Last Friday, the latest installment of the world’s most popular ongoing superhero saga opened in the United States. No, it’s not the MCU’s Eternals (but you should read Evan’s correct positive take on that one here ). I’m talking about the latest My Hero Academia story, World Heroes’ Mission.
For the uninitiated, the premise of My Hero Academia is simple: Our hero, Izuku Midoriya, is a boy born into a world where 80% of the population has superpowers (called “Quirks”). Unfortunately, he’s one of the 20% who do not. However, circumstances align that allow Midoriya to inherit the powers of the most popular hero in the world, All-Might. His inheritance means attending school, of course.
The manga series is still ongoing in Japan and the anime series has kept pace by releasing roughly one season each of the last four years. The last three years have also seen a My Hero Academia film released. Because the anime follows the manga, the movies (largely) do not and so do not advance the story in any meaningful way. Their big events are usually ignored. To be blunt, these films are exercises in milking money from the series.
That’s not to say they aren’t worthwhile. Their release is an annual celebration for fans, and usually the adventures are a lot of fun. Each movie is also an opportunity to bring new fans into the franchise because the movies all reintroduce the world and its characters.
World Heroes’ Mission follows Midoriya and his compatriots as they spread out around the world to stop an anti-Quirk group, Humarise, whose goal is to kill all humans possessing Quirks. Midoriya, stationed in a invented South American country, has to go on the run when he’s framed by the local police force after he saves another Quirky teenager, Rody. Midoriya and Rody are chased by Humarise and its associated villains, while Midoriya’s classmates Todoroki and Bakugo attempt to rescue him and prevent whatever nefarious scheme is about to be launched.
As far as these movie plots go, this is not actually too bad. Focusing on Midoriya and Rody allows for some really fun character moments and, more importantly, stakes. The previous My Hero movie spread its narrative focus far too thin, resulting in a movie with few memorable moments. Series director Kenji Nagasaki (who also directed the previous two movies) returns here and he continues to show that he has a good feeling for what makes Mangaka Hirokoshi’s comic series work so well. He and writer Yōsuke Kuroda (who also wrote the first film, as well as some other great anime) wrote an original script for the film but it feels in line with the show’s tone. Honestly, my biggest criticism is that the sick new outfits teased for the main trio are used only for the film’s opening sequence before a return to the old outfits. Why you gotta tease me like this, My Hero?
As a series, My Hero Academia has always been an aesthetic powerhouse. Director Nagasaki effortlessly brings the visual panache for which the series is known; several battles are basically just assaults on the eyes. The film occasionally strays into the incomprehensible, but I could just be speaking as an old man with aged eyes.
Yuki Hayashi returns as composer for the film’s soundtrack, as he has done for the series and other films, and reliably delivers appropriate takes on his already very good soundtrack. The notes hit at just the right moment and help the film feel like the big blown-up episode it is. Classic J-rockers ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION return to deliver the film’s theme song and insert song (i.e., one played during the film). These guys have been around for an age and haven’t lost any of their ability to spin a classic rock tune. I saw the Japanese dub, and the seiyu (voice actors) continue in their fine form; Daiki Yamashita as Midoriya continues to lead the cast with his wholesome and empathetic version of the character. World Heroes’ Mission is the whole package.
My Hero Academia is crazy popular. It’s a great example of how much the anime world has changed since I was a young anime fan in the mid-2000s. We used to have bootlegs of the movie versions of our favourite shows. Now they climb to the top of the worldwide box office. It’s great that fans new and old can experience these characters as part of a global event. My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission isn’t going to win any awards this side of the Pacific and likely won’t be noticed by the general moviegoing public, but fans will be drawn to it and rewarded by its quality.