As you might expect from a show set in a school, mentors play a crucial role in My Hero Academia. All Might's words are what drove Midoriya to become a hero, something he only started to attain after All Might started teaching him directly. Even beyond Midoriya, All Might has been an inspiration to multiple characters and driven them to follow the right path in life.
Throughout the world of heroes, everyone has some sort of ideal they follow. Even the villains all have some sort of idol or mentor that drives their actions. The new recruits to the League of Villains were all inspired by footage of Hero Killer Stain and his ideology and, while we don't know much about their relationship, Shigaraki seems to aspire to be like All For One, with All For One encouraging him to improve. Today, we'll be looking at what makes these figures so inspiring – and how the power of inspiration may very well be the strongest Quirk of all!
First up is the obvious choice: All Might. All Might's catchphrase, "I am here!" has become iconic in both the world of My Hero Academia and the fandom at large for good reason. While it initially seems like a typical boast, All Might's actions belie that. He always maintains a confident smile in the face of danger, and repeatedly risks his life to save others. He has power, sure, but his Quirk is far from the only source of his fame. All Might inspires people because his determination to protect the innocent and his confidence that he can do it are apparent to anyone watching. He's driven by a straightforward ideology that encapsulates his every action, making him a perfect ideal for others to strive for. Even someone like Bakugo, who's driven by a desire to be the best rather than All Might's selfless heroism, sees All Might as the world's greatest hero and makes it his goal to reach that point himself. Even though his quick temper and ego could have easily driven Bakugo to become a villain, All Might's influence put him on the right path to become a hero instead.
More than anyone else, Midoriya sees all the good All Might does and strives to be just like him. His initial inspiration was the footage of All Might saving people from a fire, but he really started on the path to becoming a hero after he met All Might. From the moment All Might takes Midoriya under his wing, he showcases unending faith in Midoriya's potential. All Might never once doubts him, and constantly gives Midoriya the encouragement he needs to grow and improve so he can one day fill the same role. All Might isn't a perfect teacher – he makes his own share of mistakes in how he teaches Midoriya to use One For All – but his very presence and the ideology he stands for makes up for them.
On the villainous side of things, we have both Stain and All For One. While their goals and ideologies are twisted, they do have some clear ideal driving them. Stain sincerely believes in his goal of eliminating all the "fake" heroes, and dedicates his life to it. His very presence carries the weight of his goals, goals that do resonate with other people dissatisfied with the world of heroes. The Vanguard Action Squad, Skinner most of all, see this belief and make the decision to be like Stain.
We know less about All For One, but he also seems to have a genuine distain for the world of heroes and genuinely cares for his comrades. By reaching out to a young Shigaraki in kindness, he became Shigaraki's hero and inspiration. In an ironic twist, both of them have filled the same role as All Might, but for the villains of the world instead of the heroes. All For One may be All Might's polar opposite, but he still has many of the same traits that make All Might so inspiring. Of course, not every mentor has the same effect.
Enter: Endeavor. Endeavor devoted years to "training" Todoroki to become a hero as a way to vicariously stand at the top, but Endeavor's actions only drove Todoroki to reject everything about him and become a hero for his own reasons. Unlike all the other mentors I've looked at here, Endeavor doesn't actually stand for anything beyond himself. His entire goal is to just be at the top, which is why he decides to have a son in the first place. He doesn't care at all about Todoroki as anything more than a tool to use as a way to spite All Might.
Even as his training turns into outright physical and emotional abuse, the only impact he has on Todoroki is to drive him in the opposite direction. Endeavor doesn't impart any ideals or set himself as an example to others; he's a completely selfish person who lacks the sincerity or kindness needed to inspire others. He tries to force Todoroki down a set path for selfish reasons, and completely fails in the end. Instead, Todoroki sees All Might on television and resolves to be a hero in the same way, a hero who can inspire others and set them on their own paths.
It's ironic that even the villains stand as better mentors than Endeavor, but that's crucial to My Hero Academia's message. Whether it's a hero like All Might or a villain like Stain, every successful mentor has some ideal that they genuinely care about that drives their actions. By demonstrating this through their actions, heroes and villains alike become inspirations to others.
Skyler has been an anime fan since he first saw Naruto on Toonami in 2005. He loves action shows and strong character writing, and finds writing about himself in the third person awkward. Read more of his work at his blog apieceofanime.com and follow him on Twitter at Videogamep3.