Class 1-A visits Nabu Island where they finally get to do some real hero work. The place is so peaceful that it’s more like a vacation… until they’re attacked by a villain with an unfathomable Quirk! His power is eerily familiar, and it looks like Shigaraki had a hand in the plan. But with All Might retired and citizens’ lives on the line, there’s no time for questions. Deku and his friends are the next generation of heroes, and they’re the island’s only hope.
I’ll be honest, this was my first foray into anime, though for anyone coming to My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising with no prior knowledge of the comics, four series and the first feature (that film, Two Heroes, made the Top 10 list of highest grossing domestic anime films of all time), it is gratifyingly self-contained.
Clearly, if you’re new to My Hero Academia, like me you’re going to miss out on shocks and twists; and the development of the characters (plus what happens to them) will probably resonate less.
But it is a standalone movie, that provides enough back story so you can concentrate on unfolding events – and, well, you’ve got to start somewhere.
There’s easily enough to keep the least anime-aware viewer glued to the screen, as a group of teen heroes-in-training have to protect Nabu Island’s unprepared residents and fight back against a terrifying incoming threat – with no back up from older, more experienced heroes.
I don’t know which (if any) age group this film is aimed at, but its message of what true heroism really means, and its themes of working together (including the sacrifices to a person’s dreams that can involve), is perfect for teens.
There are a few flashbacks to flesh out hero Izuku “Deku” Midoraya’s motivations, though unsurprisingly those of the others in class 1-A, the hero course at Japan’s premiere hero academy, remained a bit of a mystery to me. This is still a tremendously enjoyable tale though: warm-hearted, affectionate and gloriously exciting.
It all takes place in a world where 80% of people possess a superhuman trait, or Quirk. But with society’s villains also in possession, and older heroes retiring, now the next generation of heroes must be trained up – hence Class 1-A’s trip to Nabu Island to support the local population.
Nabu Island doesn’t really have much crime though, so the class are kept busy using their Quirks for charging batteries, making ice, finding lost dogs, finding lost parrots, and – when little Katsuma (Yuka Terasaki, Maxey Whitehead in the English dubbed version) goes missing – finding lost children. Though Katsuma’s older sister Mahoro (Tomoyo Kurosawa, Dani Chambers) is distinctly unimpressed with the hero service she receives.
Living on the island with Mahoro, Katsuma is “Mister Deku”‘s parallel, desperate to be a hero too. He worships Deku; though Mahoro is, for reasons that are initially unclear, entirely against her little brother becoming one too.
The locals though are delighted with their new provisionally-licenced heroes, turning up with plates of food as thank yous.
Born without a Quirk, Deku (Daiki Yamashita, Justin Briner) has always wanted to be the greatest hero; All Might, the No.1 hero, has given him the One For All, an incredibly powerful and transferable Quirk, though within Deku it hasn’t reached full strength.
The rising heroes themselves are endearingly eager and enthusiastic, if occasionally arrogant. Katsuki Bakugō (Nobuhiko Okamoto, Clifford Chapin), hero name Kacchan, Deku’s lifelong friend and also rival, bad-temperedly makes clear he wants to be the No.1 hero and will fight Deku once the One For All Quirk has further developed.
Approaching heroism from different angles, both want to be the best, and both have to learn what that means and how it can be achieved.
Despite the welcome focus on the different members of Class 1-A, I’d be lying if I said I could remember them all afterwards. Just as I’d worked out who one was, we’d moved on.
For novices, the, um, quirky ones understandably stood out during the movie: Ayoyama (hero name Can’t Stop Twinkling) who has a “naval laser” from his belly button; Mineta (Grape Juice) throwing purple sticky balls that grow on his head; Kaminari (Chargezuma) surging electricity through his body.
While the heroes are saving lost pets, a team of villains is hitting the island. Including Chimera (Shunsuke Takeuchi), who looks like a down-at-heel animal detective with his wolf’s head, brown trench coat and permanent cigar, they’re continuing a trail of attacks that started on the mainland, using a “Quirk-erasing needle” to remove people’s special abilities.
What they need now is one of the island’s inhabitants, and uber-villain Nine (Yoshio Inoue, Johnny Yong Bosch) will stop at nothing to get hold of what they possess.
Heroes Rising is witty and great fun, vividly striking, and increasingly exciting. The action, once it gets going, is relentless, and continues far longer than I was expecting (helped by an engaging and sometimes moving score).
The final climactic battles push those involved to their limits; yet the story is as emotionally satisfying as it is thrilling.
By the way, as if not having seen anime before wasn’t bad enough, growing up I hated cartoons, apart from one – Battle of the Planets – which I loved and was repeated on British TV throughout the 80s.
The aesthetics of Heroes Rising immediately brought it to mind, and a quick google informed me that it was a Japanese anime series – Science Ninja Team Gatchaman – remade in the US. Maybe I was already an anime fan after all?
I watched the subtitled version. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising is released in the US on 26 February, and selected UK and Irish cinemas from 26 and 27 February respectively, in English language dubbed and subtitled versions.
Watch the trailer now (English dub version):