Endeavor. The former #2 now #1 hero of My Hero Academia. And one of, if not the, most controversial character in the entire series.
When we first met him, Endeavor was about as far from a positive light as he could get. The dude abused his wife to the point that she nearly went insane and attacked their youngest son, Shoto, whom he also abused. On top of that, he ignored most of his other children and forced Shoto to distance himself from them. And to top that all off, he was forcing Shoto into a role that the young boy didn’t want to fill. All out of his own selfish desire.
It’s understandable why people hated Endeavor. At first, pretty much everyone did. An abusive father isn’t exactly a likable character. Everyone can rally against someone who hurts his wife and children.
Which is why it’s been so hard for Horikoshi to get people onto his side. But what people don’t seem to realize that that is the entire point of Endeavor’s character.
The Flame Hero isn’t a one-dimensional abusive father. He’s an incredibly complex and intriguing character. A man who was driven mad by his goals and lost his way, ultimately forgetting why he pursued those goals in the first place. He’s a character that comes to understand his past crimes perfectly well and struggles to make amends for them. He needs to prove himself to his family, to the whole world, and most importantly: to himself.
The Want: Lead the Charge
Everyone has wanted to be the best at something at some point in their lives. Most characters in My Hero Academia still want to be the best. Deku, Bakugo, Shoto, and many many others want to be the greatest hero out there. They want to be the next All Might.
As did Endeavor. He saw what All Might had become, the Symbol of Peace, and wanted to catch up to him. Practically everyone else had accepted that they could never catch up to the legendary hero. But Endeavor pushed forward. Over the years, no matter how far away All Might seemed, Endeavor always chased after his back. Always, he strove to surpass All Might. He chased him for so long that he forgot why he was doing it in the first place.
Until it drove him mad.
The Wound: Always a Step Behind
Despite his best efforts, Endeavor could never catch the number one hero. For years and years, he retained the title of number two. He was good. But he wasn’t All Might. No one could be All Might.
This constant defeat crushed Endeavor. He became bitter, cruel, and even violent. Soon, he developed a reputation as a fierce and intimidating hero. Oh, he would get the job done. But he wasn’t exactly the most comforting figure to be around. Often times, he seemed as sinister as the villains he was defeating.
Eventually, he came up with a new plan. If he couldn’t surpass All Might, then he’d simply father someone who could. With the right combination of his Quirk with another, maybe it could be done!
Thus, the disaster that is the Todoroki family began.
The Lie: A Successor
Endeavor put all of his stock into his children. He didn’t seem to see them as his children. Instead, he saw them as his opportunity to achieve his goal. If one could just be born with his and his wife’s Quirks, they’d be perfect. If they weren’t what he wanted, he’d get right to work on making a new one.
This all got even more disastrous when Endeavor’s son Toya died. How and why he died is still a mystery, at least in the anime. But we do know that his oldest living son, Natsu, blames Endeavor for it. Even Endeavor himself agrees with that. Whatever the truth of the situation is, it doesn’t paint a positive light on him.
Even after that tragedy, Endeavor continued to push his children in brutal and unfair ways. And we all know how that ended; his wife was hospitalized after she snapped and poured boiling water over young Shoto’s face. Even still, after all of that, Endeavor put all of his stock into his son, pushing him to become the number one hero.
Until All Might met an abrupt and dramatic retirement.
The Need: What Does it Mean?
With the retirement of All Might, Endeavor suddenly found himself in the position he had always wanted. At last, he was the number one hero. Surely, he must be over the moon?
Oh, no. Just the opposite, in fact. Endeavor was devastated.
He hadn’t earned the position like he wanted; it was thrust upon him out of obligation due to the sudden absence of the former number one. All of his efforts were suddenly made vain. Both in his own development and that of his children. Suddenly, all the abuses he put his family through, the death of his son Toya, the mental degradation of his wife, and the scarring of Shoto were all made pointless.
And now, he had the eyes of the whole world on him. He was forced to understand the sheer pressure of the title. Not only that, but he finally wondered: what does it actually mean to be the number one hero? When these people look at him, what did they look for? What was it that he was lacking?
It was the most sobering event of Endeavor’s life. He remembered why he had become a hero in the first place: to preserve the smiles of the innocent. Everything he had done, good and bad, had suddenly been put into perspective for him. He realized that he needed to step up, both as a hero and as a father. All the wrongs of the past, he would have to make right. And he would have to carve a future for himself, for his family, and for the world.
Which may very well be a far more difficult task than surpassing All Might.
My Hero Academia played a dangerous game when it started Endeavor’s redemption arc. If it moved too quickly, it would underplay the severity of his past actions. You don’t get a free pass for physically and mentally abusing your entire family just because you’re trying really hard to be a good superhero.
Luckily, the story didn’t shy away from that. In fact, it’s gone all-in on it! Large chunks of the story have been dedicated to Endeavor’s struggle to make amends for his past actions! His entire character arc has been about earning forgiveness from his family and from himself! And it has done an incredible job of showing just how difficult and painful a process that really is!
It’s also perfect for making the audience feel like part of the world. We, just like the regular citizens living in the world of My Hero Academia, are watching Endeavor’s every move. We know who he was and what he did and we hated him for it. He has had to prove himself to us just as much as he has to all the nameless faces in the many crowds.
Some members of the audience are like Fuyumi, ready and willing to forgive him. Others are like Shoto, working towards being able to do so. And many more are like Natsu, completely unable to forgive him despite his best efforts.
All of this is why Endeavor is one of my absolute favorite characters in the series. He’s wonderfully complex and compelling, a wonderfully realistic take on an abusive father who is trying to turn his life around. I understand why many people might hate him and be unable to look past who he was. But personally? I’m rooting for him all the way.
What can I say? I love seeing bad people earn their redemption.