Shoto Todoroki’s has seen some hardships. He’s the product of a loveless marriage, only conceived for his father Endeavor’s selfish desires to create a hero that could take All-Might’s #1 hero spot. This terrible arrangement drove Todoroki’s mother to madness. She ended up scalding his face in an attempt to destroy the half of him that comes from Endevor. As a result, Todoroki blames himself for his mother’s insanity and resolves to become the top student at UA while only using the ice powers he inherited from his mother. Deku can sense Todoroki’s pain, and vows to save him in the only way he knows how. He’ll push Todoroki to the limit during their match in the sports festival and force him to use the fire powers he inherited from Endeavor.
Impact on the story
This battle serves as a turning point for not just Todoroki, but Deku as well. Deku has a bit of an issue with dismissing his own physical issues for the sake of others. Here it was especially pointless for Deku, as Todoroki’s problems weren’t even anything pressing. He destroyed his hands to reignite Todoroki’s own passion, not even considering the ramifications it would have for him. Deku took Healing Girl’s powers for granted. This was a necessary battle to cool Deku off a bit and re-examine his current path.
Otherwise, this fight is used to introduce Todoroki into the main plot. Previous arcs showed Todoroki as distant from the rest of class 1A. He only saw his colleagues as opponents that were in the way of his own ambitions. Deku, in particular, was a source of contention, what with being All-Might’s clear favorite student. Having a fight that pushed him to the limit in a non-fatal situation was key to Todoroki’s growth. And, more to the point, it had to be someone like Deku, someone who was too earnest for his own good, to push him.
Impact on the fandom
Todoroki immediately became a fan favorite and the best boy to many fans. After all, Todoroki comes off as much more human than a character like, say, Neiji from Naruto, who when used in a battle with similar themes were shown more as a stepping stone for the titular character of that series to overcome. In fact, Todoroki even wins the fight after being forced to going full strength thanks to Deku’s gumption. He doesn’t begrudgingly admit Deku was right or anything petty like that. However, Todoroki seems genuinely grateful for the opportunity. Eventually becoming one of Deku’s most reliable allies and friends as a result.
Conversely, Deku’s loss established him as a fallible hero. Before this battle, Deku always managed to eke out a win in spite of the impossible odds, and when he did, he was always in the right for doing so. But even though Deku’s actions towards Todoroki were noble, it called Deku’s methods into question. How could he truly be a hero if Deku was hurting himself to the point where he’d end up as dead weight? It’s the question that set up Deku’s entire character arc for the rest of the series and has been the driving force behind fan’s involvement in the series.
Deku vs. Todoroki remains one of the most explosive battles in all of My Hero Academia. Even now, it’s perhaps the defining battle in the entire story, setting up many important plot points for the future. Making it one of the series most beloved moments!