My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Boku no Hīrō Akademia Za Mūbī: Hīrōzu: Raijingu)
Japan (2019) Dir. Kenji Nagasaki
It’s spin off movie time for the popular shonen fantasy My Hero Academia, the second in fact, following on from 2018’s Two Heroes, though it is reported it will be the last feature length adjunct for this franchise. So, devoted fans had better make the most of this one!
A truck being driven by members of League of Villains at the behest of a mysterious man known as Doctor is intercepted by two heroes, Endeavour and Hawks. The Villains escape but their truck is totalled, inside of which they find an empty life capsule inside it, the inhabitant also having escaped. Meanwhile, Class 1-A of U.A. High have been sent to the island of Nabu as part of a safety program, though things are rather quiet there.
Mostly doing menial jobs like finding missing persons, lost items or physical jobs, the students are forced to step up in the absence of adult heroes when the quiet island is suddenly rocked by the appearance of the absconded man, a Villain named Nine who can steal quirks, and his group. Nine has a vision to eliminate all weak Quirk holders from society and let all the stronger ones prevail instead.
Spin offs from a running series are always going to be behind the eight ball, not just from having to fit in with extant diegesis without being canon, but also in being limited with how far they push the characters. The result is usually something that wouldn’t feel too far from being a credible mini-arc within the parent series but with the pressure of having wrap up the story inside 90-minutes or so.
Heroes Rising is a film that sits somewhere between these two remits – it tells a simple by-the-numbers story that fans will undoubtedly lap up yet takes a few chances with the chief antagonist and one of the major characters. Much like my feelings concerning a particular development in Two Heroes, there are some ideas here that could easily have been integrate into the main series, but presumably won’t be.
That said, writer Yōsuke Kuroda has taken some liberties with the mechanics and lore of the Quirks, and those who fans more au fait with the minutiae of this series than I am will no doubt find themselves questioning some of these decisions. Others may not care and just enjoy the ride, and with the heavy action bent this film provides, that is much easier to do than sit nit picking over creative licence.
Beginning as it means to go on, the film opens with a literal bang almost in medias res as the Heroes clash with the Villains in their truck with the mystery cargo in a high-speed exchange of Quirk-led offence. However, it isn’t until near the end of the film that any relevance this has, aside from introducing Nine to the audience, is shared, having been largely forgotten for the remainder of the film, except to say it is made clear which chief villain from the main series is involved.
Continuing within the time frame of post-All Might’s retirement, the students of Class 1-A are still in need of official Hero supervision but are allowed to handle lighter Hero-related tasks unaccompanied on the quiet island of Nabu. As ever, Izuku Midoriya aka Deku is at the forefront of the attention having inherited the One For All Quirk from his mentor, but as the title implies, this isn’t for long.
Deku befriends two young children, brother and sister Katsuma and Mahoro Shimano, the latter apparently hating heroes; this is actually concern for her younger brother who wants to be a hero and she fears it is too dangerous for him and his healing Quirk won’t be useful in battle. With their mother dead and their father away, Mahoro uses her Quirk to create illusions to dissuade Katsuma but instead rattles the trainee heroes, especially Katsuki Bakugo,
Nine and his band of Villains disrupt these antics, all far more powerful than Deku and friends – Chimera is a wolf, bird, dragon hybrid, Mummy can control anything with his red bandages, and Slice, a female with a self-explanatory Quirk. Nine can hold nine Quirks and has been implanted with a weaker version of All For One to steal Quirks from others, and tries to steal the healing Quirk from Katsuma’s father but fails through mismatched blood groups so he goes for one that will work – Katsuma.
With this all happening inside the first fifteen minutes, the action quota is much higher than in the prior film. However, this brings the title into question as the entire group are given a chance to shine, not just Deku, fighting as a single unit, pooling their collective Quirks as they fight the seemingly impervious interlopers. A refreshing change from the norm that not even the series implements making it clear who the chief protagonist is and who are the supporting cast.
Yet the title is accurate in that the ultimate victory comes when two specific characters put their differences aside and yes, Deku is of course one of them. Returning to the point earlier about taking liberties, it is here that the fans who have seen it all and read it all will have some questions about how this was achieved, and might even be a spoiler for the upcoming season four home media release if they haven’t seen it yet.
Usually, theatrical films of TV anime properties are afforded higher budgets meaning the production values and visuals are superior but in all honesty, this isn’t evident here, suggesting either they didn’t bother this time or the standard of TV anime is improving. It is still a good looking and well animated work so no complaints, just an observation.
Heroes Rising probably could have been a canon story arc for the TV series but works just as well as a standalone adventure to keep fans of the My Hero Academia franchise well and truly entertained.