- “Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it.“
I always found the master and apprentice relationship between All For One and Tomura Shigaraki to be intriguing. As Tomura Shigaraki’s character arc progresses, it becomes clear that All For One’s teaching methods have been quite effective. When All For One first took Shigaraki under his wing, Shigaraki was a dirty and traumatized child who was struggling with the fact he killed his own family. Rather than trying to deter Shigaraki’s destructive and bloodthirsty instincts and impulses, All For One nurtured these traits until they honed into a sharpened edge.
After fifteen years of training, All For One gives Shigaraki his first test, which was to orchestrate the attack on USJ. However, the mission was a failure and Shigaraki’s plan fell apart. While most villains are harsh and brutal towards their minions whenever they fail, All For One was not with Shigaraki. Shigaraki has already learned fear, hatred, and pain from his abusive upbringing. All For One did not need to subject Shigaraki to more. It would have made Shigaraki less willing to be his apprentice, which would have been counterproductive to All For One’s goals.
Instead of punishing his apprentice for his failures, All For One encourages Shigaraki to learn from his failures so that he would grow and develop as a supervillain. One example was how Shigaraki tried to figure out why the public paid more attention to Hero Killer: Stain instead of him. For most of his life, Shigaraki defined his purpose in life as destroying anything he did not like, but he found out that was not enough for him to be the feared villain he wanted to be. After using his mortal enemy, Izuku Midoriya, as a makeshift therapist, Shigaraki not only acquired his own ideology, but also took advantage of the misunderstanding that Stain was working for him so that he could recruit allies to his cause. This was something Shigaraki’s previous self was incapable of doing and is the first fruit All For One’s training produced.
During the Vanguard Action Squad’s attack in the forest, Shigaraki proved to be a more calm and tactical leader than he was before. He did not care if the attack succeeded or failed because the fact that it happened was enough to shake the public’s trust in the superhero society. This demonstrated extraordinary foresight that Shigaraki previously lacked. He even maintained a calm composure when Bakugo blasted him in the face and Shigaraki ordered his allies to stand down because he wanted Bakugo alive for his plans.
After All For One was defeated by All Might for the last time, Shigaraki was left to his own devices for the first time in fifteen years. When All For One threw Shigaraki into a portal so he could escape, he was trying to tell his apprentice that he taught Shigaraki everything he needed to know to survive. With his mentor imprisoned, Shigaraki was forced to grow and develop on his own and he put All For One’s teachings to good use.
When dealing with Overhaul, Shigaraki used the experience to both acquire quirk-destroying bullets and further improve his leadership skills. At this time, Shigaraki’s relationship with his minions also deepens. During the USJ Arc, Shigaraki viewed his allies as expendable game pieces and would threaten to kill them for failing to execute his poorly organized plan. Now, Shigaraki views his minions as extensions of himself and views any attack on them as an attack on him. While Overhaul viewed his allies as expendable assets, Shigaraki’s minions acted more like his friends who shared the same goal as him. Shigaraki even promises them their own unique slice of the cake when they reached the endgame of their cause. Shigaraki even goes as far as avenging fallen allies such as when he gave Overhaul a fate worse than death by stripping him of the usage of his quirk and the quirk-destroying bullets he spent so many years creating. Despite occasional squabbling, the League of Villains were a small yet steadfastly loyal group for Shigaraki to rely on.
Shigaraki’s final test came in the form of Re-Destro and his Meta Liberation Army. After fighting and defeating Re-Destro and his army, Shigaraki evolved to his highest character development yet. He was no longer bound by any moral, emotional, or logically boundaries. He was truly free in every conceivable way, including the strength of his quirk. In addition, Shigaraki learned to instill true fear in others as well as effortlessly inspire many others to follow him. Through this newly forged charisma, Shigaraki became the commander of a massive supervillain army: the Paranormal Liberation Front.
When receiving his surgery from Doctor Ujiko, Shigaraki declared that he would no longer underestimate the superheroes again. He would use Ujiko’s surgery to make sure he always had the upper hand. The old Shigaraki would not be able to think this far ahead or have the patience to undergo months of agony in order to receive his gift basket of powers. When Shigaraki was awakened prematurely, he found his surgery incomplete and his game plan completely compromised. However, he did not panic or scratch his neck like his old self did. Instead, he calmly put on a cape, called Gigantomachia, and engaged the superheroes. To make things more extreme, Shigaraki declared that he intends to become even greater than All For One himself. What was most fascinating is that Shigaraki did all of these things with a big fat smile on his face. This is similar to how his grandmother, Nana Shimura, and All Might would smile while fighting crime. Shigaraki was completely free and the world was his playground.
All of these character developments Shigaraki went through were due to how All For One trained him. While All For One did nurture Shigaraki’s dark instincts, the real lesson he taught his apprentice was how to evolve regardless of the circumstances he was in. Being stripped of his teacher’s guidance forced Shigaraki to grow on his own at a much faster rate. Beating Shigaraki once accomplishes nothing because he will just use that experience to learn and evolve as a character.