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My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising Review

February 26, 2020 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising Image Credit: Shueisha, Funimation
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My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising Review  

Directed By: Kenji Nagasaki
Written By: Yōsuke Kuroda; Based on the manga series created by Kōhei Horikoshi
Runtime: 104 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and language.

Justin Briner – Izuku Midoriya/Deku
Clifford Chapin – Katsuki Bakugo
Johnny Yong Bosch – Nine
Maxey Whitehead – Katsuma Shimano
Dani Chambers – Tomoyo Kurosawa
David Matranga – Shoto Todoroki
Luci Christian – Ochaco Uraraka
J. Michael Tatum – Tenya Iida
Colleen Clinkenbeard – Momo Yaoyorozu
Josh Grelle – Fumikage Tokoyami
Caitlin Glass – Mina Ashido
Brina Palencia – Minoru Mineta
Kyle Phillips – Denki Kaminari
Justin Cook – Eijiro Kirishima
Greg Dulcie – Chimera
Lydia Mackay – Slice
Monica Rial – Tsuyu Asui/Froppy
Christopher R. Sabat – All Might
Christopher Wehkamp – Shota Aizawa/Eraser Head

The aspiring teen heroes of Class 1-A at UA High School return for their latest cinematic adventure in My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising. The last My Hero Academia came out in 2018, and since that time, the franchise has become even more popular. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising will receive a limited theatrical release in the US this week amidst the airing of the show’s current fourth season.

Much like the last movie, Heroes Rising is set within the animated series canon. It’s a “filler” adventure not based on Kōhei Horikoshi’s original manga story. Instead, it’s a new scenario written by Yōsuke Kuroda, who works on the anime version and is directed by Kenji Nagasaki, who is the anime’s longtime director. The benefit is that there’s consistency between the staff for the anime and films, so nothing comes too far out of leftfield.

I think one benefit for Two Heroes is that the TV series actually wrote and marked exactly when and where that story was going to happen. There was an episode that sets up Midoriya and All Might going to I-Island to have their movie adventure. Heroes Rising is a little less specific, but the story appears to be set sometime after the major events of Season 4.

All the members of Class 1-A at UA have been granted the opportunity to take part in a sort of work-study program. UA sets up an independent hero agency to assist the residents of Nabu Island. Nabu Island is a modest, idyllic and remote location with a peaceful community and not much happening. It’s easy pickings for the students, who are generally playing lifeguard duty on the beach, locating lost pets or helping out with the locals with their unique quirks. Izuku Midoriya (Briner), aka All Might’s chosen hero successor Deku, soon befriends a young boy Katsuma (Whitehead), who also admires heroes much as he did in his youth. Katsuma’s older sister, Mahoro (Chambers), is a bit of a troublemaker and doesn’t think the provisionally licensed teen heroes are cut out for the job.

Unfortunately for Class 1-A, Nabu Island is about to become ground zero for an attack by a splinter group of the League of Villains. The League’s researchers did some experimental work on a nefarious individual called Nine (Bosch). The experimentation on Nine has enabled him to mimic All For One’s quirk, so he can steal other individuals’ quirks (superpowers) and use multiple ones simultaneously, he has nine in total. However, Nine’s abilities come at a cost. Using so many abilities at once causes his body to break down, so Nine and his minions invade Nabu Island to find a solution, for which young Katsuma holds the key.

Unfortunately, Nine and his band are more formidable than any of the villains Class 1-A has ever faced before, and they cut off all communications in and out of the island. Essentially, Midoriya and his friends are on their own and none of the adult heroes know they’re in danger and are coming to help them. Luckily, they all have each other and the will to defend the innocent and protect Katsuma for Nine.

The theatrical world premiere featured the English dub for the film. As usual for the show, the English cast all did fine work, and the show has a top-notch English VA cast. Johnny Yong Bosch has a fun turn as the villain of the story Nine. Nine is cut from a similar cloth as All For One, but he does care for his subordinates. He believes he’s creating a pure world for them, where people like Chimera, were rejected, except it’s a world where Nine will only allow those he considers strong to lead.

What I did like about Nine is that despite him being nigh-overpowered, he’s given a major weakness that’s exposed fairly early. It shows that for all of his powers and abilities, it comes at a cost. In some ways, it resembles how Midoriya’s quirk, “One for All,” takes a physical toll on him as well. Using 100 percent of his strength wrecks his body to hell, except Midoriya uses his powers to protect and defend rather than attack.

An abridged fandub spoof of Naruto put it best about filler threats who are usually depicted in anime movies based on long-running episodic series: “You’ve never heard of them and after you’ve finished fighting them you won’t remember it even happened. But for the next 90 minutes, you’ll think they are the biggest threat you’ve faced in your entire life!”

This isn’t meant to be a huge knock on the film, but that’s essentially the case of Nine and his band. That’s generally the rub with these films based on anime series that have to act as standalone adventures. The stories have to organically take place at some point within the series. However, the movie stories are unable to do anything to rock the boat or alter the status quo that’s currently unfolding for the TV series. If something major or huge does happen, it’s either undone by the end, or it’s executed so it’s forgotten about or ignored.

The crazy thing is that Heroes Rising does something that’s potentially status quo shattering and would’ve upset the fabric of the story. It’s a major development for the characters of Bakugo and Izuki. Except, there’s no way this development can continue since it would alter the course of Horikoshi’s manga story. The way the story undoes this major development is the weakest aspect of Heroes Rising. Essentially, it boils down to the anime equivalent of Superman II and amnesia-inducing kisses. It’s flimsy storytelling at best, and there are probably a dozen better ways the writers could’ve given the characters an out for this development.

Basically, the scenario and writing for Two Heroes was far superior to Heroes Rising. The edge that Heroes Rising has over Two Heroes is in the action, emotion and the screentime for the other Class 1-A students. The focus of the story is primarily on Midoriya and Bakugo, along with their interactions with Mahoro and Katsuma. However, the rest of the classmates have a lot more to do this time around. Two of Nine’s lieutenants, Chimera (Dulcie) and Slice (Mackay), are equally formidable and made worthy adversaries for the other heroes. Even the heroes who don’t seem to have quirks well suited for fighting are given some meaningful screentime and chances to shine. But Bakugo and Izuki are meant to be the main attractions.

That’s the other big thing Heroes Rising has going for it in its favor. Midoriya and Bakugo finally fight together side-by-side in tandem, and they make quite the combination. Bakugo’s reactions and banter while having to fight alongside Midoriya are the highlights of the film. And when the action reaches its zenith, it’s easily some of the most “sakuga” moments in franchise history. Unfortunately, the staff has to take things a step too far, only to figure out a ham-fisted way to undo it minutes later.

Both films had their pros and cons, but I always thought Two Heroes was exceptionally powerful by presenting an old partner for All Might who was crippled by his nostalgia for his old friend. He was desperate to restore All Might, even though All Might himself was preparing to move on and had his own handpicked successor. I once had an epiphany that in many ways, Two Heroes, and by extension My Hero Academia, was more or less the superior way to tell the story of The Last Jedi. Enable and empower the next generation of heroes. Give the story over to the next generation. You were once the greatest hero of all time and the hero of your story, but now your role is to pass that title on to the next generation and watch them grow and surpass even you. The problem with The Last Jedi was that, while the building blocks and basic premise were there, the execution was lacking. I believe it went too far in showing Luke Skywalker hit rock bottom without ever letting him have a moment to truly crawl out of it. Two Heroes while empowering the next generation, still lets All Might take a victory lap of sorts on his way out and go out with a bang.

Sorry for the tangent. It exemplifies how Two Heroes tapped into some really interesting ideas about the heroes looking forth to their next generation and successors, while also exploring how debilitating nostalgia can be as it can poison and infect your mind.

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is more about Izuki and Bakugo defining their meanings of being heroes and what being heroes means to the people they protect. Also, the students are on their own without any adult supervision. They have no one to rely on except themselves. As a result, the students have to come up with a plan to thwart Nine, protect Katsuma, along with the rest of the island’s residents. Inadvertently, the training wheels have been taken off the students, and now they have to face a real crisis, and none of the adults are coming there to help. Izuki, Bakugo and Class 1-A have to be the ones to rise to the occasion and not just be their own heroes, but the beacons of protection for the innocent civilians who are now looking to them for help.

It’s strange how stories about the values and celebration of what it means to be a superhero are often lost in the pages of recent stories coming from the House of Ideas or Detective Comics. However, they’re still alive and well in Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia. But just some food for thought for the anime staff. Now that two filler storyline movies are out of the way, why not make a future movie be a crossover with My Hero Academia Vigilantes? You can’t get much more superhero than a superhero team-up.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is a fun, action-packed adventure for all the favorite heroes of the popular animated series with an interesting setting and some compelling fights. The students of UA High are put to the test and have to rise to the occasion to be their own heroes. In terms of action and maximizing the screentime of the other characters, Heroes Rising is aces. However, the overall writing, setup and execution were done better for the first movie Two Heroes. There's a major turning point and development that's fixed in a very silly, ridiculous fashion, and that's the film's greatest drawback. So, it is a filler storyline with filler movie villains, but it's still a lot of fun and provides some great, eye-popping moments for many of the characters.