It’s almost a rite of passage for a popular anime to test its merits at the cinema. These super-sized adaptations can range from cheap cash grabs to impressive pieces of filmmaking, but My Hero Academia’s first foray into longer storytelling is one of the most successful, passionate transitions in the medium. My Hero Academia: Two Heroes understands the weight and expectations of such a move and what’s exciting about it is that it finds a story that necessitates its feature length.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes makes the safe choice to design this film into a story that simultaneously fits into the series’ canon as well as exists as a standalone that would serve as an entry into the franchise. There’s a brief rundown of what the series is about and how this world operates for the completely uninitiated, but the film doesn’t spend too much time in recap mode and trusts that its audience will be able to follow along.
Additionally, if you’re not fully caught up with the latest episodes of the series, Two Heroes operates in enough of a bubble that there are minimal spoilers from the show’s more recent arcs (the winner of the Sports Festival is revealed). That being said, this movie is clearly designed for fans of the anime series that are looking for something a little extra special. Accordingly, the film chooses the popular “vacation” route for its story as Midoriya, All Might, and other fan favorites receive invitations to I-Expo, a prestigious exhibition that highlights special quirks and assets to the field of heroics by some of the best minds of the world.
Two Heroes takes its time and allows the many sights of I-Expo to properly sink in with the audience as Midoriya attempts to process it all. As always with My Hero Academia, a lot of the enjoyment comes from how the wide-eyed Midoriya acts as a strong audience surrogate as he experiences exciting new innovations in the field of heroics. Frankly the film could go on for another half hour as it showcases these unusual quirks and heroes and there’d be no complaints here. Midoriya’s enthusiasm remains contagious and it’s helpful that the film remembers to have fun just as much as it brings the action.
After Midoriya and All Might begin to settle in at I-Expo, they find themselves with a serious problem headed in their direction. Unsurprisingly, I-Expo turns into a hotbed for villainous activity and the peaceful getaway transforms into an impromptu battle between good and evil with the outcome determining All Might’s safety. In that sense, Two Heroes is very much a character study on All Might and why he’s viewed as such a significant symbol of peace for all heroes. My Hero Academia hasn’t kept All Might’s past a secret to the audience, but this deeper dive into who he is still manages to shade in new aspects of the hero. If Midoriya is one half of the “Two Heroes” that the movie’s title refers to, then All Might is clearly the other member of this pair.
On that note, the rapport between Midoriya and All Might is a huge component of the film’s first and final acts. The two get to bond in a significant way during this vacation. They really bounce off of each other and it’s nice to see the story let these two enjoy each other’s company and be people with one another, in addition to heroes. In spite of how their scenes together work so well, it’s a smart approach on the film’s part that both Midoriya and All Might serve distinct purposes here and have unique missions to execute. The film ends with the two of them operating as a perfectly synchronized superhero team, but the movie benefits from its decision to split them up during its earlier portions.
Another strong aspect that Two Heroes leans on is the amicable relationship that Midoriya forms with Melissa, All Might’s “niece.” The film juxtaposes Melissa’s regular ways with how far Midoriya has come along since he inherited All Might’s One For All quirk. Even though Midoriya is now U.A. High’s veritable wunderkind, it’s useful to have him reflect on simpler times and not forget his humble beginnings. Two Heroes promises plenty of incredible action sequences and showcases stunning quirks, but even if it didn’t, the film would still be a success for the grounded territory it reaches between Midoriya and Melissa.
Furthermore, Two Heroes doesn’t forget that it has a wide range of fantastic characters at its disposal beyond Midoriya and All Might. The majority of Midoriya’s fellow classmates all get their due here and there are many set pieces that highlight all of their diverse skills. At first it seems a little ridiculous when so many of Midoriya’s friends begin to show up, but then it plays into the absurdity of this and the film basically turns into a revolving door of appearances from people that Midoriya knows.
It’s hard to begrudge the film here because a film that only has Midoriya and All Might at its disposal is drastically less interesting than one that allows Iida, Todoroki, Mineta, and dozens of others to play. Bakugo in particular really gets to shine here and the events in the film’s third act will surely give the Midoriya and Bakugo shippers plenty of fodder to fuel future debates. It’s also just highly entertaining to watch Uraraka squirm over Midoriya’s bond with Melissa. The film doesn’t shy away from the humor in some of the uncomfortable pairings of characters that it puts together.
The larger events of the movie’s plot also get broken up by entertaining detours, like park attractions or the opening night party for the exhibition. Elements like this help capture the “slice of life” aspect of My Hero Academia and the film doesn’t forget that there’s a lot more to this show than crazy battles. These elements may be a drag for some, but they help this film tell a more complete story.
Two Heroes also doesn’t waste any time with the news that I-Expo is in danger. The film very early on introduces the idea that the peaceful exhibition has been infiltrated by villains who have mayhem on their minds. Even if their plans aren’t public knowledge, this early appearance by the villains is an effective way to inject dread into the fun film. As moments of joy between Midoriya, Melissa, and All Might get time to breathe, there’s a nagging feeling that any of these idyllic scenes could be ruined by an act of terrorism. Furthermore, the way in which the movie slowly ekes out the details of their evil scheme keeps this cabal of bad guys mysterious, but still intimidating.
I-Expo’s big gala quickly devolves into a radical hostage where all of the heroes, All Might included, are restrained and useless. This means that Midoriya, Melissa, and the rest of the attending U.A. High group are the only ones who can save the day and take out these terrorists. Yet at the same time they’re technically not allowed to intervene since they don’t have their hero licenses yet. The gang’s ability to find a loophole around this and determine the best plan of attack here gives the middle portion of the film a suspenseful enthusiasm that powers it through to the final act. It’s a little surprising that this film essentially becomes My Hero Academia meets Die Hard, but why the hell not?
Two Heroes makes an interesting decision in regards to how the bulk of its villains are pretty much bargain bin trash, rather than some incredible threat. The point here isn’t the strength of the villains, but rather the element of surprise that they attack with and the heroes’ ability to work together in this emergency. The final foe that All Might and Midoriya face does pose a bit more of a challenge, but again the focus is on their teamwork. There are still enough surprises and twists that go down during the film’s finale that should keep viewers guessing until the very end.
Finally, Bones Animation truly goes above and beyond for this film and the end product looks incredible. Whether it’s the opening frames that show majestic hawks in flight or the film’s breathtaking final fight, it’s all gorgeous and some of the best animation that the show has ever produced. Midoriya is also given the means to truly use the full extent of his quirk and the rare opportunity does not disappoint. It’s truly sublime to watch this battle and its sprawling choreography play out on a big screen if you get the opportunity. They’re action sequences that fully take advantage of the cinematic scale of the film.
The film also begins with a thrilling all-out action sequence that immediately establishes a fast-paced baseline for the kind of energy that fuels this movie. There are of course moments of downtime throughout the movie, but it does a good job to keep the action steady and varied throughout this adventure, whether it’s through actual danger or friendly feats of strength. On top of that, a catchy score consistently punctuates the action in an entertaining way.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is an exceptional debut film from the popular anime series. It understands what makes the show so popular and it finds a story that can properly showcase the series’ characters and action. This is very much an example of the show at its best and hopefully My Hero Academia will get many more opportunities to tell these longer, more complex stories through feature-length films.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.