「破滅のボルテージ」 (Hametsu no Borutēji”)
“The Thrill of Destruction”
I’ve a theory about villains. It applies to fiction more generally, but certainly to anime specifically (and BnHA even more specifically). There are really two main types. First, the ones who you can identify with, whose worldview is seductive and personal story is sympathetic. Then we have the ones who’re just plan evil, and their dramatic traction comes from just how terrifying they are. Generally speaking I find the first to be more interesting – from this series Stain comes to mind, and to an extent Shishio from Rurouni Kenshin. But a really great example of the latter – Hakumen no Mono from Ushio to Tora comes to mind – makes an incredibly compelling figure.
Of course there’s no absolute dichotomy here, and these antagonists often display elements of both forms (Fujita Kazuhiro even shrewdly humanized Hakumen no Mono a bit at the end). But I think the principle holds, and I think Shigaraki Tomura falls under the second category. It’s true that Horikoshi did give him a pretty heartbreaking backstory. But I think he did it more to show how Shigaraki became the monster he is than to make us sympathize with him per se. Quirks tend to victimize everyone one way or the other, but Shigaraki never really had a chance at a decent life, born with the quirk he was.
Decay symbolizes Shigaraki in every way. His quirk is the manifestation of oblivion – it’s hard to imagine a more elementally terrifying one. And refined and honed as it has been by Garaki, it’s quite unlike anything we’ve seen before. Decay as currently defined gives Shigaraki the power to give vent to his most primal instinct – the destroy the world as punishment for the way it royally screwed him over. Starting with poor X-Less (unlucky to say the least), but it certainly doesn’t end with him. Faced with the awakened Shigaraki, all the heroes at the hospital can do is run like hell.
There is still drama happening over at the villa, of course. Dabi has Hawks at his mercy, the wings burned right off his back. But being Dabi he can’t help but gloat, which gives time for Fumikage to escape Fatgum’s gummy fat and fly to his rescue. If this is a nightmare matchup for Hawks it’s not all that much better for Fumikage – when Dabi’s flames are being deployed he can’t use Dark Shadow. But again, Dabi can’t help running his trap. He’s a very different sort of villain than Shigaraki (to whom he professes no loyalty), as befits someone who identifies as a follower of Stain. It’s not the destination he cares about, but the journey – he has to justify everything he does, whereas Shigaraki just wants to destroy.
Dabi’s condemnation of Hawks isn’t entirely inaccurate, and his argument that heroes fight dirtier than he does is not easily dismissed. Fumikage basically chooses not to think about it all – for now. Dabi’s deliberate nature once again buys enough time for a narrow escape, though this time it’s because villain Geten (ironically a former adversary of Dabi) inadvertently intervenes with a wall of ice. Hawks is badly hurt but alive – which makes him luckier than X-Less, Crust, and an indeterminate number of other heroes at the other battleground. The arrival of Gran Torino and his cavalry was just in time to turn the tide of the battle with the Nomus, but once the new Decay is deployed all that is meaningless. “Fly, you fools!” is all Gran Torino can offer at that point.
When I think on Decay, the word that comes to mind is “indiscriminate”. It plays no favorites – friend (well, Shigaraki has none of those) or foe, all are turned to dust in its wake. If you’re part of the former League of Villains or Meta Liberation Army, this is a time of reckoning. Is this what you signed up for? There’s no politics or dark justice here, just the void. It marks a fundamental change in the nature of villainy in Boku no Hero Academia, and in the balance between heroes and villains. This is a whole new ball game.
It’s not surprising that the voices of both All For One and One For All should echo in the minds of their successors at this moment – that’s how momentous it is. Exactly what All For One (who is actually still alive) is trying to tell Shigaraki isn’t yet clear; One For All is warning Deku of what’s coming. And as indiscriminate as Decay and the ruthlessness of its wielder are, it’s Deku who most clearly represents a logical target. The two lines which began all those years ago lead to these two now, and as things stand it certainly looks like a mismatch.