Those of you who are familiar with my analysis posts regarding much of the ‘fanservice’ in Boku No Hero Academia are already aware that, in my opinion, it is done better than in other series, because it is not simply there to be there. Fanservice, as it is often shown, is intrusive, serves no point, and actively takes away from the service or characterization of the characters involved. As I have argued with panels like the cheerleader trick, or with Mineta trying to spy one the women both in the bathroom and in the baths, Boku No Hero Academia does their fanservice right by making every scene non-intrusive and doing so in such a way that further’s the stories and characters involved.
So it was to my surprise that when I checked the tag… there was so much slut shaming of Hatsume Mei, because heaven forbid there be a boob shot. A breast shot, I might add, that serves to further the characters involved.
Principally, there are three characters whose reactions are important here. The first is, obviously, Mei Hatsume’s. The second being Izuki’s, and finally we have Uraraka’s own reaction.
The multitude of redraws and supposed ‘re-imaginings’ continue to show how little people think of the character’s involved, specifically Mei. This is a series, I might add, which contains a transgender character that doesn’t mark him out as strange or different; it’s just accepted as normal. So the fact that this series, a series about teenagers becoming adults and growing up, would be faulted for portraying teenagers accurately is beyond me.
I’ve often argued that Mineta’s character serves the purpose of forcing situations where we see development from the girls, as they grow up into women. Mineta is like many teenage boys in high school, in that he has perverted tendencies. I bring it up, because while he is the one who is shown to act openly on his perversion, this does not mean all the other characters lack their own perverted thoughts. Remember, these are teenagers who are discovering their own sexuality and coming to terms with the realm of adults.
Let’s start with Mei, who has been, in my opinion, criminally mischaracterized by the fandom at large. All the redraws and protests seem to stem from her being on top of him, and how the then boob shot exists. First, we cannot blame the character for the boob shot; it exists to show where Izuku is looking, and to continue to develop the fact that Izuku is maturing as a person. Many forget the fact that, when growing up, there is in fact the awkward time for most people where members of the opposite sex transition from how you see of them when you are a child, to suddenly becoming those you feel attracted to as your own body develops. ( note: you may also substitute same-sex attraction here if you wish; I merely pointed out the ‘traditional’ ideal as it is clearly being referenced in the source. )
Mei Hatsume, as she is characterized, is a driven, focused, results-oriented individual who sees little to no problem using others. We know this, because she happily used Izuku during the human cavalry battle, and used Iida during their fight to show off her products. Here, it is then shown that Mei is completely fine with taking risks, much to the chagrin of her teacher.
So why then, is she on top of Izuku, and not bothered by it? Simple. Mei Hatsume is not bashful or ashamed about herself, or about being close to people. She clearly sees nothing wrong with being that close to Izuku, and clearly sees nothing wrong with being where she is in relation to him, much in the same way she saw nothing wrong with trying something that ended up blowing up in her face. She is not ashamed, nor is she hesitant, likely due to the fact that Mei is focused and she simply does not have time to care about other people’s discomfort. She simply ended up where she did after her test, and that’s fine with her. She’s focused on her experiment. ( Now, development being what it is, one could argue that, once someone drags her out of her testing-induced hyperfocus, that she might later reflect and be embarrassed, but that is mere speculation, and it is also not something we have seen from her. As such, I am merely going by what is shown as evidence. )
To claim that Mei is somehow in the wrong there, is slut shaming at the very least, and categorically false. She has clearly done nothing wrong, and also clearly sees nothing being wrong with where she is. However, let us now transition over to the other two characters, as their reactions are very important.
One of the things I personally like about Boku No Hero Academia is that all the characters come off like real people. The best characters are ones that are complex enough to be understood and thought about as being human, and the writing and reactions shines here. Furthermore, the character of Deku, our protagonist, avoids many of the major traps that anime, and perhaps writing meant for teenagers in general, falls into. He is a smart, somewhat clueless, but genuinely good person who wants to do the right thing. This isn’t a character who says he’s going to change the world and institute what he considers ‘right’ because the world is wrong. This isn’t a character who is crass or dumb or clueless. He is a genuinely caring person who is at least always trying to live up to the responsibility he thinks he has, thus the importance of what All Might says earlier in the chapter about Izuku always trying to emulate All Might.
But Izuku is still a teenager becoming an adult. And while my teenage years are long past, I still remember what it was like to transition between being a child, and then becoming a teenager, when things like a woman’s body suddenly became something all the boys talked about, or at least acknowledged. It was part of growing up, and it was a confusing, baffling time for everyone.
I bring all this up, because what we have here is a clash between two sides of a very complex character. We see the clash between Izuku’s desire to be the good, model person, the kind of person who respects others, who doesn’t impose, who treats them with respect and dignity, and the side of Izuku that is him becoming an adult, the kind that shows that there might be some physical attraction, and as to my knowledge, he’s never before seen or been this close to a woman like this. This is super important to remember.
This is, simply put, the first time he’s ever had a woman this close to him, and the two sides of him are now battling it out internally, thus the panel in the bottom far right. The good, heroic side of him is saying that he should respect and keep his cool in this situation. However, the side of him that is him growing up, is now forcing him to come to terms with the fact that there is a woman with breasts on top of him, and he doesn’t know what to do. Think back to the first time you ever got really close to someone who you were attracted to. I guarantee you that the feelings you felt were confusion, surprise, slight panic, and perhaps a guarded sort of joy that you didn’t understand. All of that, we see from Izuku. His focusing on the breasts is, simply put, something natural, because they are right in his face, and he is split between acknowledging his own developing body and mind, and trying to adhere to his almost childish ideal as to what he should be like.
Finally, we have Uraraka, who while only shown once, is getting development as well. Remember, Uraraka has always been touched by Deku’s personality; she has always been somewhat attracted to how concerned he is for others and how easily he inspires those around him. So much so that she attempted to transfer her points in the entrance exam to him for saving him. The two of them are close, very much so, and she is developing just like he is, into a grown woman of her own. Admittedly, for the majority of the series, Uraraka could feel safe that there were no challenges to her attraction to him, for Deku did not openly act attracted to anyone else or even seem to regard anyone of the opposite sex any differently. While Mineta, who I spoke about earlier, represents the boy who matures early, Izuku is the boy who mature’s late, after many of the girls are already maturing and turning into women.
Uraraka herself, now faces the fact that Izuku, someone she likes and respects, now likely has urges himself, and this forces action in her mind. Before, she likely subconsciously understood that she had all the time in the world, all the time she’d ever need to court him if she chose. Now, there is a sudden urgency, as a new dimension falls into the mix; any adult can testify that romance and a successful relationship is more than simply emotional attraction. Physical compatibility is also important, though it is often the most superficial. And yet, despite that, it is the first thing that decides whether someone is interested or not in developing a romance further.
Uraraka, therefore, now perhaps feels some envy or panic towards Mei, not because of anything Mei is doing, but because she suddenly realizes that her secure position of being Izuku’s first choice because she’s his best friend, is not as secure as she thought. Again, it shows development by maturing characters, for she likely bought into the somewhat naive and childish ideal of two people being childhood friends then falling in love. It does happen, yes, but it’s not certain, and likely Uraraka feels something akin to fear that her own imaginings are not inevitable. This of course, should and likely will, create more development.
In short, what we have are three characters all getting a great deal of development. Mei is not lesser for being shown like this; indeed I respect the artist for taking this seriously, for showing her to be someone who is confident in her body and confident being close to others. I respect him for portraying Izuku like an actual teenage boy who has over the course of the series slowly begun to mature into an adult man. I respect his portrayal of Uraraka, who is developing herself, and continues to develop as situations around her force her to.
To slut shame Mei, or disregard things like this as mere fanservice when this is a story about children becoming adults, about the confusing and baffling time that is high school, is to completely miss the intentions of the author. One thing Boku No Hero Academia does extremely well is portray characters in such a way that we the audience can see them being real people. They develop naturally. Nothing feels forced or out of place. Indeed, even the so-called ‘fanservice’ in this series does a great deal to develop all the characters involved, rather than simply being a joke that does nothing to further anything. So please, enough with the slut-shaming and poorly worded arguments that this set of two pages doesn’t make sense for any of the characters.