'My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising' (2020) Review: Close, but No Cigar
One Who Will Become King Doesn't Need to Rely on Dirty Tricks.
My Hero Academia has been a difficult franchise for me to continually support and call myself a fan of. I generally enjoy the characters and the story, but I feel like the show suffers from having too many flashbacks and Deku being overwhelming with how corny and emotional he is all the time. The series seemed to rectify this with season three, but has seemingly gone back to the same, “remember this?” kind of formula while throwing in these reminders that are often only references to two or three episodes prior in its current fourth season.
One of the things my wife and I bonded over since we started dating is our mutual love for anime. We’ve watched and re-watched a ton of stuff in the nearly seven years we’ve been together and My Hero Academia is something we’ve been following since the beginning. While I get distracted by the plethora of flashbacks and Deku crying over just about everything, she’s become bored with everything the anime has had to offer. All Might was her favorite character and essentially the main reason for watching the show. Now that he’s retired she has lost all interest. It's the end of an era, in a way, and it's a weird thing to admit that My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is what made her finally realize this.
I don’t usually try to divulge personal stuff like this in reviews unless it feels like it’s absolutely crucial in enjoying the film being reviewed. However, the information I have shared feels important enough because I feel like my wife and I are some of the only people on the planet who prefer My Hero Academia: Two Heroes over My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising.
In Heroes Rising, Class 1-A has been put in charge of the superhero agency located on a secluded island known as Nabu Island. This isn’t like a sidekick gig or one of their internships where they shadow a full-time superhero. This is the first time all of them have operated without supervision; no teachers and no pros. This is just Deku and his classmates working together to cater to whatever people on the island need; no matter how big or how small their needs are.
Class 1-A seems to have everything under control until Nine shows up; a new villain who has the ability of stealing, storing, and utilizing up to nine quirks at a time, When Nine targets a young girl named Mahoro Shimano and her little brother Katsuma over the mysterious quirks that they have, Deku makes it his personal mission to protect them while Bakugo steps in to show that he thinks he deserves to be the number one hero.
The film is accessible for those who have followed the series from the beginning, casual fans, and newcomers. There’s enough narration of what has occurred thus far that you could go in blind and probably still have Heroes Rising be your introduction to the series. For those of us who have watched the series since episode one, it’s a little frustrating since My Hero Academia has a flashback syndrome that’s heavier than Dragon Ball Z in its prime but it’s also understandable. You want as many paying eyes as possible to see this no matter how deep into the franchise they may be.
I did enjoy the fact that this is the first time Class 1-A has been on their own, but I didn’t like how the new villains mostly felt like rehashes or amalgamations of one or several previous villains and even heroes. Mummy’s bandages feel strangely similar to Cellophane’s tape and even Eraserhead’s binding cloth and Nine feels like a rebooted All For One that even the heroes point out on more than one occasion.
The coolest new character is a guy known as Chimera, who is just a bunch of animal parts on one body. He has a wolf head, bird talon hands, and a lizard tale. His dread locks, brown trench-coat, and cigar smoking habits make him way cooler than he has any right to be, but even he seems to be a rearrangement of Suneater’s manifest quirk. The only character that isn’t like any like someone else is Slice, but her blade-like hair seems kind of lame in retrospect.
Without spoiling too much, the last battle of Deku and Bakugo versus Nine is a little too familiar, as well. Many other anime titles come to mind, but what Deku does with his One-For-All quirk is similar to what happens with Goku’s Ultra Instinct technique in Dragon Ball Super. This powerful new ability is introduced in a film with seemingly no consequences that one of the main characters completely forgets about by the time the film is over. Anime films often feel like alternate universes compared to the anime or animated series they’re a part of.
The My Hero Academia TV series made a point to bleed into Two Heroes, but Heroes Rising feels like it takes place somewhat later than what’s currently happening in the anime. New characters and techniques often don’t jump back and forth between animated movies and their animated series. An example from current American animation is the likelihood of Spinel from the Steven Universe Movie having some sort of appearance in Steven UniverseFuture before it ends at the end of the month highly unlikely. The argument can be made that characters generally learn something after the cinematic adventures that is injected into the series even if new characters or techniques remain only as part of the cinematic universe. It just gets frustrating that something so powerful is often never mentioned or tried ever again unless another movie sequel gets made.
Everyone seems to be talking about how amazing the animation is in Heroes Rising and it’s not that they’re wrong. The opening car chase with its rotating camera angles, tail light dragging blur effects, and overall awesomeness of the second half of the film are outstanding examples of how great the animation can be in the film. Personally though, there’s nothing in Heroes Rising that’s as epic as the Overhaul/Deku fight in season four of the series. Animation studio Bones is the real winner here since they’re animating season four, both My Hero Academia films, and they have a jaw-dropping back catalog of amazing anime titles.
I would still recommend My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising to fans of the series and anime in general. Most people seem to really love it and making your own decision on something is always preferable over listening to someone else. Heroes Rising left me disappointed though since it felt like it was trying to put Class 1-A in a new and refreshing situation wrapped in something safe and familiar. The film should have made a point to feel entirely different; not just partially. These characters go all out when they yell, "Plus Ultra!" That concept should be applied to the story, as well.
The villains had potential, but are mostly recycled versions of better characters. The animation is great, but isn’t a drastic difference of what’s offered in the anime television series and the final battle, although exciting, is kind of a letdown. Maybe and hopefully these are flaws that could be overlooked with repeat viewings, but, as it stands, Heroes Rising fails to have the resounding and impressive impact that Two Heroes is still capable of providing.
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© 2020 Chris Sawin