Though a large draw of My Hero Academia is its action-packed plot, the meaningful character development and relationships are equally powerful. Deku’s many connections to his classmates evolve throughout the series, but his rival Katsuki Bakugo has a harder time getting along with people. That being said, the few relationships Bakugo does tender are all the more special – especially with Eijiro Kirishima.
With Bakugo’s hot-headed attitude and overwhelming intensity, few of his classmates have taken a liking to him. Kirishima, however, has been eager to stand by Bakugo’s side from the beginning, sharing lines like, “Let’s go charging into battle together.” With similar goals (and hairstyles), the two aspiring heroes connect on many levels, encouraging fans to ship them as “KiriBaku.” Here’s why their blossoming bond is so special.
Bakugo may have been one of the most popular kids in Deku’s class when they were younger, but at U.A., the brash student naturally repelled his 1-A classmates with his explosive and standoffish attitude. It’s hard to befriend someone who won’t even learn names, instead referring to people as “icy hot” or “dumb hair.” Despite his rudeness, Kirishima is drawn to the young hero for his power and what he dubs “manliness.” Impressed with the fiery powerhouse, Kirishima once assessed 1-A’s most Pro-Hero Quirks and ranked Bakugo and Todoroki highest. Fighting side by side with him during the U.S.J. attack, he also marveled at Bakugo’s reaction time.
However, it’s not just Bakugo’s excellent combat skills that inspire Kirishima, it’s his admirable and unrelenting drive. Both heroes want to prove their worth and win above all else, their determination truly living up to their “Plus Ultra” school motto. In Season 5 during the Joint Training arc, Kirishima notes that Bakugo's match was the first time he witnessed his friend put himself on the line for others -- but he also knows that those actions reflected Bakugo's true nature.
While Kirishima does look up to Bakugo, he also keeps him in check by affectionately teasing him. For example, when Bakugo threatened to violently blow up Kurogiri, Kirishima commented, “Oh, that doesn’t seem very heroic!” Similarly, Bakugo’s aggressive and unsympathetic attitude during the Hero Licensing Exam prompted Kirishima to urge him to consider their injuries – to no avail, however, since Bakugo didn’t end up passing the exam. Kirishima also isn't afraid to call Bakugo an idiot when he’s being irrationally aggressive or hypocritical.
Always wanting the best for his friend, Kirishima also encourages Bakugo to come out of his stubborn shell and engage in social opportunities at U.A., like going swimming with the class or attending I-Expo’s formal party in My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, even bringing him fancy clothes for the occasion. A large part of handling Bakugo’s constant scorn and rage has to do with simply calming him down with phrases like “chill out” and “cool your blasters, man” while also reminding him that their classmates are friends, not just opponents.
While a majority of the friendship seems to be bolstered by Kirishima’s wonderfully warm personality, Bakugo also has his supportive moments. When Kirishima admits he feels mediocre compared to his classmates, Bakugo pushes him not to give up. He reminds Kirishima that he demonstrated confidence as his cavalry battle partner during the U.A. Sports Festival and that “just standing up means you are strong.”
In fact, after Kirishima spoke to his strengths to convince Bakugo to team up at that moment, his name was one of the first that Bakugo started using instead of a rudimentary nickname. While simply using someone’s name isn’t a monumental symbol of friendship, it does show that Bakugo respects him – at least more so than other classmates. Moreover, he expressed concern for his friend when Kirishima got hurt taking a blow for him in My Hero Academia: Two Heroes.
After everything they go through together as a team, Bakugo and Kirishima’s bond becomes so tight that Deku notices how close they’ve become. When Bakugo is kidnapped by the League of Villains during the Forest Training Camp arc, Deku recognizes that Kirishima had to be the one to end up saving Bakugo. He sees how they’ve built up a solid relationship as equals and knows the headstrong Bakugo may only willingly be rescued when it's Kirishima reaching out.
Kirishima is especially grateful for the opportunity, upset that he couldn’t rescue his friend who was targeted during the camp attack. He refuses to stand by while Bakugo is in danger, passionately wishing to be a good hero, man, and friend. Of course, Bakugo never viewed it as a rescue, calling it an “escape route,” but Kirishima knew what he did for his friend and said, “you’re welcome!”
While Bakugo usually has serious difficulty expressing gratitude, he has had kind moments with Kirishima. For example, he was thoughtful enough to pay Kirishima's expenses on night vision goggles before saving Bakugo. While he claims the money was a way of repaying his debt, it was likely a veiled attempt of saying thank you for the act of heroism. In My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, he did end up thanking Kirishima when he jumped in front of him to take a serious blow with his hardening Quirk.
Thanks to Bakugo’s strong and steady relationship with Kirishima, he’s become noticeably less hostile towards his classmates. Knowing he can trust his friend helps him see the merits in working with others and accepting help when he needs it. Bakugo’s cantankerous antics are countered really well with Kirishima’s upbeat and loyal personality.
Their contrasting yet complementary dynamic encourages many My Hero Academia fans to see them as a potential romantic pair on top of their foundational friendship. In fact, “KiriBaku” is one of the highest-ranking ships, especially on the fanfiction website Archive of Our Own. Whether Bakugo truly deserves Kirishima is up for debate, but they’re undoubtedly adorable together.