Finding Myself in My Hero Academia’s Mirko

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Mirko - But Why Tho -

SPOILER WARNING: This article features heavy spoilers for My Hero Academia Volume 27 and My Hero Academia Vigilantes Chapter 88

The Rabbit Hero Mirko from My Hero Academia has quickly become a fan favorite. She has an amazing visual design, a quick wit, and ultimately stands as one of the strongest and most unyielding characters in the manga. But for me, I’m drawn to her character for a number of reasons. The biggest is that I connect with her, I identify with her.

The first Mexican character (canonically) I saw in anime was Chad from Tite Kubo’s BleachHis skin was brown like mine – and while so was Yoroichi’s, he was part Mexican. He was like me and not just in the mukokuseki sense. If you’re unfamiliar, mukokuseki means “stateless” and is used in anime and manga to represent characters that have no ethnicity or race attributed to them explicitly. A lot of the time a character in anime appears with brown skin, they fall into this category. They’re just, well, brown, and ambiguously so. But with Chad, he was different.

Jump to Kohei Horikoshi’s Mirko. Now, her real name is Rumi Usagiyama, and it’s safe to assume that, while she can be seen as mukokuseki by some, she is tied to Japan with her canon birthplace being Hiroshima. That said, she’s become a character that many people have grown to see themselves in, especially Black and brown women in the community. For me, it’s the small elements of Latinidad I see in her character that makes the character unlike others I’ve seen. This is even more important given that her English voice actress is Anairis Quinones, an Afro-Latina voice actress.

Mirko is very much inspired by Lucha Libre, which you probably know as Mexican Wrestling. The names of her moves are in Spanish, nodding to their origins with Luna starting each name, a reference to the moon she wears on her chest. In fact, her most powerful move is one used by luchadores, her Luna Tijeras. In this move, Mirko mounts onto her opponent’s head and grips them tightly with her legs before twisting her body, pulling with all of her superhuman leg strength to rip her opponent’s head cleanly off and then smashing it into the ground.

This head-scissor move has been used in Lucha and other wrestling as well. This connection, though, isn’t only superficial but directly connected to the “lucharesu” of Japan in the 1970s, which created a blend of Japanese wrestling with Lucha Libre and took hold in the 1990s. Lucharesu blended the existing elements of Japanese pro-wrestling with the high-flying and highly aesthetic-based Mexican Lucha Libre. This blend of cultures takes center stage in Mirko, and when I read her chapters, I see my pieces of my culture on display, all the way back to luchadores I watched with my grandpa on Sundays.

This isn’t just alluded to in My Hero Academia, but also confirmed in My Hero Academia Vigilantes Chapter 88, which shows Mirko’s origin. As a kid, she was an underground fighter in Hiroshima who fought with a Lucha mask.

These small cultural touchstones mean a lot to me as an anime fan. I don’t come into anime expecting to see Latinx folks on screen, but, with many Latinx coded characters in shows like Megalo Box, Cowboy Bebop, and Tiger & Bunny, I find myself excited when even a chance of a character who is like me comes on screen. It’s why I’ve gravitated towards so many of the ambiguously brown characters across franchises. While Mirko isn’t canonically Latina, like the characters in Michiko & Hatchin or Chad, her English voice actress is. She embodies Lucha in a way that hits home, and it’s one piece of her characterization that makes her sing for me.

Young Mirko in My Hero Vigilantes Chapter 88
Young Mirko in My Hero Vigilantes Chapter 88

But beyond the cultural elements I see myself in, it’s her unyielding fight that truly makes her resonate. Yes, we share the same skin, but she is who I aim to be. In My Hero Academia volume 27, specifically the Jaku General Hospital raid, Mirko is tasked with taking on the High-End Nomu and hopefully stopping Shigaraki‘s doctor from escaping. In the process, readers get the chance to see Mirko confront loss and danger and come out the other end.

In this volume, Mirko almost loses her life. She chooses to rip off her own arm instead of dying, but more important, instead of not completing the mission. She doesn’t isn’t just fearless in the face of a life-threatening situation, she embraces it. After enduring extreme pain, severing her own crushed arm, and using her hair as a tourniquet, she vows to keep fighting. To keep moving without regrets, “I live every day of my life like there’s no tomorrow so that when my number’s up, I can check out with no regrets.”

Mirko’s pain is her fuel, and in this volume of the manga, she embodies tenacity. Not only because she keeps fighting, but because she holds herself accountable for it. Heroes finish the job, even if they won’t survive. She accepts this, and completes her mission, “because a hero, never, ever quits.” This isn’t some outside force propelling her, it’s her own will and her own concept of heroism. She barrels forward because she has to, because she doesn’t have an option. And while none of us has ever fought Nomu, many of us can identify with this.

Much of my life has been dictated by a series of obstacles stopping me for one reason or another. Whether it was a wealth barrier, sexism, racism, or any other -ism that the folks in charge chose to use at the time, walking in the world when you look like me, you’re at a disadvantage. And to get up every day and keep pushing for that upward mobility that we’re supposedly promised when we graduate school, sometimes you just have to have the resolve to not quit. That’s what I was taught. That’s what I do. It’s what I carry. Be unyielding, because if you crack, everything will fall.

It’s a tough way to live. It means I run on fumes most days and ultimately means I don’t know when I’m burning out. It means I have to keep pushing and using my strength when all I want to do is curl into a ball and sleep. This isn’t fighting Nomu, but is fighting every day because the world makes me.

So when you pull Mirko together as a character, she’s my ideal. She’s my hero because I want to be her. I want to have unwavering faith in myself and my mission in life. I want to push past my limits. I want to rest when the job is done. I want to be like her. My Luchadora and my hero.

My Hero Academia Volume 27 is available now wherever books are sold.