The great tragedy that is All Might

We’ve talked about how All Might is a Husbando of the highest order, but the most recent season of My Hero Academia has helped showcase a new side to the symbol of peace than we’ve seen in the past. The superhero anime might not be firing on all cylinders like it did in earlier seasons, but there is still plenty to explore in the way All Might interacts with his students.

Obviously, we are going to talk spoilers here, so if you’re not caught up with the anime you might want to look away for a moment.

The tragic story of All Might

My Hero Academia - All Might punching

When we first meet All Might, he is already near the end of his power, his body riddled with scars and injuries he has accrued over his long career as a hero. By the time he retires from active duty in season 3 of the anime, we have had plenty of opportunities to see what he means to the world at large and the gap that his absence will leave in a society that has learned to rely on him always being there to save them.

But what gets a bit brushed over is the gap that his retirement leaves in himself. All Might, by his own admission, has built his entire self-identity around being the hero. And not just any hero, but The Hero that saves everyone. He forgoes any real personal relationships, even destroying his friendship with his one-time sidekick in order to pursue that singular goal. His physical strength is great, but that is a heavy burden to carry on his own.

At the end of season 5, when the My Villain Academia arc is completed and we are presented with the Class 1-A students back in training, All Might makes a note that his protégé, Deku, doesn’t feel the need to look back for his approval as he shows his skills. Later, as the students are alone in the dorms, All Might laments to Aizawa that he no longer knows his place in the world. It is a short scene, but the pain that All Might feels is obvious.

There is a tragedy to seeing All Might struggle to figure out who he is without his power. More than that, he has to be protected and rescued by his students on occasion, a reversal that has to be difficult for him to accept. The world might mourn for his retirement, but it doesn’t appear to be doing much to support him through it. They treat him as though he has already died because he has ceased to be useful to them.

All Might depowered

As an unapologetic fan of My Hero Academia, I desperately want more of this kind of exploration of All Might’s place in the world after he passes his power on to the next generation. The act of retirement is seldom explored in shounen anime. Most often the mentor figure dies in the process of protecting his student, such as Jiraiya does for Naruto, or they simply take a backseat until needed, such as Genkai in Yu Yu Hakusho. It is rare that we see a mentor need to adjust themselves to fit into a world that they no longer feel they have a place in.

All Might proved that he was the greatest hero of his time, capable of bringing balance and stability to the world through his desire to help people. I look forward to this next chapter of his life, however long it might be, where he discovers it is far more difficult to learn to live for himself. To find happiness in a life that he didn’t expect to have. That would be the most fitting end to his exceptionally tragic story.

Need to catch up on My Hero Academia? You can catch every episode subbed and dubbed on Funimation’s website.

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