Title: Boku no Hero Academia The Movie 2: Heroes Rising / My Hero Academia The Movie 2
Length: 1 x 104 minute movie
Year of release: 2019
It’s not unknown that spin-off movies, like this one, rarely mean anything to the franchise’s overall canon. It’s usually a brief, meaningless adventure featuring your favourite characters and ultimately adding no real developments to the larger story. Of course, My Hero Academia is a slightly different franchise, where its anime counterpart takes every opportunity to add details and paint a much broader picture, so it’s no real surprise that, like the previous movie, Heroes Rising is far more epic and far more important than any pointless popcorn fodder has any right to be.
The setup is rather cookie-cutter, but no less effective. One of the experiments to pass on One For All has created Nine, a supervillain who has access to Nine different powers. He is set on world-domination, but wants to obtain a quirk that can prevent the drawback that his original quirk causes, which requires a very specific healing ability. A boy with that quirk just so happens to live on the island that Deku and the rest of Class 1A are stationed to get some real hero experience.
Much of the criticism that My Hero Academia has drawn over its no-less impressive run has been largely related to two key aspects that it neglects: showing that hero work involves more than punching the baddies harder than anybody else, and showing that female heroes have more to them than sex appeal – creating situations where very few of 1A truly get to shine. With a handful of anime original scenes and even whole episodes, Momo’s leadership skills and Tsuyu and her Frog quirk have been fleshed out, but this opening of the movie keenly shows that each hero has something to offer to mundane life with each hero offering something novel to solve the various problems of lost bags and broken vehicles. The first act of the movie, then, shows the gang what real hero experience looks like – and is contagiously inspirational to do the right thing at the right time. As usual, My Hero Academia’s gung-ho attitude means the movie watches aplomb, particularly during Deku’s inspiring speech to the small boy in question, right up until Nine comes to the island and the reason we tuned in begins.
The class essentially fend off a siege from highly skilled villains with thin backstories, but what makes it so successful is the huge range of powers on display, and the combination plays possible. As demonstrated earlier in the movie, different combinations of quirks produce wondrous effects, such that even though the usual suspects of Bakugo and Deku take the final fight with brilliant force, everybody gets a chance to shine. Sero, the duct-tape based hero, finally proves his worth alongside Uraraka, and the usually useless animal-control hero, Koda, provides fantastic cover. No one hero contributes more than others except for Bakugo and Deku, except that much of the planning comes from class-wide decisions. Everybody’s involved; even the typically apathetic Mineta contributes to such a degree that desperation is captured, and creates an urgently exciting final stand that cannot be looked away from.
Watching all this play out is a treat, because, as usual, the animation affair is stunning. Even before the final act’s last hurrah, an utterly inspiring scenic devastation filmed in beauty to the quiet insert-song’s juxtaposition, the film is impressive throughout. CGI cars in the first scene are a little robotic, but fit the artstyle nicely. The designs of the new ragtag bunch of villains leaves a little to be desired, too, but it is effective enough to sell their quirks without any need for explanation.
Speaking of that tremendous finale, a rather series defining plot-point occurs, but is rather sadly undone in a menial way. Many critics have thrown their amateur writing chops at the problem to create something more fulfilling while still irrelevant, so it is upsetting that the film ends with an almost dour note to remind us that this film, no matter how epic, cannot escape the price of admission: awesome, but inconsequential.