Boku No Backlash

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Beloved manga and anime Boku no Hero Academia falls under the threat of the axe after writer Horikoshi delves too far into the more war-torn aspects of Japan‘s history.

Boku No Hero Academia (My Hero Academia) has undoubtedly been one of the most popular anime and manga franchises to hit the market in recent years. It follows the endeavours of young Midoriya Izuku amongst his society filled with ‘quirks’ – the term applied to those born with superpowers and therein provided with the opportunity to become superheroes. As Midoriya was born ‘quirkless,’ it is his encounter and display of bravery in front of the No. 1 Hero, All Might, that causes him to be gifted with his idol’s own quirk. He is then allowed the opportunity to follow in his footsteps alongside his talented and formidable classmates, tackling fearsome obstacles in pursuing his ominous fate to step into the role of the most successful hero. There are numerous reasons that the series is so popular, from the unique and refreshing perspectives that Boku No Hero Academia offers on heroism and morality, the complexities of the characters that come under the banner of ‘villainy,’ gender dynamics and representation and even the details of the glorious, engrossing animation and brilliant musicality. 

In recent developments, the series has faced considerable criticism in regard to the recent machinations of writer Horikoshi Kohei. The most recent arc of the series has seen the police and hero forces track down the ‘Doctor’ who assists in the grotesque and fearsome experiments behind the ambitions of main villain, All for One. What has fans up in outrage is the choice of the name applied to the villain – ‘Shiga Maruta’ being translatable in Japanese as a reference to the victims of human experiments during both the Sino-Japanese wars and World War II. Source dexerto notes that the name specifically refers to a Japanese covert-ops; a historical figure whom experimented on his subjects personally, the ethnicities of his choice being Chinese and Korean. Comicbook.com has noted that this piece of history is so sensitive that it often dismissed from school curriculums, the barbarity of the crime and political impact it may have being an understandable reason for why this detail has heard such formidable backlash. Horikoshi has publicly apologised for his supposed lapse and in judgement and there are reports of a chance of the name being changed, otherwise there is a very genuine concern that such a popular story may be axed on account of this public outrage. 

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This detail has arisen amongst other unfortunately sensitive details that fans have spotted in the ballistics behind the series, for whilst protagonist Midoriya’s birthday coincides with the date of the establishment of the Japanese Communist party, additional character favourite Katsuki Bakugou’s birthday falls on the same date as Adolf Hitler’s. As he is renowned for being particularly aggressive and flamboyant – his quirk being that he can produce firepower at his fingertips from a bead of sweat – it is easy to see how such characterisation might seem tone-deaf and cause fans to be upset.  

The above concerning the ‘Doctor’  has caused such a fervent offense that it arouses curiosity; reports of human experimentation within Japan indeed being a clouded aspect of global history. It is possible that the public are keen to keep this aspect of Japanese history out of the spotlight, but then this raises questions about the ethics surrounding reflection and accountability. It draws on a tale as old as time – whether art should have the authority or prod and pry into the diabolisms of humankind. This is not the first manga/ anime to be hit with outrage, as fellow blockbuster Shingeki no Kyoujin (Attack on Titan) has been renounced by many for having underpinnings of fascism. It even relates to Game of Thrones’ outcome, as many were incensed by the way the writers muddled their depictions of gender in tandem with notions of justice and tyranny. 

However, in reference to Kyoujin in particular, there is a strong argument in favour of how its own writer, Hajime Isayama, has chosen to handle the situation. As Dave Trumbore discusses in Collider, the inclusion of the discussion of fascism and anti-semitism is not an encouragement of such sentiments, but rather the allegory of the barbaric Titans turning out to be the protagonist’s own people is meant to elicit sympathy. We are not meant to see the Eldians as the vermin – rather that label should be applied to their tormentors, Isayama then using allegory to make a heated critique on fascism, not suggest that he is in favour of it. 

Even acclaimed animation legend Hayao Miyazaki was initially embroiled in criticism for deciding to create The Wind Rises, as the film was based on the plan designer Horikoshi Jiro. His Mitsubishi A6M Zero’s were responsible for the Pearl Harbour bombings. Whilst Miyazaki does indeed create an empathetic portrayal of Horikoshi, he is far from promoting war and violence. On the contrary, the effect of the beauty of his art accentuates the tragedy as an undeniable stain in global and national history; a loss of lives on both sides that has caused longstanding melancholy. 

We can then say that there is a possibility that Boku No Hero Academia is doing the same thing. Indeed, it is arguably brave that Horikoshi has tried to use an intricate part of Japanese history to accentuate his ideas of immorality and use realism to resonate with his readership. Even Bakugou’s birthday is an arguably ingenious move, as his ark is mainly concerned with adapting to more conventional ideas of heroism – this additional odd to be stacked against him stoking further support towards his maturity and redemption. 

Perhaps there are some allegories and references that are felt to be too grave for manga, and so this invites questions as to what are the limits writers are allowed to tap into history in order to become inspired. We are used to literature and film being challenging and provocative, so this situation begs the question as to why manga is scandalised for trying to do the same thing. Violence is not highlighted in order to be incited but acts like a microcosm of a virus to be injected inside us so that the antibodies of our conscience will be roused to prevent repeated mistakes in the future before us. It would actually be a shame if Horikoshi was forced into redacting his narrative choices as his provocations may be meant to be constructive.  We can only hope the beloved manga then does not fall prey to fears of misinformation and bias, as it is not always shameful to tackle even the most gruesome aspects of the past that lies behind us.

Image Credit: Denofgeek.com