Bakugou Katsuki. When we were introduced to this explosive boy, he was merely a bully set to antagonize our protagonist, Deku in his middle school life. His debut was one of arrogance, self-praise and aggression. He is the kind of person that you would want to kick off their high horse and slap some sense into.
Yet, throughout the 5 popularity character polls in Japan, Bakugou is constantly revealed to be in the top bracket. Coming in 3rd for the first ranking, then settling in first place for 4 rankings in a row. Sometimes, with a huge gap between first and second.
So what makes people love or hate this character so much? Before we break it down, let’s see how his character was initially developed.
Initial Character Design
In the original development of Bakugou Katsuki, he was more gentle and even kind to his classmate. His character leaned more towards the trope of being blunt; a filter-less speech pattern that would make him insult others unintentionally.
This draft however felt plain to Horikoshi. So, he maintained his genius trait while making him a
tad bit unpleasant.
” At first, I made him a natural-born genius who would inadvertently insult people, but that got pretty boring. So I went the other route and turned him into a nasty guy with an explosive personality. I’m glad he came out so unlikable. “Horikoshi Kouhei, Volume 1 Extras
Speech Bubble Translation: Anybody can do it if they try!
Why do people hate Bakugou?
I notice a similar pattern after going through online threads, Youtube videos and comments. They hate that his undesirable traits are put aside just because he looks ‘hot’, and they can’t fathom how certain people even like this abomination, among some other comments. Here are some of their arguments:
He’s a bully
This is one of the main reasons why people get turned off by this character. From the very first episode itself, he was portrayed as the top dog in class, the one who controls the herd. With this power, he could have made it so that no one could bully Izuku, his own childhood friend. But, he chose to show his superiority and outright antagonizes Izuku throughout his life.
He belittles Izuku’s will to try and become a Pro-Hero despite his circumstances. Asking him to take his own life as a futile trial to gain a Quirk in his next life was what drew the line for his bullying behaviour.
His rude, obnoxious & over-the-top behaviour
He is just too damn loud. His bombastic screeching and screaming can be a pain in the ear to hear. He acts out of place; not out of mischievousness or rebellion but out of arrogance.
He is rude in his speech and does not even call or remember any of his classmates by name, but by the prominent features that he can see (e.g. Round Face, Raccoon Eyes, Half-n-Half Bastard).
He disregards anything that does not interest him and places himself in a position that is higher than others. His respect only goes so far to those with authoritative power or those he deems worthy. All these are one of the many unredeemable traits that he shows off.
He’s the 2nd Endeavour
It has been established from the start that his goal is not as virtuous as Midoriya Izuku. He wants to become a hero not because he wants to help people but purely because how cool it looks that the number one hero always wins against the odds. He admires All Might’s strength to never lose no matter how dire situation may get. He aspires to be just like him and maybe even more.
A strong-headed individual, with a very strong and versatile quirk that is aiming for the No.1 place and to surpass All Might. Where have we heard of this before? Right, Endeavor. Our current No.2 Pro-Hero in the anime that is constantly chasing after the top spot, even if it means putting his own family in a tight spot.
Fans fear that he will become a mirror spawn of the abusive adult. Bakugou’s personality throughout his current time at 1-A does not help that notion. He has already built a reputation of dealing with problems using his fists instead of level-headed discussions. His short-temper, lashing out and bullying tendencies add to the problem too.
Why Bakugou is Loved
He’s an anti-hero
A heroic figure typically will do everything in their power for the greater good. Their choice of action is predictable with putting other’s needs above themselves. Their innate nature to save, care and protect is prevalent in no matter what they do.
Bakugou Katsuki, by all means, does not fit the description of a heroic figure at all. He doesn’t act the part and he certainly does not look the part either. From his personality to the way he looks naturally, he doesn’t exude that friendly and wholesome aura we usually see from heroes. Not to mention, his ‘hero’ costume frankly does not look very heroic-looking, and instead could easily remind you of a villain.
Instead, our bombastic blonde is what we call an anti-hero. An anti-hero by definition means “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure.”
As an anti-hero, he lacks the moral rectitude any normal goody-two-shoes heroes have, giving him a higher complexity value on why they act a certain way. He is flawed but he is still developing, learning and growing. Bakugou’s choice of action can surprise and frustrate us, but they are anything but predictable.
The essence of an anti-hero makes the character more relatable to us because their actions closely mirror ours, making it easier to empathise with them. Thus, explaining their popularity.
Flaws are what make up a person
Bakugou is not a perfect character. He, like all of us, is flawed in our own way. The biggest flaw in Bakugou’s character isn’t his horrible attitude but the superiority complex he has that masks his inferiority complex.
By definition, superiority complex means an attitude of superiority which conceals actual feelings of inferiority and failure. Inferiority complex, on the other hand, is an unrealistic feeling of general inadequacy caused by actual or supposed inferiority, sometimes marked by aggressive behaviour in compensation.
Bakugou genuinely fears Izuku’s spirit. Somewhere in the corners of his heart, he knows he lacks what Izuku has – a heart. It doesn’t sit right for him as Izuku, a nobody, constantly tries to help him. Bakugou takes Izuku’s kindness and concern as an insult to his being.
It is as if Izuku was always looking down on him from above although he was quirkless. This feeling of inferiority intensifies his hatred for Izuku and the only way to sate it is by putting Izuku down externally via bullying which brings out his superiority complex.
The inferiority complex only worsens upon entering U.A, where he realizes that there are others that are better than him. Izuku has also proven to grow stronger every minute, which led to his own quote, “How did I end up chasing the back of a sh*thead who was always trailing behind me?”
His complex slowly intensifies as he indirectly caused All Might’s end and his own mother calling him weak and causing others trouble. It reached its peak when he failed to claim his Provisional Hero License while Izuku manages to claim his.
This flaw is something a lot of people relate to and can emphasise with easily. What more, the anime did not tell it upfront, but instead hinted it between episodes before dropping the main revelation in one go. The way it was portrayed subtly played a big role in making fans adore him, because no one was expecting such an egoistical bastard to be filled with that much remorse, guilt and weakness.
His character development
Despite not having as much screentime as Izuku, he is one of the characters to have developed the most since the first episode. His development throughout the series is a progressive growth based on being hit by the reality that slowly catches onto you.
It doesn’t involve any talk-no-jutsu to change his mind but instead a constant reminder from life itself that he needs to change. It gives a fresh outlook to a character this way instead of going from being an abusive superiority complex dude to a good guy after a good ass-kicking from the protagonist.
He showed us sides of him that we never would have expected amongst all his bombastic screeching. From admitting he is weak, to advising others to not look down on anyone, to accepting Izuku as a proper rival and not someone beneath him, Bakugou has proven each time that he is capable of growth.
The kind of growth that you wouldn’t normally expect from a character like him, thus making his character more compelling to watch grow. There’s even more to come that is yet to be covered by the anime that will amaze you.
His development out of the bully trope isn’t just something in-universe. His growth engages us to see him in a new light and proves to us viewers that he is more than the bully label that we prematurely placed him under.
How He Is Related to Real Life: A Cultural Context
Japanese Group-Oriented Mindset
We have to remember that different countries uphold different values and have different cultural contexts. In contrast with Western audiences where being different from the crowd is a form of expression, the Japanese prefer to blend into the sea of people.
Their everyday life motto is to not stand out even if it kills them inside. Not only that, but even keeping up their appearances by being polite is a common thing. On the outside, they might be kind to you, but truthfully their inner voice is just cursing you in every language they know.
It is honestly tough to keep bottling up all their feelings and having to mask all their irritation and anger with polite words. Hence why Bakugou’s personality is attractive to them. Watching Bakugou explode at every tiny tick can be a form of catharsis to them, especially those whom had to conform to society’s values. The unattainable urge to act out is sated by watching Bakugou himself exploding.
If you put into perspective it is also the reason why in every anime there will always be a loud and boisterous character that is somehow accepted well in the Japanese audience.
“Only individuals with good conscience and wants to help others should be a Hero. Bakugou doesn’t meet those requirements.”
This was a common line I heard when reading through fans’ feedback, but we came to realize that not everyone chooses a career based on a clear conscious.
In-universe, we are already introduced to many characters who have their own personal or selfish reasons for becoming Pro-Heroes. Be it fame or fortune or the desire to prove something wrong, they all still strive to be great Pro-Heroes.
An example is that Uraraka Ochako has confessed that she became a Pro-Hero just for the money. Yes, she’s still helping her family but her main reason is not a purely selfless one. To her, her family comes first. So, if we were to see her through the dictionary definition of a Hero, she wouldn’t fit the mould either.
And it is alright! Why? If we see our own society, not all doctors become doctors because they want to help the sick, not all lawyers became lawyers because they want to bring justice to the world and so on.
They all have their own reasons be it money or fame, because they were forced to
like the Asians we are. But do we reject them? No? As long as they do what they are supposed to, without any corruptions, where their virtues lay does not matter.
It is for this reason why the series is brilliant. There are so many parallels between the real world and the fictional one, that it makes us hard to look away from our own world’s problem. Escapism and yet a subtle realization.
What To Take Out Of This Character
Childhood is a very important factor when growing up
Your childhood is the foundation your house is built on. If it is not strong, you can start to see the cracks in the house you build, a.k.a your adulthood. An example of this metaphor is Bakugou Katsuki.
As a child, Bakugou was exposed to large amounts of aggression and brute behaviour making him believe it is part of the norm. Growing up, he was showered with nothing but praises and encouragement; not to mention almost no punishments for his harsh behaviour. Warping his mind from a very young age that he is the best and no one can compare; boosting his ego to an all-time high.
Being surrounded by environments like these always, being followed around, obeyed, feared and praised is detrimental to a kid’s mentality. This is because they have built a self-belief that they’re above everyone else.
It will be especially hard on them when they head to a bigger pool of people and slowly start to realize that they are not that good as they assumed they were. We can see this when Bakugou entered U.A. thinking he would be the hotshot, but soon realizes that he isn’t that great in the end.
So, we need to remember that as the older generation,we have to lead the younglings towards the right path. Give credit where it’s due but also give the appropriate punishments whenever necessary. Don’t feed their ego but don’t destroy their self-belief.
Change takes time
But your childhood does not necessarily dictate your adulthood. There is always a choice of change. However, turning over a new leaf is something no normal human being can do. We are weak in that change doesn’t come naturally to us. We tend to stick to what we know – the familiar. This causes us to have moments of relapse to fall back to our original state of behaviour.
But as weak as we are, we are strong enough to change. We just need time. No one can be better overnight or over a week. It takes time, be it months or even years to truly adopt better habits in life. Even if we did change, maintaining the change and making sure we don’t fall back to our old ways is another constant battle.
Bakugou is an example of that change. His tiny displays of maturity have slowly but steadily been increasing in the past few recent chapters. A change that doesn’t happen explodingly fast but a change nonetheless.
We tend to forget that although 4 years have passed since we first met Bakugou (6 for manga readers), in-universe it has barely been (estimated) 6 months since entering UA. Taking into account that they entered in Spring and the manga has just entered Winter, this short period amount of time is not enough to undo or correct 15 years of damage and a wrong mindset.
Expecting an apology from a prideful boy like him is near impossible and a total out of character thing to do. But it is the littlest things that matter now like how Bakugou willingly gave Izuku tips on his Shoot Style. Apology through words can only go so far, actions are what makes up the true apology.
In a nutshell, what we can take out of Bakugou’s character growth is that the effects of childhood or the wrong mindset can always be undone if we are willing to change. But, at the same time, we should not judge others nor ourselves on our slow progress because change truly takes time.
Bakugou As A Story Element
An element to help Midoriya Izuku grow
As what All Might has said during their clash in Season 3 Episode 23, to become a hero you don’t just need heart, you need strength and determination to win as well to maintain a sense of justice as a hero. Izuku embodies the heart while Bakugou embodies the determination to win. Just as one element cannot live without the other, the relationship between Bakugou and Izuku is just the same.
Bakugou has been Izuku’s tormenter for several years growing up. He disregards his trials to be a hero just because of his quirkless-ness and makes it his duty to make Izuku feel inferior in every way possible. But that torment has actually in return pushed Izuku to become determined.
Bakugou is one of the reasons why Izuku is earnestly trying to make One for All his own quirk instead of a ‘borrowed’ power. All in order to be able to fight on equal ground with no external interference.
Not to mention that as much as Izuku has admired All Might, he had also admitted that Bakugou’s sheer amazingness had inspired him too to reach greater lengths and chase after him. Bakugou is that figure, that rival in Izuku’s life that motivates him. Without him, Izuku’s motivation may not be as clear and or as interesting as it is now.
Their contrasting journey
Boku no Hero Academia shows the journey of many younglings on their path to heroism, and also their path of becoming the best versions of themselves. Each character has a unique path laid out for them, all with their own sets of obstacles and hardships. However, there are two particular heroes whose paths that are so similar to one another yet so different – Bakugou Katsuki and Midoriya Izuku.
From a young age, both of them loved All Might. They inspired to be the number one hero. They entered the same middle school and aimed to enter U.A., which they did. But one admired All Might for his ability to save so many civilians in a short time; while the other admired All Might for his ability to defeat so many villains despite in being a one vs many situations.
Upon entering U.A., Bakugou and Izuku have started to grow exponentially. And yet the personal growth within themselves is different, almost polar opposites even.
Izuku’s is one of learning how to come in terms with his new power and finding the confidence needed to be a hero. Bakugou’s, however, is one of becoming more humble and self-aware of one’s position in society. One needs to toughen up while the other needs to calm down.
The different dynamics between both of them helps the audience get a feel of both sides of the spectrum of being a hero as they slowly inch closer to the middle point without losing their individual characteristics.
The element of surprise is what differentiates a good anime to a mediocre anime. It helps prove that although they fall into a common specific genre, they can still be different and interesting.
From the very beginning of the anime, we were already introduced to an older Izuku as the narrator, telling the story of how he became the number one hero. So it is safe to say his path has been set in stone from the very start, that no matter what peril he has to go through, he will achieve the status All Might had.
However, unlike Izuku’s almost clear road to being a Pro-Hero, Bakugou’s road has multiple possibilities. There are many crossroads in his undetermined path. He might be the No. 2 hero, he might turn out more mature and calm, he may be dead or out of commission, or even turned on the path of heroism.
The potential for unpredictability makes the story more interesting to continue reading and watching until the very moment Horikoshi stops drawing.
In a nutshell, Bakugou may be a shithead but we shouldn’t sweep his entire character development progress under the rug just because he was a bully, although that doesn’t mean that being a bully is acceptable as well.
There is so much more that we can dissect from Bakugou Katsuki, especially if we cover events that have already happened in the manga as well as the upcoming movie. But let’s take our time to enjoy the current season and not rush through the anime too fast just yet.
But with whatever that I have laid out, I would love to know what Bakugou is to you. Is he still an asshole? Is he a loveable character? Or is he a loveable asshole that you hate and yet love at the same time? What are your thoughts about him?
Let us know in the comments!
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While waiting, you can also check out our other article breaking down Bakugou’s character, for all you super-fans: http://bit.ly/2SeeHRm