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The Star Wars Icon You Likely Didn't Realize Inspired My Hero Academia's Gran Torino

In most pieces of fictional media, anime included, the protagonist more often than not has a mentor, a guide, a sensei. In Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, a narratological structure which most stories abide by (consciously as well as unintentionally), the fourth step is, precisely, the meeting with the mentor, someone who will guide the hero towards the path of growth. Christopher Vogler writes that the hero meets the mentor to, in his words, "gain confidence, insight, advice, training, or magical gifts to overcome the initial fears and face the threshold of the adventure." He further explains that, "this Mentor has survived to provide the essential lessons and training needed to better face the Journey's Tests and Ordeals."

In Kohei Horikoshi's "My Hero Academia", the protagonist Izuku "Deku" Midoriya (Daiki Yamashita) is lucky enough to have more than one mentor in his epic journey to become the Number 1 Hero. First, he meets his idol All Might (Kenta Miyake) who shares One for All with the teenager and trains him to prepare him to put his quirk to use without risking self-destruction. Then, once a student at the prestigious UA school, Midoriya meets another mentor, Shota Aizawa (Junichi Suwabe), who becomes the perpetually tired, tough-love homeroom teacher of class 1-A. Soon thereafter, once the first-year students require to attend internships, Midoriya meets his third mentor.

The mentor of the mentor

Gran Torino (Kenichi Ogata) makes his first official appearance — he had previously made some brief cameos — in Episode 26, "Time to Pick Some Names." At first, the elderly pro-hero pretends to be a senile old man, however, it soon becomes clear that this is only a façade he's putting up to mess with his new protégé. In truth, in spite of his advanced age, Gran Torino is still a competent fighter who can easily kick Midoriya in the chin with the help of his Jet quirk. In the hierarchy of mentors, Gran Torino would be above All Might (a character inspired by Goku of "Dragon Ball") for the simple fact that he not only was a mentor to him, but he was also a close friend to All Might's predecessor Nana Shimura (Mie Sonozaki).

All of this is likely no news to fans of "My Hero Academia". However, what they might not know is where Horikoshi's concept of Gran Torino originated. Like many other writers and artists, the mangaka found inspiration in the greatest sci-fi franchise of all time, "Star Wars." And in an interview with ComicBook.com, the Japanese artist revealed who the retired pro-hero is based on.

Judge me by my size, do you?

For fans of both franchises, it surely will not take long to make the connection. When comparing and contrasting the two, the similarities between Master Yoda (Frank Oz) — particularly in "The Empire Strikes Back" – and Gran Torino become apparent. In talking to ComicBook.com about Easter eggs in his work, Horikoshi said: "So, rather than American comics, it would be Star Wars. Gran Torino in the manga kind of loosely alludes to Yoda. You know, since he's like this tiny, old man teacher."

The similarities are obvious. For a start, both are wrinkly, tiny, wise old men ... although, if one were to compare the two character's sizes Gran Torino would stand taller. Midoriya's mentor would be 120 centimeters while Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) would be 66 centimeters. Yoda also has less hair, although it is equally as grizzly. Another similarity is in their get-up. Both elderly men's canes look suspiciously similar, and although their attires are not the same, Torino's yellow scarf-cape is slightly reminiscent of Yoda's long robe.

One thing is for certain, neither of these mentors can be judged by their size. Despite their advanced age, Gran Torino and Yoda are not to be underestimated and their contribution to the protagonist's journey is undeniable.