The action genre deserves its spot in popularity within the realm of anime.
Of course, the story wouldn’t be entertaining without any struggles or complications. What makes the formula fool-proof is how these stories push the audience to cheer on the protagonist as they triumph over obstacles and their rivals, whilst using their strength, wit, power of friendship, and the little twists each author adds along the way in the hero’s journey.
Protagonists found in action anime are all inspiring. Why? Determination, confidence, positivity and eagerness for self-improvement are some characteristics of a standard action anime protagonist like the DragonBall franchise’s Son Goku. They appeal to us because we recognize these qualities in defining a hero, someone who never gives up on their dreams.
It makes sense that an action anime hero would have high self-esteem in order to accomplish great feats with a strong positive attitude toward themselves and their capabilities.
But not all protagonists in action anime are written the exact same way.
Acting as the rival and the foil for Midoriya Izuku’s character development in Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, Bakugo Katsuki seems like an exception but really isn’t. If we look at similar relationships in anime, such as the classic rivalries between Pokemon’s Ash Ketchum and Gary Oak or Naruto (Shippuden)’s Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke , then it’s clear that there is another character archetype for the anime/manga protagonist/deuteragonist, the jerk with a heart of gold.
Bakugo Katsuki is Izuku’s childhood friend. As a child, Bakugo was charismatic, brave, reckless and loved to cause mischief. His personality becomes brusque. He is short-tempered, crude in the way he expresses himself with profanity and grew to become Midoriya’s tormentor in the beginning of the franchise. Bakugo is arrogant, believing that the only quality required to become the number one hero and win each and every challenge is physical strength.
With a powerful and destructive quirk, “Explosion” and sharing in Midoriya’s idolization of the biggest hero in the My Hero Academia universe (not bordering on super fanboy levels), All Might, Bakugo is made to be a fully offensive fighter by collecting the nitroglycerin-like sweat coating his palms and hurling fiery bombs in quick succession at his opponents.
However, Midoriya proves that strength alone is not enough to become the greatest hero. This infuriates Bakugo because he knows he lacks certain heroic traits of which Midoriya possesses, such as selflessness, making him bitter toward Midoriya. Bakugo’s attitude can be interpreted as a cruel way to show respect toward his childhood friend. It not only shows us Bakugo’s vulnerability and flaws, but his desire to improve and become a better hero.
Despite how Bakugo is interpreted as a character with a horribly written personality and a superiority complex, his character does go through subtle character development. It does take some time to see the “heart of gold” that Bakugo supposedly has.
Instead of treating others kindly, throughout the My Hero Academia franchise thus far, Bakugo values honesty. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind and offend others’ sensibilities through trash talk, he does grow to respect and learn things about his classmates.
For example, during the U.A. Sports Festival Fighting Tournament in which Bakugo battles his classmate Uraraka Ochako, in season 2 episode 9, Bakugo never pulled back his punches and never underestimated Uraraka’s abilities. Despite how the spectators booed Bakugo, judging him for “bullying” someone who was weaker than him, Bakugo didn’t choose to defend himself against the crowd. He chose to focus and remain cautious on the battlefield out of respect for Uraraka and how she was able to make it to the semi-final round of the school tournament.
Being a part of the hero course at U.A, Bakugo experienced a lot of hardships with his classmates, including fighting villains who infiltrated their school in the first season to being kidnapped by the League of Villains in the third season, Bakugo was able to redefine for himself about what a villain is.
“If you keep looking down on everyone, then you won’t notice your own weaknesses.”Bakugo Katsuki, S4 EP 80 “Relief for License”
In the franchise’s fourth season, episodes 16 and 17, Bakugo and other aspiring heroes attempt to gain their provisional license to become heroes by babysitting the rowdy and naughty children from the Masegaki Public Elementary School.
If Bakugo’s former self was in this position, he would most likely pummel the children to submission without hesitation before drowning in his self-pity. At the end of episode 16, Katsuki suggests that the aspiring heroes gather together to demonstrate their practical skills. The manner in how they accomplish this plan is surprising because Katsuki thought to present their quirks in a positive way by utilizing their abilities to create a giant slide for the children.
Despite how entertaining it is to watch characters in an action anime triumph over their dangerous foes, having characters like Bakugou overcome their internal conflict to become the best versions of themselves is equally inspiring. Bakugou may need more work on his soft skills but he wouldn’t be quite as interesting without his flaws.