My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising opens in theaters across North America on February 26.
Movies for hit anime series like My Hero Academia have a difficult balancing act to pull off: they must be mostly understandable for a completely new viewer, still offer something relevant and interesting to fans of the show, and be exciting but find a way to not have any significant lasting impact on the show. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is animation studio Bones’ second attempt at achieving all three, and it does an excellent job. Heroes Rising is just one awesome explosion of action after another. It doesn’t quite nail the landing on its biggest moment and the villain is a bit boring, but that doesn’t take too much away from the excitement of seeing the entirety of Class 1-A push themselves to their limits.
Heroes Rising takes place sometime during Season 4, although the chronology is never established. Heroes like Rock Lock appear, the League of Villains are still up to no good, and a certain pivotal item from Season 4 makes an appearance. That being said, Heroes Rising is a prime example of effortlessly utilizing information from the show’s past to contextualize the events of the movie. Flashbacks are mostly used at unobtrusive moments and important information is naturally written into conversations. If you’re not caught up with at least the beginning of Season 4, you do run the risk of some mild thematic spoilers, but a majority of the movie smartly distances itself from current events in the anime series.
Much like the first My Hero Academia movie, Two Heroes, the students of U.A. High School’s Class 1-A find themselves busy on a faraway island in Heroes Rising. The resident hero has retired, and in an effort to give some of U.A.’s top students’ additional training, they’ve been sent to fill in for the recent retiree without the supervision of any pro heroes. That last part is a bit questionable, given they’re only high school students tasked with running a hero business without supervision, but the setup works wonderfully and gives them space to shine when villains eventually attack.
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As the series has progressed, we’ve understandably seen less of Class 1-A and Heroes Rising excitingly amends that. Everyone, even characters like Koda and Shoji, gets a chance to shine. While the nature of their work on the island is mundane, it’s still exciting to watch because of Class 1-A’s fun personalities and the creative ways we get to see them use their quirks. From helping an old woman who threw out her back to organizing an intense assault on a foe while evacuating townspeople, Heroes Rising is a great showcase of their current abilities.
New supporting characters Mahoro and Katsuma are two cute kids who stir up the long-running theme of questioning what it means to be a hero in a world where that revered title is just another profession. Heroes Rising doesn’t dig too deep into it, but that theme serves as a good frame for when Deku and Bakugo get their time in the spotlight together. Heroes Rising is ultimately about their relationship and their own valid but different brands of heroism, but again, it does a fantastic job of balancing their screen time with the other 1-A students. Part of that comes about because they’re still students, and standing up against the four new adult villains in Heroes Rising isn’t a simple feat. My Hero Academia’s practicality with the students’ general disadvantage against experienced villains has always been one of its strengths, and it’s good to see that mostly carry through in Heroes Rising.
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The villains Class 1-A go up against in this action-packed movie have bland motivations, but their run-of-the-mill brand of evil largely works here. Fights aren’t bogged down with monologues and are instead peppered with effective villainous quips. The villains’ quirks aren’t exactly counters to the students’ but their raw power and flashiness go a long way. And, since the students are on this island without support from professionals, we really get to see their tactics and teamwork shine. The animation in the fights is generally excellent, save for some awkward CG clouds that roll in every now and then.
For all the power and fun Heroes Rising brings, it’s a shame it fumbles the presentation of its biggest moment. The insane, well-animated final fight edges close to fever dream territory and is presented with odd, sentimental music that doesn’t fit the intensity of what’s happening on-screen. Certain moments of the battle — which is one hell of a fight to watch — also have serious implications for My Hero Academia canon, and the way Heroes Rising goes about brushing them aside isn’t quite satisfactory.
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