To fight the symptom of a failed system.

Both the fictional Japan in Boku no Hero Academia and the real Japan have what can be called a tight culture—a term by Michele Gelfand, a professor of Psychology and author of the book Rule Makers Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. “Order” sits at the foundational structure of the country, systematically implemented through extrinsic social-political restriction and coercion. Within a tight culture there can be elements of looseness and vice versa. But generally cultures exist on a spectrum of tightness to looseness, and post-superpowered Japan falls on the tight end of that spectrum. Unfortunately, tightness of culture can result in repression of individuality. And Lady Nagant is the evident symptom of an outdated and failed system.

“The impulse to order is not trivial. Cooperation, coordination, and compliance with norms are the only footholds preventing a rapid slide into violence and destruction. So we’re right to notice a problem: people are often self-centered, nearsighted, impulsive, reactive and otherwise willing to behave in ways that if left unchecked would critically destabilize civic order.
But contrary to what’s implied by the false order/freedom dichotomy, restriction forced on the individual extrinsically is not the only form of intervention. In fact, applying too much of this kind of intervention is a reliable recipe for violence, widespread depression, decay of creativity and critical thinking, and profound cheapening of culture”
Devin P. Kelley

Nagant was working directly under the president of the Safety Commission by taking classified missions—same as Hawks who even refers to her as his senpai. She obeyed, complied and did her duty. Without questioning, she killed countless people under the pretense of public safety without proper trial. Some of those people hadn’t committed any crimes yet. Nagant was the government’s censorship weapon, eliminating threats before they could become real threats. All in the name of protecting the primary narrative: a peaceful society protected by heroes. How many of these people were real threats? And how many of these deaths were merely in the personal interest of the Safety Commission board of directors?

Peace at a bloody cost.

“All you’re seeing is that phony sense of order they’ve manufactured”. Face culture is pretty big here in Asia. In Japan they even have the term “mentsu wo tamotsu” (to save face) to justify lies, omissions and secrets. Stain is Horikoshi’s biggest commentary on that: he killed heroes who said they stood for something when in truth they were motivated by very different things such as money, fame and glory.

The answer is not more violence. Nor is it All For One who under the guise of “freedom,” chaos and anarchy, is trying to build his own giant monarchic kingdom of Hell. He has clearly used Nagant’s past to manipulate her to this end. And now comes the source of my frustration of the week: Deku. I love this child, but seriously, what is a “helping hand?” And “extend” it to whom? You’re going to “save these people”? They don’t need “saving”, they need good therapy AND they need the system to change! Life sucked way before it took a turn for the worse. We are speaking about organizational issues: How does the Safety Commission make decisions? How are the members of the board appointed? What are the policies and goals of these organizations? You know. It’s nice to see he’s coming to the realization that things are not black and white and that many behave in reaction to their fear/anger narratives. But once again, Horikoshi, what do you mean by a helping hand?! My logical brain doesn’t fare well with idealism.


  1. I think the point of Deku saying a helping hand needs to be extended is that someone needs to balance all the cynicism and darkness that’s going on in society with their own brand of idealism, even if it does come from a place of naivety. That is, at least speak of idealism so it doesn’t die out as a humanitarian concept, even if it isn’t ultimately achieved (and by speak, I mean with actions, not words). We can see that with Deku holding onto his own version of what heroes should be when he rescued that fox girl from being assaulted due to her looks. Idealism is perfect, and nothing in life is ever perfect. But society can still improve by striving to achieve that idealism (keyword being striving) so at least it can come close, therefore becoming better all the same. Even if this systemic problem that caused Nagant to go rogue being solved creates another problem, they need not to give up on themselves and strive to solve that as well, or pass it onto someone who can. Although that’s easier said than done since the generation of the late head of the commission is all the same, meaning solving this problem would involve having another generation take over (maybe Hawks can represent this new generation, and now that the old corrupt guard is all gone, maybe this is his chance).

    MHA has always been a story about idealism. Stilts has always attested to that when he covered the anime. However, if striving to achieve idealism is to solve problems within society, then the first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge there is a problem. The story so far acknowledged a lot of problems with this society, and Deku is starting to acknowledge those problems as well. Time will tell whether the people will follow in his footsteps, and admittedly, not everyone will, but for now, I estimate that the change towards the better will probably start with Deku making Nagant realize what a D bag the guy she took pity on and released from Tartarus really is, therefore making her realize how far she’s fallen from grace, and hopefully making her attempt to turn herself around (though the story can still make her stay a villain). Saving people doesn’t just involve saving lives, but saving hearts as well. She should still answer for her crimes, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve a chance at redemption. I can tell this whole thing is very personal for her. But if anyone can help her realize that heroism isn’t about just yourself and your views, but how all that impacts the lives of innocents, it’s Deku.

    I think Deku already acknowledged that he doesn’t have the power to change the status quo, that he doesn’t have power over absolutely everything. He already got lessons in humility (as absurd as that sounds for someone as timid as him) when All Might told him he doesn’t have the power to save everyone (All Might himself I mean) and when he heard Kota’s backstory. What he said, he said to stay true to himself, because even though he already got hurt and tired enough for someone his age, he doesn’t want to betray his own personal development after everything that happened with him and those around him. But be that as it may, at least when he speaks about it, the chances that other people will be inspired to seek to better themselves (and maybe even society itself eventually) will NOT be zero.

    That’s my take on all this anyway.

    1. You are not wrong. The first to towards fixing a problem is addressing that we have a problem in the first place. Not every can be redeemed, especially those who do not want to be redeemed.

      Whether NAGANT chooses to redeem herself or not remains to be seen. After what she went through, it would not be realistic for to instantly change her mind and become friends with Deku and agree with his ideals (promised neverland)

      Also Deku need to realise that he cannot change society by himself. It is not just him. There is the rest of class A, Aizawa, Hawks and others. I hope it won’t be long before he reunites with his friends and together, they can make society better and correct the wrongs of the past.

      Tayo Jones
      1. Tayo Jones: I’m beyond curious to see how Horikoshi will weave Nagant’s story with Deku. The little snapshot we got from her younger self looking so bright-eyed and hopeful reminded me very much of when Izuku was a child dressed up in All Might onesie!

        I’m also looking forward to see how everyone will reunite once again! And thank you so much for also taking time to think and share your thoughts and ideas, I appreciate it immensely.

    2. yoloalchemist: First of all, thank you so much for your thoughtful ideas and for taking your time to respond in such detailed way. I really appreciate you thinking hard abou this.
      I’m so glad that we can have this kind of discussions around anime and manga. Storytelling is such a powerful tool, it can makes us question the deeper issues about how to live in society, how to contribute civic value, how to address the ailments of society, and the individual’s journey as well as society’s infrastructure and its more systemic elements. When so much of entertainment is just mindless entertainment, it’s definitely refreshing when we can come across stories that are actually provocative and meaningful in the right way. They help us metastasize and to really solidify ideas into actual context.

      Stories have a way of connecting theoretical discussions about psychology, philosophy, sociology, engineering, and things that would normally be cerebral and conceptual and grounds them into human experience. Not only experience but the human journey as well. My Hero Academia is a story about The Hero’s Journey. And culturally speaking these archetypal stories are so very important for us. I think it’s great that there’s anime/manga that’s doing that and sparking discussions like this.

      While I was reading your comment I had two questions that popped up in my mind and don’t feel like you are obliged to respond in any way (and this is also open to answer if anyone else wants to join in the discussion): Do you see any kind of consequences for this kind of idealism that isn’t achievable, possible side-effects? And do you think there are alternative strategies to idealism?

      1. Thank you Gabie for responding in kind. I love these discussions so much!

        When I think about the current arc, I can’t help but to draw parallels to Batman, especially The Dark Knight trilogy. Even The Dark Knight Rises had to send Batman off on an ideal note. Society wasn’t going to be all peaceful after he was gone, but my interpretation is that it had finally begun to take more responsibility for itself following Dent being posthumously outed to be just another criminal. If both Batman, perceived to be a villain but later appreciated as a hero in his own way, and Dent, revered as a savior but later revealed as a metaphorical fallen angel, were both gone, the people of Gotham would have to take a hint, that they cannot afford to depend on just one person to save them. They need to rise to the occasion and save themselves by doing whatever they can to help as both a government and a people.

        I think it’s almost the same here. All Might’s philosophy for making the people feel safe and secure was greatly executed while it lasted, but he never thought of the consequences when it inevitably ran its course because not only did he think he’d last long enough until society is free of having to worry about villains, he also didn’t have faith that anyone would have his strength to carry on his will, until he met Deku. That’s a dangerous flaw in his character, a flaw Nighteye tried to cover for but to no avail. Shigaraki saw this flaw for what it is, a weakness in all society, a weakness he succeeded in exploiting from more than just one angle (the Endeavor scandal). Thanks to the status quo of people needing an idol, society as a whole was divided into black and white on the surface, the surface Nagant despised and Deku bought into. Idealism would dictate that society wipe away that surface by depending more on themselves by making better departments that both increase the welfare of those less fortunate and provide the general public with proper quirk ethics education and mental guidance, so that people like Himiko, Twice, and others wouldn’t be a common occurrence. Granted, and in answer to your question about parts of this idealism being unachievable, this wouldn’t work if those people are simply more comfortable living in their own skins as sociopaths, but at least such measures would reduce their occurrence, making them more controllable instead of letting them become the League of Villains. And I’m not even mentioning budget which can run dry at any moment in the service of such a monumental societal reform, nor the secret faction that was run by Detnaret (a different beast altogether).

        Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any alternative to this other than maybe to just increase awareness, not in a Stain kind of way where he would only point fingers at how the heroes are shams, but to the less fortunate, to make someone, anyone, in the words of Deku, “extend a helping hand.” After all, sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. A simple benevolent helping hand could’ve made sure Tenko doesn’t turn into Tomura. Someone could’ve done it, there was a lot of room for it happen. But the fact that it didn’t just proves how screwed this society is, and the disaster last arc was its rude awakening.

        1. I’ve been ITCHING to get back at this conversation, but unfortunately responsibility called and I had to immerse myself back into work and shut down all of my socials. But alas, I’m back here again!

          I personally have a fundamental issue with idealism. Ideals remind me a lot of mantras and affirmations, they acknowledge that you don’t really believe in them, you’re just fooling yourself. For example: I don’t believe I’m a strong person, but I tell myself that I am as a kind of trick, a mask to cover my real fear (that I’m weak willed and insecure). And it works, for maybe a couple of days, sometimes a week or even a month, but eventually I fall back into old patterns of thoughts and feelings. So I don’t believe it’s actually possible, but I strive towards it as if I can only see that goal because I believe it gives me direction and purpose. I find them unsustainable and a great source of frustration in the long run.

          If we look at the definition of the word Ideal: a person or thing regarded as perfect; A standard of perfection; a principle to be aimed at.
          It’s not too far off. Perfection is an unachievable thing. Order, justice, strength, happiness, peace. Then insert people’s personal motivations, intentions and interpretations in a big bowl of society and it becomes a huge mess.

          All Might reached for these ideals, no doubt. And what happened? He failed.
          I’m honestly curious to see which direction Horikoshi will take this story, because in the end it is a story and although I don’t believe that ideals sustain themselves in the real world, it’s possible to make it work in fiction. But I have a hunch that he might propose a different strategy too:

          The development of deep personal values and individual accountability (Endeavor and Katsuki being some examples). A system of communal support (something that is often seen as unnecessary in Japanese society).

          And I agree with you guys, the problem needs to be acknowledged before it can be addressed and dealt with. Perhaps Deku extending his hand might be a representation of him acknowledging these “unheard voices”.

          1. “A system of communal support (something that is often seen as unnecessary in Japanese society).”

            Maybe Horikoshi had a design for his story to essentially criticize that notion all along.

            And yeah I agree. Idealism is often a trick IRL to make us strive to better ourselves, but since we’re human beings, we get tired of pursuing it all the time.

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