Review: My Hero Academia

Hannah Lazar - October 2, 2018

My Hero Academia, or Boku no Hero Academia if you want the Japanese title, has become one of the most popular anime of recent times. It is one of the rare anime that has truly achieved mainstream status, with adoring fans all over the world (including yours truly), and is continuing to go strong. While it didn’t become massively popular until last year, when its second season aired, people were always drawn to how the show explores its unique superhero society and the development of its immensely likable characters. So, it makes sense that a theatrical release for this franchise was inevitable, and that’s where My Hero Academia: Two Heroes comes in. Admittedly, I was skeptical going in, since anime movies that are part of existing franchises have a tendency to be pointless filler stories. However, Two Heroes expertly captures the fun and spirit of the show it was based on. It is very satisfying to watch if you are a fan, and it even manages to appeal to those who want an introduction to the franchise but are unsure if the hefty episode count is worth the commitment.

My Hero Academia takes place in a universe where 80% of the world’s population have developed “quirks” - in other words, superpowers. The sky’s the limit in terms of what quirk you can have, and because of this, being a superhero who fights for justice has become an actual profession. The show’s protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, wants to be a hero, but faces the obstacle of not having a quirk, and is thus powerless...until he is given the opportunity of a lifetime by the number one hero in the world, All Might. Essentially, All Might offers to make Izuku his successor, and passes his quirk down to Izuku. The show then follows all the trials and tribulations that face Izuku as he learns how to wield his power and become a hero himself.

Two Heroes takes place between the second and third season of the anime and follows Izuku and All Might as they go to I-Expo, the world’s leading exhibition of quirk abilities and hero item innovations. It takes place on a man-made island, and there, Izuku meets an old friend of All Might, David Shield, and his daughter, Melissa. The two wander around, meeting a bunch of fan-favorite characters from the show, like Katsuki Bakugo, Ochako Uraraka, Shoto Torodoki, and others. Eventually, the group meets up to go to the evening formal event, only to discover that security has been hacked by villains...and it’s up to the kids to stop them. This is an anime movie, after all, and you have to get the teenage protagonists to do something interesting while the adults are incapacitated.

One of my favorite aspects of the original show is how cheesy but genuine it is, much like the many superhero stories it clearly draws influence from, and this movie encapsulates that aspect perfectly. The movie’s tone is light-hearted and optimistic, with characters regularly announcing what it means to be a hero, spouting one-liners, and showing off their powers...but many of the conflicts come from real places. David’s character arc revolves around his anxieties over All Might’s declining powers, and Melissa’s focuses on wanting to help even when you’re powerless. Out of the two movie-exclusive characters, I definitely preferred Melissa. She has a very bubbly and optimistic personality but is grounded enough to understand her limits. My favorite non-action scene portrays a conversation between her and Izuku. She reveals to him that she wanted to be a hero as a child, but due to being quirkless, was unable to. Thus, she decided to go into hero support and become a scientist, like her father. This resonates with Izuku for obvious reasons - he wanted to be a hero despite being quirkless too - but also because he admires her pure determination. She’s making the most of what she has, and has found a way to accomplish her dreams in a different way, which is rather admirable.

The only real issue I had with the storytelling was the amount of recap that was featured in the beginning of the film. This is useful to those unfamiliar with the franchise, but it was annoying to sit through as a seasoned fan. Some scenes were also strangely paced, which results in a bit of tonal whiplash, and there were two major plot twists at the end of the movie that were weirdly rushed. The first one definitely makes sense and actually plays into the main theme of the movie - good people sometimes do cowardly or villainous things out of fear - but it should have been foreshadowed more. The second one involves one of the main series’ major villains, and felt tacked on, even if it does make sense plot-wise. I can also see people complaining about the movie being predictable, but I can forgive that if the journey is fun, so it did not bother me personally.

Beyond that, the actual main characters of the series are always a joy to see on screen. The movie finds all kinds of excuses to let their personalities clash and let the audience laugh at their antics. The character who always got the biggest reaction in my theater was the fiery Katsuki Bakugo, because watching his arrogance get taken down a peg is always funny. Oh, and of course, Izuku was as wholesome and nerdy as ever, his optimism and drive really holding the movie together. The other characters are just there for fanservice, but the character interactions themselves are so fun to watch that it doesn’t matter. Besides, the point of the movie is to throw these characters into a new scenario and see how they react, and in that sense, the movie really delivers.

In terms of animation, the movie generally looks excellent, with only a few shots where it appears janky or unfinished. Studio BONES is the production studio behind it, just like with the main series, and they really brought their A-game to this film. It generally feels much more cinematic and grand than the series, with wide landscape shots and a wonderful sense of scale. The action scenes were also dynamic and fast, backed up by excellent sound design and creative ways of displaying the characters’ superpowers. The final fight looks like something straight out of a Hollywood superhero movie, though without a sky beam, thankfully. Furthermore, the music was also great. I don’t think they used much beyond the show’s usual soundtrack, but hearing Yuki Hayashi’s music in the background will never not be a good experience, particularly when You Say Run, the most famous song in the soundtrack, played during the climax. As a fan of the show, that moment was particularly transcendent. Furthermore, I watched this movie with its English dub, and as someone who typically prefers the original Japanese, the English was surprisingly pitch-perfect. Justin Briner as Izuku is particularly great, and even surpasses his Japanese counterpart, in my opinion.

Overall, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes is a great time. It has everything you’d expect out of a My Hero Academia movie, and even takes the extra time to make itself accessible to newcomers. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good superhero movie, or see the wonderful animation on display. It’s definitely worth it.