One of the most beloved characters in My Hero Academia is the hot-and-cold hero, Shoto Todoroki. Todoroki established himself as a fan-favorite early on, thanks in part to his incredible display of powers. However, he didn't become one of the most popular characters in the series until the Sports Festival tournament arc, where his emotional struggle for self-validation earned him countless fans.
However, as with most characters who become popular, people are also going to make jokes. A common observation is that Todoroki, with his combination of ice and fire powers, is basically what happened if Elsa from Frozen and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender merged. But if you scratch a little deeper, you'll actually find that this joke rings true in more ways than perhaps immediately apparent.
THE OBVIOUS SIMILARITIES
As we've mentioned, the clearest comparison is you can make between the three is that Todoroki has a mixture of Zuko and Elsa's abilities. Todoroki's quirk allows him to channel both fire and ice, one from each half of his body. In a very obvious sense, this is a dead ringer for Elsa's magical ice powers and Zuko's fire-bending.
Additionally, Todoroki physically resembles each character. While half of his hair is crimson scarlet, the other half is stark white, similar to Elsa's icy blond shade. In terms of the rest of his facial structure and build, Todoroki physically resembles Zuko. And, of course, they both have a scar obscuring half of their faces.
It also doesn't help that, like those other two characters, Todoroki broods and sulks a lot. However, these similarities are only skin-deep.
WHO IS TODOROKI?
To understand the deeper connections, you need to break down the core tenants of Todoroki's character. Todoroki is a boy divided, not just between fire and ice, but between his past and future.
Todoroki was essentially bred by his father, Endeavor, to be the greatest hero of all time. Endeavor ranks as the second greatest hero of all time, right behind All Might. Todoroki's mother, Rei, has an ice quirk. She gave birth to many of Endeavor's children until Todoroki was born.
While Endeavor trained Todoroki to be powerful, the boy only wanted to be with his mother. However, the sight of Todoroki triggered Rei's traumatic past, which resulted in her scarring Todoroki's fire half. This helped establish Todoroki's hatred toward his father.
Come the school tournament arc, Todoroki is pitted against All Might's heir, Midoriya. Todoroki sees this as a chance to conquer the phantom of his father by beating the pupil of his father's greatest rival without using his father's quirk at all. However, during the epic fight, Midoriya convinces Todoroki to fight for himself, to embrace his own quirk and stop seeing it as his father's. This results in Todoroki, in a climactic scene, to let go of his inhibitions and embrace who he is.
This was the start of Todoroki's recovery as a character.
WHO IS ELSA?
Elsa's core motivation as a character is her need to find who she is. In Frozen, she initially hides and conceals her abilities on a regular basis, afraid of the world judging her for who she is and of losing control. She associates using her power with a traumatic experience as a child -- namely, hurting her sister Anna. She is shamed for her abilities by her overprotective parents.
This is remarkably similar to Todoroki. Todoroki is shamed into not using his powers -- though, unlike Elsa being shamed over her ice powers, Todoroki hesitates to harness his flames. The actions his mother took against him traumatized him.
But both of their character arcs culminate in the same way. They are finally pushed to the point where their powers reveal themselves, and, as both overcome the mental barriers that kept them from embracing themselves, they "let it go," as the earworm Disney song demands. Following this, the two characters grow in healthy and self-validated ways that help them overcome the pains that kept them restrained all those years.
WHO IS ZUKO?
Tragically, Todoroki also has a lot in common with Zuko -- a connection that runs much deeper. Zuko and Todoroki both, at first, center their sense of self-worth on conquering a particular challenge. In Zuko's case, it's capturing Avatar Aang. In Todoroki's case, it's beating Midoriya and All Might. Both of their motivations are derived from their complicated relationships with their fathers.
However, as is the case for both, the closer each come to their goals, the more their characters come to reconsider their actions. This culminates in an explosive encounter. Todoroki and Zuko both befriend their targets and become healthier emotionally as a result. (Zuko's Season Three in The Last Airbender hairstyle is even remarkably similar to Todoroki's, save for the color.)
A more interesting similarity comes in the form of their relationships to their fathers: Both resent their dads but can't help but be completely shaped by their expectations of them.
Sticking with the father-son dynamic, the interesting thing here is that the relationship is also strangely inverted by both characters. Zuko starts The Last Airbender wanting to please his father by capturing the Avatar. He wants to feel valuable in his father's eyes. However, over the course of the series, he comes to reject his father's abusive hold on him, which leads to him coming into his own.
Todoroki conversely starts the series resenting his father. He is motivated by a desire to conquer and strike back at Endeavor, who he already knows is abusive. While Todoroki never comes to love his father, he does make an effort to connect with him in some way later on. This is never because Todoroki believes his father is capable of being a great dad, but rather because he feels his father can help him develop as a hero.
Todoroki shares so much with these two characters that it's hard to imagine creator, Kōhei Horikoshi didn't have the two in mind when creating Todoroki. All this creative familiarity resulted in a character fans across the world adore. Todoroki is a literal hot-and-cold mess, sure, but we wouldn't have him any other way.