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All the Announcements from Anime Expo 2024
TO BE HERO X Has Incredible Momentum and Energy

by Earl Gertwagen,

ANN's coverage of Anime Expo 2024 sponsored by Yen Press and Ize Press!


There's happy and chaotic energy at the front of the Crunchyroll stage. There's a pair working the crowd before the panel gets under way, and once the program's ready to get started, they cede the stage to Tim Liu of Crunchyroll, who strides in confidently and commands the audience's attention.

After whipping up the well-attended room, he introduced Lee Haolin (AKA "Haoling"), the director of To Be Hero X.

The crowd gives Haoling a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Tim rides the momentum to dive right into some questions for the panel guest.

Tim asks what inspired him to create this new animated show. Haoling responds cheerfully that like so many others, he grew up watching superhero movies, but he had always wondered what it would be like if they got their strength and their power from their fans.

In the world of To Be Hero X, superheroes draw on the number of followers they have, and they can gain trust points. Essentially, the more people trust and believe in you, the more powerful you'll become, and the more your superhero abilities will manifest. "I thought that would be a fun way to measure [superheroes'] strength and power level."

Tim jumps to the next question: "We heard there's one thing you really wanted to show at this premiere of the first episode. Can you tell us what that is?"

"It's the opening," Haoling replies excitedly. "The song is by Hiroyuki Sawano, and it's absolutely FIRE."

Haoling has clearly been grooving to it lately because he seems rather proud of the work they've done with it. "We put in a lot of effort to the opening animation and scenes, so hope it gets you really hyped up."

Hiroyuki Sawano is a legendary composer, who's known for his work on Attack on Titan and Blue Exorcist, just to name a couple.

The questions remain light and wrap up quickly so the premiere of the first episode can get rolling.

"Please refrain from screaming too loud when the episode concludes," Tim warns the crowd with a smile.

So what's the first episode of To Be Hero X like? I should state up front that I'm going into it completely blind. But WHOA, was I in for a treat!

To Be Hero X has incredible momentum and energy. The opening scene of To Be Hero X is probably its slowest, set in the office of some marketing executive listening skeptically to an employee's presentation. But the back-and-forth of the dialogue and overall pacing is quite snappy.

The exec kicks the employee to the curb, and a short eventful scene on a rooftop sets the episode in motion at break-neck speed.

See, there's this superhero named "Nice." He's perfect! Tons of adoring, trusting fans. Handsome. He's got it all. And just as the newly unemployed young man is lamenting his sad state of affairs there on the rooftop, Nice appears before him and nonchalantly walks off the edge of the building and dies.

A team of handlers appears to figure out what in the world just happened to their superstar superhero. One thing leads to another and suddenly our sad sack character, who looks strikingly like Nice (except not quite as super), is now assuming Nice's identity.

You see, this is a world where things like trust, attention, and followers gives you power. So as our newly-minted hero starts to train hard to assume the role of Nice, he starts to believe more and more that he can fill Nice's shoes. Thus it becomes a self-fulfilling tale where his growing confidence gives him power, which makes him more and more like the recently unalived real thing.

Hijinks quickly ensue. The new Nice has to maintain an ongoing lie, while steadily growing his confidence and gaining sharper ability.

The whole episode is pedal-to-the-metal. There's so much show-don't-tell world building packed into the episode's brief runtime, it makes for an exciting watch, and it's hard to take notes because I don't want to look away and accidentally miss any of the cool action unfolding.

After an opening episode where the show's got its foot firmly on the gas, I have to assume it'll ease off the accelerator and slow down just a bit.

The premise is really fun. It's an exciting world that's ripe for wildly varied heroes and villains. Heroes seem to be fueled by attention and trust, while villains get stronger through fear. Heroes are commodified and marketed, which, when combined by the way they gain power, seems like a commentary on the attention economy of the real world. I'm curious to see how much they lean into this idea in subsequent episodes.

But that's not even what I wanted to gush about the most, which is the animation. It's so stylish! And vibrant and colorful!

The characters on display in the first episode really show things off well. Most scenes are an interesting blend of 2D and 3D, where the characters' bodies are 3D models that have this painterly texture, but their powers, and other accents like smoke or explosions or auras are all in 2D.

Then there are sequences that are entirely in 2D, with thick line weight and sharp edges that bring to mind the style of a Square Enix game, The World Ends With You. I'm so curious to know what goes into choosing which style to use for certain scenes and sequences. Whatever the thought process is, it's working!

The frequent shifts in style, the blending of 2D and 3D, and what seemed like a lower frame rate for certain action scenes, all seemed reminiscent of the Spider-Verse movies.

The episode certainly starts the show off with a bang, but it also manages to establish a relatable "nobody" character in an underdog position that you want to root for right away. It's imposter syndrome in a very literal sense.

In the closing scene of the episode, there's a little bit of that typical main character "nervous and not-yet-confident=with-the-opposite-sex" trope unfolding, but then it gets subverted immediately to end with an unexpected cliffhanger.

One of the promotional videos for the show has this tag line: "This is a world where people's belief creates heroes, and the one hero that gains the most belief is acclaimed as X."

I'm really excited to see what Haoling and his team have in store for us with To Be Hero X!

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