Anime is at an all-time high in the West right now, and that is thanks in large part to My Hero Academia. The manga launched in 2014, but it was the English release of the anime that hugely contributed to a new anime boom in North America. Go into stores like FYE or Hot Topic, and one will find My Hero Academia merchandise littered throughout. It’s not hard to see why it’s so appealing, considering superheroes and comic book-based films are massively successful on a worldwide scale. Combine that with a distinctly Shonen Jump feel, and we have a winner. Unsurprisingly, My Hero Academia received a film in 2018, titled Two Heroes. Already, a second film has been released.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising released in Japan in December. Its Western release is coming to limited theaters this week. The story takes place after the Overhaul storyline. Class 1-A has been stationed on a remote land called Nabu Island, where they work as an independent hero agency. In effect, they are operating as pro heroes with no supervision. The island is free of evil villains, until a character named Nine arrives. His quirk-stealing ability mimics All For One’s, and he has a few powerful subordinates as well. It’ll take Deku, Bakugo, and the rest of the class to formulate a plan and save the day.
Two Heroes was a very good movie, fun all the way through. However, Heroes Rising ups the stakes in almost every category; the battles are grander, the music is more cinematic, and most of all, it demonstrates what one hero is willing to sacrifice to save another. Heroes Rising is a must-see for My Hero Academia fans.
The first noticeably exciting aspect of this movie is that Class-A are all their own. Besides the excellent chase scene intro, the adult pro heroes do not get in on any of the action. While fans of the adults might be disappointed, the series is about Class 1-A first and foremost. It’s similar to the Young Justice program; while it’s always cool to see the Justice League, the primary focus is on the young heroes.
The agency and the small things the heroes accomplish/coordinate are a lot of fun. One wishes they had their own agency for the rest of the series. In the first act of the movie, they are shown doing small tasks, like rescuing a kid from the water. These things are small, but as Aizawas says, heroism isn’t just about being flashy and beating supervillains. It’s also doing the little things and gaining the trust of the populace. Heroes Rising has a great script.
Of course, the heroes don’t only help out for the small tasks. For the big action scenes, everyone gets involved. Even Mineta, typically the least-engaging character, has a couple of scenes demonstrating heroics. In the previous movie, many characters sat out from the action, like Froppy. That doesn’t happen here; Koda, as another example, helps out in one very cool scene. Yes, Bakugo is given a lot of screen time, but this time, all the characters get to contribute. Tokoyami fans will be pleased in one of the climatic battles.
Midoriya looks fantastic throughout the film. One of the best scenes is actually the ending, where he says something that is nice callback to one of the earliest episodes of the series. Bakugo has his annoying moments as usual, such as saying “Don’t give me orders.” However, unlike many of his appearances in the anime/manga, he gets some depth in his scenes with Midoriya, especially in the climatic battle. There’s a level of understanding between the two that makes their scenes together engaging.
As for new characters Katsuma and Mahoro, the sibling relationship they have is sweet. Although Mahoro was a bit annoying at first due to her not liking heroes for seemingly no reason, she grows on the viewer as the film progresses. Her wanting to look out for her little brother was written very well.
The Stakes Are Real
It would not be hyperbole to claim the action in this movie is the best out of the franchise thus far. The middle act features a couple of fights with an epic feel. Bakugo against Mummy was exhilarating thanks to the superb animation, and epic soundtrack. Blows were truly felt in the battle against Chimera. Of course, the viewer feels the plight of Midoriya as he deals with an extremely powerful villain reminiscent of All For One. This feeling of stakes is where the movie shines.
This isn’t just a fun popcorn adventure; the action has real weight. This is especially prevalent in the climax, when it comes to two heroes having to protect the kids from Nine. The last battle is something that will never be forgotten for a few reasons. This is on par with Midoriya’s battle against Muscular, and All Might against All For One in terms of emotional stakes. The climax goes in a completely unexpected direction. The writing introduces an idea no one sees coming, and how it unfolds needs to be seen. Heroes Rising’s climax is compelling, plain and simple.
Fantastic Visuals, But A Forgettable Villain
Nine may have the abilities of All For One, but he doesn’t come close to being as interesting. Nine makes for a good obstacle, and his abilities do lead to some cool visuals. An impressive scene is him summoning lighting, and the building behind exploding and crumbling. However, outside that, he comes across as a generic antagonist. He does get backstory. It doesn’t help sadly, making him seem like any ordinary villain, or as Bakugo so eloquently put it, “Same old crap.”
Nine’s subordinates are more interesting, but they aren’t given much backstory. Slice seems to genuinely care about Nine, but the viewer knows nothing about her. Chimera is probably the most fun villain to watch, and should have been the main antagonist. With all that said, everything else in the movie makes up for Nine’s generic character.
A Film Worth Watching In Theaters
A way to judge an anime film is if it feels like a filler side adventure, or an important extension of the media. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is the latter. Everything about it – the agency, the high stakes, the Deku and Bakugo stuff, feels like a vital piece of the franchise. This is a new standard for anime franchise films.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising will be released in limited theaters starting Wednesday, February 26. Theater locations can be found here.