Producer: Studio Bones
Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Writer: Yosuke Kuroda (script) & Kōhei Horikoshi (mangaka)
Starring: Justin Briner/Daiki Yamashita & Christopher Sabat/Kenta Miyake
Genre: Superhero, Action
A series that really needs no introduction, My Hero Academia seemingly cannot be stopped. It is the quintessential, contemporary shonen titan which has everybody and their great-grandmothers talking about it, and not without reason. With the emotional conclusion of the recent third season and the present intensity of the manga’s events, the series fanbase has never been bigger. It was only a matter of time before a film adaptation hit the big screens. Now here we are, the big screens have been hit, and the movie did well for itself both in its local landscape of Japan as well as internationally. With many shows in the United States selling out, did the first ever My Hero Academia film live up to the legacy of its canon material?
Let’s talk about My Hero Academia: Two Heroes.
Spiritual Content: No concerning material.
Violence: A lot of cartoon violence in the form of super punches, fire blasts, and general environmental destruction with super powers. More to the point, there’s firearms involved, which is unusual for this franchise. Two people are shot, though not mortally wounded, with a significant amount of blood on each of them. One weaker female character is backhanded by the movie villain, opening a wound on her face. There’s blood in smaller amounts all over the place, too: bloody nose, bloody lip, swollen eye, etc.
Language/Crude Humor: As I was not able to go back and count the profanities in a theater showing, I am not 100% certain, but “ba***rd” was used at least once, “d**n” was used at least twice, and “s**t” was used at least twice, even in the Japanese sub. All Might swears in English, regardless of which version you watch.
Sexual Content: Mineta is in this film, so there’s inevitably going to be some sort of perverse humor. Most notably there’s a scene where he’s encouraged to do something dangerous on promise that it would make him look cool and thus increase his chance of having a harem of women. He then mutters “harem, harem, harem” to himself as he proceeds to do said dangerous thing. Also, Momo’s Creation Quirk continues to be scandalous on principle of it requiring some part of her bare body to be visible. While not incredibly modest, this could have been worse. Lastly, the new character Melissa, while fully clothed at all times, is definitely more well-endowed that all other female students in the series to date—something which does not escape the attention of Mineta, Kaminari, or the camera.
Drug/Alcohol Use: There are drinks offered at a party, but they are merely to flesh out the tone of the event and aren’t focused upon at all.
Other Negative Themes: Betrayal shows up several times as a plot device. Villains have no qualms with being cruel towards or attempting to murder the students, who are technically children. Class 1-A take it upon themselves to free the heroes, in direct violation of their superior’s commands not to act. This last one is a bit shaky, but I still felt I should mention it.
Positive Content: Themes of friendship, teamwork, overcoming, and prioritizing non-combat over aggression (even if that’s not how things turn out). There’s a lot of people protecting each other from harm, as well as a broader message of learning to inspire and trust the future to the next generation.
To set the stage: All Might, Japanese hero extraordinaire, has been invited to I-island, a man-made utopia where science reigns and Quirks are in full-swing. He has brought along with him young Izuku “Deku” Midoriya, the successor of Quirk One For All. Upon arriving at I-island, they are astonished to find a place rife with the wonders of Quirks untamed. There they meet Melissa Shield, daughter of All Might’s former partner, David Shield, from when All Might did field work in America (as seen in trailers and the prologue of the film). As the Shield family shows them around, it quickly becomes apparent that most of the rest of Deku’s hero class 1-A is also on the island, for a number of reasons. There also seems to be a nefarious plot unfolding in the shadows, boding doom for the inhabitants of I-island, and it’s somehow connected to the presence of All Might.
That’s as far as I will go with precise story details, not only for the sake of reserving spoilers, but because the plot was one of the least impressive parts of the film. Film adaptations of ongoing anime serializations have a history of not possessing strong stories and that’s no different, here. That said, the setting and plot was entirely servicable and not nearly as bad as others I’ve seen. I think it could have been made much stronger if they hadn’t insisted on congesting the film with the introductions of literally everyone in Deku’s class. While some held more of the spotlight than others, the writer definitely shoehorned in every single student, to the detriment of the story. Adding a handful more was expected, even if their excuses for being on this private island were pretty tongue-in-cheek, but all of them? It was neither necessary, nor beneficial.
The villain was really cookie-cutter, as well. His only identifying trait was that he was, in fact, villainous. There’s also a lot of betrayals in this film, some of which felt more earned than others.
But I don’t want to bomb the story any more than I have, because like I said, it was neither the most important part, nor the reason I went to see the movie. No, with film adaptations like these, you don’t go for the story.
You go for the animation.
While the animation in casual scenes was B+ material throughout (with some weird moments of off-modelling), the action sequences were top-tier, platinum star, could-survive-the-heat-death-of-the-universe levels of awesome. Despite having almost no emotional investment in the final confrontation of the film, I was still on the edge of my seat because the spectacle was too grand to be anywhere else. It was hype 101, and utilized the same top-notch animation mechanics and techniques demonstrated up to that point in the movie. If you cut out only the sakuga from this film (sakuga being high-quality animation), you could have 20+ minutes of unbridled animation majesty.
But I’d be remiss not to think the music played a big part of the success this film saw. While there were several tracks recycled from the television anime, I had no qualms with that because Yuki Hayashi’s soundtrack is stellar and absolutely carried this film. In fact, I may need to submit defeat and resign myself to the idea of Hayashi being my new all-time favorite composer. He has formally dethroned Hiroyuki Sawano as of this film. Seriously, the music—both the individual pieces and their tonal placement within the film—was fantastic. Plus, there were some original songs. Good ones, at that, so there’s something for everybody. Plus, despite hearing You Say Run/Jet Set Run hundreds of times, I still couldn’t refrain from getting excited out of my skull when it started playing at the end.
Frankly, that’s about all I had to say on the matter. The voice acting was good, per usual. The new Quirks were interesting without being redundant. Melissa Shields was…okay. She was a decent character, but also felt like she functioned exclusively as a plot device at some moments. The character design for everyone was pretty stand-out, especially when they showed-off their formal attire. It was nice seeing a cast we’ve come to love sporting some slicker fatigues. It basically demands fan-art be made.
In short, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes was visually inventive and coherent enough in its narrative that I wasn’t disappointed. Parts could have been better, but I enjoyed it to the point that I would want to see it again. I’m glad My Hero Academia‘s silver screen debut was as resounding a success as the series which acts as its foundation. I would be surprised if this was the last time we saw it in theaters before the series’ eventual end. If it’s anything like Naruto, which released a new movie every year or so, you can expect there will be another opportunity to see class 1-A kicking butt on the big screen before too long.
Until then, you know what to do.
Go beyond. Plus Ultra.
The Bottom Line
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes succeeded in the box office, and for good reason. While the story beats and general plot decisions leave much to be desired, it is more than made up for by the music, animation, and all-around exciting vibe of seeing the MHA cast in action on the big screen.