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World Heroes’ Mission review: My Hero Academia’s best movie yet!

World Heroes' Mission

Review

World Heroes’ Mission review: My Hero Academia’s best movie yet!

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission is the third animated film based on My Hero Academia. Ever since season three, My Hero Academia has had a movie released in the same year as each new season. Two Heroes, the first film, while successful, was a tad forgettable save for its fabulous conclusion. The second film, Heroes Rising, was an all-around more enthralling film that made better use of its huge cast.

The prospect of a third film would have felt exhaustive had it not been for the pandemic pushing everything back to 2021. It’s hard to believe a new film each year going forward will be anything but a hindrance to the quality of the show proper.

I say that knowing full well how fabulous these movies end up looking. With the benefit of time, my excitement only grew for this new film, but did it deliver beyond the glitz and glamour of simply being a new cinematic experience?

I don’t know if anime films attached to big franchises statistically fail more than they thrive, but their dubious existence in canon surely makes them an odd beast to tackle. The story can’t aspire to affect the long-term narrative. But does that have to be a huge handicap?

Plenty of shows have standalone adventures that only affect the original characters within them. However, some would argue that standalone stories within canon still have the benefit of those experiences directly impacting the main characters going forward.

In defense of anime films, even if that impact isn’t directly felt in the main series, it could still be present. Not all character changes are obvious. Who’s to say an anime-only fan is wrong for contributing the experiences within a side-story to how that character has grown?

Assuming the side-story (like many of these films) isn’t expressly denied validity by the main story, it’s practically a part of that story. Plus, all of this hinges on whether you argue that valid character storytelling hinges on continuous growth. The struggle to overcome an obstacle is a self-contained arc in many cases. In others, it is a culmination of learned experience, thereby showing growth through wisdom.

What I’m building up to is that regardless of the narrative drawbacks to anime films, we still get weirdly excited about them. Partly because the energy in those theaters is on a whole other level when everyone is an anime fan. On the other hand, it feels like the story we love, elevated to a whole new level.

This time, the story follows Deku, Bakugo, and Todoroki, who are still doing a work-study under Endeavor. They get wrapped up in a worldwide hunt for Humarise, a terrorist group using a weapon to make people’s quirks go haywire. They believe that quirks will become too dangerous over generations and lead humanity to destruction. So they are trying to eliminate quirks from the world.

Deku gets mixed up with Rody Soul, a young man hustling to support his little brother and sister. When Deku and Rody get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, they are labeled criminals and hunted down. They need to make a run for it while they and the other heroes try to find out how to stop Humarise.

Heroes Rising was a very good-looking film, but World Heroes’ Mission may have dwarfed it considerably by sheer force of creativity. There are these awe-inspiring tracking shots that seem to take inspiration from the famous “one-shot” scenes of live-action cinema.

Rody’s parkour should have been an early hint that these kinds of shots would dominate the film. One particular cut incorporating all of the main characters across a desert canyon kept going for so long that I swore they made the film just to flex.

The signature of the film was the unconventional ways the “camera” shifted around the hand-drawn characters as they flew three-dimensionally across digital backgrounds. Any instances of 3D animation were hardly noticeable save for a bus that looked simply alien in its texture compared to the rest of the artwork.

Heroes Rising, the second film, gets a lot of praise for raising the stakes progressively as the film goes on. Given that the story was Horikoshi’s original concept for the series ending, that makes a lot of sense. And yet, strangely, with less of a focus on Class 1A as a whole, I think this film might be even better.

Perhaps it’s just my personal taste, but I think this film goes much harder in beating the crap out of the heroes. Sure, Deku and Bakugo both break limbs in Heroes Rising, but World Heroes’ Mission has characters getting stabbed and shot during the climax constantly.

There’s more blood than I was expecting and the enemy designs felt reminiscent of Bones’ creepiest and coolest enemies from the old days of Fullmetal Alchemist or Darker Than Black. There’s an edge to the action that made me nostalgic for Studio Bones’ works of old. The final fight is set in the mountains on a rainy night as well and that’s just my aesthetic to a T.

I’ve praised Yutaka Nakamura a lot. I’ll praise him much more in my life and on my numerous blogs. I have to take the time to praise his work here because, after three movies of animating the end of each final fight in these movies, I think this film is emblematic of what makes him one of the best animators in the world.

There is a cut done by Nakamura in which Midoriya is moving so fast as to create a light trail from where he begins to the moment of impact. In between the start and end, after images of him can be seen punching furiously, moving in and out of each other.

Nakamura is conveying realistic movement and weight within an abstract depiction of a character moving faster than the speed of light. It is elaborate and labyrinthine, but incredibly easy to read. It is the peak of character-centric abstraction that has dominated Nakamura’s work over the last half-decade.

I’m not just taking this opportunity to praise Nakamura, but the soul of animation that is present in shows like this, from studios like this, and especially during cinematic events LIKE THIS.

Is it perfect? No. For all the interesting buildup, I wish that the “Quirk Doomsday Theory” was given more time to be developed. While the villains are objectively wrong, their theory would be interesting to explore.

The fear that characters’ powers are getting too strong has been hinted at in the main series. Making that a central conflict here could have injected powerful philosophical divides into an already incredible battle.

Perhaps it was only hinted at because that story might be covered later in the main series. It wouldn’t be the first time that the movies hinted at ideas that later appear in the main series. If so, then I can’t wait for the idea to be explored. If not, it was a wasted opportunity that could have made this film even better.

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission is without a doubt the best film yet and another reason to get into the series if you are crazy about wild action animation and gorgeous sakuga.

A-

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission is currently playing in theaters across the US through FunimationFilms. There is no announced digital or physical release date at the time of writing.

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