The Quirk-based combat system in My Hero Academia demonstrates that having a strong natural talent or a powerful supernatural ability is not always a blessing. In fact, some characters see quirks as a curse, which may lead them to join the League of Villains or at the very least cause them to go through an identity crisis, as Shoto Todoroki did.

Shoto wasn't about to become evil, but the fact that he was a product of a Quirk marriage severely altered the way he saw himself and his family, nearly ruining the rest of his life. Shoto Todoroki is not alone, though; he has a spiritual twin in Naruto's villain-turned-hero Gaara of the Sand, who is familiar with Shoto's childhood struggles.


How Gaara Developed Into the Ninja Shoto Todoroki

Naruto: How Gaara of the Sand Set the Standard for MHA's Shoto Todoroki_0

Despite obvious similarities to Avatar's prince Zuko, such as a burn scar over the left eye and an overbearing fire-based father, Shoto Todoroki should also remind shonen fans of Gaara of the Sand. Gaara, like Shoto, was born with incredible power that he never asked for, and Gaara's father, the Kazekage Rasa, intended for his son to be nothing more than a powerful tool. Gaara was raised as a feared and despised junchuriki who existed solely to wield the one-tailed shukaku's power for the benefit of the Hidden Sand Village. Gaara was estranged from his brother and sister, and his mother died shortly after he was born. Gaara felt completely alone, trapped by his enormous power and his father's plans for him.

Gaara, like Shoto, internalized everything and became unhappy, cursing his own power while also regularly using it to crush all opposition. Gaara annihilated all his enemies with his sand-based Jutsu, and he even awakened the shukaku during the Konoha Crush operation, just as Shoto arrogantly smashes his foes with ice. Gaara and Shoto could have succumbed to this inner darkness, but a shonen hero reached out in friendship and sympathy, pulling them back from the brink. Izuku's words reached Shoto at the UA sports festival, and Naruto empathized with Gaara as a fellow jinchuriki after they fought to a halt. Shoto and Gaara became true heroes as a result, but not because of their extraordinary talent. 


How Gaara and Shoto Found Courage in Forgiveness

Naruto: How Gaara of the Sand Set the Standard for MHA's Shoto Todoroki_1

Gaara and Shoto were both miserable boys who were used as deadly tools for their scheming fathers, but they are also shonen characters, which made all the difference in their personal arcs. Shoto and Gaara were born cursed with power and had rough upbringings, but they didn't quite internalize it all the way. Both of them were good people by nature, with this side of them merely buried under their natural talent and immense pressure to succeed. Shoto and Gaara simply needed someone to recognize them as good people and victims, then reach out to pull them from the darkness.

Shonen is a forgiving and optimistic genre of fiction in which characters like Gaara and Shoto can redeem themselves. Even seinen stories can do this, redeeming and revealing the good sides of tough antiheroes like Thorfinn Karlsenfni. Best of all, with redemption, Gaara and Shoto became not only happier and more stable, but also stronger. To succeed, those boys required more than natural talent or tailed beasts; they also required character strength, which came from external sources such as the power of friendship and healthy rivalries. This is what unlocked Shoto's Quirk's fire half and inspired Gaara to push his sand-based jutsu to new heights.

Shoto reinvented himself as a redeemed powerhouse as a result of his rivalry triangle with Izuku and Bakugo, focusing his mind and Quirk like never before, and learning to never take anything for granted. Even Shoto, who appeared to be at the pinnacle of his generation, had room to grow and go Plus Ultra, and he wouldn't have done so without his father's influence. Similarly, Gaara was empowered when he became friends with Naruto and became the new, beloved Kazekage. Gaara resurrected even after the Akatsuki extracted the one-tailed beast, and he continued to reach new heights as a redeemed hero inspired by his friends, family, and newfound desire to do good in the world, just like Naruto.