Heroism is a common topic in anime and while it can be adapted into different forms, with different names, narratives, and ideologies. However, One Punch Man (OPM) and My Hero Academia (MHA) have decided to maintain its most original form, creating two worlds where there are people with superpowers and proper national systems, associations are established to support their heroic careers.
And of course, what are heroes without a purpose to fight, to save people? and so the villains are born.
But this is also where things started to get complicated, at least for me, when I can actually sympathize with the villains, when, actually, the presence of villains is to point out the flaws in the whole idea of being heroes, of being on the ‘good side’. And when we, as the audience, have to question their evilness, what do we call them?
“An Anti-Villain is the opposite of an Anti-Hero — a character with heroic goals, personality traits, and/or virtues who is ultimately the villain. Their desired ends are mostly good, but their means of getting there range from evil to undesirable. Alternatively, their goals may be selfish or have long-term consequences they don’t care about, but they’re good people who might even team up with the hero if their goals don’t conflict.” – TVTropes
In season 2, OPM introduced Garou, a dude who masters martial arts and hates heroes to his guts as he aims to become the strongest monster who cannot be beaten by any hero.
Regardless of his short-lived appearance in season 3 of MHA, Stain has left an impactful impression for both the viewers and characters of the anime. He has made it his mission to purge his society of fake heroes, whom he believes to have selfish motives instead of being selfless as true heroes should be.
Both characters came to terms with their goals after experiencing profound psychological traumas. As a kid, Garou has always been bullied by others, in the name of heroes. He was always forced to be the monster because the role-playing game of hero vs monster gives other kids legitimate reason to pick on him. Garou, hence, sympathised with the monsters and later on embrace this as his own identity. On the other hand, Stain was once aspired to be a hero. But he soon realized not everyone who aims to become heroes is selfless and genuinely wants to make the world a better place. Being utterly disappointed, Stain tried the ‘heroic’ way to encourage everyone to do good, but all he got was ignorance.
At the point where they feel the most helpless and with the profoundly powerful abilities, Garou and Stain turned to the violent method of killing, and it was personal, brutal, and extreme.
It’s not just their ideologies that make me sympathise with Garou and Stain, but it’s also because of the encounter with the heroes. For some reasons, when dealing with these two unorthodox ‘bad’ guys our ‘heroes’ tend to show their flawed thinking and selfish motives. And all of a sudden their hatred, brutality make sense! So now that they’re right, are they still bad?
Such complexity isn’t just made up but is rather inspired by our own human behaviour and it is the reason why it’s difficult to clearly define good and bad. These definitions become relative, especially to different people from different circumstances. While maybe we haven’t witnessed or encounter such violence in real life, we sure have that one friend who lost their faith in love and decided to never fall in love again after a terrible, hurtful, messy breakup.
Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, we often find the debate between these duos endless, just like in the case of Stain and Garou. and that’s why the definitions for those that are both heroic and evil are established, and for me, I see it as the beginning of sympathy.