Shounen anime is a genre that could probably be seen as the anime medium’s standout genre, particularly in the era after Dragon Ball Z – the era of The Big Three. The genre has developed and changed over time and certain elements have become a mainstay in the genre. We could get into that, but that’s a topic for another day; we’re focused on one of the aforementioned elements – the deuteragonist or rival. This is a character who is usually on course towards the same goal as the protagonist, or merely someone who sees them as worthy competition. Let’s consider Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia) character Bakugo Katsuki and get into what makes him the ideal rival!
1. Ambition that is comparable to that of our MC
The fact that Katsuki wishes to become a hero about as much as Deku does says a lot about the type of character he is – a driven and self-assured character who works incredibly hard toward his goal. What assists this continued effort towards his goal is Katsuki’s deep-rooted sense of superiority over Deku, which is immediately threatened the moment Deku inherits One-For-All. Katsuki and Deku have both dreamed of becoming heroes from their childhood days and it is this long-running shared desire that brings out a lot of contempt from Katsuki towards Deku because Katsuki sees himself as superior to the Quirkless Deku.
2. Similar source of inspiration to Deku
A big aspect in Katsuki’s character is regarding his reason for wanting to become a hero. Like Deku, Katsuki was inspired by the acts of All Might as a child and regards him with the same level of respect and admiration, which is excellent when you consider the fact that their shared idol chose one of them, and it was not Katsuki. The relationship that All Might and Deku have is somewhat evident to Katsuki and that is another element that adds to Katsuki’s burning anger, confusion regarding Deku’s powers and his contempt for Deku.
As strange as this may sound, the fact that Katsuki has always been a bully to Deku since their childhood sets a strange precedent for their relationship – the superiority Katsuki once felt over Deku was codified by the fact that he could push him around with ease. For a while even after entering U.A. High and being in the same class as Katsuki, Deku always seemed pensive around him, and not yet confident in his own abilities. This changes over time and in season 3, we see an actual fight between Deku and Katsuki, an event that solidifies the idea that they are arch-rivals who go way back. Season 3; however, also shows us Katsuki’s willingness to put work in and improve – which he does. Any good rival is one who never neglects their own growth.
Bakugo Katsuki’s character is an explosive and fiery personality which is best described as intense levels of self-assuredness, confidence to the point of arrogance and innate ability meeting an almost-as-intense level of insecurity. This fiery nature of Bakugo is a direct foil to Deku’s timid personality at the beginning of the series and in a way, the sheer difference in their personalities coupled together with their vast similarities makes almost feel like two protagonists. Both share a goal, inspiration and even ambition to achieve, but it comes from completely different places and it is this contrast that makes Boku no Hero Academia’s depiction of the Shounen trope of the rival a really, really good one.
Shounen anime tends to repeat a certain formula throughout the genre. This formula is used and changed by different shows but ultimately, you can see how different Shounen anime borrow certain ideas, tropes, motifs and dynamics and make them unique to themselves. In this way, the genre is perhaps the most self-referential in anime because part of the fun of watching Shounen is seeing what they do with age-old recipes. This rivalry element is just one such recipe – as such, Deku and Katsuki seem to reflect a rivalry or duality seen in pairs like Goku and Vegeta; Yugi and Kaiba; Ichigo and Uryu; Asta and Yuno – the list goes on. As far as rivalry is concerned; however, Katsuki is perhaps a character we’ll remember in the future as a legend.