Coming into the Spring season my expectations for My Hero Academia season 2 were not sky high. I had enjoyed the first season a fair bit but was anticipating the rule of diminishing returns to come into play for season 2.
However season 2 built on the best parts of it’s predecessor and has yet to let up. It’s become adept at balancing that line between big fun set pieces and drama that I have previously loved from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (even if it isn’t quite as bizarre).
They’ve managed to keep things going dramatically by focusing on the characters’ motivations and desires, what it is that drives them to be heroes at the highest level.
It comments on motivation and desire in a general sense as well as how specific motivations can affect people and it’s the latter that really interests me.
I think the general sentiment the show has regarding motivation is that you should be very resolute in your own. You must not falter in your belief regarding it, if you do you will not succeed.
We saw elements of this in season one, Bakugo’s loss to Midoriya in particular exemplifies the theme. Bakugo develops real motivation after his fight with Midoriya. Before it he believed himself to be the best by default but after losing to Midoriya and seeing Todoroki in action he realises that just being the strongest in terms of raw power is not enough. He has to want it more, his belief that he is the best turns into a need to be the best that drives him from behind.
In season 2 we see class B get demolished in the cavalry battle because of their shared motivation. The show makes it clear that one should find their own motivation, their own reason to do things with this arc. Even though class B’s plan of hanging back to be less conspicuous may be a theoretically good one, Class A’s stronger desire prevails in the end, they simply wanted it more, they had more reason to go above and beyond to win.
When we get down to the one v one battles we see motivation examined through a more individualistic sense. Their are 5 characters in particular I’d like to focus on here, that are all given distinct motivations. Uraraka and Iida briefly and then Midoriya, Todoroki and Bakugo.
Uraraka’s motivation for wanting to become a hero is to help support her family financially. We will see with her and Iida that steady motivations can bring people with lesser quirks a long way. Uraraka manages to put up a good fight against Bakugo despite her disadvantage quirk wise. She is so driven to become a paid hero as quickly as possible that it carries her through. In fact if this fight happened in season 1 she probably emerges victorious, taking advantage of Bakugo’s lax attitude towards opponents.
The reason she falters though is her desire. Now you see unlike motivation desires tend to align much more frequently. Uraraka’s desire is to be a hero whereas Bakugo’s is to be the hero.
By putting up a fight against Bakugo she really achieves her goal and even though she’s upset at losing there is a subconscious element to it all.
Desire is born of motivation and as such differing motivations will result in different desires.
Of course motivation and desire are not the only factors, if they were then Midoriya wouldn’t need one for all to become a hero, they can only help one maximize their innate abilities. This is why we see Iida manage to make it to the semi final and yet fall at the hands of Todoroki. His desire to be like his brother is what drives him to want to win the tournament but even though he gives it his all at the end of the day his powers are no match for Todoroki’s.
His fight with Todoroki reiterates the theme by having Iida manage to land a solid hit on Todoroki when he should have had absolutely no chance. This is a testament to Iida’s desire but also to Todoroki’s uncertain motivation.
I’m very interested to see how Iida changes now that his brother has been maimed. If his motivation changes to revenge things could get very intriguing.
This is where the best of the motivation/desire dynamic is. We find the three students who’s desire is not to be a hero or a top hero but the top hero. There’s a reason Bakugo and Todoroki make it to the final instead of Midoriya though. He has the required power but Midoriya’s motivation is somewhat at odds with his desire.
He wants to be the best because he wants to help people and that includes people like Todoroki. At the same time to be able to become the best he has to beat Todoroki. This puts him in a conflict, should he take advantage of Todoroki’s refusal to use his left side or try to get him to go all out. In the end it is of course the latter and this conflict is played up after the battle during his talk with All Might.
How will this impede his goals? Well I don’t know if it will. All Might is all about projecting the idea of the hero as a deterrent against evil and that’s why he has to be #1. Midoriya is a different person though, perhaps even more morally upstanding than All Might himself. I wonder if perhaps he will realize that helping people, regardless of who they are or how it might affect him, is the most important thing to him.
In that case his desire might shift slightly to helping as many people as possible. Perhaps, rather, his own personal definition of being the top hero might change. I’m not sure. The resolution of Midoriya’s conflict will be interesting.
Speaking of inner conflict we arrive at Todoroki. He wants to become the top hero only using the power he inherited from his mother to spite his father. It is clear that even without using his right side that Todoroki is probably the most powerful student in class 1-A. He obliterates Midoriya in the brief moment when he stopped thinking about things and focused solely on his desire.
After this however he is forced to examine his motivations. Does he want to become the top hero to spite his father or for his mother? In either case can he justify the use of his fathers power to himself? This internal conflict eats at Todoroki and visibly effects him beginning with his match with Iida. After destroying Midoriya, he takes a direct hit from the far less powerful Iida and only manages to prevail on sheer power. Even when he refused to use his fathers power before, his resolute motivations kept him calm and collected.
Questioning whether or not to use his power to it’s fullest extent actually makes him weaker. The show makes it clear that being uncertain is not a good thing.
And this is why Bakugo wins the tournament. I think he would’ve won even if Todoroki had used his flames. He seemed pretty confidant he could’ve in any case, berating Todoroki to use the flames so that his victory would mean something.
Bakugo already had the moment of realization that Todoroki and Midoriya are yet to have back in season one.
He wants to be the best hero for himself, to prove that he is the best and this concrete desire coupled with his meticulous preparation post loss to Midoriya are what carry him to first place. Like I said before that loss he didn’t have the motivation he needed because he seemed to think being number 1 was a forgone conclusion. When he realizes this is not the case he becomes very serious about actualizing his goal and as such becomes exponentially more powerful.
In the tournament we see he has become a much more nuanced and adept fighter, even without his suit that makes his power easier to control. He no longer relies on his raw power, learning new tricks and scouting his opponents to make sure he beats them.
He leaves no room for error because his convictions are concrete. He knows what he wants, he knows why he wants it and he has the power to actualize those goals of his.
My Hero Academia has some great takes on what drives us to do the things we do, and why some of us succeed and others fail. I don’t think the show is done however. If it continues to have characters question their motivations (like Bakugo has and Todoroki is) then we could be looking at a thoroughly interesting study about motivation and desire and how it can change. I really hope they keep stressing this angle because the show has shone when it does.
Thanks for reading,