Friday, March 16, 2018

Type Casting: Katuski Bakugo

Some characters are so well-written that they seem life-like. But how would these "realistic" characters stand up to real-life personality typing?

It's time to put the Enneagram back to the test, gauging characters' personality types based on their core drives and greatest fears.

Type Casting:

Personality Typing Your Favorite Characters

The remainder of this post will contain some spoilers for

My Hero Academia

You have been warned.

[S]elf-confident, strong, and assertive... resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. [They] feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating... [T]ypically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.1

My Hero Academia, Bones 2017

Get ready to go beyond, Plus Ultra-style, because today we're typing a fan favorite from My Hero Academia, King Explosion Murder himself: Katsuki Bakugo!

Bakugo is a poster child for the Type Eight personality, also known as “The Challenger.”2 He's determined to become the number-one hero, and he has the strength and tenacity to do just that.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016
While most characters in My Hero Academia share this desire, it's clear that Bakugo wants to be the best specifically “to 'leave [his] mark'” on the world—a common Eight trait.3 He knows even “[a]t an early age... that this requires strength, will, persistence, and endurance...” and he works hard to cultivate these qualities.4 Bakugo relies on no one but himself, training hard to become physically and mentally tough. It's no surprise that others consider him the epitome of self-confidence. One of his childhood friends comments:

He was the type who could do anything he tried his hand at, a rascal who led the group of neighborhood kids. Good or bad, [Bakugo] was full of confidence, and I thought he was so cool.5

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016
This confidence drew others to Bakugo like moths to a candle when he was young—another common trait of Eights, who are known for being “charismatic and hav[ing] the physical and psychological capacities to persuade others to follow them into all kinds of endeavors.”6 To be sure, Bakugo had no problems convincing his childhood buddies to go along with any of his plans, whether it be venturing past fences or wandering the local neighborhood... or even picking on those Bakugo deemed weaker than himself.

Unfortunately for Bakugo, his temper and ego quickly outpace that charisma. In high school, Bakugo finds the tables have turned when he becomes the object of teasing. His classmates have no problem pointing out his many flaws, including his less-than-always-charming personality.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016

This scene is Bakugo's worst nightmare. When people look down on him, it means they have power over him: an Eight's greatest fear.7 Bakugo wants to be in charge at all times. Even when his instructor gives him a direct order or tries to give him advice, Bakugo ignores it or brushes it aside. He won't show weakness. He refuses to show vulnerability. He's a rock.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016

Although Bakugo exhibits so many Eight traits, I initially had a hard time typing him—not for lack of Eight behavior, but because of the explosive anger he aims at his former friend and fellow classmate, Midoriya, whom he scornfully calls “Deku” (which he uses to describes someone he considers useless).8

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016

It's clear Bakugo sees Midoriya as a rival despite his constant comments that Midoriya is “nothing but a pebble”9 on his path to greatness. Bakugo repeats this assurance like a mantra, as if trying to ward off an overwhelming sense that Midoriya is indeed a threat.

But this anxiety doesn't add up. Eights are driven by the fear of being controlled. Yet Midoriya is the last person who would or could overpower anyone, least of all Bakugo.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016

Midoriya had always been smaller and naturally more timid than Bakugo. Where Bakugo charged in head-first, Midoriya often hung back. And while Bakugo and Midoriya both want to become heroes, Midoriya was born with no superpowers—virtually unheard-of in this society—whereas Bakugo has a “flashy”10 superpower that people have praised since he was young. Surely someone with no powers could never compete with someone who sweats nitroglycerin and can set off controlled explosions at will.11

So why on earth would an Eight like Bakugo be afraid of Midoriya? Unless he wasn't an Eight, but a Four.

A Four's core desire is to have a distinct persona, a clear identity. Fours will do almost anything to preserve this identity—for instance, even going so far as to wallow in self-pity forever if their identity is “suffering martyr.” Fours are constantly trying to make themselves look different or stand out because they want to believe they're special. Just as Bakugo is constantly trying to stand out. Just like how Bakugo has built up this persona of being the very best... and just like how he'll do whatever it takes to eliminate Midoriya, who threatens to steal his identity as “the best.”

So that was it. Bakugo was a Four. At least, that's what I almost wrote, until I came across the Enneagram Institute's “Misidentifying Fours and Eights” article:

It would seem extremely unlikely that Fours and Eights would be mistyped for one another, but it does occasionally occur... Eights cope with [their] feelings in radically different ways than Fours... Eights learn to toughen themselves up and to “get over it” so that they can do what they need to do to maintain their independence and personal authority. Fours find it difficult to let go of their childhood wounds and do not want to “get over it.” Fours... are willing to rely on others if it gives them the time and resources to work out their feelings or to develop their creativity. 
Eights do feel vulnerable inside, but as much as possible, they steel themselves against any feelings of insecurity and weakness in themselves. Eights tend to see such feelings as self-indulgent luxuries...12

Bakugo would never be caught dead relying on anyone, especially not to sort out his feelings. And he doesn't seem to have much of an artistic side.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2017

So where do Bakugo's Four-like qualities stem from? I believe Bakugo's Four-like anger and anxiety come from self-loathing.

“Self-loathing is that underlying feeling that we are just not good: not good enough, not good at this, not good at that...”13

There's no direct evidence to suggest that Bakugo feels like he's not good enough... except for the way he lashes out at Midoriya and others.

We may try to suppress this feeling of inadequacy by behaving as though we are superior to others... It’s as though we have to prove that we are the absolute best in order to avoid the torrent of internal abuse waiting to pounce the moment we show any fallibility [emphasis mine].14

Bakugo's constant habit of puffing himself up while tearing others down is a strong indicator that he suffers from self-loathing. Pride is his coping mechanism, his attempt to tell his hostile, criticizing inner voice that it's wrong... when he's terrified it's right.

But there's one final piece of evidence that proves Bakugo is an Eight: the Enneagram can predict Bakugo's character arc. This is the advice The Enneagram Institute gives to unhealthy Eights:

“[A]ct with self-restraint. You show true power when you forbear from asserting your will with others, even when you could. Your real power lies in your ability to inspire and uplift people. You are at your best when you take charge and help everyone through a crisis.”15

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016

“[L]earn to yield to others, at least occasionally. Often, little is really at stake, and you can allow others to have their way without fear of sacrificing your power, [sic] or your real needs.”16

In my opinion, this final quote is the key. During My Hero Academia season two, the students must choose a hero agency to intern at for one week. Because of Bakugo's exemplary performance at the school so far, Bakugo has the pick of the litter. So does the fiery and combative Bakugo choose an internship with Gunhead, a renowned martial arts-specialist? Does he opt to intern at the Normal Hero Agency, which was recently attacked by the hero-killing villain Stain, so he can show off his skills in a real fight?

No. Instead, Bakugo chooses to intern with Best Jeanist, who's a well-groomed and highly-ranked hero... whose only listed accolade is winning “The Best Jeanist Award” eight years in a row.17

While why is still unknown (at least in the anime), what's clear is that Bakugo does not enjoy his internship with Best Jeanist. He gets forced to smooth down his hair and walk and talk like Best Jeanist wants him to. He bristles at Best Jeanist's methods. It looks like an Eight's worst nightmare.
And yet, he does try to follow Best Jeanist's advice. For instance, while on patrol, Best Jeanist asks him:

[H]ere's a question. Patrols are meant to deter villains from committing crimes, but they also have a secondary effect... to show people who we are. To give the public peace of mind. It builds trust between those who protect and those who are being protected.18

When Best Jeanist goes on to tell Bakugo to build that rapport, the hot-headed King Explosion Murder actually tries to do so.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2017

...In his own way.

Bakugo may be a proud hot-head who screams “Die!” for a battle-cry, but as time goes on, Bakugo has proven he's capable of—and aware of his need for—change.

Another example occurs during season two, when the students participate in a tournament held by the school to help them attract potential hero agency employers. During this tournament, Bakugo must face off against Uraraka, a girl well known among their class as being tender-hearted and compassionate. Uraraka and her classmates are understandably concerned as the match draws near: Bakugo has never shown any sign of holding back, and Uraraka is no fighter compared to him.

Sure enough, when Bakugo fights, he doesn't go easy on Uraraka. But he doesn't charge into combat with reckless abandon either, instead remaining on the defensive. The crowd begins to boo, thinking he's just toying with Uraraka.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2017
But Bakugo isn't playing cat-and-mouse; far from it. He's fighting cautiously for the first time in his life because he expects Uraraka to be a difficult opponent.

Bakugo's comment after the match is particularly telling. While his classmates marvel at how he was able to attack such “a frail girl,” Bakugo's retort—almost more to himself—is “What part of her was frail?”19 Despite beating Uraraka and thus proving his superiority, Bakugo has nothing but respect for her. The Bakugo of season one would have never made such a comment; this is proof that he is already becoming a healthier Eight, using his strength to inspire people to push themselves harder and farther than they ever would have on their own.20

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016

Season two left Bakugo a little less egotistical, a little more thoughtful, and a little bit better than he was at the start of season one. So I'm going to use the Enneagram to make a little fan theory. I predict that someday we're going to see a fully-realized, healthy Eight in Bakugo: someone who is “heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring.”21

They take the initiative and make things happen... They are honorable and authoritative—natural leaders who have a solid, commanding presence. Their groundedness gives them abundant “common sense” as well as the ability to be decisive. Eights are willing to “take the heat,” knowing that any decision cannot please everyone... They use their talents and fortitude to construct a better world for everyone in their lives.22

And with season three less than a month away,23 we might not have to wait long to see if my fan theory proves correct.

My Hero Academia, Bones 2016

Notes and References:
  1. Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types (New York City, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 1999), 289-91, quoted in “THE CHALLENGER [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 15, 2016, Funimation.
  6. Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 289-91, quoted in “THE CHALLENGER [sic].”
  7. Ibid.
  8. Katsuki Bakugo, My Hero Academia, “Rage, You Damned Nerd,” Season 1, Episode 6, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 8, 2016, Funimation.
  9. Katsuki Bakugo, My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 15, 2016, Funimation.
  10. My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 15, 2016, Funimation.
  11. Katsuki Bakugo, My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7.
  12. “Misidentifying Fours and Eights,” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018.
  13. Jo Barrington, “Self-Loathing,” PSYCHALIVE [sic] (blog), 2016, accessed March 7, 2018.
  14. Ibid.
  15. “THE CHALLENGER [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Start Line,” Season 1, Episode 4, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, April 24, 2016, Funimation.
  18. Best Jeanist, My Hero Academia, “Everyone's Internships,” Season 2, Episode 32, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, August 12, 2017, Funimation.
  19. My Hero Academia, “Bakugo vs. Uraraka,” Season 2, Episode 22, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 27, 2017, Funimation.
  20. Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 289-91, quoted in “THE CHALLENGER [sic].”
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Godswill, “My Hero Academia Season 3 SimulDub Date,” Funimation, March 5, 2018, accessed March 13, 2018.
All photos are screenshots taken from Crunchyroll and are the property Funimation 2016-2017. Used under US “Fair Use” laws.

My Hero Academia and all related terms are the property of Funimation. And I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him

Friday, March 9, 2018

Parentage and Family History: Bane or Boon?

This post will contain spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

You have been warned.

YouTube 2018
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the first new Star Wars film in a decade, so it came as little surprise when fans began feverishly theorizing about every question the film raised. Thousands of Star Wars theories flooded YouTube, but one question surfaced more than any other: Who were the parents of Rey, the newest Star Wars protagonist?

The answer, it turned out, was quite controversial. While many fans were disappointed, some say that writer/director Rian Johnson made the right call. They argued that tying Rey to any of the established characters would have prevented her from standing on her own merit.

This was a valid argument, as were the others Rian Johnson listed as influencing his decision1. Still, I was one of many fans who had taken Rey's parentage for granted. Surely she'd be the daughter of some important preexisting character, I'd thought! Because to me, a familial tie to a previous character makes someone more important. I'd never considered familial ties could weaken a character or story.

Still, Star Wars controversies aside, I can see several arguments against familial bonds with preestablished characters...

Reason #1: The previous generation may outshine the new one

There's a reason fans loved the previous generation. They were cool or funny or classy, and they were certainly memorable. But this, coupled with notalgia, can be a death-sentence for any descendants. Why bother creating new characters at all when the old ones would have worked even better?

Reason #2: The previous generation might get forgotten completely

This might be far worse! Sometimes writers forget or ignore the previous generation. This gives the impression that what the previous generation did—and subsequently, all the time fans have poured into the series—didn't matter. This also gives the impression that the writers just name-dropped the previous generation to get more eyeballs on the series. This is dishonest storytelling, because the story ultimately isn't about either group of characters: it's just about making a quick buck off the viewers' nostalgia.

Reason #3: The descendants don't get the attention they deserve

Having descendants may feel like an attempt to milk the old franchise, but these new characters deserve a fair shake, too. So it's a problem when the descendants aren't properly developed, either because the series is a cash-in or because the story actually features the previous generation too much, robbing the descendants of the time they need to develop and reach their potential.

Reason #4: It can create bad drama

Family baggage can be over-dramatized and dragged out far too long. How often have we seen the “You don't understand me, Dad” trope? This is one of the reasons why I'm a big proponent of stories with healthy, strong familial bonds. I've seen way too many tales deal with familial conflict poorly, melodramatically, and unrealistically.

Despite all these potential pitfalls, however, there's a few reasons why I personally find familial ties so powerful.

Reason #1: It honors the old while creating something new

In the case of a sequel, having descendants is a call-back to the original characters. For long-time fans, this is a delightful nod that signifies the characters we watched mattered and that the franchise has not forgotten them. For newcomers, it might encourage them to check out the previous series: “Who are these characters they're talking about? What kind of adventures did they have?”

Reason #2: It makes the world feel alive

Making descendants gives the world credibility, a sense that the story continues even when you aren't watching. Showing that the previous generation have lives after their “happily ever after's” lends realism to the characters and the setting.

Reason #3: It's a quick, easy way to give characters a history

Family ties give a character grounding in the universe. They aren't just a random blip in the timeline; they have a history and a background built-in as soon as they're related to a preexisting character.

This is an easy way to write in relationships and conflict for descendants. They may gain allies (like friends of the family) they wouldn't have met otherwise. And any conflicts of the previous generation might carry over, too: descendants may face obstacles because of who their parents were or what their parents did.

Family ties also immediately give the character baggage. At the very least, descendants have to wrestle with their relationship to their parents. Do they know who their parents are? If so, are they proud of their parents? Resentful? Struggling to live up to their image? If the previous generation is still alive, do the descendants generally get along with their parents, or is their relationship a bit rocky?

Reason #4: It lets long-time fans recapture the magic

Even if the previous generation is dead, we at least get a glimpse into how our beloved characters handled the future. Did they generally remain the same or did they undergo some dramatic changes? Did they get their happy ending after all? Fans love seeing what happened to their favorite characters as long as they're treated respectfully.

If writers keep hold of what made the franchise so good in the first place, fans get to rekindle their love for the universe while falling in love with something brand-new. And we will never get enough of that.

  1. Megan McCluskey, “Here's the Real Reason Behind Rey's Controversial Origin Story in The Last Jedi,, Time Magazine, January 17, 2018, accessed March 5, 2018.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

Star Wars and all related names and terms property of LucasFilm and Walt Disney Studios. And, unfortunately, I am not affiliated with them.

From Him, To Him