal vendetta blinds him to his own social responsibility. Iida's hunting down Stain in honor of his brother, yes, but twisted the wrong way, you could also say he's fighting to protect this mental image of a perfect brother. The part Stain's missing is the whole "fighting to protect those you love" part, though.

What I find interesting about Stain's real/phony dichotomy is that it seems to come from a similar place as All Might's assertions about what makes a hero. I've consumed a LOT of superhero fiction, and it's a pretty common idea that there are folks who are meant to be heroes, who are more genuine heroes, and that others aren't cut out for it or are wrong for trying it. Stain's philosophy seems to be a purposefully extreme version of that reasoning. If there are people who aren't "real" heroes, they're defiling the name and need to be removed.

There's a grain of truth in Stain's reasoning, but yeah, purposefully extreme. Looking at it a different way, it's not about how many you save, not about the numbers, but about putting everything on the line to do all you possibly can. It's that mentality that makes a hero like All Might (or Deku, eventually, maybe), and that's why he's the only one Stain recognizes. I find it interesting that in Iida's flashback to his childhood, his father constantly compliments Tensei's accomplishments, like the fact that he already has sidekicks.

Yeah, that's an interesting quirk (sorry) of MHA's universe - Heroism isn't just the action of individuals but like, a career choice. So you get all the baggage that comes with it being a job. There are salaryman superheroes and people like Endeavor (and Bakugo maybe) who got into it for their own ego rather than a drive to do good for others.

It's easy to lose sight of the social purpose of that career once you latch onto those other reasons for doing it! Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with pursuing a career for money or stability, but just like any other job, being a hero fulfills a social need somewhere. And when you focus on career benchmarks and accomplishments, it's easy to forget that your role exists for a greater reason.

It's a messy, complicated issue that Stain has turned into a black-and-white blood sport, basically. Like obviously there's something screwy with a culture of "heroes" where somebody as personally abusive as Endeavor can get widespread fame, but do his (awful) actions towards his family negate the numerous lives he's saved in his career?

Yeah, the solution obviously isn't "murder everyone who doesn't have the right motivations", but there's still clearly a problem with the work-for-glory culture surrounding heroes. But it's complicated! Even Todoroki recognizes that.

Oh my god Todoroki


I just need to step away so I can scream about my precious icy-hot child.

my adorable frostbite son

I gotta switch into fanboy mode for a second to just gush about how I love the way the Stain fight is structured around the kids. Like it starts with Iida's anger and fatalism, ramps up with Deku's arrival and his almost naive altruism repeating All Might's wisdom, and finally Todoroki arrives to connect the two through his own experiences. Horikoshi has a knack for structuring his battles in creative ways, but this is one of the times where it serves a thematic purpose on top of the physical back & forth, and I just love seeing it in motion.

It works really well! Even if I spent most of Todoroki's screen time internally screaming about what a good boy he is. He's grown up so much ;_;

God it was so satisfying to see how far he's coming after his breakthrough at the sports festival.

He's willing to impartially acknowledge his father's merits without excusing what he's done and gosh this child's character arc makes me emotional.

And it's like this perfect dubunking of Stain's whole agenda. Endeavor's a pile of flaming horse shit, but even he has admirable qualities, and Todoroki can take those and make them his own.

He's at the point where he understands how much that trauma takes over your judgment but also has the perspective to know how limiting (or worse, destructive) that can be. Reconciling seemingly conflicting philosophies is so important to half-n-half boy's character. I love it.

I also love that he's the one who really saves Iida. Deku arrives to protect him physically, but he doesn't know what to say to him. Deku being there just makes Iida feel more guilty for what he's dragged him into. But Todoroki knows what to say to get him moving forward again.

Todoroki's seen some shit, I'll say.

For example


Oh right, with all this talk about morality I almost forgot how fucking terrifying Stain is.

You ask me to fight that dude, he wouldn't even have to use his quirk to paralyze me. I'd shit my pants and then try to pretend I was a statue.

What on earth is his quirk though. Blood type, seriously??

Sometimes quirks are just weird like that, okay

We are not going into the Discourse on Iida's exhaust pipe

Lemme just say there's a quirk way later in the story that brings up a LOT of logistical questions about how the laws of physics work and we don't need to get into that.

Honestly, I kinda want to know how Stain figured out his quirk in the first place. Like in a baby villain spinoff or something. But this is a deep rabbit hole we don't need to go down, even if I REALLY want to. I'll just say I'm glad I'm type O and leave it at that. Really don't want to deal with Noseless McLicker, no thank you.

I'm just really excited to see what's coming next. Reading the manga, this was the arc that 100% turned me into a fanboy.

Oh boy oh boy I can't wait

In the meantime I'll be writing this fanfic

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