Review

by Richard Eisenbeis,

My Hero Academia the Movie -Heroes: Rising-

Synopsis:
My Hero Academia the Movie -Heroes: Rising-
With winter in full swing, the aspiring heroes of U.A. High School class 1-A embark on a special project: to act as their own superhero agency on a small tropical island south of Japan--and without any pro-hero supervision. There, the class busies themselves with everyday heroics: working as lifeguards, helping the elderly, and finding lost children. But when a quartet of powerful super villains makes their way to the island, cutting it off from the outside world in the process, it falls to the class to protect the citizens of the island. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as our heroes find themselves completely outclassed--especially by the villain group's leader who has powers that seem all too terrifyingly familiar.
Review:

At this point, I don't think anyone would deny that My Hero Academia is a breakout hit. The popular superhero manga has spun off into games, novels, and, of course, anime. And even though the fourth season of the TV show is currently airing, Japanese theaters have seen the release of the new film My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising as well.

My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising does a lot of things right: first and foremost is its choice of setting. Building on the internship ideas seen in seasons two and four, our heroes-in-training are tasked with establishing their own temporary superhero agency in a small city on an isolated island with a minuscule crime rate.

As an in-universe concept this makes sense: give the kids some real responsibility in a relatively safe location. Let them see the ins and outs of the daily grind that comes from being a hero when there are no random super villains to fight. And better still, it shows them how much the average person cares about even the smallest act of heroic kindness.

Then from a narrative standpoint, this setting serves to isolate the young heroes--forcing them to deal with the villains that pop up with no hope of timely pro-hero intervention. Something even more important when you understand these villains aren't like the ones the class has faced so far.

Rather than wanting to punish heroes or form a villain society, each of these villains are anarchists. They believe in survival of the fittest, nothing else. And this makes sense. Each of them were born with especially destructive powers that make it difficult for them to exist in--or be useful to--normal superhuman society.

This leaves our heroes fighting way above their weight class and with their backs to a wall. If they fail, that's it for anyone “weaker” than the villains. But since class 1-A can't simply overpower the villains, they're forced to fall back on their three advantages: smarts, knowledge of the terrain, and numbers. Seeing what the class comes up with to fight these superior foes is a real highlight of the film. It gives everyone their own unique moments to shine and yet never feels like pandering fanservice.

But the real thing that makes this film standout is its climax. In a recent interview with Newtype magazine, Kenji Nagasaki, the film's director, revealed that elements of this film's climax were provided by the franchise's creator Kōhei Horikoshi--and these elements were originally going to appear in the final battle of the entire story.

Watching in the theater, it's obvious what these elements are and they make the climax insanely impactful. Both Deku and Bakugo complete not only their individual character arcs but also their shared arc in a scene full of both action and drama. It really does feel like you could be watching the climax to the entire franchise.

Now that said, it's probably a good thing these elements weren't used for the climax of the whole story. While it sets up an ending that fits both narratively and thematically, it's also one that would absolutely polarize the fanbase. So giving it to us as a kind of “what if” moment in a film that will likely never be mentioned in either the manga or anime isn't such a bad idea.

Most of the problems with Heroes: Rising stem from the film's place in the whole series' timeline. Rather than taking place before or during the current season of the TV anime (season four) it actually takes place much later--at least three arcs later if the events of the manga are anything to go by.

This creates an odd discordance if you've only watched the anime and not read the manga. Characters have new gear and techniques that seemingly appear completely out of left field. This in turn, leaves you, the viewer, always playing catch up. (Deku in particular can do many things that would be impossible for him in the current season.) This confusion also serves to drain the film's tension--if you don't know what the heroes are capable of, you're never sure how much danger they're really in at any given moment.

The other minor gripe I have with the film is that, with all the style and flash on screen, it often seems to forget that not everyone has some kind of damage reduction ability. Given the fact that our young heroes have no choice but to go all out or die, this film should really end with some kids in trauma counseling after committing their first murders.

When it comes to the animation of Heroes: Rising, the visual quality varies extremely. Action scenes are painstakingly detailed, filled with vibrant colors and fluid motion. Non-action scenes, on the other hand, often look like upscales of unimportant scenes from the TV show--something quite noticeable when watching on the big screen. Nothing ever looks unforgivably bad, but the dips in quality are certainly easy to pick out.

As for the soundtrack, its largely a lot of remixes from the TV show--as one would expect. However, there is one musical moment that stands out: the climax. In the final fight, the sound effects go quiet and a slow song, heavy with vocals starts playing. Eventually, it becomes obvious that it's a vocal version of “You Say Run!” At some points, the musical results are oddly discordant and a more fast-paced orchestral remix would better convey the emotion of what's happening on the screen. However, as the fight draws to a close, the vocal arrangement fits the visuals quite well. In the end, it's an aural experiment that both does and doesn't work.

All in all, despite its problems, My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising is excellent for a one-off movie that's part of a long running series. It puts our heroes in a unique (yet plausible) situation and forces them to use all they've learned to save innocent lives as they face far more powerful opponents. Then, it finishes up with a climax that is both visually and thematically astounding--all while giving a tantalizing peek at an ending to the franchise that could have been.

My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising was released in Japanese theaters on December 20, 2019. Funimation has announced plans to screen the film in both the US and Canada in early 2020.

Grade:
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B

+ An amazing climax that would work as the ending to the entire franchise.
A time skip that leaves anime-only fans unsure of just how powerful our heroes are supposed to be.

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Production Info:
Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Script: Yousuke Kuroda
Music: Yuki Hayashi
Original creator: Kōhei Horikoshi
Character Design: Yoshihiko Umakoshi

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My Hero Academia the Movie -Heroes: Rising- (movie)

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