(North American) Release Date: February 26, 2020
Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Writer: Yōsuke Kuroda
Release Format: Theatrical
It is surprisingly difficult to find words to describe My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising. The issue isn’t that it is terrible, excluding its silly title; instead the problem is that it is great. It is 100 percent successful in translating all of the things that make the show successful into what is ostensibly an extended episode designed for the big screen. Other than a few minor quibbles My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising is a complete success, and if you have even a slight interest in the show, I would highly advise that you go out and try to grab a ticket while it is still available in theaters.
The set-up is pretty simple; all of class 1-A is sent to a quaint little island, far away from mainland Japan, a tiny little place with a population of only 1,000 people and almost no crime whatsoever. It is deemed safe enough that Class 1-A is sent there to operate a hero agency and take on small-time hero work as part of their continued training. And then an actual villain shows up, and things go from fun little adventures to oh, wow, are we ever underpowered to deal with this. The students can’t just leave the civilians to fend for themselves, though, so a plan to defeat the villains and defend the civilians is hatched, and the ensuing battle takes up most of the rest of the movie.
Almost everything about My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising is a smash hit homerun. The pacing is on point with the film just plowing through its 1 hour and 44 minute run time. The beginning works very well to set up both the tone and the situation as well as to provide some decent stakes in the form of likable new islanders. Everything here feels totally natural, and unlike the first film, things progress just as they would on the television show.
The mood is set, with some light flashbacks thrown in here and there to remind anyone not 100 percent caught up on the anime about the details that are necessary to know for this particular situation, both emotionally and chronologically. The villain is teased and as we get to become more familiar with some of the more notable characters from the island and how the class at large are getting along with them things continue to ratchet up in the background until, in the most climactic use of the little boy who cried wolf trope I have seen in a while, the villains break through the thin story threads separating the two halves of the film and start wreaking havoc in the foreground just as the heroes were beginning to feel a little too safe and confident.
Everyone gets time to shine here, both in the opening character-driven portion of the movie as well as in the non-stop battle that is the movie’s second half (or third?). And the battle is quite the sight to behold. Studio Bones is known for its thoroughly impressive visuals on the series proper. On full display throughout the film is their ability to turn what could be, in somebody else’s hands, basic fight choreography, into a somehow still readable hurricane (literally in this case) of multicolored kaleidoscopic explosions. (They even made a 4DX version of the film where all the lasers, smoking craters, and violent earthquakes happen in the theater just as they do on the screen!)
Whether they are using 3d or computer-generated art or are focusing on smoothly animating their more traditionally drawn fair, studio Bones have taken one of the things that they are best known for and perfected it here, making the main villain, Nine, quite threatening with just a few well-placed storm clouds. And even after the non-stop celebration of master level sakuga that was the final fight between Bakugo, Deku, and Nine, they still find little ways to impress. The idea that Bones manage to make the general devastation contrast and compliment the oddly serene and beauteous field of flowers from which the villain gives his last scene sticks out in my mind in particular.
The writing is on point, as usual, with original mangaka Kohei Horikoshi back on board, acting as a general supervisor and character designer with Kenji Nagaski returning as director, Yōsuke Kuroda returning as writer, Yoshihiko Umakoshi returning as character designer, and Yuki Hayashi returning as a composer. Basically, all of the people from studio Bones who made the anime and first movie great are back at it again. And yet, not everything in this film ended up perfect.
Is My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising canon? Does this question matter? Not really. But would it have made the film “perfect” if it had been addressed? Well, yeah. This is my only real issue with the film. In the end, like all other supplemental movies (ones that aren’t sequels or prequels) to a larger franchise, ultimately, this story is just a side story. And there were a few minor things which, if handled just a little differently, would have made this movie practically unimpeachable, despite all that.
I want to let you experience the film yourself, so I can’t say exactly what my problems with it are. They are kind of significant spoilers. But to put it simply, the writing of some characters felt a little weird in a few places. And these little places where I thought some characters felt off would have been instantly solved if this was, officially, a side-story and not part of the main story, “maybe.” And the thing that becomes the only real, genuinely stupid thing in this movie is just a compounded version of the exact same issue. The characters are never going to remember any of this, and it will likely never be brought up in the anime or manga despite having been a crazy time. This is a problem that a lot of supplemental films have. But this film was so close to avoiding this problem.
Some of my favorite Marvel comics of all time are the What If’s? They work and are so memorable BECAUSE they are not canon so the author is allowed to do whatever they want and leave the universe in whatever way their weird short story dictates. And this film could have done something like that even without acknowledging “canon.” But, instead of just suffering from the same issue as the first film where all the characters went like: “Hey, where were you guys all summer? Oh…. You never want to talk about it even though the events were literally life-changing and could completely alter the way you use your powers?…. ok, I guess.”, this film pulls one of the oldest, most tired, ultimately frustrating tropes of all time and one of the characters winds up with amnesia. Now they CAN’T remember what happened even if they wanted to, and this story can, therefore, technically fit into the “canon” of the My Hero Academia anime series even though there is no need for it too.
Minor qualms aside, this film was a Delaware Smash and a half. The characters and scenario are fun, the pacing and plot are mostly on point, and by the end, we have been delivered animation so over the top that it makes the best other series have to offer (and even a few of the best scenes in this show) look half-assed by comparison in a way that would be hard to imagine the little screen doing justice. When that insert vocal theme made just for the movie comes on, and the action, the emotions, the animation, and the music are all swelling at once, there is nothing else like it. If you like My Hero Academia go see Heroes: Rising while it’s still in the cinemas. And if you are near a 4DX showing see if you can make one. I am sure it’s well worth the extra cash to feel the wind blow through your hair with every punch, kick, and explosion.
- A fun "what if" that still holds true to the themes and weight of the main show.
- Visuals and fight choreography to stun even veteran fans.
- All of class 1-A gets some time to show off their abilities.
- The writers don't quite stick the landing at the very last second due to some poorly conceived handwaving.
- The film is still just a "side story" and despite being a wild ride holds no relevance to the main story of the show.