The world of comics is known for its figures with codenames that either identify them as a hero or a villain—sometimes signaled by monikers that are either virtuous or villainous for our discernment, respectively; other times, subtly, if at all.

In Western comics, we have the likes of Captain America and Superman as superheroes while also having the likes of Red Skull and Lex Luthor as their respective villains. And the world of Japanese anime is no exception, with a long list of characters from various titles and universes that either served as inspirations to viewers or as emblematic figures to hate.

But did it ever cross your mind to think what the chaotic world of good versus evil would be like without the labels that distinguish one from the other?

Once upon a time, in My Hero Academia, that appears to be the case—at least according to a theory presented by the series’ main baddie, Tomura Shigaraki, during a flashback scene in the manga’s Chapter 393.

According to said theory, the use of codenames began at a time when fighters in general are virtually indistinguishable from one another, with an event of one fighter needing to call out on an opponent as the root of it all.

Imagine calling an opponent by a pronoun or—in the case of the Japanese system—with a noun just because you have no way of knowing who the other individual is. You either present yourself as someone clueless or come off as rude.

Not only the use of codenames is essential in making one fighter stand out from his peers or enemies, but it also served as an important aspect of hiding the hero or villain’s true identity just before the advent of the age of heroes. Think of Clark Kent being Superman when acting in his superhero role the first time and saving the people of the fictional city of Metropolis from an anti-hero, and then reverting to his original self and living a normal life as a journalist.

With heroes generally taken as sort of celebrity figures, we cannot blame authors for thinking how detrimental the prominence of the heroes would be if they portray themselves exactly as who they are—there would be fanfare everywhere even before they could make a move or otherwise put themselves in danger at every second of their lives. Conversely, the same is also true about villains who are more likely to be treated with disdain, without them given the chance to live beyond their evil roles borne from obscurity.

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