I feel like I’m living in some bizarro world considering I’ve now watched three My Hero Academia movies and have still never seen a single episode of the anime. Having agreed to see the first film, Two Heroes, with my friend in theaters, I found it enjoyable and looked forward to what would come next. While I wasn’t fond of the second film, I appreciated the charm and style of the series simply because of how engaged my friend was with it.
He seemed to lose a lot of interest after that second film, however, so I was a bit scared for My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission. Was this going to be a repeat of the rather middling middle-chapter that felt like total filler? Would it advance the plot of the anime in any considerable fashion? Was the animation going to cheap out on budget and throw it all at the final scene?
Surprisingly, no. World Heroes’ Mission ends up feeling very similar to that first film and avoids pretty much all of the issues I had with the second iteration. It’s not perfect, mind you, but animation studio Bones rightly focuses on pacing to keep things feeling breezy throughout.
My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission
Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Release Date: August 6, 2021 (Japan), October 29, 2021 (USA)
Unlike the previous film, World Heroes’ Mission is firmly non-canon to the overall plot of My Hero Academia. The story begins somewhere in the middle of seasons four and five with a rather gruesome demonstration from the new villainous group Humarize. Led by the rather ineffective Flect Turn, the group wants to destroy everyone with quirks in the hope that they can restore humanity to the way things were. It’s certainly a very timely plot, that’s for sure.
Due to this organization having eradicated a number of quirk-enabled people, the World Heroes form various teams that get sent across the globe. I’m not up enough on all of the new characters introduced over the years, but literally, everyone winds up in some part of the world (Japan, Singapore, America, etc) while main series protagonist Deku and fan-favorite characters Dynamight and Shoto wind up in the fictional European island of Otheon.
While investigating the happenings of Otheon for clues, the trio stumbles on some plot to transport a briefcase to the leader of Humarize that gets Deku on a path to meeting new character Rody Soul. Something of a quick-witted thief, he deftly evades Deku for a rather thrilling action sequence that results in a mix-up with the briefcase. Meant to contain a bunch of stolen jewels, it actually has documents and clothes in it that catches Rody off guard. Before he can even really figure it out, he gets surrounded by the local authorities, and Deku swoops in to save him.
Due to the mass destruction that happened in the city during their chase (caused by some members of Humarize that were attempting to intercept the briefcase), Deku is branded a mass murderer and is on the run. Removing the battery from his phone to avoid being tracked, the movie settles into a formula similar to a road trip film for the majority of its runtime. Deku and Rody wind up stuck together and need to help each other survive until they can reach the other heroes.
As you can tell from the description, it gives almost no time for any character development throughout. If you were hoping to see Dynamight change beyond being angry or even catch up with the other heroes from World Heroes, you’ll be disappointed. Even Deku’s character arc is very similar to the struggles he faced in the previous two films (not to mention the main series). He believes he is lame and wants to focus on helping people with a smile, something he was happy to do for Rody. Rody, as well, is the major focus of the film, but his arc doesn’t really get started until the final act.
World Heroes’ Mission weakest aspect is its plotline, but it makes up for it with some well-directed action sequences and the aforementioned tight pacing. There is very little downtime during the film with only a few segments going heavy on the exposition. For major parts of the film, we’re treated to heart-pumping action that gets really creative with its angles, edits, and shot composition.
I can’t say the actual animation quality is all that impressive -it’s practically the same as the anime-, but the usage of a moving camera to follow characters during the action is excellent. The first chase scene sees the camera react like a bystander as Deku corners Rody before it zooms in, out, and around Deku as he is flying through the air. This is something that never changes, though the angles are consistently different for each moment. It gives the set-pieces their own distinct feel which contributes a lot to making them memorable as hell.
That’s a big help because, without these creative angles, a lot of World Heroes’ Mission would be forgettable. Remember that main villain I mentioned earlier? The film certainly doesn’t. He makes sparing appearances throughout, but none of the main cast encounters him until the final 20 minutes. The fight is interesting with his quirk being seemingly unstoppable, but Flect Turn never feels like a threat. He skulks around in the shadows for a bit before disappearing for the entire second act only to resurface in the finale as if he was pulling the strings all along.
Ultimately, this is the biggest critique I can give here. The action is dazzling, but most of this movie feels inconsequential. It’s a testament to how well-structured the flow of these scenes is that I ended up enjoying it. Even looking back, I wouldn’t mind watching the film again because it’s relatively breezy in its pacing. There’s never a dull moment, but there’s also never really a spectacular must-see moment.
At least the film isn’t a massive time sink. Clocking in at only 104 minutes, even if you wind up disappointed with World Heroes’ Mission, you won’t have to endure endless amounts of exposition to see the finale. I realize that’s maybe not the best praise I could give a film, but I did enjoy my time here. It’s clearly not aspiring to be anything more than a fun outing, so I don’t feel the need to be harsher as a result.
That statement might fly in the face of my review for Heroes Rising, which I gave a 4.5/10, but that one was boring beyond reason. Removing itself from canon completely, World Heroes’ Mission has the freedom to not needlessly tie itself into the anime. As a result, heroes use powers they may not possess in the current continuity and the movie doesn’t have to stop and explain how. You just roll with it and take in the atmosphere.
Lest I reiterate the same points, I think that’s the best way to end this review. My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission may not live up to the lofty heights of some recent anime films, but it doesn’t really aim that high either. This is the very definition of a popcorn flick through and through. If you’re not deeply in love with the series to where you’ll scrutinize every detail, you should wind up finding something here to like. As a series outsider, I know I did.