The strongest villain of MHA All For One has returned, but does his possession of Tomura Shigaraki undermine what the series has built toward?
The villains of My Hero Academia have never been in a stronger position. Recent episodes of the anime feature numerous freed villains and Near High-End Nomu roaming the country, all under the thumb of the newly released All For One. With his main body out of Tartarus and with complete possession of the body of Tomura Shigaraki, All For One happily declared this would be the story of how he became the world’s greatest demon lord.
However, should this story be All For One’s to write, or has he stolen that right from the more deserving main villain? All For One’s complete control of Shigaraki and his reemergence as the final big bad boss of the series is an unfortunate turn that goes against the many painstaking efforts made to transform Shigaraki into a worthy main antagonist.
Tomura Shigaraki’s Growth Into a True Villain
Tomura Shigaraki at the start of My Hero Academia is a directionless, immature and pathetic villain. He reacts like a child when things don’t go his way and demands more respect and authority than he’s earned. He knows he wants to commit to evil but can’t put into words why. This changes when Shigaraki meets the Hero Killer Stain, who challenges Shigaraki on his ideals and forces him to formulate what it is he wants to accomplish: the total destruction of hero society. From there, Shigaraki is able to find the core members of the League of Villains and begin to set plans into motion with real intent behind them, such as the capture of Bakugo and working with the Shie Hassaikai. These schemes don’t go according to plan, and Shigaraki suffers failures and losses from them, but he learns from those experiences and gains trust from fellow villains like Spinner and Himiko Toga.
The “My Villain Academia” arc took all of Shigaraki’s growth and catapulted it to a whole new level. Through his training with Gigantomachia and with the evolution of his Decay quirk into being able to destroy entire cities, Shigaraki becomes a much more dangerous force in combat. His defeat of the Meta Liberation Army marked his dominance over any other villain in the series and provided him with a full army who dedicated themselves to his leadership. Most importantly, Shigaraki remembered the tragedy of his past and came to terms with it. Viewers were horrified watching Shigaraki gruesomely murder his entire family, but for Shigaraki, his unlocked memories liberated him and made him even more sure that he loved being a villain.
The Tomura Shigaraki the viewer sees in My Hero Academia Season 6 is completely different from Season 1. He holds himself with confidence and menace and has earned the respect of heroes, villains and the audience. While his backstory is horrifying and gives him much-needed depth, Shigaraki refuses to be a victim of his past. He desires one goal: to destroy the world that never helped him and create a new one where he and his friends are completely free. Shigaraki took the right to be My Hero Academia’s final boss by force, and viewers saw exactly the steps it took to get there.
All For One Just Isn’t That Interesting
All For One’s first major appearance in My Hero Academia Season 3 was simply terrifying. Everything from his design and his voice to his power and his general gravitas commanded attention. Only All Might as the greatest hero in the world could match its greatest villain. However, this is exactly why All For One’s dirty return as the series’ big bad is disappointing; All For One already played his role as the perfect villain from the previous generation and was defeated.
All For One is a character who is delightfully evil. His motivations are simple and his aims basic, but he owns his desire to be a villain with such enthusiasm that he remained interesting regardless. However, his time in the spotlight has ended, and even he seemed aware of that early in the story. All For One told Shigaraki he could fail as many times as he needed and that every setback he faced would help on his journey. He acted as Shigaraki’s mentor and passed the torch to him, much like how All Might made Deku his successor.
However, now that Shigaraki is at his most captivating, All For One suddenly swoops back in and reveals he was grooming Shigaraki to be a possible vessel the whole time. This not only goes against his early actions in My Hero Academia but is also an unfortunate narrative choice for the series to make. The audience has grown with Shigaraki and is invested in his character, but all of that is thrown away to return to a person with little depth whose purpose — to set up Shigaraki — has already been fulfilled.
The Real Demon Lord Is Tomura Shigaraki
One of the central themes of My Hero Academia is in its title: the learning and growth of a new generation of heroes. All Might passes the torch onto Deku and Bakugo, and all the students at U.A High have mentors they strive to live up to. Shigaraki is the mirror to that idea, and the ideal he wishes to become and then move past is All For One. In this way, Deku and Shigaraki are foils of one another as two neglected children taken in and taught by the greatest of the previous generation. They grow alongside one another, and as they become a better hero and villain respectively, their paths aim more directly toward their eventual battles.
For All For One to come back into the mix and take that away from Shigaraki goes against that theme. All For One is interesting as the opposite of All Might and as a pure evil being who drove Shigaraki’s growth, but Shigaraki has become the more layered and enjoyable villain through being the antagonist the audience has seen the most of. All For One coming back would be akin to All Might finding a way to return to full strength and becoming the world’s number one hero again.
The final battles of My Hero Academia should be between the next generation of heroes and villains who live inside the shadows of those who fought before them, not between the new generation trying at war with the generic evil mastermind who had been defeated before. Shigaraki has earned the right to be My Hero Academia’s villain, and All For One stealing that from him makes the conflict of the series a less engaging one.