Warning: Spoilers for both the anime and manga.
Bakugo at first glance can seem to be a one dimensional character but he is far more complex once you rip off his flesh and get to the bones beneath. You see who he really is and once you do, his actions, his words and violent behavior makes sense to some degree. And just to be clear I’m not trying to justify his behaviour merely explain it.
When Bakugo manifested a quirk that was flashy and cool everyone around him praised him for it. This admiration caused his tiny little ego to enlarge to outrageous proportions as those he has surrounded himself with yearn to be like him and keep telling him that there is no doubt that he can become a hero with how fast he mastered his quirk and the usefulness of it. But lacks a key factor to actually become a hero. Drive and desire.
Deku has both of these characteristics which helps to mould him into an ideal hero, while Bakugo is a little to left on the hero spectrum a born hero. He has every thing that is needed to be one just not those characteristics. Not to say that he does not have aspirations.
His main focus is to surpass All Might the person who inspired him to become a hero in the first place. This is not simple admiration either because of All Might’s influence, this shapes his personality quite deeply. When the villain alliance offers a position to him he nearly blows up Tomura as a pointent rejection to join the alliance. Even though he is betting with his very life in this situation he tells the truth which is actually quite admirable as he has never lied, he may not be able to admit certain truths to himself but every word that comes out of his mouth is complete honesty. Wether that’s how he views hero’s or how he should be as a hero even following the rules to a completer tee, even in a life threatening situation and doesn’t engage the villains when Aizawa resends the order of permission to battle, trying his best to become an upstanding hero.
Bakugo views hero’s as people who never lose a fight while also beating the enemy to a complete pulp, that is what makes a great hero according to him. When Deku tries to convince him to run for the gates and not engage in battle during the end of term test with All Might, Bakugo tells him to. “Stop talking. I will win. That’s…what heroes do.” This gives us a clear view on how Bakugo views hero’s and it is quite squwered, but then so is his purpose of becoming a hero. The reason that Bakugou wants to become the number one hero is because he wants mainly to reaffirm that he is the best to the entire world because deep down he is an insecure mess.
Ever since that fateful day when Deku tried to help him up the seeds of doubt began to sprout in his mind because from his perception quirkless equals weak so by Deku trying to help him he is essentially being called weak by Deku someone he should be protecting. But this one slight is not the main reason for the hate train of torment onto him. Through all of Bakugou’s torment Deku keeps clutching to his dream never giving up no matter how impossible it seemed, no matter what Bakugo does to Deku he does not bend to his will like the simpletons that he surrounds himself with and that infuriates him which is why he gives him the nickname Deku.
He doesn’t call him extra or side character he calls Deku by the nickname he chose for him. The only people’s names he has bothered to remember are those he considers stronger than him or people he considers friends like Kirishima. By giving Deku a demeaning nickname he wants to acknowledge him but cannot as he is being held back by his own denial that he’s jealous of him. Bakugo desires Deku’s tenacity and drive. He has constantly pushed him to the ground along with his past class mates but no matter what he gets back up, a little worse for wear but still gets up and keeps going in pursuit of his dream and Bakugo loathes this.
You may not think it when you look at him but Bakugo has practicing the ancient art of fake it till you make it. Ever since the sports festival his confidence has started to wain under the intense strain of seeing how everyone around him is far more powerful than he is, it’s a blow to his ego and his philosophy.
What’s his philosophy you ask? It’s entitlement. From the way he treats the people around him he believes that he is a gift from god and deserves everything so it doesn’t matter how he treats other people. Everyone around him are tools to be used and once they have filled there purpose he can throw them away like so much of yesterday’s trash. He calls his classmates as well as other students extras sighting that they are easily disposable and can be replaced by anyone, along with this he batters them giving no thought on how they feel, not caring for the image he’s creating in other peoples minds of himself, he only cares about being the strongest even if others despise him. He needs to do this to prove it to others he’s strong so that he can keep convincing himself of that, because those seeds of doubt that swirl in his mind that tell he’s weak have gown into trees and have started to bare ripe fruit.
His extremely fragile self confidence becomes apparent after the schools sports festival when he is promptly disappointed by the fact that Shouto didn’t go all out when he fought against, by shouto going not fighting he feels as though he is being called weak and because of this he promptly refuse the medal at the end of the sports festival as he feels that it was undeserved as Shouto was not giving it his all like he did with Deku. Which was understandable he was going through moments of self doubt and realization at the same time not a good mix as this ends with him confused on who he is and ends up with him burning himself out in the middle of the fight.
Bakugo fought so viciously against his opponents not caring if they were friend or an extra by doing this he’s showing them respect by not going easy on them believing them each to be on his level as they were standing on the same stage as him. But this fight with Shouto has lead to a revelation that he was simply lucky and that applies to all parts of his life.
Luck plays an incredibly large part in his life; his powers are simply a quirk of fate. As we have seen with the Todoriki family it was a 1 in 4 chance that Shouto got the same quirk from both of his parents and not just one, the other or a combination.
While Deku on the other hand worked hard to be where he is. Training those 10 months with All Might never once faltering in his training regime even though it was exhausting and the results were slow. He stuck with it and received a power that would help him achieve his goal.
All Might sums these ideals of luck during the series to point out what is luck and what is hard work. “Something you receive cause you’re lucky and something you’re given because you’re recognized, are different in essence.” All Might and Deku are the masters of hard of work while Bakugo is the Sasuke Uchia of the series. When confronted with an opponent far stronger than he begins to questions his own place at the top along with his superiority and when he falls into failure he doesn’t know how to respond expcially if the opponent is himself.
When the provisional license exam arc ends with him not receiving his license, mainly on how he treated the civilians during the rescue portion of the exam, he is quite devastated.
Finally he has to face his faults, but in the only way he can. Screaming and punching someone else. With all of his frustration finally built he takes on Deku to prove once and for all who is stronger and he of course wins but surprisingly he finds no victory in it, that is when his emotions spill on the ground as he finally admits that he is weak and is frustrated by his weakness.
Back in Junior High he felt as though he had the world in front of him and had what it took to reach the very top with his power. But there’s always someone stronger than you and to think otherwise is just stupidity of the highest degree that will lead only to sorrow because he is living proof of that.
Bakugo is filled to the brim with guilt as he takes the weight of All Might’s retirement onto himself saying that “But I’m weak even though all I wanted to do was become strong like you. But cuz I’m weak now you’re like this.” All Might carefully explains that it was always going to end up this way no matter what he did it was always going to end up this way. Seeing Bakugou’s distress he imparts his wisdom onto him about how to go about being a better hero.
“To obsess over victory the way you do, young Bakugou and to want to rescue who is in trouble, the way you do young Midoriya. If you’re Lacking in one or the other, you won’t be able to maintain your own sense of justice as a hero.”
Taking his words to heart he puts it into practice. His mind that was once in a hazy fog of doubt fears and uncontrollable rage has dissipated and for the first time he can see the whole world in front of him. He’s able to see there’s more to hero’s than never losing a fight or defeating the enemy and can even encourage others in there pursuit of becoming a hero because when he lift’s up others they will do the same for him.
He has started to change into a rival and hopefully a good friend that people enjoy being around despite his brash attitude. Change comes to us all eventually no matter how much someone fights against it. Will he apologize to Deku in the future? Possibly. After all in his story he’s the hero in another the villain.