In many ways, My Hero Academia protagonist Izuku Midoriya can be directly compared to other shonen leads. He believes in the power of friendship, the importance of hard work, and the unwavering spirit of hope and optimism that enables heroes like him to triumph over true evil. Midoriya also shares many similarities with Demon Slayer star Tanjiro Kamado, though the comparison is flawed.
Both heroes are good-hearted, sympathetic young men who worked hard in a short period of time to prepare for mortal combat and to save the people they care about. Midoriya, like Tanjiro, sees humanity in his enemies and seeks to redeem them, but as recent My Hero Academia episodes have demonstrated, this does not always work. Tanjiro can make opponents cry, such as the hand demon and Kyogai, but Midoriya must save his heroic compassion for his true nemesis, Tomura Shigaraki.
Why Tanjiro and Other Villains Cannot Be Individually Redeemed by MHA's Midoriya
Like all Pro Heroes, Izuku Midoriya's goal is not to kill the villains, but to defeat and capture them to protect society. In My Hero Academia's futuristic world, humanity, Quirks, heroes and villainy are all interconnected, with society's emphasis on heroes creating villains as a byproduct. If some people are born and raised the "right" way in hero society, then by necessity, there's a "wrong" way to live and the "wrong" kind of Quirk to have, as villains like Himiko Toga prove. Other villains like Muscular, though, seem to be born evil and aren't a victim of society.
Midoriya tried and failed to appeal to Muscular's humanity during their latest battle, but the villain laughed it off. Even if Midoriya handily won that fight and captured Muscular, he failed to redeem the human being buried under those 12,000 layers of Quirk-fueled muscles. In fact, the protagonist has hardly redeemed anyone at all in MHA's anime, though there might still be hope for Gentle Criminal. As All Might's successor to become the symbol of peace, Midoriya can't spend all his time saving people one by one -- he's all about society as a whole and the legion of caped heroes who defend it.
Midoriya's Tanjiro-style compassion with Muscular failed because that's not what anyone is asking of him, nor is it part of his theme as the new symbol of peace. Like All Might before him, he must focus on the bigger picture, inspiring fellow Pro Heroes and students while also fighting to uphold hero society's laws, ethics and unique brand of justice. Midoriya is fighting to create a world where no one has to resort to villainy anymore, or fear attacks from villains like Muscular, Spinner, or the devious Dabi.
The sole exception is Tomura Shigaraki, whom Midoriya may redeem to bring an end to the villain army. If he can reach out to the frightened and vulnerable Tenko Shimura buried within and redeem him, then the rest of the villains may follow suit -- and MHA's protagonist will prove his worth as a true symbol of peace for heroes and villains alike.
Tanjiro's quest in Demon Slayer Began With a More Personal Touch
My Hero Academia's Midoriya and Demon Slayer's Tanjiro are both compassionate young men who fight to protect other people's happiness, but they won't find much success if they try to emulate each other. For all their similarities, they have vastly different themes as shonen heroes, and that reflects in their dialogue and individual arcs. Midoriya was always about hero society and his dream to protect it as a symbol of peace, so it was never as personal for him. Meanwhile, Tanjiro's quest in Demon Slayer is purely personal, as the anime's first episode, "Cruelty," clearly showed.
Tanjiro's noble spirit and heroic exploits are not meant to inspire all demon slayers. He's not out to change society or make a point; he just wants to defeat Muzan Kibutsuji, the Demon King, and restore his sister Nezuko's humanity. Tanjiro may be noble, but he is not guided by lofty societal ideals. He is all about interpersonal skills like empathy, leadership, and forgiveness, and it shows in his tender scenes with slain demons.
Tanjiro personally knows that the now-demon Nezuko still has a good human being buried inside that most others cannot see, as do beings such as Rui the hand demon and Kyogai. As a result, Demon Slayer has become one of shonen's most sympathetic heroes. He fights not for society or the universe, as Midoriya does in MHA, but for one person at a time, even if that person's spirit is buried deep within the body of a flesh-eating demon.