Concerning Shinsou Hitoshi’s Quirk
Was saving this (still using this) theory for a fanfiction, but it serves as a good canon theory fodder too – and I’ve already lagged behind in updates and it’s not fair to hold the theory off too long. I am of the belief that there is more to Shinsou Hitoshi’s quirk - or, that it has been misdiagnosed. So, let’s go through this logically!
What We Know
Shinsou has a tired demeanor, which may or may not be related to his quirk. Hooded eyelids, eye-bags, mild slouch, some sluggishness … this could simply be a character design, but considering he’s one of the few with eye-bags, it’s more likely to be quirk-related.
He needs a verbal response to his own provocations for his quirk to function.
He can do it for a relatively extended period of time. At least for ten minutes at a time - enough to last the Calvary battle, and to multiple individuals - as seen in both the race and the Calvary battle:
He can manipulate one’s actions but not one’s words, and their actions are sluggish and fairly simple. He also seems to have to keep his commands simple and short. It’s something relatively noticeable whenever he implements his quirk, this his commands are never extremely difficult to follow:
A punch or some external force can actively knock someone out of his quirks’ control. And, some people do remember what is going on while under the control, whereas others do not. For example, Ojirou did not remember until he was disturbed:
But it becomes clear that Izuku does remember what happened before an external force was used on him. Otherwise he would have no memory of the vision of previous OfA users. This could be the influence of OfA as a quirk itself, but it does not have to be.
What It Boils Down To
- Shinsou has a tired demeanor, which may or may not be related to his quirk.
- He needs a verbal response to his own provocations for his quirk to function.
- He can manipulate one’s actions but not one’s words, and their actions are sluggish and fairly simple.
- He can do it for a relatively extended period of time and for more than one command, but he has to keep his commands simple and short.
- A punch or some external force can actively knock someone out of his quirks’ control.
- Some people do remember what is going on while under the control.
What Makes Sense
That which is above does not add up to brainwashing. Brainwashing is, by definition:
“[to] make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure”
Brainwashing would imply that the commands would have greater permanence or be effective beyond the immediate control. It comes with greater complexities, and longer-lasting effects.
Common steps in brainwashing, as noted by psychologist Robert Jay Lifton, include:
- assault on identity
- breaking point
- compulsion to confess
- channeling of guilt
- releasing of guilt
- progress and harmony
- final confession and rebirth
But Hitoshi has implemented none of these steps against any individuals: brainwashing is a more conscious ordeal than an unconscious one.
Logically, it means that his quirk is not brainwashing. Instead, it is closer to sleepwalking because of its unconscious and impermanent nature.
Or, at least, the ability to cause others to sleepwalk. So, let’s talk sleepwalking, which is by definition:
“walk around and sometimes perform other actions while asleep”
Hitoshi victims perform simple tasks while under his control, lacking verbal response and permanence in the thereafter of his control. The above shows Izuku walking because of a particular command, but the logic behind this is not not just because that the command was to turn around and walk out-of-bounds. It’s that everything Hitoshi does in utilizing his quirk matches the symptoms of sleepwalking, which include:
- get out of bed and walk around
Hitoshi’s victims can walk around, though it is a slow crawl / mechanical set of movements.
- have a glazed, glassy-eyed expression
Izuku is not the only character to have had the glossy-eyed look when under Shinsou Hitoshi’s control.
- not respond or communicate with others
- be difficult to wake up during an episode
- be disoriented or confused for a short time after being awakened
- not remembering the episode in the morning
The four points above explain the effects that all of his victims have had in some form or another. None of his victims have been able to communicate or easily wake themselves from an episode, and anyone who has sleepwalked usually needs a punch or hit of some kind to snap out of it. Sleepwalking (and its sibling, sleeptalking) is simple-task-based, and sleeptalking is rarely more than five words strung together. Hitoshi likely cannot give complex (or too many) commands to someone, and his victims likely cannot perform complex tasks. In essence, he is using sleeptalking to control someone’s sleepwalking, the “sleeptalking” being his quirks’ way of getting in control over someone’s actions.
Hitoshi loses all control and influence when the dreaming / sleepwalking ends; if it was brainwashing, Izuku would have continued to walk out-of-bounds even after regaining control.
Extremely few are able to remember what happens during sleepwalking, but active dreamers are more likely to remember sleepwalking. Considering Izuku’s imagination and innovative skills, I would not be surprised if he is an active-dreamer, in which he has some control over his dreams and sleepwalking decisions. This explains why he remembers it from the moment he went under, and remembers it even after coming out (the vision) while Ojirou could only remember what came after being bumped by another team (and not during). Also note the use of colors during the animated sequence, which tend to match the way our brains work during dreams and in storing memories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVSjXooP7D4
- have problems functioning during the day because of disturbed sleep
- have sleep terrors in addition to sleepwalking
These two points above are likely the blow-back Hitoshi faces for using his quirk: his tired demeanor, the eye-bags, and abrasive attitude are all good indications of poor sleeping habits. Sleepwalking also occurs during the REM sleep stages, which is the level of sleep needed to feel well-rested (and Hitoshi does not look well-rested): this may also explain his absurd time limits in controlling people, for at least ten minutes and on multiple individuals, because REM sleep cycles last for 90 - 100 minutes at a time. This could be the maximum he can do on any one individual at a time, or at least the maximum time he can divide up among those he does have under his control.
The Plot-Contributing Point of it Being Sleepwalking?
By and large psychological. If you believed your quirk was brainwashing for most of your life, you likely would not have tested it to any extent. Certainly not to an extent where you figure out the confines of your quirks’ abilities are closer to something else. It would provide immense relief for Shinsou Hitoshi to learn that his quirk isn’t as mind-altering as originally interpreted to be, and likely serve as an opening for him to become a better hero.
Can I just add in the soundtrack from the anime for a passing moment? When I first heard this, my instinct wasn’t that it was brainwashing. The use of lullabies and scattered voices, creepy as they are, alludes to sleep-related themes.
Would love to hear more thoughts on this!