Tomura Shigaraki is a major antagonist in the Japanese manga series My Hero Academia. He is a villain affiliated with the League of Villains, led by All For One. He serves as a mental and physical threat to the heroes and civilians of Japan. Shigaraki has an eerie personality, often displaying sociopathic tendencies with little regard for human life or morality. Shigaraki’s core ideals revolve around the destruction of others and himself. He’s a misanthrope who wants to destroy everyone and everything, including himself. This is what makes him dangerous.
Though he sometimes appears callous and ruthless, there are times when he demonstrates more compassionate feelings, which can be seen during interactions with his teacher, All For One, whom he seems to trust deeply. Like him or not, Tomura Shigaraki’s character provides interesting moments throughout the story that keep readers wanting more, especially as his personality contrasts with that of Deku, the protagonist. When you think of Shigaraki, what comes to mind is a white-haired, red-eyed villain. But Shigaraki was born with a different hair color, so why does he have white hair?
Shigaraki Tomura had black hair when he was a child, but it became white after the traumatic death of his family. Shigaraki had black hair, just like his family’s, until his quirk activated when he was 5. He accidentally killed his whole family as he didn’t know how to control it, but he purposefully killed his father. This was his genesis as a villain and how he got his signature white hair.
Shigaraki’s hair color is one of his defining physical traits, and there’s a deeper story behind it. It’s also true that Shigaraki’s hair color in the anime has been debated by fans, as it looks more periwinkle than white. There’s a reason for that, and we’ll discuss everything about Shigaraki’s hair in this article.
Marie Antoinette syndrome and how it’s used in anime
Anime characters’ hair turning white after a traumatic event is common in the genre and is often used to show the character’s mental or emotional struggles. The phenomenon, known as Marie Antoinette Syndrome (MAS), is a psychological condition named after the French queen whose hair reportedly turned white due to extreme shock and stress. According to one theory, MAS occurs when a person undergoes an intense mental or traumatic experience that causes increased adrenaline, resulting in vasoconstriction and oxygen deprivation in the scalp.
MA Syndrome appears to be Japan’s version of classic folklore tropes associated with sudden hair whitening due to ‘fright’ or ‘shock.’ This commonly occurs when a character has experienced trauma—especially if it involves physical violence or learning about a dark truth. Shigaraki is far from the first anime character whose hair turned white due to trauma. Kaneki Ken from Tokyo Ghoul is the most popular example of this trope, but others include Knov from Hunter x Hunter, Nagato from Naruto, and Manyuda Kaeda from Kakegurui.
Shigaraki’s hair turns white right after the activation of his quirk and the death of his family. That’s an incredibly traumatic event for anyone, let alone a 5-year-old.
The death of Shigaraki’s family explained
To understand what made Shigaraki into the bitter person he is today, we must go back to when it all started. As with most deep-seated trauma, it all started in Shigaraki’s early childhood.
Shigaraki Tomura is a name given to him by All For One. The first name Tomura comes from the verb “tomurau,” meaning mourning. This is symbolism for Shigaraki being reborn as someone who brings death and mourning to the world. The last name Shigaraki is also significant, as it’s also All For One’s last name. In a twisted way, this shows that All For One considers Shigaraki family and cares for him enough to give him his last name.
Shigaraki’s real name was Tenko Shimura, and he was the grandson of All Might’s mentor, Nana Shimura. It seems like having his grandmother be an inheritor of One For All would keep Shigaraki on the path of justice, but her hero status indirectly made him into a villain.
Kotaro Shimura, Nana’s son, and Shigaraki’s father ruled his household with an iron fist. He was stoic and unyielding when it came to one absolute rule: “Any talk of heroes is forbidden.” He would always deny Shigaraki’s dreams of becoming a hero, frequently verbally and physically abusing him. Besides his father, Kotaro, Shigaraki also lived with his mother, two grandparents from his mother’s side, his sister, and his pet dog.
Nana had to keep her distance from Kotaro ever since he was young. This was because she was such a high-profile hero that she felt Kotaro would become a target, and villains would go after him to get revenge on her. Despite her intentions, this made Kotaro feel like Nana, and all the other heroes neglected their own families to help others. He took out all his built-up resentment on Shigaraki, even though his wish to become a hero was a commonly held sentiment by children, similar to how kids want to be astronauts or firefighters.
When he was five years old, Shigaraki thought his father hated him. Although his mother tried to reassure him that that wasn’t the case, Shigaraki still felt denied in his home. His other family members were just bystanders when Shigaraki’s father would admonish him, and the others would usually comfort him after the fact.
One day, his little sister went into their father’s office and found a picture of Nana. She told Shigaraki that she was a hero, giving him great hope for his future. Not long after, Kotaro realizes his children are in his office and furiously walks out to the yard to confront Shigaraki. He sees his sister behind his father, crying and saying she only found the picture because Shigaraki wanted to see it.
Kotaro states that Nana wasn’t his grandmother but “a demon that threw away her own children” for the sake of helping strangers. As the rest of his family tries to get Kotaro to calm down from the sidelines, Shigaraki wishes that one of them would step forward to save him, but none do. He gets beaten by his father, and the scene ends there.
Later in the day, Shigaraki’s mother goes to confront him and puts her foot down, saying she won’t tolerate his rules if they involve physical violence. Kotaro confesses that he’s regretful and never wants things to end up like this. Meanwhile, Shigaraki is still in the yard, cuddling his dog for comfort. This is the first time he expresses that he “hates everyone,” although he says it while sobbing and in a negative mental state.
As he hugged his dog, the telltale signs of his Decay quirk appeared. Shigaraki’s quirk hadn’t manifested yet, so he didn’t know what was happening as his dog crumbled into pieces. At that moment, his sister came out to apologize for lying about why she found their grandmother’s picture, but Shigaraki was horrified. He could only gasp in horror at the dog’s corpse.
As his sister saw the corpse, she was horrified and turned to run. Confused and afraid, Shigaraki reached out to her for help, accidentally killing her. At this point, he still didn’t know what was happening, so he assumed a villain was attacking them. Petrified, Shigaraki’s allergies flare up, and he throws up out of disgust.
By the time the rest of his family ran out to see what was going on, Shigaraki had lost control of his newfound powers. His mother reaches out to embrace him. Shigaraki also reaches for her, which accidentally kills her. He presumably kills his grandparents in the same fashion off-screen.
As his quirk is awakening, Shigaraki is thinking about how the adults in his life never confronted his father or came to his aid but only comforted him and told him to stop crying after he had already been yelled at. His act of reaching out for help when he needed it the most, only for this to kill his family, is what made him so unwilling to accept help later in life.
When Kotaro Shigaraki’so sees what’s happened, he sees his son sobbing uncontrollably, surrounded by his dead family members. Shigaraki started hysterically apologizing to his father while walking towards him. Kotaro, in a panic, quickly grabbed a broom, hit shigaraki over the head with it, and pleaded with him to stop whatever he was doing.
Shigaraki confesses that at this point, he reached out to his father while fully intending to kill him. Smiling madly, Shigaraki says that his father’s death brought him great pleasure and that he no longer “felt that burning itch.” This itch usually refers to his eczema, but in this case, it’s likely a metaphor for finally getting to “scratch the itch” of releasing his quirk.
Why does Shigaraki’s hair look light blue in the anime?
Shigaraki’s hair color has been a point of contention in the My Hero Academia fandom since the anime was first released. In the manga, Shigaraki clearly has white hair. It’s also more obvious in the manga because it’s published in black and white.
However, when it comes to the early seasons of the anime, his hair looks light blue. This decision likely was made to accommodate the bright and vibrant color palette used in the animation medium, as well as give him a unique look compared to other characters like Aizawa and All Might.
The debate about whether Shigaraki’s hair is white or blue will probably remain ongoing, and the fact that Horikoshi has occasionally drawn Shigaraki with blue hair doesn’t help the fact. Until further notice, you can safely assume Shigaraki’s hair to be white, though it’s fine if you prefer the anime’s periwinkle hair!