'My Hero Academia' movie a fitting continuation of the series

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 at 10:33 PM

It’s not often that Japanese films make their way into American theaters, and an even smaller percentage of those are anime based. “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising” is one of the few that has managed to fight its way into a mainstream U.S. release.

Based on the “My Hero Academia” anime and manga by Kōhei Horikoshi, the series and movie centers on Izuku Midoriya — voiced in English by Justin Briner — and his classmates.

The story takes place in a world where most people are born with a “quirk,” or superpower, but Midoriya is one of the few born without one. However, after a fateful encounter with All Might, the world’s greatest hero and symbol of peace, he is given the quirk known as “One for All.”

“One for All” grants Midoriya super strength that is so powerful it could literally destroy his body if he’s not careful. Together, he and his classmates strive to become the next generation of heroes.

“Heroes Rising” serves as a milestone, both because of the worldwide popularity of the series, and also because of the characters and their abilities. Originally inexperienced teenagers in the show, the main cast has rapidly matured from a multitude of deadly scenarios and top-notch training. Once coddled by their teachers and professional heroes, Midoriya and his friends are given their first solo task: protect the island of Nabu. When Nine (Johnny Yong Bosch) and his allies storm the peaceful island, the students put their very lives on the line in order to defend the citizens and defeat the villains. While the abilities of “One for All” can be passed on, Nine is armed with its opposite — “All for One” — the ability to steal superpowers.

For “My Hero Academia” fans, the film is a wonderful experience. Taking place further ahead in time than both the manga and anime adaptation, the events unfortunately have no consequence on the overall story. A shame, as there is so much that could have been built off of and explored.

Instead, it is the characters that shine and make for a compelling adventure. They’ve improved as both people and heroes, and it shows. Kind of.

Throughout the story, we see each character interacting within the group, as well as with the islanders. Their past experiences and knowledge are finally being put to the test as they use their abilities in challenging and unique manners. It’s a neat way to showcase their development while simultaneously delivering fantastic and natural humor.

Surprisingly, the film seems to especially favor Katsuki Bakugo (Clifford Chapin) — Midoriya’s rival for the position of the #1 hero — over the others. Like in the series, Bakugo is arrogant, overconfident and aggressive. Fitting, as his quirk is “Explosion.” However, “Heroes Rising” adds depth previously unseen to this character.

At his core, Bakugo believes a hero should always win, while Midoriya believes a hero should do everything they can to protect others. These beliefs, and their pasts, have usually kept these two at odds. Yet, when Nine targets one of the children of Nabu, the two put aside their rivalry to team up and save the day.

Only during the climax do we see just how deep Bakugo’s character goes. His teamwork and coordination with Midoriya is extraordinary, especially considering that he rarely teams up with others — particularly not with those he considers his rivals. Normally, he lets others save those in danger, but during these intense scenes, he throws himself into the fray, despite being both injured and having broken equipment. He takes his abilities and his body to their very limits to defend everyone else.

The film is expertly crafted from beginning to end. “Heroes Rising” breaks the mold of other anime movies, and feels just like another episode of the show. The English voice acting is superb and the animation is phenomenal. No hurriedly drawn frames or mismatched voices can be found. Right down to the base script, it is immediately apparent how much effort went into this film. At no time does the pacing feel rushed, allowing the story to unfold slowly and organically, making the stakes that much higher.

Unfortunately, the villains themselves seem to simply exist. Only vague details of their character are given, and they entirely lack in complexity and uniqueness. Even Nine’s goal of destroying superhero society is nothing new, and the “why” around his plan is never delved into at any level. The villains seem to be nothing more than tough objectives for our heroes to clear.

Overall, “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising” is a must see for veterans of the series. It brings everything that made the series explode in popularity and even adds a few surprises all of its own.

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