Review for My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising
There’s always odd timing with feature films that spin off from long running action anime series. We always seem to get the movies before the series reach that point in terms of UK release. We got Naruto The Last and Boruto long before the Naruto Shippuden series ended, and when Manga started releasing One Piece and its spin off movies, we had barely encountered Chopper and Robin in the series, while the movies were showing us the adventures of Franky and Brook. Back in the old DVD days, companies actually brought out movies of series that never even got a UK release, like Urusei Yatsura, Ranma, Ghost Sweeper Mikami and the like.
You might blink twice at some of the superpowers on display in the second My Hero Academia movie, Heroes Rising, as the students seem to be way past the point we left them in Season 3. At least this time we only have a week to wait for Season 4’s home video release to begin, and hopefully we’ll get caught up with the story enough to let this movie fit in the chronology. But the fact is, this time it isn’t the Western distributor’s fault. Even in Japan, Heroes Rising came out in cinemas before season 4’s broadcast had really got going.
You can call them superpowers, you can call them mutations. In the world of My Hero Academia, they’re mundanely thought of as Quirks. I say mundanely, as some 80% of the world’s population have Quirks, some power or ability that makes them special in some way. Naturally there are people who use their Quirks for selfish, even illegal gain. Standing against them are the heroes, those who use their powers for the common good. From the day Izuku Midoriya saw the world’s #1 hero, All Might in action, he was certain that he too would become a great superhero. The only problem was that Izuku was one of the 20%, born without a Quirk.
But Izuku’s selfless actions in a crisis situation caught the attention of All Might, who decided that the young boy would inherit his power. Getting used to a sudden new Quirk doesn’t happen overnight, and even with intensive training, Izuku is still playing catch-up when he enters U.A. High School, where the world’s heroes are trained.
As the film begins, the whole of class 1-A is on work-placement. A new program has been enacted to better integrate the new students before they graduate into the societies that they will serve, and class 1-A has been sent to the southerly island of Nabu, where they will take over for a recently retired hero. It’s an idyllic resort island, where the biggest problems that they have to deal with are lost pets, and helping out with the harvest. Even still, they don’t have the teachers with them to bail them out, and they’re left to their own recognizance. That doesn’t stop Izuku having a problem with a couple of critical siblings, brother and sister Katsuma and Mahoro. Mahoro thinks that the student heroes are all a bunch of frauds that will chicken out at the first sign of trouble.
Trouble is on the way though. On the mainland, the heroes are dealing with a series of random attacks, with victims left unconscious, and their Quirks stolen. The villain responsible is looking for a specific Quirk, and his quest leads him and his minions to Nabu Island, where he’s determined that the Quirk he needs lies in the bloodline of a specific family, Mahoro and Katsuma’s bloodline to be exact. And this villain, known as Nine has a terrifyingly familiar ability, and will pose the greatest threat yet faced by Izuku and his classmates.
The second My Hero Academia movie gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The image is clear and sharp, the animation is smooth, and there’s no problem with visible compression, and I didn’t notice any banding either. Studio Bones do the honours for the animation, and they take the simplistic character designs from the series, the style of the world design, the brilliantly brought to life action sequences, and they turn it all up to 11 for the feature film. This is a film that rewards fans of the franchise with its visuals.
This time, with Funimation owning Manga, this is the Funimation disc localised to Region B, so the optional Dolby True HD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, with subtitles and signs is as you would expect. My Hero Academia is a rare franchise that gets away with unlocked audio options even on Funimation discs. I went with the Japanese and was happy with the experience, the familiar voices, and the My Hero Academia themes given an orchestral reworking for the theatrical format. The action comes across well, and really benefits from the surround upgrade for the movie. It makes you wish that the TV series got a native 5.1 Japanese audio track as well. The subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray, wrapped in an o-card slipcover. There is some nice character art on the inner sleeve as well as a code for a digital copy on the Funimation NOW portal. Speaking of which, the disc autoplays with a trailer for Funimation NOW before booting to an animated menu.
On the disc, you’ll find the My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising Behind the Scenes featurette which lasts 15:56.
There are also 2:46 of Promotional Videos for the film.
It is a superhero movie. You have your villains, and you have your heroes, and you have a series of confrontations and battles that intensify towards a climax. It is easy to categorise a film like Heroes Rising, in much the same vein as its precursor, Two Heroes as well as the TV series. This is not a complex film, it isn’t playing with any meaningful themes or concepts, it’s purely an entertainment vehicle. How well that works depends on how well you invest in the franchise, how much you care about the characters and the world they inhabit. That question defines whether you’re watching an Avengers movie, or Justice League. What this film has on its side is just how well established, and how successful the My Hero Academia franchise is at this point. In other words, I loved every minute of Heroes Rising, and I was hanging on every word, investing in the characters just as much in the film as I do in the series.
The problems that these films have, indeed all movies that spin-off from long running TV series, is that they are invariably filler, content that hopefully presents an engaging adventure with the familiar characters, but doesn’t impinge on, or alter the ongoing, canon storyline in the TV series. Basically they have to leave the story universe in exactly the same way that they found it. That would be my only disappointment with Heroes Rising, as it seems to buck that trend in its climax, offering what seems like an irreversible choice on a character’s part that would change the ongoing storyline. It’s such an epic and emotive choice that there’s part of me that wished it had stuck, even as another, more cynical part of me was questioning how they would get out of that. In the end my cynicism was rewarded, and the movie did roll things back, and most infuriatingly, by means of a ‘miracle’.
The story in Heroes Rising is a little too simple for analysis. Class 1-A are on a very pleasant island as a form of work placement, albeit without the safety net of a teacher. They face the kind of challenges that hardly tax their abilities, and they react according to their personalities. Bakugo for one is having none of it. Things look to get serious when they start getting calls from a girl citing real peril; missing children and the appearance of villains and the like. But they are hoaxes perpetrated by Mahoro who is using the 1-A students as object lessons in the lameness of heroes to her little brother Katsuma. She’s unimpressed with Katsuma’s wish to become a hero despite the perceived ‘lameness’ of his quirk, something that resonates for obvious reasons with Izuku.
You might think that this would lead to a ‘cry wolf’ situation when the real trouble actually begins, but when Nine and his minions attack the island looking for Mahoro and Katsuma, there’s no doubt at all that the island is being threatened. The four villains prove to be challenges for the students in different ways, and we get four sets of battles, before the villains have to regroup and attack again as a group. It’s up to the students to not only call for help, but come up with a plan for protecting the islanders, and the two siblings from the villains.
What this means is we get some superbly animated action sequences as the heroes and villains use their respective Quirks in imaginative ways to do battle, all getting faster, more intense, and bigger as the film barrels towards its inevitable climax. It might give a little pause to see some of the class 1-A students using abilities that they are yet to manifest in the TV series proper, but as I said, it’s all a matter of timing in terms of releases. If you’re feeling particularly conscious of the chronology, it might be worth buying this release and leaving it on the shelf for a few months until Season 4 of My Hero Academia is out in its entirety, but really, this isn’t a franchise that demands such contemplation. It’s all about having fun with the characters, and in that respect, this film fits the bill perfectly. It might not be quite as good as Two Heroes, and there’s still not enough Froppy for my liking, but you won’t be disappointed by Heroes Rising, especially for fans getting to see Izuku and Bakugo actually teaming up.