In a special dual review piece, Laura Watton reviews both cinematic outings for the My Hero Academia franchise. First up is the recent cinema release Heroes Rising and if you keep reading, you’ll read her thoughts on the first My Hero Academia film, Two Heroes – currently streaming on Netflix.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (2019)
The number one hero anime is back in cinemas for a battle beyond anything fans have ever seen! Class 1-A visits Nabu Island where they finally get to do some real hero work. The place is so peaceful that it’s more like a vacation… until they’re attacked by a villain with an unfathomable Quirk! His power is eerily familiar… But with All Might retired and citizens’ lives on the line, there’s no time for questions. Deku and his friends are the next generation of heroes, and they’re the island’s only hope.
My Hero Academia is a manga series, serialized by Shonen Jump and written by Kohei Horikoshi. It has been adapted into numerous TV series, manga and novel spin off books, and, so far, two films. With strong characters and endearing traits, the series is of interest to anyone who is curious about a Shonen Jump comic book version of superheroes. Coincidentally, as the show is acknowledged as a love letter to western superhero titles, My Hero Academia was also utilised in the Marvel cinematic universe promotional material across Japan (surely the superhero crossover we all deserve to see?).
In a fictional world where more than 80% of the Earth’s population possesses some form of superhuman ability (“Quirks”), these abilities have given rise to professional heroes… and the threat of villains. We follow the professional growth of Izuku “Deku” Midoriya, a born-quirkless boy who desperately wishes to grow up to be a hero regardless. After jumping into a terrifying fray because he felt it was the right thing to do, Deku is chosen by All Might – the former No. 1 Hero – to become a holder of the powerful Quirk, One For All.
Very different to all other cocky, spikey-haired shonen protagonists who arrived before him in the world of anime and manga, Deku (a nickname initially given meaning “someone who can’t do anything”) is over-emotional and reactive, but also caring, studious and forthright. Watching his development through school in the face of adversity involves the audience to cheer him (and his colleagues) on his quest to become a hero and utilise his new Quirk. Heroes Rising takes place during the fourth TV season, but don’t let that put you off jumping in. There is no prior knowledge required of the characters or the series; Heroes Rising gives all characters equal screen time and is excitingly battle-packed.
The film is structured akin to a disaster movie, as there are prolonged scenes of utter chaos and despair – dropped onto an island without supervision, our teen heroes only planned to help out the quiet island’s residents with small tasks to gain experience – however, they are ambushed by villain Nine, looking for a specific Quirk type. With all communication lines destroyed, they have to evacuate all residents and passionately fight against the new enemies with absolutely no support. They are at their wit’s end, and you cannot help but root for these characters who just want to do the right thing with zero preparation nor any extra resources. The pace of this film feels faster, classmate pervert Mineta’s skeevy moments are reduced to a minimum, angry Bakugo has time to actually think, and the enemies truly feel like they will eliminate these kids should any fraction of their plan get pulled through.
New characters are introduced for this film, and they are key not just to plot but also to all main character development; not throwaway at all. A few scenes could have possibly been cut for clarity, but the whole film feels padded out to every millisecond with information and action for viewers new and old. Potential spoilers to do with the power of the One For All Quirk do not feel like spoilers, but interesting points to get back into the comic or TV show to read about. The climax feels very much like a scene from Dragon Ball Z – a fitting tribute to its host comic label Shonen Jump of course – but feels slightly askew from the My Hero Academia universe overall, which makes the film feel a bit more non-canon than it perhaps should.
Upon release, Heroes Rising ranked 3rd at the Japanese box office on opening and earned ¥422 million (US$3.86 million) in its first three days. A limited Western release ran (in the UK, on 25-26th February) and extra showings are booked to follow. Author Kōhei Horikoshi has stated he cannot envision a third film being made, and he was even hesitant to go forward with this film sequel, but we are sure that fans would love it if a third could follow, given the success for the franchise. The series has been cited by a number of older, often jaded anime fans we know of as re-igniting their passions for anime again after a long hiatus. And what’s not to love about that?
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is now showing at UK cinemas nationwide. Find your local cinema screening the film with this link.
My Hero Acamedia: Two Heroes (2018)
Deku and All Might receive an invitation to I-Expo, the world’s leading exhibition of Quirk abilities and hero item innovations! Amid the excitement, sponsors, and pros from all over, Deku meets Melissa, a girl who is Quirkless just like he once was. Suddenly, I-Expo’s top-of-the-line security system gets hacked by villains, and a sinister plan is set in motion. It’s a serious threat to hero society, and one man holds the key to it all — the symbol of peace, All Might.
The film Two Heroes is set in the middle of the TV series. At the all singing and dancing Supers-showcase Expo that Deku and his super classmates visit, we are introduced to new characters for this film, including quirkless inventor student Melissa, who is a good example of the overall well rounded characters that this series presents, even if she is only present for this film, she fits well into the series, and assists Deku with an invention to curb his super powerful Quirk, to help make it more manageable. This film does not give all of the series’ characters equal showtime, however (three of the girls are relegated to the hotel while everyone else goes off to a grand party), and there are a few too many sleazy moments that are unwelcome, (no) thanks to stereotypical-shonen-pervert character Mineta, but select characters from Deku’s class get underway, doing what they do – overpowering Villains’ threats, using their super unique ways, together.
The series’ appeal is partly to do with the team being incredibly good at being able to assess situations and come up with exciting (sometimes silly) plans to defeat evil; the other appeal lies in the relationships between all of the characters, their backstories and the random solutions that the class work together on, to win their fights. Overall the earnestness and hope in the face of constant peril is what keeps us as viewers glued to their seats throughout. The series and films all contain humour, friendships (and frenemies) – and pure, exhilarating battles.
Two Heroes was a hit and ranked 4th at the Japanese box office, grossing ¥500 million ($4.49 million) in three days; In North America, the film ranked third in the market at its highest, despite its limited release. This first film is an excellent primer for newcomers to the series; though it’s follow up film Heroes Rising is a more frantic and explosive outing, Two Heroes is a very uplifting film to stream on a dull afternoon.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is now available on DVD / Blu-Ray and also on streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix. Click the Amazon links at the bottom of the review to join All-Might and all the heroes in the world of My Hero Academia.
⭐ Laura Watton (PinkAppleJam)
Better known as PinkAppleJam, Laura is one of the hosts of Hardcore Genki Hour! Listen to the show on Bunkazilla.
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