Friday, January 25, 2019

Theme Talk: Christian Parallels in My Hero Academia


This post will contain major spoilers for

My Hero Academia



You have been warned.


Surrounded by people cheering for you, you throw off everything that once held you back from doing what you were meant to do. You hurl away your insecurity. You throw away your indecision and fear. You cast aside your lack of self-confidence. You choose to push yourself to the limit, working without ever giving up... because you’ve got your sights set on someone who you admire and respect more than anyone else in the whole world. Someone who sets the standard for what it means to be a true hero. Someone you believe is everything you want to be. Someone you’re working your hardest to be just like. Someone who’s in your corner, rooting for you as you fight.

Funimation 2016-2018
For those of you who have seen the second arc of My Hero Academia, this scene will sound familiar: it’s almost the exact picture of Midoriya as he fights in the UA Sports Festival, especially as he stands up to impossibly strong opponents like the mind-controlling Shinso and the fire-and-ice-wielding prodigy Todoroki.

I’m sure you can already see the spectacle as Midoriya snaps himself out of the brainwashed state Shinso put him in. You can see him fighting Todoroki with everything he has, willing to break every bone in his body to win. You can hear him shouting, “It’s your power, isn’t it?!”1 as he works to “rescue” fellow heroes from themselves even to his own detriment. And you can see All Might watching in the crowd, proudly rooting for his successor.

Funimation 2016-2018

Funny thing is, that first paragraph is also an exact replica of a scene in the Bible... one that describes someone who tries to follow Jesus’ example.
[L]et's also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let's throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith's pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him...

Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners so that you won't be discouraged and you won't give up.2
I’m sure this Christian parallel in My Hero Academia was completely unintentional. However, I do find the similarities between these two examples fascinating, especially given how similar the characters’ reactions to All Might parallel how Christians are encouraged to look to Jesus.

Christianity at its core isn’t about being good; it’s about building a relationship with Jesus. The more we get to know Jesus—the more we focus on him, the more we learn what he’s like, and the more we learn what he’s done for us—the more we’ll naturally want to push ourselves to be more like him. That’s not something we can do solely through our own efforts (“[Jesus’] power has given us everything we need to live a life devoted to God”),3 but we do have a part to play. We have to make the choice to act: “Do your best to live in a way that shows you really are God’s called and chosen people.”4

Funimation 2016-2018
This relational aspect of Christianity is echoed, albeit loosely, in My Hero Academia too. It’s not just enough to do heroic acts; that’s not what defines a hero. Look at Endeavor, who is the number-two hero behind All Might. Despite Endeavor’s high hero ranking, he’s a terrible person.5 Endeavor is lacking something All Might has: a relational, loving heart. Doing the right things doesn’t make you a true hero; doing them out of love and selfless concern for others does.

This is also why All Might chose Midoriya as his successor over the talented and driven Bakugo. While Bakugo has All Might’s drive and talent to achieve victory no matter what (the acts), Midoriya has the more important quality: the relational quality (the heart).6

Funimation 2016-2018

Despite their vastly different worldviews and values, both boys—and almost every other character—uphold one person as a true hero, the one they’re striving to be like: All Might. In the same way, Christians strive to become more and more like Jesus, their hero.

Both All Might and Jesus are heroes in the truest and greatest sense; they are the ideal everyone else strives for. They are rescuers who lay their lives on the line to save others. And as they do, they spark transformation in the lives of the people who see their actions.

Funimation 2016-2018

Funimation 2016-2018
At the beginning of the show, Midoriya is nothing but a “fanboy” with the desire to become a hero but little chance of actually succeeding. He’s born without a superpower (called “quirks” in the show) and can’t possibly become a hero only by wanting to be so. But his life changes when All Might rescues him from the sludge villain. Though indirectly, All Might’s presence in Midoriya’s life sparks the transformation he needs to take his hero’s heart and become a hero in practice. And due to this newly-forged relationship, All Might bequeaths his super power to Midoriya.

Just like Midoriya, we as humans are born “quirkless.” We’re powerless, overwhelmed by the powerful presence of sin in our lives and the world. It’s impossible for us to live lives that are truly good (that is, as true heroes), lives free of sin... until our Hero comes to offer us His power. With Jesus’ power coursing in us, we gain the ability to break sin’s hold on our lives.

But we don’t get to do it all at once. We need to train ourselves in order to use it. We need to reshape our lives and build new, healthy habits, just as Midoriya needs to train in order to use his new super powers properly.

During Midoriya’s grueling training, the thing that keeps him going and inspires him to improve is wanting to be like All Might.

Funimation 2016-2018

“I want to become the greatest hero, like you!”7 Midoriya proclaims.

Midoriya “fixes his eyes” on his rescuer and hero, the one who “pioneered” the definition of what it means to be a hero. Just as Christians are called to fix their eyes on Jesus our savior, our hero.

Christians are called to keep their eyes on Jesus because his example is, well, inspiring.

“He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him...”8

Casting aside every perk of being the one and only God, Jesus became a human being.9 He lived on Earth for thirty-some years, serving others. Walking dusty roads with twelve smelly guys to be overwhelmed by suffocating crowds of people that demanded his attention. Being constantly harassed by the religious and political leaders of the time who couldn’t wait to smear his name, his family’s reputation, and to entrap him in one false word.10 He was hated. He was despised.11 When people were given the choice between releasing him or a mass-murderer, they chose to show mercy to the murderer.12 Jesus was tortured for hours and then killed in a horrible way.13 And the perfect God took on the taint of every single sin every person had committed, was committing, and would commit.14

Jesus stared the pain, suffering, and humiliation in the eye and endured it all because he knew he needed to save us all. He lost everything, including his life... to protect us. To rescue us when we’d been the ones foolish enough to get captured by sin. He was willing to face it all to save us. To save me. To save you.

Funimation 2016-2018
Just as All Might faces All For One in order to rescue Bakugo, just as he miraculously pulls victory out of the jaws of certain death and defeat, so too did Jesus. Conquering sin, conquering death, Jesus came back to life on Earth. The story didn’t end with the fight; the hero lived.

And even when the hero has to bow out from influencing the world in an overt and direct way, their presence still lives on. All Might must hang up his cape, but he continues to influence others by teaching the next generation of heroes. Jesus only remained on Earth for another 40 days after his resurrection, but he remains ever-present, still working as the savior and advocate of those who believe him.

Seeing such incredible acts of heroism can’t help but stir something inside us. It moves us all. And... for some of us... we want to be just like our hero.

“Think about the one who endured such opposition... so that you won't be discouraged and you won't give up.”15

Christianity isn’t about acts. You’re not a Christian just because you act like Jesus; you’re a Christian if you know Jesus.

All Might’s students don’t truly start to become heroes and transform until they speak with All Might and learn from him, experiencing his presence in person, receiving one-on-one time and attention from and with him. It’s the same for being a Christian. There’s no change in our hearts—there can’t be—until you’ve met Jesus yourself; until you’ve accepted his sacrifice for you and thus begun that relationship with him. Then and only then does your journey to become like your hero begin.

For those who choose to become like their hero, it’s a steep, uphill climb... but the results are well worth it.

With the inspirational image of our hero in our mind, it pushes us to endure brutal training. It helps us overcome even the most terrible of circumstances. It encourages us to improve, to become better and more than what we are now and yet more of what we were always meant to be. And the best part is—and this is something many people misunderstand about Christians—we don’t become some creepy clones of Jesus when we’re truly living for him. We become more like him, but also more like ourselves than ever before.

Midoriya reflects this same paradox. His admiration for All Might pushes him constantly to grow and become more and more like All Might—and more and more of his own hero. He’s not a copy or replica of All Might, but something similar to him. Not a clone... but more like a son. Someone related, someone who displays qualities of their father... but who is their own unique person.

Funimation 2016-2018

When we allow Jesus to transform us in this way, it’s bound to be inspiring to others, too; just like how Midoriya’s drive and passion to improve and fight his hardest inspires Uraraka to push herself to her limits and improve, as well.

Funimation 2016-2018

Uraraka may be more focused on Midoriya and being like him, but in truth, she’s following the example of All Might as well. She wants what Midoriya has because it’s attractive. Because we want to be more like who we were meant to be. Because we want to be like our Hero.

So, since there are so many people watching us, let’s go all-out. Let’s not hide anymore behind our insecurity and indecision. Let’s open our hearts to the one who didn’t only give us an inspirational story to treasure—but to the one who really did die and rise again to save us. Let’s take his hand and believe in him, believe what he did... and let’s let it change our lives forever.

“[L]et's also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let's throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus...”16

---
Notes and References:
  1. Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Shoto Todoroki: Origin,” Season 2, Episode 23, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yōsuke Kuroda, June 3, 2017, Funimation.
  2. Heb. 12:1-3 CEB
  3. 2 Pet. 1:3 ERV
  4. 2 Pet. 1:10 ERV
  5. My Hero Academia, “The Boy Born with Everything,” Season 2, Episode 19, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yōsuke Kuroda, May 6, 2017, Funimation.
  6. All Might, My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan, Part 2,” Season 3, Episode 61, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yōsuke Kuroda, September 15, 2018, Funimation.
  7. Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Roaring Muscles,” Season 1, Episode 3, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yōsuke Kuroda, April 17, 2016, Funimation.
  8. Heb. 12:2 CEB
  9. John 1:14
  10. Mark 12:13
  11. Isa. 53:3 CEB
  12. Matt. 27:15-18, 20-26
  13. Matt. 26:67, 27:1-2, 26-50
  14. Heb. 7:27 CEB; Gal. 3:6-11
  15. Heb. 12:3 CEB
  16. Heb. 12:1-2 CEB
All photos are screenshots taken from VRV.co and are the property of Funimation 2016-2018. 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

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