Some characters are so well-written that they seem life-like. But how would these “realistic” characters stand up to real-life personality typing?
It’s time to put the Enneagram back to the test, gauging characters’ personality types based on their core drives and greatest fears.
Personality Typing Your Favorite Characters
The remainder of this post will contain some spoilers for
My Hero Academia
[S]elf-confident, strong, and assertive… resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. [They] feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating… [T]ypically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.1
Get ready to go beyond, Plus Ultra-style, because today we’re typing a fan favorite from My Hero Academia, King Explosion Murder himself: Katsuki Bakugo!
Bakugo is a poster child for the Type Eight personality, also known as “The Challenger.”2 He’s determined to become the number-one hero, and he has the strength and tenacity to do just that.
|My Hero Academia, Bones 2016|
While most characters in My Hero Academia share this desire, it’s clear that Bakugo wants to be the best specifically “to ‘leave [his] mark’” on the world—a common Eight trait.3 He knows even “[a]t an early age… that this requires strength, will, persistence, and endurance…” and he works hard to cultivate these qualities.4 Bakugo relies on no one but himself, training hard to become physically and mentally tough. It’s no surprise that others consider him the epitome of self-confidence. One of his childhood friends comments:
He was the type who could do anything he tried his hand at, a rascal who led the group of neighborhood kids. Good or bad, [Bakugo] was full of confidence, and I thought he was so cool.5
|My Hero Academia, Bones 2016|
This confidence drew others to Bakugo like moths to a candle when he was young—another common trait of Eights, who are known for being “charismatic and hav[ing] the physical and psychological capacities to persuade others to follow them into all kinds of endeavors.”6 To be sure, Bakugo had no problems convincing his childhood buddies to go along with any of his plans, whether it be venturing past fences or wandering the local neighborhood… or even picking on those Bakugo deemed weaker than himself.
Unfortunately for Bakugo, his temper and ego quickly outpace that charisma. In high school, Bakugo finds the tables have turned when he becomes the object of teasing. His classmates have no problem pointing out his many flaws, including his less-than-always-charming personality.
This scene is Bakugo’s worst nightmare. When people look down on him, it means they have power over him: an Eight’s greatest fear.7 Bakugo wants to be in charge at all times. Even when his instructor gives him a direct order or tries to give him advice, Bakugo ignores it or brushes it aside. He won’t show weakness. He refuses to show vulnerability. He’s a rock.
Although Bakugo exhibits so many Eight traits, I initially had a hard time typing him—not for lack of Eight behavior, but because of the explosive anger he aims at his former friend and fellow classmate, Midoriya, whom he scornfully calls “Deku” (which he uses to describes someone he considers useless).8
It’s clear Bakugo sees Midoriya as a rival despite his constant comments that Midoriya is “nothing but a pebble”9 on his path to greatness. Bakugo repeats this assurance like a mantra, as if trying to ward off an overwhelming sense that Midoriya is indeed a threat.
But this anxiety doesn’t add up. Eights are driven by the fear of being controlled. Yet Midoriya is the last person who would or could overpower anyone, least of all Bakugo.
Midoriya had always been smaller and naturally more timid than Bakugo. Where Bakugo charged in head-first, Midoriya often hung back. And while Bakugo and Midoriya both want to become heroes, Midoriya was born with no superpowers—virtually unheard-of in this society—whereas Bakugo has a “flashy”10 superpower that people have praised since he was young. Surely someone with no powers could never compete with someone who sweats nitroglycerin and can set off controlled explosions at will.11
So why on earth would an Eight like Bakugo be afraid of Midoriya? Unless he wasn’t an Eight, but a Four.
A Four’s core desire is to have a distinct persona, a clear identity. Fours will do almost anything to preserve this identity—for instance, even going so far as to wallow in self-pity forever if their identity is “suffering martyr.” Fours are constantly trying to make themselves look different or stand out because they want to believe they’re special. Just as Bakugo is constantly trying to stand out. Just like how Bakugo has built up this persona of being the very best… and just like how he’ll do whatever it takes to eliminate Midoriya, who threatens to steal his identity as “the best.”
So that was it. Bakugo was a Four. At least, that’s what I almost wrote, until I came across the Enneagram Institute’s “Misidentifying Fours and Eights” article:
It would seem extremely unlikely that Fours and Eights would be mistyped for one another, but it does occasionally occur… Eights cope with [their] feelings in radically different ways than Fours… Eights learn to toughen themselves up and to “get over it” so that they can do what they need to do to maintain their independence and personal authority. Fours find it difficult to let go of their childhood wounds and do not want to “get over it.” Fours… are willing to rely on others if it gives them the time and resources to work out their feelings or to develop their creativity.
Eights do feel vulnerable inside, but as much as possible, they steel themselves against any feelings of insecurity and weakness in themselves. Eights tend to see such feelings as self-indulgent luxuries…12
Bakugo would never be caught dead relying on anyone, especially not to sort out his feelings. And he doesn’t seem to have much of an artistic side.
So where do Bakugo’s Four-like qualities stem from? I believe Bakugo’s Four-like anger and anxiety come from self-loathing.
“Self-loathing is that underlying feeling that we are just not good: not good enough, not good at this, not good at that…”13
There’s no direct evidence to suggest that Bakugo feels like he’s not good enough… except for the way he lashes out at Midoriya and others.
We may try to suppress this feeling of inadequacy by behaving as though we are superior to others… It’s as though we have to prove that we are the absolute best in order to avoid the torrent of internal abuse waiting to pounce the moment we show any fallibility [emphasis mine].14
Bakugo’s constant habit of puffing himself up while tearing others down is a strong indicator that he suffers from self-loathing. Pride is his coping mechanism, his attempt to tell his hostile, criticizing inner voice that it’s wrong… when he’s terrified it’s right.
But there’s one final piece of evidence that proves Bakugo is an Eight: the Enneagram can predict Bakugo’s character arc. This is the advice The Enneagram Institute gives to unhealthy Eights:
“[A]ct with self-restraint. You show true power when you forbear from asserting your will with others, even when you could. Your real power lies in your ability to inspire and uplift people. You are at your best when you take charge and help everyone through a crisis.”15
“[L]earn to yield to others, at least occasionally. Often, little is really at stake, and you can allow others to have their way without fear of sacrificing your power, [sic] or your real needs.”16
In my opinion, this final quote is the key. During My Hero Academia season two, the students must choose a hero agency to intern at for one week. Because of Bakugo’s exemplary performance at the school so far, Bakugo has the pick of the litter. So does the fiery and combative Bakugo choose an internship with Gunhead, a renowned martial arts-specialist? Does he opt to intern at the Normal Hero Agency, which was recently attacked by the hero-killing villain Stain, so he can show off his skills in a real fight?
No. Instead, Bakugo chooses to intern with Best Jeanist, who’s a well-groomed and highly-ranked hero… whose only listed accolade is winning “The Best Jeanist Award” eight years in a row.17
While why is still unknown (at least in the anime), what’s clear is that Bakugo does not enjoy his internship with Best Jeanist. He gets forced to smooth down his hair and walk and talk like Best Jeanist wants him to. He bristles at Best Jeanist’s methods. It looks like an Eight’s worst nightmare.
And yet, he does try to follow Best Jeanist’s advice. For instance, while on patrol, Best Jeanist asks him:
[H]ere’s a question. Patrols are meant to deter villains from committing crimes, but they also have a secondary effect… to show people who we are. To give the public peace of mind. It builds trust between those who protect and those who are being protected.18
When Best Jeanist goes on to tell Bakugo to build that rapport, the hot-headed King Explosion Murder actually tries to do so.
…In his own way.
Bakugo may be a proud hot-head who screams “Die!” for a battle-cry, but as time goes on, Bakugo has proven he’s capable of—and aware of his need for—change.
Another example occurs during season two, when the students participate in a tournament held by the school to help them attract potential hero agency employers. During this tournament, Bakugo must face off against Uraraka, a girl well known among their class as being tender-hearted and compassionate. Uraraka and her classmates are understandably concerned as the match draws near: Bakugo has never shown any sign of holding back, and Uraraka is no fighter compared to him.
Sure enough, when Bakugo fights, he doesn’t go easy on Uraraka. But he doesn’t charge into combat with reckless abandon either, instead remaining on the defensive. The crowd begins to boo, thinking he’s just toying with Uraraka.
|My Hero Academia, Bones 2017|
But Bakugo isn’t playing cat-and-mouse; far from it. He’s fighting cautiously for the first time in his life because he expects Uraraka to be a difficult opponent.
Bakugo’s comment after the match is particularly telling. While his classmates marvel at how he was able to attack such “a frail girl,” Bakugo’s retort—almost more to himself—is “What part of her was frail?”19 Despite beating Uraraka and thus proving his superiority, Bakugo has nothing but respect for her. The Bakugo of season one would have never made such a comment; this is proof that he is already becoming a healthier Eight, using his strength to inspire people to push themselves harder and farther than they ever would have on their own.20
Season two left Bakugo a little less egotistical, a little more thoughtful, and a little bit better than he was at the start of season one. So I’m going to use the Enneagram to make a little fan theory. I predict that someday we’re going to see a fully-realized, healthy Eight in Bakugo: someone who is “heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring.”21
They take the initiative and make things happen… They are honorable and authoritative—natural leaders who have a solid, commanding presence. Their groundedness gives them abundant “common sense” as well as the ability to be decisive. Eights are willing to “take the heat,” knowing that any decision cannot please everyone… They use their talents and fortitude to construct a better world for everyone in their lives.22
And with season three less than a month away,23 we might not have to wait long to see if my fan theory proves correct.
Notes and References:
- Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types (New York City, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 1999), 289-91, quoted in “THE CHALLENGER [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018.
- Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 15, 2016, Funimation.
- Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 289-91, quoted in “THE CHALLENGER [sic].”
- Katsuki Bakugo, My Hero Academia, “Rage, You Damned Nerd,” Season 1, Episode 6, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 8, 2016, Funimation.
- Katsuki Bakugo, My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 15, 2016, Funimation.
- My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 15, 2016, Funimation.
- Katsuki Bakugo, My Hero Academia, “Deku vs. Kacchan,” Season 1, Episode 7.
- “Misidentifying Fours and Eights,” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018.
- Jo Barrington, “Self-Loathing,” PSYCHALIVE [sic] (blog), 2016, accessed March 7, 2018.
- “THE CHALLENGER [sic],” The Enneagram Institute, 2017, accessed March 7, 2018.
- Izuku Midoriya, My Hero Academia, “Start Line,” Season 1, Episode 4, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, April 24, 2016, Funimation.
- Best Jeanist, My Hero Academia, “Everyone’s Internships,” Season 2, Episode 32, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, August 12, 2017, Funimation.
- My Hero Academia, “Bakugo vs. Uraraka,” Season 2, Episode 22, Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, Written by Yosuke Kuroda, May 27, 2017, Funimation.
- Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 289-91, quoted in “THE CHALLENGER [sic].”
- Godswill, “My Hero Academia Season 3 SimulDub Date,” Funimation, March 5, 2018, accessed March 13, 2018.
All photos are screenshots taken from Crunchyroll and are the property Funimation 2016-2017. Used under US “Fair Use” laws.
My Hero Academia and all related terms are the property of Funimation. And I am not affiliated with them.
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