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The Meaning of A Name

Updated: Feb 6

I did not mean for this fic to get so existential, but in a world where so much of your life and identity gets wrapped up in a name that you get to choose, I guess it gets inevitable.

Names in My Hero Academia:

If you decide to become a hero - spotlight or underground - there comes a time where you, as a confused and awkward adolescent, are asked to examine your personality, your quirk, your dreams, and aspirations for your own future - and turn that into a name. That name has so much meaning. It's not just a personification of your quirk and your hero persona, it's the very projection of your own life path.

We see some kids taking it seriously, and other's immediately deciding on 'Murder Explosion God'. But in general, I think the show did a good job of exploring the true gravity of this choice, even if I don't entirely agree with some of the answers they come up with.

I love how Shouto just decides to keep his hero name as his real name; it shows he's not afraid of who he is, but also that what he wants for himself in the future is acceptance of himself. It shows the struggle he has with his own history and identity, how he feels defined by his father and the genomics scheme that created him, but also shows how he wants to break free of that and be his own person. Whoever that may be. He's still figuring it out. But that's the goal he's striving for, and it shows clear through in his hero name.

Then you have Deku, which I just... don't necessarily agree with. But again, the series didn't pick that name for Izuku out of a hat. That name is supposed to symbolize Izuku coming to terms with all the adversity he had to overcome in his youth, and taking that as his hero name is him owning what happened to him and turning it into something good. I get the line of thinking that went into this, but I also think no matter what thought was going into it, naming yourself as a hero called 'Useless' isn't the best way to go about it.

At any rate, MHA puts a lot of emphasis on names - the names given to you, and the names you choose for yourself - and how they define a person.

You are who you (say you) are:

I characterize the adult heroes like All Might, Endeavor, and Eraserhead internalizing their chosen hero names to the degree that they become synonymous - even in their own heads - with the names they were born with. That's just the natural progression of not only choosing a name for yourself, but also going several decades responding to that name. It's not just a separate identity, it's a part of you.

When I write those characters, the names I use them are intentional. I'll admit I call Eraserhead either his hero name of 'Aizawa', and that's a conscious choice unrelated to plot or characterization. I just don't like the confusion of having a Shouto and a Shouta 😅 but Endeavor refers to himself as Endeavor more often than Enji because Endeavor is the embodiment of everything he's worked for, while Enji is an embodiment of his failures. And while he doesn't look away from his failures in this fic, he uses Endeavor as a way to protect himself from having the weight of it crush him. All Might, in his POV (whenever we get to it lol) refers to himself as Toshinori. That's because he's spent his entire career with a clear - and anomalous - demarcation between his civilian and his public personas. He's the only spotlight hero to do that, too.

But the three of them chose their hero names for themselves. They don't have much conflict with those names because of that.

And then you have Hawks.

Hawks never refers to himself as Keigo. I get asked a lot why that is, and tbh it always confuses me why he ever would. He only used that name until he was about six years-old, and from what we know of his childhood, it was an extremely traumatic and volatile time in his life. He was isolated and alone. The only people who would have ever used his name are his parents, who were abusive and violent. I have a feeling the only time his father would ever even use his name is when he was yelling at him or taking his anger out on him, or he'd just coldly refer to him as 'that damned boy'. And his mother wouldn't have been much better.

After he was picked up by the Commission, they gave him a new name. To him, that name would be the embodiment of a bright future. It would be both his salvation, and the symbol of the person he wanted to be. The name Hawks would become the embodiment of this new person he was becoming. He would take it, and not look back.

Keigo was a lonely boy with nothing to his name but an Endeavor doll, with no hope of a future.

Hawks is a top hero adored by the public, with the world at his fingertips.

Now as for why Gojo would call him Hawks, even after being first introduced to him as 'Keigo'... well, Gojo is the mother of all identity crises, so who is he to point fingers really? 😂 He knows damn well what it's like to have a name you would prefer not to use, and he would have realized very early on that Hawks doesn't identify with Keigo whatsoever, and would be tactful enough not to call him by it.

I think the most salient example of the existential crisis of a name in this story (other than Gojo himself) is actually Shigaraki.

He's already had his name changed from Shimura Tenko to Shigaraki Tomura, and after everything that's happened to him, both those names come with their own traumas. He's outraged to find that the only name that doesn't hurt to hear is actually Tomu-chin, that ridiculous nickname Dabi had christened him with. I'm still not sure if he'll eventually reconcile with Shimura Tenko, or if in the end, he'll have to come up with an entirely new name for himself.

A thousand lies and a good disguise:

Then of course, we have Gojo. Who at this point, has too many names to count.

I've actually always plotted in that at the end of this massive, unhinged, endless identity-crisis that I call a story, Gojo eventually learns to accept who he is and starts referring to himself as Satoru. I'm not looking forward to it, because I've spent the last 500k words writing him as Gojo, but it is what it is 😅

Gojo refers to himself by that name because he's a clown having the worst identity crisis known to man. And instead of doing something about that he instead collects alternate identities like they're pokemon cards and only furthers his own identity crisis.

From the very moment of his (first) birth he was not known by his name, but his title.

He was the revered Honored One, the heralded miracle child that only comes around once a millennia. His name was an afterthought to that - who he was as a person was nothing in comparison to the identity given to him by his powers. As Suguru so aptly put it, "Are you Gojo Satoru because you're the strongest, or are you the strongest because you're Gojo Satoru?" That question doesn't have an answer, because there's none to give. Gojo's entire existence is intrinsically tied to his powers. There is no Gojo Satoru without the Honored One.

He grew up internalizing that mentality.

He hails from a prestigious and traditional clan. He would have grown up the exalted young master of a great house. His parents were distant figures in his life, and everyone he would have interacted in his daily life would have called him 'Young Master Gojo', or 'Lord Gojo'. He would have rarely, if ever, heard himself being called Satoru. He didn't have any siblings, and rarely saw his parents. Everyone else in the clan would have been too distantly related to treat him with anything but polite respect. He had no childhood playmates.

If/when he went to a normal junior high, he would have been called Gojo-kun by his classmates, and Gojo-san by his teachers. He wouldn't have been there long enough to make friends close enough to refer to him by his first name, and frankly, he didn't give off an air of friendliness that would have made you think it would be okay to ask.

When he finally gets to Jujutsu High, there's a brief time in his life where people finally refer to him as Satoru. But that ends all too soon, and after that, he's back to Gojo. I feel like that small window would have been enough for him to feel both nostalgia and loss whenever he hears his own name. He'd remember the easy way Suguru would say it, and on some days he'd loathe that memory, and on others he'd cling to it.

So even his head, he's always been 'Gojo' to himself. An amalgamation of his position as the Honored One, as the prophecy child of the Gojo clan, and as its only real member (at least at the time of canon). It's a hard identity to pull away from, because it's been so deeply ingrained into his existence.

Nothing changes overtly in his second life.

He gets a new name, Todoroki Touya, that he's mostly ambivalent towards. It's a name with weighty consequence, just like Gojo Satoru. It comes with responsibilities and expectations, but this time he's old enough to have retained a separate identity from it, and he's not sure if that's even baggage he wants. Touya isn't all bad, though. It gave him Fuyumi, Natsuo, and Shouto, and it's a name that will give Eri a place to belong and a family to look out for her. So he doesn't hate it.

He doesn't hate Dabi, either. He doesn't mind it - but he's always been very cognizant of what it represents. Because of his existence as the 'Honored One', he has a deeper understanding behind the meaning of names than most. It wouldn't have escaped him that there was a gravity to the name Dabi, and not one he necessarily wanted either.

You can throw Six Eyes in there too. And even though that's not necessarily a name he cares about, or wanted in the first place, it's a persona he accepted knowing it was a means to an end.

Ru-kun is probably his favorite name, as one he picked for himself, and one that embodies some of the best moments in this new life of his, but he's still very aware of the weight of that name as well. But Ru-kun is probably the closest to the 'real' him any of his names have ever gotten, even if it is, by its very definition as a rockstar's stage name, an alias created to protect his anonymity. He crafted that name knowing it was a persona, a mask, and not something that could fully contain him.

He comes to terms with it all eventually (with a lot of help and no small amount of dramatics leading up to it) and realizes that the person behind all those masks, the person he really wants to be, is the person that's defined by the bonds he's made in this new life.

There's a scene after the whole isekai reveal thing, where Gojo finally has a reckoning with who he is as a person and everything that's happened to him, and Hawks puts it pretty clearly:

"The person beneath all those names and titles - Satoru," Hawks says, with a warm smile. "Not Gojo Satoru, just Satoru. I don't know what you call that person, but to me, he's Satoru."

"Satoru, huh?" He smiles. "I guess that's not so bad, as far as names go."

It's what all the people most important to him in life call him - in this life and the last. Satoru. He can't say he dislikes that.

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