(This article is dealing exclusively with the My Hero Academia anime up until the end of season 5)
Can Endeavor be redeemed? It’s a question that has gotten me more heated than the flame hero’s mustache. How could he be? He forced Shoto’s mother into a marriage solely designed to breed children that could surpass All Might. On top of that, he verbally abused her until she couldn’t even stand the sight of her own son, because he had his father’s features. As for his treatment of Shoto, he isolated him from his siblings and physically beat him from a young age under the pretense of hero training.
Much of this comes out during the UA sports festival where Shoto really breaks onto the scene in the anime. Endeavour looms in the background for most of the tournament like a crazed parent at a little league game, trying to live vicariously through their child. At some point during this festival designed to showcase the students, Endeavor goes so far as to call Shoto his “Greatest masterpiece,” firmly placing any of his son’s accolades onto himself.
I ask again. Can this man be redeemed? How can this man be redeemed? I will also add—What causes him to seek redemption in the first place?—since it will become relevant for the events of season 4 and 5 of My Hero Academia.
Season 4 begins Endeavor’s shift in attitude, as he tries to get into the good graces of his family. It happens right around the time All Might is forced into retirement, leaving Endeavor with a clear path to his ultimate goal of number one hero. His dream being fulfilled comes with a ton of new insecurities. We see him ask All Might for advice, where previously he’d been very short with the “Symbol of Peace.” Then once he is named as the official number one hero we see him try to politely interact with some younger fans, only to be rejected for being out of character.
As viewers, we are given the sense that Endeavor’s ascent to number one feels very hollow. Maybe this is because he never actually got to surpass his rival to get there. Maybe it is because the pursuit of being number one had become so much of who he was that losing that was like losing a piece of himself. Maybe it is because he realized he had sacrificed so much, including his family, to get there that he couldn’t fully enjoy it. I am not so convinced on that last one though.
I would argue that it is because of how hollow all of his dreams feel that he turns back to his family. Not out of guilt, but once again out of the type of selfishness that has him claiming Shoto is his “Masterpiece.” It isn’t until he feels the hollowness of his victory that he starts making an effort.
Speaking of Endeavors’s effort, in season 4, he shows up to Shoto’s exam and tells him he’s proud of him. He brings his wife, still in the psychiatric hospital he put her in a decade before, flowers. His other two children, the ones he seemed to care little about since they couldn’t bring him closer to his goal, are still left neglected. Natsuo, Shoto’s brother, says that he hates that his father wants to leave the past behind.
We see a not-so-subtle symbolic moment capturing this. While in battle with a very powerful Nomu, Endeavor says, “Villain you are me from the past or another future,” right before incinerating it. This is Endeavor’s big shining moment, his coming out party as the number one hero, his chance to start over. But does he deserve that? It might seem nice that he is burning away his monstrous past, but Shoto still bears the scar on his face, his mother is still in a hospital and his other children are still isolated from the rest of the family. With all of them still bearing the scars of his abuse is it really up to him to get to burn away the past? The answer is a resounding no, which is why at the end of season 4 he is no closer to redemption than when he started.
Watching Endeavor’s moment, I was so frustrated as a fan of the show. Everything seemed to be leading towards a big redemption arc. Shoto watched his father raise a fist in triumph on tv and seemed proud. All I could think was, how does going “Plus Ultra ” and beating a big bad redeem you? Endeavor was always a hero, this is what he has always done. The issue has always been that he was a horrible father, and no amount of super heroing can fix that.
In the time between season 4 and season 5, I bashed Endeavor and the story I thought this show was going to tell every chance I got. It had all the makings of a cheesy redemption story, and I couldn’t let that go.
Can Endeavor be redeemed? How can he be redeemed? Nothing I saw in season 4 gave me anything that I felt answered these questions.
Season 5 hit and changed a lot of how I saw not only the Endeavor story, but how I looked at the anime and Kōhei Horikoshi (writer and illustrator of the manga). It quickly became apparent that this would not be some cheesy character arc about a man who abused his family, getting redeemed through being the number one hero. This was a story about a family being forced to finally face their horrible past.
Season 5 picks up with Endeavor who, despite the blazing start to his time as number one hero, is still struggling to connect with his estranged family. Shoto won’t return his calls and his other son outwardly rejects him, blaming Endeavor for not knowing Shoto and for the loss of a mysterious sibling only mentioned in passing. His daughter however, is interested in giving her father a chance but it seems like it is more for a need to have a complete family than because her father has actually earned it.
Everything comes to a head when Endeavor’s son, Natsuo, is saved after being taken hostage by a villain. Endeavor, relieved his son is safe, hugs him. Despite this seemingly new level of affection from his father, Natsuo still rejects him. He tells his father he will never be able to forgive him. After this moment Endeavor makes the decision to step back from his family and give them space to grow and heal without his looming presence.
That was when I finally understood what the story was here. It was a story about a family that has been irreparably damaged by its patriarch and his blind ambitions. A story about a man who, even if he has changed at his core, cannot incinerate his past-self like he hoped. It is about a hero who has to stand and face his past. It is about a family who has to try and put itself back together and choose whether or not that includes their father.
How can Endeavor be redeemed? It may not be possible. That being said, finally giving his family space to heal and grow is a solid first step for the Number one hero.
Can Endeavor be redeemed? No, he cannot be, at least not fully. But, I think maybe this isn’t a redemption story about Endeavor being freed from the sins of his past. Redemption can also mean the act of making something better. So maybe, the story that Kōhei Horikoshi is trying to tell is about the redemption of the Todoroki’s broken home, with or without Endeavor.