In “My Hero Academia,” Ochaco Uraraka is a shining example of how to create a well-balanced female character in a shonen anime. It can be challenging to create a character with just the right balance of strengths and flaws, especially for female characters who often have different expectations and are scrutinized more closely by audiences. The ideal character is one with enough strengths to move the story forward while having enough flaws to be relatable and have a meaningful personal challenge to overcome.
Some shonen characters may start off balanced but end up becoming too perfect, resembling a Mary Sue by the end of their arcs. Examples of this include Naruto Uzumaki and Ichigo Kurosaki. However, both Izuku and Ochaco are not like that. From the beginning, Ochaco’s personal arc has shown her bravely facing and overcoming relatable and meaningful challenges, both inward and outward.
While she was born with a Quirk, unlike Izuku, her zero-gravity Quirk is mediocre at best and cannot deal damage on its own. Ochaco had to train hard to become a real fighter, smartly comboing with Tsuyu and training with Gun Head to learn CQC, or close-quarters combat. She often experienced failure, such as her painful defeat to Katsuki Bakugo in the UA sports tournament, but these setbacks provided opportunities for her to grow.
It is important to note that at no point did “My Hero Academia” sideline Ochaco as the token girl who merely cheers on and worries for the male lead. Even if Ochaco’s arc eventually took a back seat to the Izuku-Shoto-Bakugo golden trio, she continued to grow and progress steadily, smoothly scaling up as the series progressed, all without being “useless” like Sakura Haruno or a Mary Sue either. Like many of her classmates, including Momo Yaoyorozu and Eijiro Kirishima, Ochaco has enough flaws to struggle in sympathetic ways and just enough strengths to slowly overcome these challenges.
Shonen anime has a history of marginalized and tokenized female characters, a trend that is finally being reversed with characters like Nobara Kugisaki, Power the horned fiend, and certainly Ochaco. However, having prominent and fairly balanced female characters like Ochaco still feels relatively new, so anime fans may pay closer attention to these characters to see if they measure up to their male counterparts.
In Ochaco’s case, she easily stands up to scrutiny on all fronts, from her charming and complex personality to her balanced and cool combat powers and smooth, compelling character arc. She is an evolution of the likes of Sakura Haruno and Orihime Inoue, being more than a cheerleader or token girl who learned to fight. Equally importantly, author Kohei Horikoshi did not overcompensate for shonen’s weak treatment of girls by making Ochaco or her female classmates overpowered to hurry and catch up to the boys.
An overpowered female character would still be a problem, just in a different way, and some media franchises are already notorious for doing that. Being perfect to show the boys up isn’t a solution, and it alienates audiences from the character. Instead, shonen heroines like Ochaco match those boys’ balanced power with their own, and the results are spectacular. Even if shonen still has some ground to cover regarding female representation, shonen girls have come a long way, and heroines like Ochaco Uraraka are a perfect formula for how it’s done best.
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