Why do people like Bakugou? I've not finished the series yet, but does he get a redemption arc or mellow out or something later on? Idk I'd like to know why the guy who told Deku to kill himself and bullied him and others has so much love.
y’know, the mangaka himself, horikoshi, once said in an interview he’s actually surprised at how much people ended up loving bakugou, because he was written to be such a horrible, unlikable person. and well, i mean, he is!! but imo, unlikable people can make for some of the most interesting characters in fiction.
first things first, bakugou is a very problematic individual, there’s simply no denying that. he’s loud, obnoxious, aggressive, extremely rude, and yes, he once even told deku to kill himself, which is a truly despicable thing to do. but something that’s very important to understand about all this is that he’s actually very rarely, if ever, praised or rewarded for this disgusting behaviour. his rude outbursts are, more often than not, played for laughs at his expense, his callous actions have cost him on numerous occasions (and it’s happening more as the story progresses), and almost nobody in the class likes him as a person. everybody thinks he’s horrible and unpleasant to be around, and his old friends from middle-school are even shown calling him out shortly after telling deku to kill himself, saying that he went overboard. (as well as deku remarking to himself that it was a very stupid and awful thing to say).
but in spite of all his terrible, negative traits, this boy is also really strong, and smart as hell. he’s got the 3rd highest grades in the whole class, meaning he’s serious about his school work, and he’s unshakably committed to his goal of becoming the strongest hero, and he’s got the strength, fighting skill, and drive to back it all up. he’s constantly trying his absolute best, and while his UA classmates all think he’s a complete asshole, they DO respect his strength, his keen intellect, his skill for tactics and battle, his passion for victory, and it actually inspires them to get them fired up, wanting to do the best that they can do as well, whether they like him as a person or not.
in answer to your question, i think one of the biggest factors playing into the fans love of his character is his backstory. he doesn’t have your typical tragic backstory that an angry, aggressive character of his archetype usually has. there’s no dark, traumatic past. no villains killed his family or anything like that.
basically, bakugou is mentally ill.
katsuki bakugou was a gifted child who was told constantly from a young age that his quirk was amazing, that he was amazing, and he grew up believing it, believing he was better than others, and it warped him. he grew into a self obsessed, cruel, obnoxious child with a superiority complex, believing himself to be the best and that everyone else around him was just trash. his ego, so twistedly convinced of his own ability and superiority, he detested the idea of ever needing help from anybody, which fed strongly into his hatred and, yes, fear of deku, the only person in his life who ever treated him differently.
“you looked like you were asking for help”
and then he eventually enrolled at UA, and the little world he’d been living in finally came crashing down around him as he was sucker punched with the reality that this whole time he was really just a big fish in a small pond, and his superiority complex began to violently twist into an extreme inferiority complex. the rug had been pulled out from his feet and he was now surrounded by people who were just as capable as him, if not more so, and who, rather than worshipping him as the coolest kid with the coolest quirk, actually thought he was a kind of a douche.
not to mention deku, who he believed to be quirkless and the one person he hated the most, suddenly had a powerful quirk as well, and was now able to compete with and even surpass him in ways he never imagined. had deku been playing him for a fool this whole time??
all this clashed very harshly with everything he had come to believe in so strongly, and, understandably, caused him a lot of extreme confusion, anxiety, resentment, and most notably… Anger. his whole life has turned upside down and he has no idea how to handle it. so, being the person he is, the person his life up until this point had nurtured him into becoming, his natural instinct is now to blindly act out very… (excuse the pun)… Explosively.
he figuratively (and sometimes literally) blasts away anything and everything that doesnt agree with his perceived image of how things should be. he’s spent his whole life believing he was the best so FUCK IT, now he’s GOING TO BE THE GOD DAMN BEST!! his classmates dont like him/make fun of him/think he’s a dickhead?? WHATEVER, SHUT UP YOU DAMN NERDS!! I DONT WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOU ANYWAY!! deku, the useless, annoying kid from his childhood is now standing in the way of his goal of being number one?? DEKU YOU DAMN NERD, I WILL DESTROY YOU!!
but… what has this aggressive and anti-social attitude actually achieved for him so far?? honestly, very little… in fact, this behaviour has been doing him a lot more harm than good in the long run, not just professionally, but for his own safety, and his mental health too. (i’d absolutely go into a lot more detail here but you mentioned you’re not up to date so i don’t want to spoil too much)
some people might say this all just sounds like an spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum, and i guess on some level, that’s probably true. but in my opinion, the bottom line is it’s not his fault. taking something all might says about him in chapter 121 and expanding on it slightly, i believe bakugou ultimately ended up the way he did through the failure of his upbringing. the failure of the adults in his life. if he hadnt been told so continuously from a young age that he was amazing, and then left unchecked for so long, if maybe people were more firm with him about his behaviour from a young age, perhaps he may not have grown into such an angry, messed up person.
but in spite of all of this, as i mentioned earlier, this boy ain’t dumb. he’s smart as hell. it’s taking him a long time to realise it, blinded as he is by all his confusing emotions, and it’s taking him a long time to work through his issues and do anything about it, but he is changing. slowly. slowly, but believably.
bakugou, in my personal opinion, is one of the most interestingly written characters in the series, and it’s been very fascinating and rewarding to watch his gradual development over the course of the story so far. he certainly hasnt done a 180 or anything, he’s still a very loud and very angry boy, but he’s slowly beginning to change in a number of subtle, nuanced ways. bakugou now is remarkably different than bakugou as you see him in chapter 1.
one last thing to consider, is how relatively early we are in the story compared to the grand scheme of things. i believe i heard somewhere that horikoshi once said a while back that the story was roughly 20% done, which lead people to project the manga would run for approximately 500+ chapters, at least, and we’re only at 146 now at the time of this writing.
bakugou is the 2nd most important character in the story after deku, the protagonist. so much of their development is built around each other, and it wouldnt make sense, narratively or realistically, for a character like bakugou, the way he is and his overall importance to both the story and dekus own development, to change too much in too short amount of time. a character arc like bakugou’s is one that will be played out slowly, but surely, and most importantly, satisfyingly. he will change. little by little. he is changing. he has changed already, and he will continue to change.
sorry this got really long, i just really like bakugou. i understand where some people are coming from when they say they don’t like him. that’s completely fair, liking a character is completely subjective, especially a character as prickly as bakugou is. but i just hope those people know he’s more than what he seems.