My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising Review - MHA Has Never Looked So Good

  • First Released Feb 26, 2020
  • movie

The movie goes beyond, but its ending keeps it from going plus ultra.

There's plenty to love about My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising--it manages to inject an exciting and compelling side story into the anime--but its conclusion dashes much of that goodwill with a single line of dialogue. Until that moment, though, Heroes Rising is a good superhero movie that manages to satisfyingly sell the theme of its central conflict.

Likely occurring at some point after the Joint Training Battle arc (manga chapters 195-216, a few arcs ahead of where the anime is right now), Heroes Rising sees Izuku Midoriya (Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner), Katsuki Bakugo (Nobuhiko Okamoto/Clifford Chapin), and the rest of the superhero-in-training Class 1-A temporarily take over a hero agency to learn how to respond to problems without adult supervision. It's a cushy job at first, but the situation takes a turn for the worst when the island where the class is stationed on is invaded by a group of supervillains led by the mysterious Nine (Yoshio Inoue/Johnny Yong Bosch), a man who can steal and store up to nine different superpowered Quirks at once.

Though the focus of the film is on Midoriya and Bakugo, Heroes Rising gives the entirety of Class 1-A a chance to shine. It's a welcome change of pace, seeing as the anime--up to this point--has largely focused on only a portion of the class at a time or seen the students compete against each other. Heroes Rising provides the first true look at Class 1-A working as a team since their hike during the Forest Training Camp arc (manga chapters 70-83, anime episodes 39-45), establishing how much the group has grown as heroes and also lending greater support to the movie's theme that selflessness is stronger than selfishness.

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The entirety of Heroes Rising is devoted to the support of this theme and the movie's conclusion is made better for it. Leading up to the final battle, again and again, the movie shows how friends who are willing to sacrifice for each other can accomplish tasks they couldn't do alone. So when a selfless act is the key to defeating Nine--whose goal can only be achieved by selfishly stealing the Quirk of one of the island's inhabitants--it's believable to buy into the power of friendship. The movie lays the groundwork that there's an actual basis to this belief instead of relying on the shonen trope that simply thinking of loved ones will somehow provide newfound strength.

Though Midoriya and Bakugo's fight against Nine is Heroes Rising's main attraction, the inclusion of three other villains presents additional threats for the rest of Class 1-A to contend with. Multiple fights are typically going on at the same time, and the movie transitions between each one at an increasingly frantic rate to match the growing anxiety of the escalating situation (save for the final fight, which instead relies on quick cuts to convey its mounting urgency). Chimera (Shunsuke Takeuchi/Greg Dulcie), Mummy (Kōsuke Toriumi/Brendan Blaber), and Slice (Mio Imada/Lydia Mackay) don't go down easily, and the rapid-fire pacing of each fight reinforces the notion that the members of Class 1-A are pushing themselves to their absolute limits in order to go toe-to-toe with Nine's fellow villains.

The four villains aren't all that well-developed beyond personifying selfishness, though. Nine, Chimera, Mummy, and Slice have interesting designs and cool-looking superpowers, but the group's entire characterization begins and ends with their shared goal: to see the birth of a new world where might makes right and they are the rulers. It's absurdly simple in how single-mindedly evil it is, a poor motivation in comparison to the nuanced goals of My Hero Academia's more notable villains like Stain, Overhaul, and Tomura Shigaraki.

It's not the only cliche in Heroes Rising, either. When it comes to wrapping up a piece of fiction, very few things are more aggravating than seeing an author write off the difficult-to-explain aspects of a story as if they never occurred. Heroes Rising pulls such a stunt with about two minutes left in its runtime, which robs most of the emotional impact that Heroes Rising could have had on the overall story of My Hero Academia. Ending Heroes Rising with a reminder to the audience that the movie is a side story that's not supposed to actually matter to the overall My Hero Academia canon leaves a strange impression.

But before that moment, Heroes Rising presents one hell of a ride for its final battle. The experience is marred by a villain with this-isn't-even-my-final-form syndrome, but the explosive color of the animation and accompanying soft crescendo of the song "Might+U" (by Makayla Phillips) creates a beautiful moment of finality for one of the most impressive bouts that My Hero Academia has ever featured. Though the animation team should be applauded for how each superpower is portrayed throughout the movie--from the sharp lines that highlight the almost uncontrollable speed of Tenya Iida's (Kaito Ishikawa/J. Michael Tatum) enhanced kicks to the whip-like movements that convey the incredible utility of Tsuyu Asui's (Aoi Yūki/Monica Rial) frog tongue--the biggest spectacle is Bakugo's fiery explosions and Midoriya's lightning-infused blows working in tandem with each other.

Though the last few moments of Heroes Rising erase the character development between its two leads and deprive the story of concluding on as high of a note as the rest of the movie, the vast majority of Heroes Rising is good. The movie takes the time to contend that being a hero doesn't always mean beating up bad guys, while also delivering on a satisfying multitude of well-animated fights.

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The Good

  • The story highlights the growth of all of Class 1-A, not just the main characters
  • Small subplots throughout make a satisfying case for the main narrative to rely on the power of friendship
  • Impressive animation, especially when it comes to portraying each characters' Quirk
  • The final battle is one of the coolest fight scenes that My Hero Academia has ever had

The Bad

  • Cliche villains--even the heroes call them out for how stereotypically evil their plans are
  • The ending undermines a major moment of character development for Midoriya and Bakugo

About the Author

Jordan is one of those heathens who watches My Hero Academia in both the original Japanese and the English dub--which, of course, makes him a pariah to both sides of the debate about which is better. He reviewed My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising with both English Sub and English Dub screeners courtesy of Funimation.