“[You] want to be a hero who can save people in trouble. I want to defeat the enemy, so I can save people. The order is different, but what we’re aiming for is the same.” – Deku, “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising”
Funimation Entertainment brought the Japanese superhero manga “My Hero Academia” to select theatres in the U.S. on Feb. 26 and surprisingly grossed over $11 million at the box office during opening week, making the film a huge success in the West.
The “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising” movie is an extension of the ongoing animated series of the same name first released in 2016 and originally written by illustrator Kohei Horikoshi. The series currently has four seasons and tells the story of 15-year-old Izuku Midoriya, a Quirkless boy with aspirations to become the world’s greatest hero like his role model, All Might. After displaying acts of bravery and strength, All Might notices Midoriya and transfers his own Quirk, One for All, to Midoriya and trains him to apply for the prestigious U.A. Hero Academy. Midoriya, no longer Quirkless, successfully earns his admission alongside childhood frenemy, Katsuki Bakugo, and enrolls in the Class 1-A hero course where Midoriya begins his path towards becoming the world’s greatest hero.
“My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising” takes place after Season 4, Episode 18, and it begins with the Class 1-A students being sent to an isolated island to perform hero work without the assistance of teachers or professional heroes. However, trouble strikes when powerful villains attack the island, planning to eliminate weak Quirkholders in hopes of allowing the strongest to triumph and reshape society’s hierarchy.
Despite the many themes behind “Heroes Rising,” such as the power of teamwork and the importance of selflessness, the film places heavy emphasis on the emotional relationship between Midoriya and Bakugo. Throughout the manga and animated series, Midoriya had always looked up to Bakugo for being strong and confident while Bakugo looked down on Midoriya for being Quirkless and overly altruistic. Bakugo even nicknamed Midoriya “Deku,” the Japanese word for “useless person,” though Midoriya endorses the name later on. The resentment Bakugo holds against Deku builds up over the years and, as a result, Deku and Bakugo have never been able to work together despite being two of the most elite fighters at U.A.
The complicated relationship between Bakugo and Deku that made “Heroes Rising” so special; it was used to create an inner story beyond the surface-level plot, adding a layer of depth and emotion to the overall film. The storyline was written well enough that the inner story about Deku and Bakugo’s relationship climaxed simultaneously with the film’s outer story regarding the defeat of the villains, gorging viewers with exhilaration and excitement. However, the best part about the film’s screenwriting was the writers’ ability to mold the movie to viewers who have never seen the original series while providing up-to-date fans with a plethora of easter eggs for them to geek over. It also catered perfectly to an audience beyond those already invested in “My Hero Academia” without affecting the natural progression of the series’ storyline, though it was executed roughly. There were some complications at the end of the film that needed more in-depth explaining, but writers absolved it mercilessly within a 30-second dialogue, leaving viewers confused but relieved.
Nonetheless, the plot would not have been as impactful if it were not for the conceptually-flamboyant animations throughout the movie; the animation itself had its own unique development it could be considered a character of its own. At the beginning of the film, the animation is vivid and bubbly, depicting emerald green grasslands painted behind wide-eyed characters with sparkling irises to highlight Class 1-A’s innocence and good deeds. But as the story progressed, the animation grew grim and traded its detailed imagery for more abstract, but equally enticing, beams of light with neon hues.
The animation during battle scenes was the most invigorating to watch thanks to the excessive use of contrasting colors exploding from every corner of the screen with every punch a character threw. Viewers were definitely overwhelmed with the amount of sensory information displayed on screen that it only helped convey the passion and emotion behind each character, especially Bakugo and Deku.
That is not to say that all other characters were neglected. In fact, the film did a fantastic job at displaying each character’s distinctive Quirk in creative ways. From Aoyama’s laser navel that deflected enemy attacks to Momo’s ability to produce combat equipment using her own lipids, each character played an essential role in the larger scheme to defeat the villains. Class 1-A became an indestructible force in the face of chaos thanks to their emotional bonds and efficient teamwork, further pushing the film’s themes.
One of the other critiques the film seemed to face was the lack of screen time given to Shoto Todoroki, one of the stronger characters in the anime series and a fan favorite whose Quirk is half fire, half ice. Todoroki was built up to be one of the main protagonists in “My Hero Academia,” alongside Deku and Bakugo, only to be swept under the rug as the series progressed, a trend that carried over into the film. But the creator’s decision to do so is not surprising, given Todoroki could have easily upstaged the dynamic between Bakugo and Deku, and all the other characters. Still, it left fans wanting more from Todoroki and new fans are now unaware of the magnitude of his power.
Overall, “Heroes Rising” teaches its viewers that being a hero is more than winning battles against villains — it means to be empathetic, selfless and cooperative. Being a hero means building strength where there is weakness and to push beyond one’s limit as said by the U.A. motto: “Plus Ultra!” The film’s goal was to inspire, and it did just that.
The characters’ development, the animation and the plot’s duality wonderfully pieced together to create the beautiful picture that is “My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising.” It is no surprise that it has become a smash hit at the box office as it left fans, both old and new, craving more and setting the bar high for future anime films to come.
Angela Silva is an Entertainment Intern for the 2020 Winter quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.