Bakugo from the My Hero Academia Anime
Discover the flaws in the character of Katsuki Bakugo from the My Hero Academia series. Find out why he doesn't resonate with everyone and how he can be improved. Spoilers ahead!

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Writing characters is always a tough challenge. You need to come up with story ideas, motivations, developments, actions, and many other things. Making the character compelling so that he or she can resonate with others? That’s even more challenging. So, whenever a character strikes a chord with the audience, there are a lot of people singing their praises. When it doesn’t fully work? Well, Katsuki Bakugo is a good example of that.

Bakugo is one of the main characters of the My Hero Academia anime and manga series written and drawn by Kohei Horikoshi. Although he is introduced as the rival of protagonist Izuku “Deku” Midoriya and as one of the leads, Bakugo is one of the most divisive characters in the franchise. While some people love him, a lot of people (myself included) have been critical of him.

So, what are the reasons for this? Why doesn’t Bakugo work as a character? And what can be done to fix him? Today I’m going to address that and many other things regarding this character and his flaws.

Disclaimer: This article contains massive spoilers for the My Hero Academia series.

Character Bio

Bakugo from My Hero Academia
Credit: Viz Media

Katsuki Bakugo is a teenager that comes from the same school as Izuku Midoriya, the main character, and they have known each other since they were kids. Once Bakugo developed his Quirk, which is the ability to create explosions, he started bullying Izuku, who remained Quirkless during his childhood. Afterward, they both entered UA to study and become heroes.

Bakugo is introduced as a bully, prone to anger, constantly shouting and belittling others, and also being abusive towards Izuku. During most of the first arc in the manga (and the first season of the anime), Katsuki works as a foil to Deku, with the latter starting to stand up for himself and challenge the former’s views on the world.

As the series progresses, Bakugo becomes a little less antagonistic and becomes one of the main three players of Class 1-A, along with the aforementioned Midoriya and Shoto Todoroki.

A Character Arc… Sort Of

Bakugo interacting with other characters from My Hero Academia.
Credit: Viz Media

From a broader perspective, Bakugo’s character arc seems very straightforward: he starts the series as a bully that doesn’t care for others, starts to get humbled by Deku and his experiences in UA, and develops a bit more empathy and capacity for teamwork. And, truth be told, that happens in the manga. However, it is done poorly.

I personally view Bakugo as Horikoshi’s weak spot as a writer and shows all of his worst habits: poor pacing, forcing some situations, lack of consequences, and often not developing some key plot beats. It’s a shame because this is the same man that wrote one of the best modern shonen characters in Endeavor and writes one of the most frustrating in Bakugo in the same manga.

Bakugo has a character that is done quite poorly. While at some points he acknowledges his shortcomings as a person, he doesn’t try to change his attitude towards others, especially Deku. Despite the fact he is constantly mistreating people around him, he is never punished for his actions. And some situations, such as his being kidnapped by the League of Villains or constantly being praised by everybody for anything he does, are forced.

This is a lead character that has very little influence on the main plot and has little agency in terms of what he wants to achieve. This is shown in key moments, and now I’m going to elaborate on some of Bakugo’s most important elements as a character.

Bakugo and Deku’s “Friendship”

Bakugo and Deku
Credit: Viz Media

Bakugo initially works as a foil to Izuku in the early stages of the story and that is great. He is annoying, violent, and a very good contrast to Deku: while our protagonist is kind, didn’t have a Quirk for most of his life, and was constantly bullied by Bakugo and others, the latter was selfish, had a powerful Quirk, and was praised by everybody. It is a classic underdog story from Deku’s side.

However, the problems begin when the story moves forward with the plot. Bakugo and Deku’s “friendship” isn’t one: it’s mostly abuse from Katsuki’s part to Midoriya, with the latter struggling to stand up for himself. Izuku has gotten a lot of criticism over the years, and while my opinion of him leans more toward the positive than the negative, his lack of character development when dealing with Bakugo is a huge aspect of his I dislike.

Simply put: Bakugo hasn’t done enough to be Deku’s friend. On the other hand, he has done enough to be pushed away: he humiliated him, physically abused him, and even told him to take his own life. From a rational perspective, this behavior should be enough for Izuku to at least not want to talk with Katsuki ever again.

That doesn’t happen, though. All of this would be fine if this relationship was treated in the series as toxic and problematic (which it is) and as a character flaw that Deku needs to overcome: that sometimes he needs to be tougher and not allow himself to be walked over. However, that doesn’t happen and for most of the series, our protagonist gets insulted by his childhood bully and is treated as comedy.

This may sound like criticism towards Izuku (and it is) but is also meant to reflect how Bakugo is sold to the audience. A bully with little backstory to justify his aggressive and egotistical personality is not going to generate a lot of empathy from the audience, which is a problem that Horikoshi had with this character: you don’t understand Bakugo’s motivation to mistreat Izuku. Therefore, that makes his actions highly unlikable.

Since his rivalry with Deku is the character’s biggest plot point and they eventually become “friends”, then this relationship needs to be fleshed out. Katsuki being helped by Izuku on a river when they were kids is not enough to justify telling someone to take his own life and constantly insulting others. Horikoshi is a good writer and one that is very straightforward with his themes but this one was a massive miss from his end.

Izuku and Katsuki have all the elements of an abusive relationship and are portrayed as something positive, which is something that affects how both characters are perceived by the audience.

His Family and the Pressure From Society

Bakugo and his family
Credit: Viz Media

Like any other character, Bakugo has his own fans. In fact, his fans are very vocal and supportive of him, going as far as defending a lot of questionable decisions Horikoshi has made regarding his character. On that front, one argument that is often brought up is how Katsuki was “physically abused” by his family and how society was constantly putting a lot of pressure on him to become a great hero, which is why he is the way he is.

This is the best definition of “headcanon” you are going to find on the internet.

My Hero Academia author Kohei Horikoshi is a very talented writer and artist and has done some really amazing things with this series but if there is one element of his that is not his strongest that is subtlety. In layman’s terms, Horikoshi is very straightforward when he wants to say if a character was mistreated or not, for example.

Horikoshi has never shown in the series that Katsuki was physically abused or had a lot of pressure from people to become a hero. Most people usually use the scene where his parents were introduced and his mother, Mitsuki, hits him in the head and they start fighting. That is classic anime humor and has been shown time and time again in multiple series.

To put an example, Ichigo Kurosaki, the protagonist of Bleach, is often attacked by his father, Isshin, and that is obviously meant to be comic relief, not as an example of Ichigo being the victim of abuse. We can debate on whether that kind of humor is funny or not (although I think that is in the eye of the beholder) but is very clear that Horikoshi portrayed that scene as comedy and there hasn’t been any hint of that playing a role in Katsuki’s development.

In fact, during that same scene, Mitsuki highlights how his son is constantly getting superficial praise and how his character should be pushed further. That’s actually a very good assessment of his son and shows how in tune she is with Katsuki’s shortcomings, which is something that an abusive parent would probably not be aware of.

The part of Bakugo being pressed by people is mere headcanon with no basis. Not once in the series has it been shown how Katsuki was pressured to become a hero. If anything, he was just getting praised for it with no real negative outcomes for this. In many ways, Izuku had more pressure because he had inherited All Might’s powers. Shoto Todoroki was basically conceived to become the best hero. Ochaco Uraraka wants to provide for her family because they are poor. And the list goes on with characters that definitely have a lot more pressure than Bakugo and don’t behave the way he does.

Should Horikoshi have developed Bakugo’s reasons to be the way he is? Absolutely. Probably one of his biggest mistakes in the series, considering how prominent the character is. Well, about that last part…

His Lack Of Influence In The Plot

Bakugo's death from the manga.
Credit: Viz Media

Bakugo is established as one of the “Big Three” of the series. Those are Izuku Midoriya, Shoto Todoroki, and the aforementioned Katsuki. They are the three main lead characters of the series and the ones that are poised to be the best heroes out of Class 1-A. There’s only one problem with this: you can remove Bakugo from the story and it would be pretty much the same.

Katsuki’s most important role in the series is at the beginning as Izuku’s bully, but the truth of the matter is that the latter never had much of a grudge towards him. Midoriya only wanted to move on with his life and holds no resentment towards his bully (which I think is one of Deku’s weaknesses as a character because he actually admires Bakugo and that is a huge flaw), so even this role could have been filled by a less important figure in the story.

We’re supposed to buy into Bakugo as one of the big players in the series but he rarely gets to do anything important. For someone that has such popularity in the polls, it’s interesting how Horikoshi never gave him a major plot point or big fights to shine. Deku is the protagonist and the inheritor of One for All and Shoto has his family issues, which are connected to major plot points with the villains, while Bakugo… is just there.

While doing research for this article, I searched on social media and YouTube to see the fans’ takes on why Katsuki never got a proper one-on-one battle outside of UA. Most fans argued that his character isn’t about strength but growing as a person. It’s a valid point but part of growing involves fighting outside of the comfort of classes. Much like Deku and others, he needs to taste defeat and adversity to criminals and villains to understand how the real world works.

Heck, even Kirishima got his moment to shine in the Overhaul arc, proving his mettle as a hero and why he wants to achieve his goal. It’s one of the most iconic moments in the series and one that cemented him as a fan favorite. Funny enough, Bakugo has never gotten this beyond a few scraps with Deku and a battle against Todoroki in the Sports Festival where the latter didn’t go all out.

His other major contribution to the story is getting kidnapped in the Kamino arc and that could have been anyone. It could have been Todoroki and it would have been even more interesting because Shigaraki and the others could have played with his family drama to trick him into joining them. It would also have been very interesting to see Endeavor’s reaction to his son indirectly retiring All Might, thus giving him his goal but not in the way he wanted.

So, Bakugo is kinda there without really having a big role to play. He is no more important to the plot than Kirishima and there is a big chance that the latter is liked far more by the audience. Funny enough, his best contribution to the series could be his death against Shigaraki in the final arc to spur Deku on and that is probably going to be fixed by Edgeshot giving his life for him… which is a very weird decision by Horikoshi. Why “kill” Bakugo if he is going to come back? Unless he wants to give him a power-up to face Shigaraki with Deku. Good ol’ plot convenience.

His Motivation and How That Is Perceived

Bakugo and All Might
Credit: Viz Media

Every character in Class 1-A has their own reasons to become a hero in the series and that’s fine. In Katsuki’s case, he was inspired by All Might and how cool he looked after winning. It is a direct contrast to how the number one hero’s kindness and optimism inspired Deku, which is a nice way to highlight the differences between the two characters.

The problem begins when that motivation is not explored. Why does Bakugo prioritize victory and power so much? Why does winning seem to be all that matters to him? Going back to Kirishima, Horikoshi took his time to show his backstory, why he was inspired by Crimson Riot, and the aspirations he had as a hero. It reflects on the person he is and the way he does things.

Horikoshi has shown with several characters like Kirishima that he can develop a backstory and explain their motivations. When it comes to Bakugo, it is all done in a very vague manner: he wants to be strong because he wants to be strong. He wants to win all the time because he wants to win all the time. It’s all very surface-level.

That is a core problem of Bakugo: he is a very surface-level character. Someone like Shoto Todoroki might not be the most expressive in terms of characterization, but he has Deku, his family, and the aforementioned Katsuki to bounce off to work. However, when it comes to the explosive blonde, there are no moments of introspection to buy into his motivation.

From a world-building perspective, why are the teachers at UA enabling his behavior? After all, this is a guy that wants to be a hero just to prove his strength. Heroism is about helping people, so it doesn’t add up. How can a selfish and violent person that mistreats others be a hero? If it’s because he has a strong Quirk, then that is a bigger reason to guide him because, if things go south, he could become a dangerous threat.

None of this is explored. None of Bakugo’s dubious and selfish motivations or the teachers’ double standards. Pacing has been a common problem in My Hero Academia and has kept elements such as this from being developed, hurting Katsuki’s character. People don’t have much to latch on to with him.

Even though guys like Kirishima and Mirio Togata are fan favorites, neither of them should have clearer backstories and motivations than someone who is supposed to be one of the main characters. And yet, they have.

Shoto and Enji Todoroki

Todoroki and Endeavor
Credit: Viz Media

To help understand some of Bakugo’s shortcomings as a character and the differences between how Horikoshi writes him when compared to others, both Shoto and Enji Todoroki are very good examples of the point I’m trying to make.

Let’s start with Shoto. His motivation and backstory are independent of the rest of the main plot centered around Deku. He has his own vision of who he wants to be and his own subplot with his family, which is extended later on with Dabi’s revelation. With or without Izuku’s input, Shoto has a lot going on and that is very interesting because it connects with the main story while keeping the character’s sense of individuality. He is not reacting to the lead character while Bakugo, in a way, is still relevant because of his connection with the protagonist.

On the other hand, Endeavor is an example of Horikoshi’s writing at his best. His redemption arc has been a joy to read and watch, and it also shows that the author knows how to do this kind of story. Enji is not instantly forgiven for the abuse and damage he caused to his family: he works for their atonement and, even then, things don’t get completely better. Dabi’s existence is a testament to the damage Endeavor has caused and how that is never going away.

Endeavor is very flawed and human while having a lot of range as a character. So, how can Horikoshi write such a compelling individual in Enji Todoroki and have such an underwhelming development with Bakugo? The man can do it. He has proven it. It’s something I really don’t understand.

The number two hero goes through several trials and tribulations to prove he is a better man and, despite that, two of his sons cannot forgive him and his other son is a criminal that wants to ruin his life and his family’s. Endeavor has to overcome defeats and humiliations while trying to be better, which is something we don’t see with Bakugo because the author seems to be scared of putting a popular character under the ringer.

How Would I Fix Bakugo?

Bakugo and another character from My Hero Academia
Credit: Viz Media

Sitting on my desk and criticizing Kohei Horikoshi for a couple of pages on a Word document is a very simple task. It’s easy for me to point out flaws while not trying to do the difficult part: writing a character. Horikoshi’s job is not simple at all and I commend him for writing a very good manga with all the demands that entails. However, I’m going to humbly suggest some things I would have done to improve Bakugo’s character.

First of all, the initial setup is fine. Let him be a bully and mistreat Izuku. That’s fine until the first time they scrap, with Deku winning the evaluation. It sets Bakugo as a selfish bastard that only cares for himself and doesn’t think about the safety or wellbeing of others. It is a good start for a redemption arc.

What I would do differently is give the audience a moment of introspection between this in the Sports Festival arc. Let’s see what led Bakugo to think this way and why he believes it is right. Perhaps he knew someone beloved to him that couldn’t be saved because the hero that showed up was too weak and also got killed. So he looked up to All Might because he was the strongest and believed that only the strongest can save others.

The Sports Festival can go by and large the same way. He would do an internship with Beast Jeanist, the number four hero, and really develop their relationship. Best Jeanist should be his mentor figure: a calm, stoic man that has a Quirk that is not the greatest but requires creative thinking and a strategic mindset. It is a direct contrast to Katsuki and this hero could challenge his way of carrying himself and behaving in battle.

I would set up the Stain arc so he could face the Hero Killer. Katsuki would ignore Best Jeanist’s orders and decides to go after Stain, only to be defeated by him. Someone with a weaker Quirk defeated him soundly through strategy and experience alone, with the man himself saying that Bakugo could never be a hero because he is selfish and only cares about strength. That he could never touch All Might. Then Tenya, Shoto, and Deku would show up, following a similar path to the original story, only this time Katsuki is the one down for the count.

I’m ambivalent about the Kamino arc, so we can leave it like that. His second battle against Deku should be a lot more memorable. I’m talking that this should be My Hero Academia’s version of Goku vs. Vegeta in the Saiyan Saga in Dragon Ball Z.

Bakugo is very angry because of his constant failures and his being indirectly responsible for All Might’s retirement, so he decides to lash out at Deku. However, this time, when taunting him, Uraraka gets in the way and Bakugo, in a fit of rage, pushes her over, which causes Izuku to accept the challenge. It’s a very memorable fight with Deku going all out and winning, which breaks Katsuki down in tears. He has reached rock bottom and was expelled from UA for trying to harm another student.

After accepting defeat, he goes back to Best Jeanist and Katsuki requests training. The latter accepts, stating that he is going to teach him to fight to protect, not to hurt. We can have a minor arc of him being trained by Best Jeanist, telling him to prioritize minimizing casualties and also dealing with some of Shigaraki’s goons (or Overhaul’s, depending on the timeline), thus seeing him have a solid one-on-one battle. The number four hero could be the first one to get something out of Bakugo other than rage, thus developing a genuine bond.

The rest of the series could go as it went in the manga once he comes back to the school, but now the reader has a bit more perspective on what Bakugo wants and why he is the way he is. Of course, I don’t think people should accept him completely, especially Deku, but there should be a road to atonement, much like Endeavor. The point is to build a connection with the character, understand him a lot more, and make him face consequences for his actions.

Final Thoughts

Bakugo from My Hero Academia
Credit: Viz Media

Bakugo had potential. He could have been a great rival to Izuku and could have been a great character on his own. The problem was that Horikoshi never developed aspects of his character that needed attention and Katsuki committed many actions and had many traits that made him unlikable to a large portion of the fandom. At the end of the day, he is another example of wasted potential in My Hero Academia, which is a big shame.

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