My Hero Academia has only been around for a few years, but it’s already gained mass acclaim and become one of the most popular anime series in years. The series consistently pushes its characters to challenging new places, but it can be difficult for supplemental feature films to capture the same level of importance and feel like they’re not stuck inside of some non-canonical bubble.
My Hero Academia’s first film, Two Heroes, was considered a success by fans, but the series is now in a more complex place where its endgame is increasingly on its mind. Thankfully, My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising isn’t just an improvement over Two Heroes, but it actually feels like an important chapter from these characters’ lives that won’t just be conveniently forgotten when everything’s said and done.
My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising centers around an extremely powerful new villain, Nine, who is determined to rise to the top and fill the power vacuum that’s opened up after All Might recently stepped down as the “Number One Symbol of Peace.” In spite of how Heroes: Rising doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel with this narrative, it’s the simplicity of this story that makes the film such an enjoyable experience.
U.A. High is very aware of the persistent rise of new threats, so they decide to send all of the Class of 1-A to Nabu Island to run and operate their own hero agency. It’s very entertaining to witness this plucky hero agency in full swing as everyone does a great job at keeping Nabu Island safe. As much as the film emphasizes that these characters are still just teenagers, there is a sense of adulthood that sinks in here and everyone does feel like a more mature version of themselves. It’s an angle that works, especially as the film transitions from its lighter tone to when abject terror sets in over the dangers that Nine brings.
Midoriya and Bakugo take the lead in Heroes: Rising, but this film shows off every character well, whether it’s with their quirks or through more intimate human interactions. The film emphasizes that an understanding and empathy towards the people that need saving is just as important to a hero as their ability to actually save them. Midoriya is able to help and inspire impressionable youth and continue to push his message of positivity to the world.
This empathy is most applicable towards Mahoro (Dani Chambers) and Katsuma (Maxey Whitehead), two Nabu Island children who may give the heroes a hard time, but are very much the beating heart of the film. This is especially true once both Mahoro and Katsuma become unsuspecting targets for Nine, which leads to Midoriya and Bakugo’s paths intersecting with the villain’s.
My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising fits in as many amazingly choreographed animation sequences as possible, whether it’s the stunning highway battle that kicks off the film, Class 1-A’s patrolling of the beach, any of the airborne chase sequences, or even just the lighter combat montages. Heroes: Rising expertly understands how to best show off these quirks and to have them collide in exciting ways, but it also gets the most out of its environments and makes sure that they contribute to the frenetic action as well. Every set piece or fight scene feels worthy of material for a feature film and they all genuinely benefit from a bigger screen.
Nine is the film’s major antagonist, but his entourage all make for very memorable villains (especially the wolf-like Chimera), both in terms of their more unique character designs and their powerful quirks. The film also develops them as actual characters and not just blind threats so there’s a level of empathy present to their mission. This leads to some very satisfying free-for-all action as many heroes take on these overpowered villains at once. The film continually finds unique combinations that show off as many quirks as possible in the most creative ways. It’s also impressive how effortlessly Heroes: Rising shifts its focus between characters throughout these very busy battles. There are constant obstacles that showcase the power of teamwork and that nearly anything can be accomplished when these heroes work together.
Another major hurdle with films of this nature is that the villains have a tendency to not feel important since they can’t trump the major foes within the series. That is not at all an issue here and Heroes: Rising respectfully turns the film’s villain, Nine, into arguably the biggest threat that the series has ever looked at. Nine has an ambitious plan, but he operates with God-like abilities that actually make it seem plausible. It’s for these reason that Nine is such an intimidating threat and the severity of this villain is another one of Heroes: Rising’s greatest strengths. Johnny Yong Bosch gives a wonderful performance in the role.
Nine acts like he’s invincible and it actually feels like Midoriya or Bakugo could die in this film, as ridiculous as such a notion may seem. It’s this energy that results in such a bonkers final fight that truly throws everything at the screen and features the most extravagant battle that the series has ever seen. As much as it’s a sensational display of power, it’s also a deeply poignant representation of the bond between Midoriya and Bakugo, as well as their different—yet valid—approaches to heroism. It becomes a finale that represents everything that’s important to the series and it pushes Midoriya and Bakugo out of their comfort zones in new and frightening ways.
Midoriya and Bakugo’s solution is genuinely moving and easily within the series’ best moments, if not the greatest high that it’s ever reached. This ending is big in every sense of the word and I truly don’t know how the series comes back from it or manages to improve upon it in the series’ actual finale. After this big finish, it’s easy to see why series creator Kohei Horikoshi originally reserved this idea for My Hero Academia’s grand conclusion and has also basically confirmed that this will be the final feature film for the series. It’s as close to perfect as My Hero Academia can get.
My Hero Academia The Movie: Heroes: Rising feels like the definitive My Hero Academia story in many ways. It’s a journey that justifies its feature-length treatment and it effectively juggles the series’ many characters and does right by them all. It’s also loaded with unbelievable visuals. If there are any faults to Heroes: Rising, it’s in the somewhat predictable second act structure of the movie as both heroes and villains go into holding patterns as they lick their wounds and prepare for the final showdown. In spite of this, there’s still enough mystery surrounding Nine’s plan that the film never loses its momentum or focus. My Hero Academia: Heroes: Rising will satisfy both longtime fans of the anime as well as convince total newcomers of the magic of this series.