top of page

All Might's Flame Lives On? My Hero Academia Greek Mythology Analysis

Updated: Jan 9, 2023



All Might as a Myth of Kleos


Toshinori Yagi, or All Might, is the number one hero in the Shonen manga and adapted anime, My Hero Academia, which illustrates a world in which the majority of mankind has developed superpowers, referred to as quirks.


All Might is the “symbol of peace,” a pillar of hope and justice for the heroes, citizens, and villains of Japan. His quirk, called One For All, allows All Might to enhance his physical abilities and exert a superhuman amount of strength and power. The seemingly invincible One For All quirk has its secrets... It is a stockpile power passed down from generations of heroes, each time getting stronger than the previous user in hopes that it will eventually become powerful enough to take down All For One and the League of Villains. As their names imply, these two powers come from the same origin, yet one is used to manifest chaos and evil and the other, a symbol of peace. In a battle against All For One that took place in context of the first episode, All Might became the first torchbearer of One For All to defeat All For One. This defeat came at the cost of critical injuries in which All Might lost significant internal organs beyond repair.



All Might’s injury jumpstarts his process of finding a new successor for One For All in what is the first episode. All Might chooses Izuku Midoriya, a young, selfless and quirkless human like All Might once was. All Might gives Midoriya a chance at his dream of not only having a quirk, but of one day becoming a hero like the symbol of peace. The power of One For All is passed to Midoriya within the first season, and All Might uses up whatever remaining power he has stockpiled in another battle against All For One in the third season. Although victorious in battle, All Might’s quirkless identity is revealed to all of Japan and he honorably loses his spot as number one hero.


As a once quirkless human, Toshinori Yagi achieves his kleos, immortal glory in Greek mythology, in becoming a pillar of justice the people of Japan rely on… in becoming the number one hero All Might. As Greek mythology holds, in order to be a kleos character, one typically dies. In a sense, the hero All Might dies when he uses the last of his power he has stockpiled in his battle against All For One. He becomes once again the quirkless human Toshinori Yagi (although we continue to refer to him as All Might). All Might, however, is unable to recognize his kleos without his quirk:


Horikoshi, Kōhei, et al. My Hero Academia. Shonen Jump manga edition. San Francisco, CA, VIZ Media, LLC, 2018.


Aziwa (another hero)

"What’s wrong?"

All Might

"I decided… to live… This feeling of powerlessness is welling up inside of me. Every time I see how the students are improving, I’m tortured by the irritation that I can’t do anything for them."

Aziwa

"You’ve been defending this country for decades. It’s a symptom of your addiction[to saving lives] made clear by the sudden change. You are able to do something for them by living and being here. Just by doing that, you can spur on so many people. You should boldly sit back and put your feet up."

Horikoshi, Kōhei, et al. My Hero Academia. Shonen Jump manga edition. San Francisco, CA, VIZ Media, LLC, 2018.


We see how All Might questions his kleos, essentially questions his life, because the past torchbearers of One For All have all died selflessly in battle. Similarly, in the Odyssey, Odysseus is trying to achieve what All Might has done, as All Might not only has kleos but also nostos, a theme in Greek mythology in which an epic hero returns home; a homecoming. Yet All Might feels guilty for his nostos; for being alive yet powerless.


Similarly, in the Iliad, we initially read of the epic hero Achilles' quandary between living out a longer, duller life, or obtaining his kleos on the battlefield but dying at a young age. Interestingly, the Iliad seems to advocate for Achilles' choice of kleos over a longer life whereas the Odyssey implies some dissent to this ‘golden rule’ of kleos. While Achilles is now a king of the underworld due to his kleos, he’d “rather be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead.” Nonetheless, Achilles is still delighted to hear that his son is becoming a great warrior just as All Might is brought to tears at the sight of Midoriya’s improvements. In this context, kleos has transformed into a complicated value we hold true in our culture as opposed to an accepted, sought after one.


History.com Editors. “Achilles.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 21 Mar. 2011, https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/achilles.


Despite having nostos or kleos or both, All Might and Achilles’ laments reveal the reality of the myth of glory… They reveal the truth about how it feels to be a hero/warrior. We are a culture that glorifies our heroes… a glorification that is oftentimes problematic, that leaves behind a wounded soul. We can consider the countless homeless veterans as a living example of this myth in our current society. When a being, someone like All Might, Achilles, anyone who fights for their people or their country, is left to face the consequences of what being a hero really means--of the unrealistic expectation of kleos their society places on them--the internal struggle, isolation, and stagnation can be unbearable.


Evidently, the story of the internal struggle of a wounded warrior can be found in countless ancient and modern day works of art. Another example in Greek mythology is Oresteia. Cursed in the House of Atreus, Orestes is torn between avenging his father Agamemnon’s death--as it is a son’s obligation to kill his father’s murderers--or sparing his mother Clytemnestra. His decision to kill his mother ultimately leads to an overwhelming feeling of guilt. It is seemingly problematic that Orestes felt the overwhelming pressure to honor his father Agamemnon’s kleos by killing his mother, which only continued the curse on their family. The pressure to honor and uphold his familial kleos becomes unbearable for Orestes, just as the pressure to obtain and maintain their kleos ends up stifling both All Might and Achilles. Yet, by Aziwa reminding All Might of his continued importance despite the loss of his quirk and his title as number one hero, and Orestes ability to end the curse on the House of Atreus by pleading to Athena, we are shown how there exists more beyond one's kleos and nostos. One can overcome the obstacles their predecessors couldn’t (and hopefully Midoriya can >.<). Heroes like All Might can be innovators of their own future.


Toshinori Yagi fan art by 立华奏弦之音 / kanade (2018)


Thanks For Reading!

bottom of page