Minoru Mineta isn’t a popular character in the world of Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia. The purple superhero’s defining characteristic is being a massive pervert, making inappropriate comments about female characters and using his limited powers to find himself in situations that ensure he’s always up close and personal with boobs and butts, even if it means putting himself in mortal danger. Sure, the character has had a handful of heroic moments throughout the manga and anime adaptation, but it always comes down to being an outdated, archetypal depiction of fan service that drags the whole affair down with it.
He’s so detested that fans have even made a habit of editing him out of official posters and promotional materials, choosing to pretend he doesn’t exist instead of constantly having to deal with his bullshit. There’s nothing wrong with comic relief, but when it’s all done in service of juvenile sexualisation of (often underaged) characters, it just feels wrong, and it’s a shame that anime so frequently falls into this trap. It’s a medium with some of the most beautifully ambitious animation in history, while it’s also home to the most depraved, and bad habits like this only serve to sour its reputation. But that’s an argument for another day. Today I want to focus on the latest chapter of My Hero Academia and how it teases a major revelation for Mineta’s character.
Chapter 321 of the manga features Mineta partaking in a rather hectic fight, and in the midst of battle he exchanges words with Midoriya “Deku” Izuku, the main protagonist, that many are viewing as a proclamation of his bisexuality. “I fell for you. When you were scared and sweating buckets,” the character says, potentially confessing his love for a male character that goes against everything we’ve learned about him up until this point. This piece of dialogue takes place when Mineta and a number of other characters are cheering on our protagonist in a life-or-death situation, so it could be a case of fans misreading Mineta’s intent and painting it as something romantic. The translation changes depending on where you look, and the original Japanese also appears to be ambiguous in nature, so it’s hard to draw a conclusion here regarding what “fell for you” in this context really means. If it’s admittance of bisexuality in a moment of mortal danger though, it kinda sucks.
If this was another character like Bakugo or Todoroki, where a more developed relationship could blossom into romance, it would have landed so much better. However, Mineta’s established personality means it feels shallow and strangely damaging, like the predator’s constant advances are now somehow more acceptable because he has a thing for both men and women. As you’d expect, the fanbase isn’t happy about such a development’s problematic potential - taking to social media to post playful memes and unsure remarks about the character despite his bisexuality not being confirmed. Queer identities needn’t be the defining traits of characters, but they also shouldn’t be utilised as a punchline to poke fun at readers and viewers wishing for the media they consume to represent them in some way.
They might be reading too much into things, but there’s also a justified fear in the series’ only example of queer representation coming in the form of a character that is universally despised. I personally think it’s just the author trolling us, knowing that his audience is renown for shipping together same-sex couples in doujinshi and fanfiction on a regular basis.The series is globally recognised, so the wish for representation isinevitable, but My Hero Academia is a by-the-numbers shonen experience where the boy will inevitably get the girl, and we’d be foolish to assume it will end up being anything else. Ochako Uraraka is best girl, so I don’t mind too much.
All that being said, I hope Mineta isn’t the representation so many of us have been waiting for. His sexuality will always be valid, but his entire character being built around the harassment of women only to have him being painted as a superhero who also happens to like men leaves behind an awful impression. It’s not brave or progressive, instead it comes across as ill-thought out and hurtful, regardless of whether or not it happens to be a joke. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, otherwise I might join in with the memes and jump back into the closet.
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