We all know what a hero is and we all have our own set of ideas as to what constitutes a hero and I’m no different. Heroes are a concept that have existed for a very long time and different one’s pop up almost every year, showcasing a different side and view on what makes a hero and what their “job” is. BHA is an anime that, in a way, does do that through its presentation of heroes and villains with different personalities and ideologies. However, BHA is quite different from a lot of other material that we see involving heroes, because it’s based in a society where being a hero is first and foremost a job that you get paid for. This is what makes it quite different and it does raise an interesting argument when Stain’s ideas are taken into account.
However, before I delve into any of that, the first question is, what makes a hero? Who, or what actions do I think define heroes. For me, there is no set answer. The heroes we see on screen or in books often go out of their way to do significant things that result in them getting such a status. This usually comes in the form of a huge fight with a city, country or even the whole world at stake. Normally, these heroes just want to stop the villain because they realise what they’re doing is wrong and that they have the power to stop them hence, they do. However, this depiction of a hero presents them taking on significant decisions for the better of everyone. This alone doesn’t make someone a hero. Feeding a homeless man or saving a cat from the middle of the road is just as heroic. These are things people can see in front of their eyes but choose not to act because of dangers to themselves, public opinion, or simply because they can’t be bothered. So when I see someone going out of their way to simply help someone or something else, I can’t help but feel that act is what you call heroic. It is on a much smaller scale to what we’re used to seeing in fiction but that doesn’t make the act any less significant.
This doesn’t neatly translate to the world of BHA. In this world almost everyone has a quirk that can be used to help. And seeing all the heroes carry out their duties does have an effect on the children who look up to them (just take Midoriya’s aspiration to be like All Might and Iida’s dream to be like his brother). In this world, helping others just for the sake of it isn’t enough to make you a hero. You need to go to hero school, get trained and be qualified for the role. In other material, there is no set checklist or qualification that guarantees someone a hero status which is what makes this show slightly different. That’s because being a hero in this universe is a job. Sure, someone could choose to bypass this system and be a hero for the sake of it as we see Saitama doing at first in One Punch Man, which has a similar set up as it has a system where heroes get paid for their duty. He doesn’t care about money and defeats villains with his power without ever once taking any money for his actions or for that matter, any recognition. Even when he joins the association, and is given a C rank, he does seem bothered by it at first but we later see him act in a way to keep the peace even if that means demeaning his heroic acts and giving the credit to others. He doesn’t do any of it for the money let alone for the glory.
This type of behaviour (bypassing the system) isn’t really possible in BHA because of the laws that are put in place in order to prevent citizens from using their quirks on others without being qualified to do so. This means if someone did try to bypass this system, rather than be labelled as a hero, they would be labelled as a villain for disobeying the law. So, in BHA, being a hero is essentially a job. Something you have to be qualified to do and something you get paid for. Like any high profile job, this means a lot of media attention. Heroes are the celebrities of this universe and they most likely grace the front page of newspapers and appear on the TV all the time. One can argue, this is part of the job. By allowing the media to give the heroes and their work so much attention and focus, it helps demonstrate their strength and power, keeping the villains at bay.
Even then, this world needed a Symbol of Peace in the shape of All Might. All Might is more of a symbol than a hero in the sense that it’s his name and what he stands for that keeps the villains at bay more than anything else. It’s because he is still around and kicking in top form (or as he likes to show himself) that the villains keep a low profile.
Stain’s ideology seems to go against this very society. He argues heroes should save others because that’s all they want to do without any other ulterior motive. His argument is basically translating to the “old” view of a hero where being a hero wasn’t a job. Where people would choose to act heroic and save others because they simply wanted to without any of the recognition or glory. In this sense, Stain’s ideology is quite simple and one could argue it’s quite innocent especially in this universe. There’s nothing more charming and persuasive than a simple, innocent idea. It draws people in and it forces people to act. In a sense, therefore, like how All Might is the Symbol of Peace, Stain has become a symbol for the villains.
I can see why Stain would take All Might as a “true” hero because All Might fits his beliefs. All Might rose to the top and became this symbol because he indiscriminately saved people with his immense strength. However, it can also be argued that All Might isn’t a “true” hero because now, he is just a face of his own legacy that he is keeping alive. All Might needs that recognition, that glory, that media attention for his legacy to bear fruit. He needs to be a high profiled hero that’s appearing left right and centre for the villains to take note of him. In this sense, isn’t All Might doing the things Stain hates so much? In one way All Might embodies Stain’s beliefs and in another, he is the complete opposite of them.
The same thing can be said for characters like Ochako. Her first and foremost reason for wanting to be a hero is so that she can support her family financially and give her parents a break. That’s why she chose to be a hero. In this sense, she has an ulterior motive for going into this profession so to Stain, she would be classed as a “fake” hero. However, her wanting to go this far for her family and support them is actually quite inspiring. Inspiring is exactly what heroes are so can she really be classed as “fake”? Also, there are other jobs out there that would have helped Ochako support her family and yet, she chose the path of a hero. She would not have done this if she didn’t want to help save others and be a part of a larger body responsible for looking after the wellbeing and safety of normal citizens. This means Ochako chose to become a hero because she wanted to do this kind of job wholeheartedly. She isn’t just doing it for the money hence, she can’t really be classed as a “fake” hero.
In this sense, Stain’s beliefs aren’t exactly straight forward for the universe he lives in. His beliefs don’t translate to a simple black and white argument. He wants heroes to go back to what they used to be – so in essence, to return to the times before being a hero was a job – but wouldn’t that cause chaos in their universe? It’s a very difficult idea with no real answer because the type of society that bred Stain’s beliefs is a society where everyone has powers so a legitimate way of managing the use of such powers is needed.
Heroism in BHA is much more complicated than what meets the eye. Everyone has the passion to save others and it’s also the type of career people would want if they like attention. My idea of a hero and Stain’s idea of a hero doesn’t translate into this world because of the existing laws, regulations and the status of a hero. Sure, there are still people in this universe who go out of their way to help people but they aren’t seen as heroes because they don’t have the right qualifications. It’s quite the interesting argument and adding Stain’s beliefs into the mix makes it all the more interesting. This makes me think – would Stain be happy in a society where being a hero wasn’t a job but a decision?