The final arc in the fifth season of Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia) has put the show on its head in the past few episodes by focusing the protagonist lens not on the heroes, but on the villains. “My Villain Academia” has been quite a ride and a huge shift in the overall pace and the gravity of the happenings in the show. With the League of Villains trying to save Giran from the Meta Liberation Army (MLA), we’ve gotten insight into some of the major players in the League of Villains, their motivations and even their origins!
While this conflict ensues, we have to keep in mind that it is the precursor of the utter decimation of Deika City and a darker feel to the season overall. The conflict also enables the show to do what it always does, and create conflict between characters with similar ideals and an overlapping outlook on society. So, let’s get into what makes this arc truly amazing!
Revival Party - Duality of Villainy
The League of Villains arrive in Deika City and are immediately intercepted by operatives of the MLA. Deika City is their base of operations, meaning that it can be assumed that their full complement of enhanced metahumans is pitted against the much smaller number of League of Villains members. That’s literally thousands of people. Ridiculously outnumbered, the League have their backs against the wall but their objective is clear—reach the tower and beat the last boss.
Ideologically, the League and the MLA share a common disdain for heroism and the current state of society; however, the difference in their approach to the use of their abilities. The MLA believes that Quirks are also a marker of personality or character, but also that because they’re that personal, people ought to be encouraged to hone their powers to the absolute max if they want to live authentic lives. The world that they’re trying to create is one where everyone is able to explore the full extent of their abilities without restraint—a true superhuman society. However, the League of Villains is also interested in a social overhaul, but one that is particularly focused on the destruction of heroes as a concept.
A recurring character who seems to be having an important arc is Bubaigawara Jin, better known as League of Villains member “Twice” (Quirk: Double). He is forever seen donning his mask and costume out of fear that he’ll “split” due to the immense psychological damage he sustained due to severe loneliness, shame and eventually, from watching his own doubles betray and kill each other before his very eyes. Since he had no idea if he was real or a double, Twice faced unbelievable psychological stress because doubles are several times less durable than the real thing, and he had no idea if he was actually the real Bubaigawara.
In this battle, Twice and other combatants from the League are forced to confront their varied pasts in conflicts against MLA operatives who seem to reflect something about their true damage and their individual motivations for being in the League and being subordinate to Shigaraki Tomura. The aforementioned Twice is thrown back into his deepest fear when he sees clones of himself doing the MLA’s dirty work, courtesy of the abilities of Chikazuku Tomoyasu (Codename: Skeptic; Meta Ability: Anthropomorph).
Just like in his past, Twice finds himself engaged in mortal combat against hordes of himself and quickly restrained. When his arms are broken, his psychological damage is effectively reversed, as that level of damage cannot be endured by the doubles he creates, confirming that he is in fact himself, the real Bubaigawara Jin. Twice’s failures first alienated him from society, and then from himself and overcoming this is protagonist-level character development.
Toga Himiko (Quirk: Transform)
Toga Himiko is thrown into battle against several MLA operatives, but her main opponent is the former journalist Kizuki Chitose (Codename: Curious; Meta Ability: Landmine). This match-up is interesting not just because we get Toga’s backstory, but because of the themes that it brings up and the contrast between Toga’s elusiveness and Curious’s dogged pursuit of a good “scoop”.
Toga’s deviance began in her childhood and eventually led to her seriously injuring a classmate in middle school and drinking his blood. Her parents had always been weirded out by her, especially considering the allusion that child Toga had a habit of killing animals and sucking their blood with the strangest look of pleasure on her face.
It’s considered a huge red flag if a child displays cruelty to animals, so the implication here is quite damning: Toga Himiko was never “sane”. Toga’s interest in blood mingled with the things she admired or loved, so for her, these violent acts draw blood and hence, elicit a kind of beauty she cannot live without, but are also an expression of love on her part.
She ran away from home afterwards, avoiding the public eye and hence becoming the kind of social outcast that ends up resenting society. After her crime, Toga lived an elusive life as she tried her hardest to avoid the press, the cops and her parents. A nod to this is her mid-fight repetition of the phrase “Don’t get caught”, which was probably the words she had to live by if she were to survive as a young girl with a seemingly detestable Quirk and even more detestable sensibilities.
Have you ever heard people in relationships jokingly say that they want to live in their partner’s skin? The saying “you are what you eat” also comes to mind here, as Toga’s Quirk enables her to transform into the people whose blood she ingests. However, this particular habit which is tied to her Quirk is also something she does particularly to show “love”, and if one considers blood to be life essence, Toga’s ingestion of blood is in some way an attempt to keep the people she loves with her, but she also transforms into them, quite literally living “in their skin”.
This is confirmed when Toga evolves during her battle, donning the appearance of Uraraka Ochaco (Hero Name: Uravity; Quirk: Zero Gravity) and gaining the ability to use the abilities of the people she transforms into. Using the nimble agility she honed in a life of evasion, Toga touches all of her opponents, uses Uravity’s ability to raise them very far off the ground and with a determined look she says, “I want to become more like what I love!”, before letting them fall to their deaths.
Another thing important to her character as we also realize that she once also donned a “mask” to hide her true nature. The mask motif made several appearances throughout her mid-fight flashbacks to her middle school days, and as the fight progressed and her injuries worsened, Curious’s questions continued to wear away at that mask.
Curious herself has a flashback to a meeting with someone who we can safely assume is a younger Re-Destro. They discussed an article she wrote that couldn’t “capture the hearts of people”. His advice? “Conduct interviews and look at their faces” because an article is meant to influence the opinions of the public and move people’s hearts. In this fight, Curious prods with very incisive questions that are designed to chip away at the mask hiding Toga’s “face”, which proves to be a great success as Curious’s various speculations about Toga’s origins turn out to be true.
“Don’t get caught” was her mantra, hence Toga’s ability enabling her to transform in the first place and conceal her presence in the best possible fashion. Toga’s hiding from society, and herself to some extent naturally piques the interest of Curious, who was an active journalist when Toga’s violent story was breaking news.
This is the best part, and incredible storytelling as someone who hides the truth is pitted against someone committed to unearthing it. There’s also the contrast between the characters’ abilities, with Curious’s explosive Meta Ability being antithetical to Toga’s Quirk which enables her elusiveness and reflects desire to conceal her presence or even, her existence. Bombs are loud and flashy, calling attention to their area of detonation, so it's an especially interesting subtext for Curious to use Toga’s ingestion of blood against her by modifying her allies to be living bombs, so that when Toga drinks it, it explodes inside her body.
That’s poetic if you consider Toga’s blood drinking to be an act of her love—she’s effectively being harmed by what she loves.
To be honest, this arc has managed to create the most compelling origin stories for the League of Villains while giving them protagonist-esque power ups related to their beginning to overcome their individual traumas and motive to overcome their limits and their adversaries.
Shimura Tenko (Villain Name: Shigaraki Tomura, Quirk: Decay)
Perhaps the most interesting origin story we’ve been told so far is that of Shimura Tenko, or as we know him, Shigaraki Tomura, leader of the League of Villains. Shigaraki has been in the middle of an amnesiac fog for the huge part of the series; however, his memories have begun to bubble up now that he has to step up and lead the League of Villains in All For One’s place.
This villains arc has been Shigaraki’s own exam arc; as the only way he can officially become leader of the League is if he tames All For One’s behemoth, Gigantomachia, who only sees All For One as his master; but also because he’s faced with the task of establishing dominance over the Meta Liberation Army (LRA), who seek to subjugate the League of Villains on their way to creating a brand new society. This arc serves as Shigaraki’s evolution arc, and the result is something more terrifying than we’ve seen from My Hero Academia to date.
Shigaraki’s condition in this arc has been very strange. At first, you’d think he’s ill because he complains about a strange feeling, a headache and recurring flashbacks that are incomplete and disjointed. However, while these memories flash into his head, Shigaraki experiences strange increases in his power and a slow evolution of his Quirk. His memories from before his first meeting with All For One are slowly emerging, and this is causing some kind of strange growth in the overall reach and parameters of the Quirk. At one point, his League of Villains underling, Iguchi Shuichi (Villain Name: Spinner; Quirk: Gecko), witnesses Shigaraki’s Decay reaching even the opponents he hadn’t touched, which happens a moment after a memory of a young girl flashes into Shigaraki’s head. He vomits and goes into a trance-like state, again noting that he feels weird.
Shigaraki once had a happy family, at least on the surface. In reality, his family was banned from talking about heroes by his father, who was carrying the trauma of being abandoned by his mother, Shimura Nana (Hero Name Unknown; Quirk: One For All) who we know as the mentor of All Might and a previous wielder of One For All. This is already a mindblowing revelation, but it’s barely the main event in Shigaraki’s past.
His father was vehemently against any mention of heroes, but he kept a photo of his mother in a safe place in the study. Shigaraki’s sister shows him the photo and they bond over their goal of becoming sibling heroes, but their father discovers that they saw it. Shigaraki’s sister deflects blame, and their father’s rage reaches a breaking point and young Tenko is forced to spend ages outside. While outside, his dormant powers of Decay, which have started to emerge and cause him a severe itch and dry skin, activate unconsciously while petting his dog.
Shigaraki’s power stems from his desire to destroy, which he unsuccessfully tries to suppress, along with the hatred he feels for his father who abuses him, and his family who do nothing but watch and comfort him later. His sister comes out to apologize, but Tenko’s unhappiness and anger are beyond their limit. He ends up slaughtering his sister who got him into trouble, and later his dad, who tried to kill him after realizing the extent of the damage being caused by Tenko’s emerging Quirk. The murders leave Tenko feeling liberated, but he’s forced to fend for himself at a very young age, leading to All For One’s discovery and subsequent renaming of Tenko to “Shigaraki Tomura”, a new name carrying All For One’s last name.
Upon having access to all of his memories, Shigaraki awakens during his battle with Re-Destro and his Decay Quirk acts much like it did in the flashbacks to his childhood, with severe destruction of everything emanating from where he stands. Re-Destro’s 120% Stress and mecha aren’t enough to faze Tomura, whose complete awakening comes with an even lighter shade of hair and a much more menacing demeanour overall. Re-Destro is quickly defeated and upon seeing him standing victorious in the rubble that once was Deika City, Gigantomachia accepts Shigaraki as All For One’s successor, and his true master.
What happened during the battle is something the MLA stands for—the complete liberation of one’s own meta abilities, so Re-Destro is also psychologically subdued by what Shigaraki’s path has been about and what he represents at that moment. Like Gigantomachia, Re-Destro gazes upon the newly awakened Shigaraki Tomura and sees something akin to a god. The battle ends with the overwhelming victory of the League of Villains, who then absorb the MLA to become The Paranormal Liberation Front, with nine lieutenants from both the League and former MLA operatives. With that, the villains arc comes to a close with major growth for the characters and the overall antagonists of My Hero Academia.
“My Villain Academia” has been the best part of the 5th season of My Hero Academia so far, outdoing the drawn-out training arc and subsequent work-study arc by incredible margins. This story’s main actors have been coming into their own throughout the series, but there has been nothing quite like the conditions surrounding the series’ journey into the origins of some of our favorite villains. There was plenty of subtextual exploration of themes and elements, and honestly, we don’t think the writing has been better in My Hero Academia so far. This arc has been the kind that revived our faith in this season turning out to be a great one, especially after its lukewarm start, and we’re now left to digest what has happened, and brace ourselves for the ramifications of what is clearly a defining moment in the series. What did you think about the villains arc? Drop a comment below and tell us your thoughts!