I love BNHA a lot in general but one of my highest praises is for how they handle Bakugou.
Like, the “cool, angry, top-of-his-game rival character who hates the protagonist” is dime-a-dozen in shonen series. That’s who Bakugou is. And its real common to toss a set of rose-tinted glasses on every other character so they all see Rival Guy as cool and amazing and admirable. That way the protagonist has to work extra hard to beat his rival AND prove himself to everyone else, who all just blindly adore Rival Guy.
And BNHA…doesn’t do that. BNHA lets everyone understand that Bakugou is an asshole. He’s strong. He’s talented. He’s a force of nature. The other kids know this, but theyre not blinded by it. They understand he’s unfairly cruel to Deku. They know his ego is a problem. They’re not scared of him or dazzled by him. They take notice when he’s being a problem. They call him out. They tease him.
There’s the bus scene in early season 1 where Deku’s cowering in shock because Good god, these kids have the nerve to mock Bakugou. Because the kids in Deku and Bakugou’s old school were a lot more like the typical shonen characters. They let Bakugou get away with his awfulness because he was Bakugou. The UA kids are a different cut though. They don’t care Bakugou was #1 in the exam. They don’t care that he’s Bakugou.
And heck, half of Bakugo’s character arcs involve him hopping from one angry existential crisis to another, because he’s not always the best, because he can’t win everyone over to his side with confidence, because he can’t accomplish every single thing his inflated ego says he should be accomplishing. The audience witnesses him meet resistance and hardship and consequence for being an egotistical, hot-headed bully. He faces real-world honest consequences for being that kind of terrible person.
Bakugo hasn’t had one definite character-redeeming moment–no “oh you talked sense into me and now im Good™ “. But as the manga goes on, he’s become less volatile, less cocky, less eager to harass Deku. He still is an asshole, but he’s changed. I have a lot of respect for how it’s been handled. Slowly, progressively. His ego has been chiseled down by personal failures, by witnessing how his cocky confidence does harm to himself and others.
I love that BNHA doesn’t let the cool, powerful, rival character just have his way. I love that BNHA doesnt just whack Bakugo with a single character-redemption arc and pull him through the other side. I love that BNHA shows us what things are whittling down Bakugo, that they take a metaphorical spray bottle to him again and again, pushing him into something less cruel than he was.
And it’s really good.