For all of its uplifting messages, there is a solemn truth that rings across the popular weekly magazine.
Shonen Jump seems to dislike dads.
Titular protagonists ranging from Gon Freecs to Uzumaki Naruto all seem to be on the quest of seeking their biological fathers, replacing that sorely missed fatherly presence with mentors and friends along the way. In this sense, Boku no Hero Academia‘s protagonist, Izuku Midoriya follows the staple shonen underdog hero stereotype: he discovers his own fatherly figure in the shape of his mentor, All Might. All Might, the world’s greatest hero, teaches Midoriya confidence, physical strength, and many other attributes required to be heroic. His process of choosing Midoriya as his apprentice, however, is based on already established traits: compassion, empathy, and the (somewhat unhealthy) habit of self sacrifice. With no father to teach him these things, we can only assume, just like other Shonen Jump protagonists, that Midoriya learned these things from his mother.
I won’t get into how Shonen Jump plays around with gender stereotypes and their impact on the main protagonist, but there are some reasons why Midoriya’s mother stands out to me in Boku no Hero Academia more than any other weekly shonen manga “mom.” She, like Mito Freecs, is barely present in the beginning of the series, and is no doubt pushed away as soon as the story progresses. However, early on in the anime, we have many opportunities to see the kind of woman Midoriya’s mother is. She works the role of a housewife, as we constantly see her cleaning up after her son and making dinner for him. It’s not clear who makes the money in the Midoriya household, but it is clear who’s primarily responsible for raising him. Midoriya’s mother takes the time out to support Midoriya’s dream of becoming a hero, from giving him tiny figurines to allowing him to watch his favorite All Might video on the web.
Boku no Hero Academia minimally touches on the serious subject of Asian mothers raising children in a pervasive merit-based society through this as well. Midoriya is Quirkless, which is as good as “worthless” in a community where most kids inherently have superpowers. Despite it not being her fault, Midoriya’s mother cannot help but feel physically responsible for her son’s lack of talent, and no doubt, stresses over how to raise her son to believe in himself but support him realistically into finding a role that can suit his ‘abilities’. She, in the only way she knows how, accidentally encourages Midoriya’s feelings of inadequacy and self doubt by being surprised at his attempts of trying. It’s a strong feeling that resonates with any kid whose culture is based on achievement and academic success. From a third point of view, we see that Midoriya’s mother obviously wants to help him out, but we also see from Midoriya’s perspective how his mother’s words have only held him back.
What’s one of the subtle but more astonishing things to come out of this story however, is not just Midoriya’s development to become a Quirk-based hero. It is his relationship with his mother, which changes over the course of the next few episodes. She goes out of her way to make the proper healthy dinners he requires for his training and verbally encourages him to follow his dreams, wherever he goes. When he receives his U.A letter of acceptance, she cries on his behalf, and sends him off with a smile. There is no doubt that Midoriya’s mother is the constant support of strength and love that he has needed. Though it may have been misplaced in the past, the fact that their relationship has improved speaks volumes as to how families can overcome stigmas regarding success and merit through understanding and love.
Shonen Jump always emphasizes the importance of a father’s love to a child, but Boku no Hero Academia – even if it may be for a little bit – takes care to demonstrate the power and reality of what it’s like to live with a mother in Asian culture and the steps we can take to improve that.