“one of the best that doubles as a blockbuster”
MY HERO ACADEMIA: WORLD HEROES' MISSION (2021)
I just want to preface this review by saying that I went into this film completely blind and unbiased. By that I mean I have never seen a single episode of My Hero Academia, and I’ve certainly never read a page of the manga it’s based on. Being totally unfamiliar with what the show is about or who the characters were, I had no idea what I was in for.
Now, you’re probably asking why I would do such a thing? With such a massive fanbase, I’d be putting myself at risk of criticism for misunderstanding or not fully appreciating the material. Here’s the thing though: I’ve always wanted to get into My Hero Academia. And rather than start at episode one or with volume one, I figured it would be so much better to dive right in the middle of a nexus event such as World Heroes’ Mission. Truth be told I didn’t care if I’d be lost or confused because I had heard so many great things about the series. The hype had convinced me that nothing else would matter.
I was right...and I was blown away.
The film, directed by Kenji Nagasaki, is great. Having previously helmed the last two My Hero Academia films, there’s a clear level of comfort he has here with subverting the audience's expectations and breaking down the barrier often to make you forget you’re watching an animated film.
There are several times in the film where you think a situation will end one way, and it takes an ludicrous left turn - and I mean that in the best way possible. I know that those decisions have more to do with the script and plot, but the way Nagasaki steered those sequences was truly impressive. For example all of the fight scenes are long and arguably too dramatically drawn out, but it’s impossible not to be totally encompassed by them. There’s one sequence where the audience is taken on a carousel of the characters motioning to each of them as they fight different antagonists. For a non-fan like me to freak out during it, I can only imagine how die-hards might have felt. The way the action is handled as a whole was so well-done that most of the time I honestly forgot I was watching a 2D animated film.
Because I’m assuming that most people who read this will be familiar with this world (unlike me), I won’t say much about the show’s plot other than the fact that it is set in a world where mostly everyone is born with a super power, referred to as a “Quirk”. This is important because in the film there is a cult that arises and wishes to exterminate all of those with Quirks. The vast majority of the story follows numerous heroes, who are a part of an Avengers-esque task force known as the World Heroes Association, as they try and track down bombs all over the world and try to find the mastermind behind the cult.
As I mentioned before, I had no idea what I was getting into before I watched this film, and in my opinion, I don’t think anyone else needs to. This is a film that will surely satisfy longtime fans of the series and breed new ones in the process because at its most basic level it’s just awesome entertainment. It’s evergreen in the way that nothing before the film (or even after) really matters to the overarching series, but those who watch it grow a deeper appreciation for the franchise.
My only complaint about the plot is that the climax is a bit disjointed and arguably too overdramatic. Any anime fan will tell you that that’s normal, as some episodes span a few minutes and act to emphasize major moments. However, the ending of this film involves a countdown clock that takes (literally) forever to tick to zero, especially in that final minute. As a result, the story’s most serious segment feels too dragged out. Did it take me out of the film though? No. I still ate it up, but at over 100 minutes, the film could surely be a bit tighter.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
While there aren’t any A-listers contributing to the film, like most anime, the voice acting in this one is top notch. Every character, big and small, gives such a great performance that it’s impossible not to be invested in what’s happening or feel the weight of the stakes.
Additionally, World Heroes’ Mission is filled with some awesome original characters. For a franchise about superheroes, it really delivers on creativity showcasing so many different abilities. That’s one of the things I enjoyed the most. Sure, there are characters who can manipulate fire and can fly, but there are also one with more abstract abilities too. My favorite being a brand new character who has a little pet that accompanies him that embodies how he truly feels.
The most admirable thing about the film though is how it’s able to balance so many different characters. It’s an ensemble on ecstasy, but it’s smart enough to know how to use everyone to the perfect degree.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
As mentioned before, the animation is so well-crafted, so seamless and so engrossing that it’s easy to forget you’re watching an animated film. There are very few animated films I can say that about, and I think that’s something any director of animation can pull off.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
While it kind of falls in the category of sound, I watched the dubbed version of the film and found it to be very understandable and enjoyable. I only even bring it up because of recent complaints about dubbing (i.e. Squid Game).
Like the voice acting, Yuki Hayashi’s score also does a fantastic job at setting the tone for the film. Without his score, the climax - as long as it is - would not nearly be as effective.
Overall, My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission is not the best looking 2D animated film I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the best that doubles as a blockbuster, and arguably one of the best of the year too. If I wasn’t a fan before, I’m happily one now and I look forward to not only hitting the start button on episode one, but seeing what comes next in this franchise too!