One of the things many readers disliked about My Hero Academia’s latest story arcs was the possession of Shigaraki by All For One. It effectively took one of the most interesting and well-developed villains in the series and had him replaced with a villain who had already fulfilled their purpose in the story. As threatening as All For One is, he should never have replaced Shigaraki as the primary antagonist.
Now, however, Shigaraki has regained control of his body, possibly for good this time. This is a good thing for his character as well as the story. However, it doesn’t quite undo all the time audiences spent criticizing the story for using the possession storyline in the first place. For this subplot to be considered worthwhile, it would have to have done something to enhance the MHA narrative.
What Was the Problem With All For One Taking Over Shigaraki’s Body?
The biggest problem with making All For One the central antagonist was how it undermined Shigaraki’s development. From early on in the series, the latter was the one who was being built up as the ultimate evil of MHA. He had his origin, motivations, and capabilities all expanded upon throughout the story. His path to villainy was supposed to parallel Deku’s path to heroism, which is part of what made it so compelling.
All For One’s role relative to Shigaraki was simply to be his mentor. Just as All For One was raising Deku to be his successor, All For One was passing his torch onto Shigaraki. They were even forced into retirement by the same fight, both seemingly content to leave the future up to their successors. With this, All For One’s role in the story could have been considered complete and audiences wouldn’t have had a problem with it.
Unfortunately, All For One overstayed his welcome when he took over Shigaraki’s body and broke his original body out of prison. Not only was he interrupting Shigaraki’s story, but the story he was replacing it with wasn’t all that interesting. All For One worked as the idea of ultimate evil in the MHA world, but being on screen for longer than he needed to only made him seem less imposing. All For One usurping the final antagonist role felt like a waste of Shigaraki and thus a step backward for the series, which is why many fans bemoaned it.
In hindsight, If Shigaraki had remained in charge, the story could have still played out precisely as it did. Even with All For One being freed or trying to control Shigaraki from within, it wouldn’t have been to the story’s detriment; if anything, his master plan for world domination would have only given the villains a better sense of purpose. All that mattered was Shigaraki’s agency and whether he remained the driving force of his life story.
Was Shigaraki’s Comeback Worth the Wait?
For everything people didn’t like about Shigaraki’s possession, a few things made it worthwhile. For one thing, the resulting turmoil in Shigaraki’s heart is what let Deku see the crying child side of him in the vestige world; this makes Shigaraki’s situation an integral part of Deku’s character arc. It was also what let him win against Star and Stripe; since she didn’t understand his state of being, she failed to use her New Order Quirk on him. As important as these things were, however, they still don’t make up for the fact that All For One forced himself to be the focus of the story.
What really made this possession worthwhile was its payoff. Ever since Shigaraki was taken over, he had been in a mental tug-of-war with All For One over control of his body. His ability to finally come out on top is a testament to his indomitable will. This makes him seem greater as a villain while also emphasizing the difficulty of Deku’s goal to “save” him.
As for the time it took Shigaraki to come back, that might have been a little longer than it needed to be. To put things into perspective, Shigaraki was taken over around Chapter 295, “Tenacious,” which came out in late December 2020. He regained his body in Chapter 379, “Hopes,” around late January 2023. In other words, he’s been possessed for over 80 chapters in manga time and over two years in real time. Looking at things like this, it’s understandable how people grew impatient with this subplot, even those who predicted Shigaraki would come back.
In any case, people are happy to see Shigaraki back. His story and character progression throughout the series always made him a more worthy antagonist that All For One. The time and effort needed for him to get back his body, while long, only further proved that he was worthy of being the series’ final villain. As hard a time as he’s going to give the Heroes, especially Deku, it’s good for the story that he’s going to be the one to provide the climactic final battle.