Temperatures are dropping, and leaves may be changing, but in Hollywood we are in the middle of what is essentially a summer movie season. From James Bond to Michael Myers, Spider-Man, Dune, and The Matrix, just to name a few, we’re in the midst of an onslaught of big budget blockbusters partially due to various delays in last year’s release schedule. With so much attention paid to these titles, it leaves less anticipated films fighting for attention. Luckily for a movie like My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission, it’s built-in audience will likely ensure a hefty worldwide box office haul. Released hot off the anime’s 5th season, the movie is essentially another victory lap for the franchise’s dominance in terms of Manga sales as well as television viewership.
The film follows the students of U.A. High School, superheroes in training who have been assigned a globe-trotting task. They travel to a foreign country to reign in a supposed thief, but the mission soon turns dangerous due to a far more sinister plot. Eventually, the protagonists are targeted by a madman named Flect Turn (yes, that’s the villain’s name, the writers just have to take the L on this one). Flect believes that superpowers, or ‘quirks’ as they’re referred to, are an abnormality that should be wiped out from society. It’s up to Izuku Midoriya (“Deku” for his hero name), Bakugo, Todoroki, and the rest of their U.A. classmates to stop this new threat, which makes you wonder if they’re all being paid under the table. These are world threatening events, but my guys are being treated like college athletes. If the Avengers are getting paid, so should you Deku.
My Hero Academia is one of the most colorful anime series out there, and this movie captures that aestetic on a higher budget. The draw of the film is it’s cascade of beautiful imagery and dynamic designs. Everyone has such distinctive looks and colorful costumes; even the hair styles are unique to each person. However, while everyone looks good, not everyone gets a lot of time to talk. Bakugo and All Might (former No. 1 Hero in the world before retiring due to a debilitating illness) get shortchanged to the point that half their dialogue is “Idiot!” or exclaiming “Young Midoriya!!,” respectively.
Bones is the name of the animation studio tasked with bringing this story to life, and it’s an unenviable task. They’re consistent track record of dazzling animation remains intact here, as the movie is awash with outstanding action scenes. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (2019), the previous film in the series, hit a high-water mark for the franchise in terms of action spectacle, but this new film duplicates that accomplishment, featuring excellent 3D animation. Everything is rendered beautifully, including a city which acts as the backdrop of much of the plot. It looks like San Francisco, but the cowards never call it San Francisco. Perhaps the film’s apex is an animated “tracking shot” reminiscent of a similar shot during the New York battle in The Avengers (2012).
The influence of American comic books is immense. Deku’s use of his black whip to swing around
San Francisco Otheon is obviously cribbed from Spider-Man, including several high-angle shots to capture the height of his acrobatics. One character is reminiscent of Hawkeye and Green Arrow, except she’s way cooler than those two losers. She rides a motorcycle and draws her arrow in an incredibly awesome way, recalling the aura of characters like Captain Phasma who you wish were in more of the movie than they actually are. The villain’s scheme draws inspiration from comic book foes like Thanos and William Stryker, assuming the new world order is possible if we commit genocide on “half of humanity” or “all mutants.”
Here, Flect Turn wants to rid the earth of anyone possessing a quirk. Despite the fact that he himself possesses a quirk. We’re definitely in the territory of urging your constituents not to get the vaccine, despite the fact that you yourself are vaccinated. Eventually, Flect’s prejudice towards those possessing quirks is revealed in somewhat of a tragic backstory. But William Stryker he is not, and these differences in character make his plan less coherent. If we consider the aforementioned X-Men villain was a trojan horsed racist or homophobe, whose ideology opposed the existence of mutants, then Flect’s motivation is that of self hatred. He resents his condition and the life it has fostered him, but the motivation needs some work.
Perhaps this is an issue of the character, along with his plan, being fleshed out properly. We understand the origins of his self hate, but it’s unclear how he intends to live his life if his plan is successful. Even if he eliminates everyone with a quirk, it will change nothing about his personal circumstances or his ability to lead a happy life – it may even exacerbate the original problem. The conception of this character harbors a kernel of a good idea, but it never branches out into something greater.
Flect’s insulated world view is juxtaposed with the uncompromising optimism of Midoriya. He believes in himself and his teammates to a blistering degree. Along the way, he fosters a friendship with a boy named Rody, someone who has a personal history with Flect. Together, their friendship is positioned to overpower their foe’s history of failed relationships. This saccrine positivity often manifests itself in a heavy dose of moralizing, which you’re used to if you watch this or any Shonen anime. The good guys love to talk about the power of friendship, how the bad guy doesn’t understand love, how their childhood made them a better person/fighter, and how proud they are that their friends are so courageous and brave in battle.
Your mileage may vary on if you’re down with how heavy handed the themes in a Shonen anime can be, but My Hero Academia’s refusal to bend to even the slightest bit of cynicism is part of it’s worldwide appeal. While the American superheroes attempt to be subversive, while occasionally incorporating timely themes from the real world, My Hero Academia is a throwback to when there were less shades of grey, the heroes were good just because they wanted to be, and the ills of the world could be solved with a well timed punch to the face. There’s room for both sides of the superhero coin in our entertainment, and My Hero has carved out their corner quite nicely. Mission accomplished.