Hitoshi Shinso, Not Midoriya, Is the Series’ Best Underdog

One of the cornerstones of nearly every classic shonen anime and manga is the underdog story. Naruto starts out as an orphan and the village clown but eventually becomes Hokage like he always dreamed. Haikyuu!!‘s Hinata barely knew the basics of volleyball in Chapter 1 but became an Olympic athlete. Underdogs are so popular because they’re easy for the audience to root for. More than that, seeing them reach their goals makes the viewer believe they could do the same thing.

My Hero Academia’s Izuku Midoriya also falls into this camp of shonen protagonists. Born Quirkless in a world where supernatural abilities are the norm, his chances of being a hero are miniscule until he has a chance encounter with All Might. This single instance changes Deku’s life forever, as he’s suddenly blessed with everything he could have ever wanted. This is a dream for countless kids and teens around the world: to be in the right place at the right time and spirited away to their dream life. He isn’t the only underdog in MHA, however. The most prominent doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but he’s a fan favorite because of his incredible potential. Hitoshi Shinso is an underdog too — and a better one than Deku.

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Why Deku’s My Hero Academia Journey Has Some Critics

The vast majority of media targeted at younger audiences have some core message they want the viewer to learn. Most underdog stories in shonen have a message along the lines of “with hard work and a bit of luck, you can achieve your dreams.” The hero has something special about them, but they must train and gain experience in order to truly shine. Deku is no different, with his heroic nature catching his idol’s eye and deeming him a worthy successor.

However, some criticize MHA for this very reason. Midoriya becoming the greatest hero’s successor follows the trope of the Chosen One — which is common across all media and has grown tired to some. While Deku’s struggle to control One for All is constant and he’s frequently shown putting in extra work while his classmates are resting, critics dislike that this power is not his own. Bakugo refers to it as “borrowed power” multiple times, and he isn’t wrong. Those who dislike this aspect of MHA think the story would have been more interesting if Deku became the first Quirkless hero, or even had a Quirk that was deemed bad for heroics that he made work.

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My Hero Academia Initially Set Shinso Up as an Antagonist

Hitoshi Shinso is the answer to these complaints. He starts out just as disadvantaged as Deku, if not more so. Although he was born with a Quirk, he has experienced just as much social stigma as Midoriya. With his Brainwashing being labeled as “villainous,” many people treated Shinso differently. Before getting into UA, his peers would joke that he could be as evil as he wants with his power. People avoided talking to him out of fear he’d use his Quirk on them, and adults probably kept a closer eye on him in case he started acting like a villain.

My Hero Academia itself sets Shinso up as an antagonist when he’s introduced. The rest of the school is already upset with the hero course kids — whom the audience are supposed to root for — and there’s Shinso at the front of the pack, declaring war on them during the “Sports Festival” arc. Those he has used his Quirk on warn others about him, all while the story frames him like a villain. It isn’t until his fight with Deku that this framing changes, which highlights a fascinating aspect of My Hero Academia.

Quirk discrimination is a part of MHA‘s society from the very first chapter. Bakugo gets his Quirk and is immediately praised for its power, while Midoriya is Quirkless and is bullied for it from the day it’s confirmed. Spinner laments being considered a freak all his life because of his heteromorphic Quirk. Even so many generations after Quirks first manifested, to the point most people have them, this super society is just as flawed as real life. But it’s only something the characters talk about, rather than being explored in-depth.

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Making Shinso the Protagonist Would’ve Allowed MHA to Explore Quirk Discrimination on a Deeper Level

During the Sports Festival, Aizawa talks about how UA’s entrance exam is biased because it only allows kids with physical Quirks to shine. A child could score perfectly on the written exam but still fail, because the practical exam doesn’t allow them to use their power. All of this comes up because Shinso is participating and has made it to the final round, despite being in general studies.

But the series could have gone so much deeper with him as the protagonist. It could have talked about the reasons why discrimination exists while having Shinso poking holes in that system. It could have been him struggling to be a hero in a system that wasn’t set up with his success in mind. That story is very much happening in the background while he trains with Aizawa, but the audience doesn’t get to see it.

My Hero Academia is already about how hero society is broken, and that would only be better highlighted with a protagonist who didn’t receive all his power on a golden strand of hair.

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