By Briana Lawrence
There he stands, fist in the air, crowd watching with bated breath as the dust settles a fantastical anime battle that surely racked up the property damage. The number one hero has saved the day—exhausted, but proud to have defended his city. The camera zooms in on that iconic, fiery beard, further cementing Enji “Endeavor” Todoroki’s victory, and…
It’s true, my fellow My Hero Academia stans. After All Might’s inevitable retirement from herodom, Endeavor technically—and saltily—ascended to the number one spot. This is a rather controversial pick since the blazing hero has plenty of baggage, including but not limited to experimenting on his own family. And yet, by the end of Season 4, I made a somewhat startling realization: Endeavor is the problematic hero that society deserves because he is a perfect reflection of society itself.
What is the “perfect” hero?
In the beginning of the series we had a perfect hero…for one full episode and a commercial break. When we met All Might he was the literal embodiment of all that is heroic and pure, complete with a booming cinematic theme and radio announcer voice. All Might was the hero that would encourage kids to tie a bedsheet around their shoulders and pretend they could fly—faster than a speeding bullet and all that jazz!
Then? He coughed up blood and showed us the truth.
You see, that lone, perfect savior image isn’t, well, perfect. No one can actually function as the single entity that represents justice and peace. As unrealistic as My Hero Academia may seem on its surface, at its core, it’s showing us some very important truths.
All Might trying to be All Might has left him weak—not useless, he’s still very necessary, just not in that mythical hero sense…which he learns by pushing himself until he literally can’t anymore.
All Might is left permanently wounded from battle, trying too hard when he should’ve stepped back to take a good look at the reality of his situation.
He’s the perfect foil to Endeavor. One man tried so hard that he hurt himself (and others, mentally, like Sir Nighteye) while the other tried so hard that he hurt everyone around him, mentally and physically. Hence why All Might puts so much effort into Deku and Bakugo’s growth, so history doesn’t repeat and, instead, improves. All Might wants to inspire a generation of cooperative heroes, instead of two amazing heroes at odds with one another.
No more single-minded goals. Now, it’s about being well-rounded.
For the future
Meanwhile, Endeavor has the daunting task of protecting everyone as they come to terms with the fact that the symbol they relied on is gone from the public eye. But I’d argue that society needed to have that happen. They needed that moment on a rooftop where they saw a flaw in perfection with All Might. And now that they’ve seen it, they see flawed heroes in themselves. And, well…
That’s Endeavor. Hoo boy, is it Endeavor.
First off, let me just say that having a character that tried so hard to be the best that he alienated his entire family, only to have his hard work thrown back in his face? Art. This is truly what Endeavor deserves. He didn’t reach the top spot because he bested All Might. He reached it because All Might retired. And now, Endeavor’s looking back at everything and realizing the damage he’s done. He has to, because he’s in the spotlight now.
Season 4 focuses a lot on reflection. Without that shining beacon of hope, people have to take things as they are. Society is imperfect—as it always is. The villains they’ve faced have made some valid points about the falsehood of their world, the way people are treated, and the way some folks on top have been acting.
When I first saw Endeavor, I was appalled that he was in the number two spot. In fact, I thought he was on the same level as the villains. I thought Stain was absolutely right in sneering at a man like him, and now? That very man is in the number one spot, standing as society’s symbol.
That’s why watching him try is exactly what’s needed, both after All Might’s retirement and just as a general message for viewers.
Change is necessary
Endeavor dealing with his past, trying to figure out what to do, realizing that he won’t be instantly forgiven (if ever), and learning that he has to do things his own way is perfect.
His attempts to be nice are laughable because that’s not who he is, and at the end of the day he has to be himself. Otherwise, it’s not genuine. If you’ve ever had someone wrong you, you know that the key to redemption is not the apology, but changed behavior—not to be confused with a change in character. Endeavor can still be a muscled sourpuss AND work to be a better person.
But what’s truly great about his arc is that instead of flooding us with apologies and empty promises, Endeavor takes action. He knows he’s flawed, so he’s working to fix that. When he takes on that High-End Nomu, he realizes that he’s actually fighting his old self, and he’s come to hate who he used to be.
Endeavor is doing something that is sorely lacking in many people’s idea of redemption—he’s holding himself accountable and making necessary changes.
Whether or not Shoto forgives him is up in the air, and honestly, not the point of Endeavor’s arc. In the grand scheme of things, Endeavor’s not just doing this for Shoto or his family. He’s doing this for himself and for society—so he can truly be a worthy number one hero.
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