All Might and Deku stand at the forefront of My Hero Academia as symbols of peace in a crumbling society. Their fight to save the day is thrilling to watch, but their stories aren't the only ones at the heart of the series. There was a hero before the two of them, whose actions and firm beliefs resulted in the chaotic struggle for peace within society.
As Deku learns more about One For All and its long and mysterious history, he comes to admire the hero Nana Shimura. Her story is only briefly tapped into to explain key plot details, but with so much influence on major characters and the story's history in general, Nana's story deserves more than a passing glance.
Nana Shimura of the MHA: Who Is She?
Nana Shimura's life is shrouded in mystery. She was the seventh wielder of the quirk One For All as passed down by the Hero En, worked as a pro hero using One For All and her quirk Float, took in Toshinori Yagi, aka All Might, as her student, and is the grandmother of the main villain Tomura Shigaraki. These bits of her life story are told in broken flashback scenes shared out of chronological order across the events of MHA. While these brief scenes serve to enhance and connect the riveting stories of Deku's heroic journey and Tomura's frightening intentions, these are just fragments of the story of a struggling parent, a supportive ally and one of the greatest heroes of the entire story.
In chronological order, Nana's story, at least within the confines of the featured scenes, begins with her attaining the quirk and responsibility of One For All. With no details on this exchange, her story becomes about the balance between her professional hero work and her relationship with her son Kotaro. After losing her husband in battle, Nana refuses to have her son killed by her enemies, including the major villain All For One. As a way to protect him from danger, Nana cuts ties with her son, leaving him in Japan's foster care system.
Nana continues to fight crime alongside the Gran Torino, focusing on her pro hero work. When she meets the oddball high school student Toshinori Yagi, she takes him under her wing and gives him One For All. When All For One attacks the trio, Nana has Gran Torino take Toshinori away because he isn't yet ready to face All For One. Nana fights the villain on her own but is tragically killed in the process. Despite her death, Nana continues to have a significant impact on the battle between good and evil.
The Influence of Nana Shimura on Heroes and Villains
Starting with All Might, Nana takes notice of Toshinori Yagi's heroic spirit and leads him into the life of a pro hero as well as a One For All user despite him being quirkless. Nana's uplifting influence drastically changes the stoic young boy's life, as he wished to become a symbol of peace to end the darkened days of crime-ridden streets and hostile villainy. She instills the ideology of a smiling hero into All Might, being the person who teaches him that no matter what the circumstance, a hero always smiles. This philosophy of All Might's is what made him such a dazzling symbol of hope and heroism for the nation. From Nana's stirring example, All Might becomes a hero worth rooting for and ends All For One's horrific reign over the country in an epic battle. His victory leads to an era of great peace, though it sadly doesn't last forever.
Even after All Might restores peace to the nation, seeds of villainy left behind stir up society, one being that All For One is still alive. After forgetting Nana's example of what a hero should be, All Might meets Izuku Midoriya who, despite being quirkless, has the true essence of a hero. Once he remembers Nana's example as a mentor figure, All Might realizes that he can trust in Izuku's genuine desire to be a great hero, as Nana did for him when he was young. After learning about Nana's critical impact on All Might and the world at large, Izuku has great respect for Nana and aims to follow in her example, wearing a smile on his face to save as many people as he can.
Nana Shimura's Legacy Isn't Perfect
Despite all of Nana's good intentions, not every one of them resulted in a happy ending. Granted, her mentor-student relationship with All Might contributed to the end of All For One's reign, but it wasn't enough to permanently end the evil mastermind's reign. Worse, a stray thread from Nana's past would end up empowering All For One.
After Nana left behind her son to protect, the good intention only left pain in the boy's heart. It became a trauma that he passed down to his children Tenko and Hana. Though Tenko dreamed of becoming a hero, his father wouldn't allow it because of his negative view of heroes. This contention would turn into physical and emotional abuse, to Tenko especially. Once Tenko attained his quirk, Decay, the destructive power spiraled out of the boy's control, killing his entire family. No heroes came to help Tenko when he was living on the street, but All For One came to the boy's aid and pushed him toward villainy, giving him the new name Shigaraki Tomura. As one of the major villains of the series, Tomura has given the heroes one problem after another and caused the tragic deaths of a number of characters. His hatred of the world is the catalyst for the war between heroes and villains, leading to the near-destruction of Tokyo and the upheaval of hero-led society.
Nana's character becomes so much more than a background or supporting role when she is at the centre of both the heroes' and the villains' rises. Her actions and character development have a direct impact on the story's main character and serve as a driving force in the plot. To conclude the series, a proper telling of her story would be ideal.
All Might and Deku's Forefather Has a Story to Tell
Aside from coming to understand Nana's origins, a look into what life was like during All For One's reign and the full extent of Nana's sacrifice is needed. Without question, there is a sense of dread when it comes to All For One's intentions for the world. The anarchist genius of a villain has committed numerous heinous acts that earn him the label of villain, but upon seeing the full extent of his rule, viewers could come to an even better understanding as to why the heroes must win at all costs.
Seeing Nana's story from beginning to end would also emphasise the great sacrifices she made throughout her life, from abandoning her only child to facing the strongest villain with little, if any, fear of dying. With such an incredible story that is so intertwined with the main plot, an arc focusing on Nana that fills in the rest of the blanks in her story would be a fitting tribute to yet another true hero.