Izuku Midoriya grew up with a circle of friends led by Katsuki Bakugo. Although everyone around him had a quirk, a unique superpower most individuals have, Izuku was one of the few that didn’t. This caused him to be bullied by Katsuki, but he still regarded him as a friend. That friendship took a turn for the worst when Izuku tried to help Katsuki after he fell off a makeshift bridge and hurt his pride. Ever since then, Katsuki’s treatment of Izuku became increasingly vicious and toxic. Izuku grew up isolated in his classes and had a tough time communicating with others without getting anxious. It isn’t until he enters U.A. High that he starts to build new friendships and is able to open himself up again. Honey’s Anime will look at Izuku’s troubling friendship with Katsuki and how he’s managed to build friendships with his classmates.
-- Spoilers Ahead! --
Izuku and Katsuki
Izuku and Katsuki’s relationship initially looks like the rivalry most shounen are built on, but My Hero Academia shows a unique willingness to explore the effects that sort of toxic relationships can have. While Izuku perseveres in seeing Katsuki as a friend, Katsuki genuinely sees Izuku as something below him. It’s hard to not be disgusted by Katsuki when he outright tells Izuku to kill himself in the first episode. His vicious treatment of Izuku leads to him having trouble interacting with his classmates at U.A., and it takes some time for Izuku to be able to interact with them without feeling shy and nervous.
My Hero Academia doesn’t deny the rivalry between Izuku and Katsuki, but there’s a distinct absence of friendliness between them despite being classmates. They both make efforts to improve as individuals and make their own friendships in their class, but it’s clear they both have a desire to surpass the other. As the year goes on in U.A., it’s worth noting that Izuku and Katsuki’s rivalry loses some of its initial toxicity with Izuku learning to stand up for himself and Katsuki maturing after acknowledging his flaws now that he’s no longer the center of attention.
Despite their rivalry, Izuku genuinely cares for Katsuki as a friend, something Katsuki has never really reflected. Izuku is deeply troubled when Katsuki’s kidnapped by the League of Villains and is willing to break the rules to save him. He even acknowledges Katsuki’s feelings by making sure it’s Kirishima, Katsuki’s closest friend, that offers his hand to rescue him and not Izuku.
A Friendship Built on Mutual Respect
Izuku makes many genuine friendships at U.A. High now that he no longer has the shadow of Katsuki bearing down on him. Although he shows affection for some of the friends he makes at U.A., like Ochako Uraraka and Tsuyu Asui, a lot of his friendships tend to be built on mutual respect. Often, Izuku comes to acknowledge either his classmates’ abilities or their quality and they do the same to him. Izuku is also able to easily get on with his classmates because he reflects the qualities of a hero and genuinely wants to see others be happy and succeed.
Tenya Iida and Shoto Todoroki best reflect Izuku’s willingness to help his classmates and his respectful behavior towards them. For the latter, Izuku admires Shoto’s ability as the #1 hero in the class, but also realizes that Shoto is hindering himself because of his relationship with his father. Izuku sacrifices his advantage during the U.A. Sports Festival so he can help Shoto overcome his strained relationship with his father and perform to the best of his abilities. In the case of Iida, Izuku respects how organized and disciplined he is but sees that Iida is troubled enough to sacrifice his ethics after hearing about his hospitalized brother at the hands of the villain Stain. Izuku is able to remind Iida of his morals and his responsibility as a hero even if it means straining his relationship with him.
With every obstacle Izuku faces with his classmates, it’s this respect he feels for them that allows him to work seamlessly with all of them and help push them to become better versions of themselves. After growing up with a friendship that was toxic, Izuku’s new friendships at U.A. High feel genuine, real, and positive
While My Hero Academia does not reinvent the shounen wheel, it contrasts sharply with its peers in that friendship isn’t revered the way it is elsewhere, but it’s still very much present. In My Hero Academia, Izuku is more dedicated to the goal of being the #1 hero than cultivating friendships, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of healthy and positive relationships with his classmates. He’s able to work with most of them smoothly and to help them all excel, something even his teacher notes. It’s those small elements that have always helped My Hero Academia stand out even if it doesn’t subvert the shounen tropes.