WARNING: The following contains spoilers for My Hero Academia, now available from Viz Media.
My Hero Academia drastically upped the stakes of the series with its massive War arc, pitting all the heroes of Japan against the rising threat of the Paranormal Liberation Front. From Shigaraki's Decay Quirk obliterating Jaku City in an instant to Gigantomachia rampaging through more than 19 cities, it really seemed like the heroes were in deadly peril. The manga did its best to sell how devastating the war was for the heroes both in the heat of the fight and in the dark aftermath as society crumbled, but it had one major flaw that meant fans weren't so easily convinced: the serious lack of character death.
Aside from Midnight and Crust, the majority of the heroes who lost their lives in the war were no-namers like Funkman and Majestic that knowledgeable fans would be hard-pressed to identify. Even Midnight and Crust were both rather unimportant side characters, so their deaths lacked enough impact to count for the entirety of the war. Perhaps most egregiously, several characters were baited as dead when almost all turned out to be perfectly fine in the end. With all that in mind, here are five characters who really should have died in the War arc, either due to their deaths already being set up or the impact they would have on the story.
Gran Torino is the most obvious choice for a list like this. The elderly hero was punched straight through the stomach by the inhumanly enhanced Shigaraki, in the middle of a frantic fight with no medics on hand. He only received significant medical attention once the fight concluded, and in the meantime was carried -- and consequently jostled while losing blood -- by multiple heroes through the sky in order to keep him safe from Shigaraki's Decay Quirk. Both his advanced age and the fact that there was a gaping hole in him had fans immediately write him off as dead, with most only expecting him to survive long enough to share some parting words with Deku. It was a shock when the manga later confirmed he'd make a recovery.
Gran Torino actually dying would not only have been more realistic, but make more sense within the story. As it stands, it seems like his death was fully planned out, but Horikoshi backed out at the last minute.
Unlike some other heroes on this list, Best Jeanist's death was never teased during the war. It was the moment of his dramatic comeback instead -- with fans only learning he was indeed alive after over 100 chapters of uncertainty. His arrival was the moment that seemed to clinch the victory for the heroes before All For One staged his prison break, but it would have been a shocking and brutal twist if Best Jeanist arrived to save the day only to then die on live television.
One of My Hero Academia's central themes has long been the next generation of heroes rising up to replace the old. Now that the manga is in its final act, Class 2-A finally needs their chance to lead the charge against the villains, and that just can't happen while old pros like Jeanist are around. The final act would likely be more dramatic if Best Jeanist had died back in the War Arc.
Fat Gum has all the right qualities for his death to be memorable. Not only was he an important mentor figure to Kirishima and Amajiki, he also tends to do fairly well in the popularity polls, but isn't so beloved that a lighter shonen manga like My Hero Academia would shy from portraying his death. His commitment to his charges and unflinching strength in the face of danger were memorable parts of the Overhaul Arc, ensuring his loss would be a noteworthy one.
Thirteen is another hero who probably shouldn't have survived all that she did. She was in the heart of the underground laboratory when Shigaraki's Decay Quirk started disintegrating everything around them, but unlike other heroes, wasn't able to fly out safely with Ryukyu or Endeavor. Her survival was contingent upon the use of her Black Hole Quirk to suck up decay particles all around her, and we only learned she had successfully managed it in the aftermath of the war.
While it's certainly plausible a Quirk as powerful as Black Hole could somewhat counter Decay, the odds were badly against Thirteen. Shigaraki's decay spreads in a viral manner with shocking speed, and all it would have taken for her to die was a single decaying dust mote touching her. The unlikelihood of her survival combined with her status as a fringe character means that maybe the story should have simply let her stay dead.
Pixie-Bob was portrayed as heroically sacrificing herself to stall the decay wave in the midst of the war. It turns out that she had actually survived after all the villains had either retreated or were apprehended, but her death would have been a more realistic outcome. Her Quirk, Earth Flow, is one of the more useful ones to go up against Shigaraki's Decay, but she would have had to perfectly block every decaying particle around her long enough for both civilians and her teammates to escape.
Her death would have been one of the sadder ones given the obvious close bond the Wild, Wild Pussycats have and the trauma it would leave on her surrogate nephew Kota. Still, war takes a toll upon those affected and if the manga is going to depict rampant destruction, it should also depict the cost.