My Hero Academia is only on season four and only has 24 tankōbon, but it has achieved a status that few anime reach in this short time, positioning itself as the heir to the shōnen throne. But while fans of the anime and manga know this already, the franchise’s second feature film, My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising solidifies this.
In the film, Class 1-A visits Nabu Island where they finally get to do some real hero work by running their own hero agency on the island and solving its problems. From fixing tractors to making more ice for vendors, Nabu Island doesn’t have villains and honestly doesn’t even have crime. It’s the perfect place for the kids to get experience while also relaxing. Well, relaxing until they’re attacked by Nine (Johnny Yong Bosch). With an unfathomable quirk, his power is eerily familiar, as is his costuming. Set on taking something from the island, the kids of UA have to figure out how to handle a villain incursion led by the strongest baddie they’ve ever fought. In their fight, Midoriya (Justin Briner) and his friends rise as the island’s only hope and affirm their status as the next generation’s hero.
I don’t know where to begin with My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising. There is so much I want to say and yet, so much I want viewers to experience without any information, and because I think the best place to start is by highlighting that this film breaks the anime feature mold. This film is connected to every episode that has come before it. Not only does it use past seasons, but it uses All Might’s teaching, growth, and all of the relationships built along the way to ground the story and add emotional stakes as each character grows. And when I say they grow, there isn’t a single kid from Class1-A that doesn’t have a moment that showcases their strength and their determination to go beyond. Yes, everyone. Even Mineta.
But the moments that characters like Tokoyami (Josh Grelle), Uraraka (Luci Christian), Todoroki (David Matranga), and the others shine aren’t forced. Each and every moment is earned, showcases their willingness to sacrifice, and ultimately causes the audience to have a moment where they realize how much each and every student has grown. Not only are they willing to go beyond, they do it, and they shine more powerful than we’ve ever seen them. This is even true for characters who showcase perhaps smaller skill abilities than showcased previously, like Todoroki. When we look back on his explosive power against Bakugo (Clifford Chapin) in season two’s Sports Festival arc, he wasn’t in control, having just had a moment of growth to see his power as his own and not belonging to abusive father. But in My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, Todoroki is careful to not hurt bystanders, keeping his power in check and yet, still pushing himself past his limit even under control.
That said, there is a never moment where the UA students feel like adults, a task not easily handled by shōnen. In keeping in line with the series, each student is a student, growing and learning about themselves while they have coming-of-age moments that show their true strength. The focus of My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is Bakugo and Midoriya’s relationship, but like the series, no one is left in their dust, with a team of villains keeping everyone busy.
As we move to our main two for the film, My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising showcases the heart of the series and cements its ability to continually push conceptions of shōnen while paying homage to what came before it. That said, my favorite anime moment from the last ten years is in this movie. This isn’t just because of the scale and power of the final battle, but because of everything that has led up to it. As a shōnen rival, Bakugo has broken the mold. Through four seasons he has grown as a person and audiences have been given more than just a typical storyline of getting more powerful and begrudgingly being a sidekick in our hero’s story.
Instead, Bakugo has agency and growth that showcases the lessons All Might (Christopher Sabat) has taught him and showcases that he’s come to respect Midoriya. They both have been given enough dynamic growth to be heroes in their own right. In My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, their rivalry is cemented as the best I’ve seen in shōnen. Not because of their strength, but because of their vulnerability and how they are both prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world. While we know this is who Midoriya is, the one to break his body to save people, we get to see Bakugo given the same ability for sacrifice, something we had yet to see in his arcs. As for Midoriya, he’s still the example of pure goodness, strength, and heroism. Only now, we get to see his quirk develop even more and see how he makes it his own, and doing it with a smile.
The film’s score is gorgeous and perfectly emotional. Hitting every high and crushing low, I can replay the final battle in my mind and hear that music. Additionally, Studio Bones has outdone itself. The animation in this film is epic, crisp, clear, and defined with huge colors that pop off the screen and grab you. But one of the best things about this film is that it’s extremely accessible for new fans and those who may not have ever seen a single episode of the anime series or read a chapter of the manga. The emotion is delivered so well that it can hit and welcome new MHA fans to the FUNimation table.
Truly, there is no fault to My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising. From characters to animation and story, everything hit me. Emotional, heart-pounding, and everything a fan of shōnen could want, this film has set a new standard for franchise-connected anime films. In this film, every member of Class 1-A thrives, shines, and rises beyond.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is playing in select theaters on February 26th.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising
- Rating - 10/1010/10
Truly, there is no fault to My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising. From characters to animations and story, everything hit me. Emotional, heart-pounding, and everything a fan of shonen could want, this film has set a new standard for franchise connected anime films.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.