What makes a good series does not always make a good movie.
My Hero Academia has become the anime powerhouse of the past few years, earning itself top marks from both critics and viewers alike. Now, with three seasons under its belt, the series has earned itself a shot at a major motion picture with its new movie, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes. Expectations are high for this rising star series, but unfortunately, this movie fails to be the plus ultra premier its touted itself to be. While it keeps the heart and soul of the original series, it offers meager scraps of a story while getting bogged down in a plot mired in exposition, flashbacks and pacing problems. Sadly, Two Heroes never manages to be anything more than adequate, failing to capture the audience’s imagination, and barely scratching the surface of possibility for a My Hero Academia movie.
The story begins on “I-Island”, a facility on a floating island in the Pacific Ocean dedicated to the creation of support items for the world’s heroes. The place is a scientific wonderland, and host to a support technology convention, the “I-expo” wherein it showcases the island’s incredible inventions. It’s here that David Shield, lead scientist on the island and his daughter, Melissa Shield, live. Little does her father know, though, that Melissa has invited All Might and his ward, Midoriya, to surprise her father and attend the expo. Initially, their reunion is joyful and Midoriya is astounded by the sights and sounds of I-Island and surprised to see the rest of Class 1-A there as well, each for their own reasons. However, on the first night of the expo, a team of villains takes the island hostage by hacking into its security system, subduing the heroes on the island and leaving Midoriya and friends to once again go plus ultra and save the valuable tech on I-Island from falling into the hands of villainy.
It’s a pretty standard setup for an anime movie: distant but important characters we’ve never met and will never meet again, a location far from home, and a plot that won’t end up being of any consequence to the main storyline. One can’t exactly go into a movie like this expecting breakneck twists and turns. After all, the fun of a shounen anime movie comes from seeing the characters you know and love brought to life on the glitz and glamor of the big screen. Sadly, that’s not what we get here. Two Heroes never elevates itself to the level of quality expected from a piece of cinema. The animation, while consistent in quality with the main series, never dazzles; it fails to be the feast of color and motion that keeps an audience enraptured in their seats. It feels less like a movie, and more like an extra long episode of the main series. There is a noticeable lack of creativity here. The setting of a “Superhero technology convention” initially grabs your sense of wonder, but loses it once it becomes clear that most of the movie’s plot takes place in a generic laboratory setpiece. In addition, the soundtrack is also surprisingly muted, featuring a grand total of zero new pieces. Instead, the film reuses the same soundtrack the series uses. While the soundtrack is still as quality as ever, one expects a little more bang for their buck when seeing a movie. A film cannot enchant an audience when it only offers the same song and dance offered by its TV cousin, even more, so an anime film based off a popular series. The audience already knows going in that the heroes will win, so there must be an element of grandeur delivered to astound the viewer.
As if the production value wasn’t troubling enough, Two Heroes has some serious story problems. The plot is as simple as simple comes, with very few turns in the story and only one notable twist near the end of the film that can be seen a mile away. Dave and Melissa Shield are the only new characters introduced, and their roles are so minimal in the story that they might as well not exist at all. Furthermore, an enormous amount of time, to the tune of a solid 30 minutes of screen time, is dedicated just to reintroducing the students of Class 1-A and explaining their powers. A viewer with any knowledge of the show will be yawning at the endless amounts of exposition and awkward introductions of mainstay characters. This means that while each of the many members of Class 1-A each gets their little moments to shine, the story lacks focus and doesn’t achieve anything resembling depth of character. There is the constant feeling that this story is just an abridged version of My Hero Academia’s main themes and characters. A feeling that is only deepened by an array of villains that amount to little more than super-powered mooks, with the main antagonist not being important enough to even have his name revealed.
It’s not a pleasant experience to find the much-anticipated movie of a series so beloved by the anime community to be this lackluster, but it’s not all bad. As always, the English voice acting is as impeccable as ever, and while the buildup to it isn’t terribly enjoyable, the climax of Two Heroes is an explosive battle which will scratch your shounen itch and then some. The plot will certainly bore a fan of the series, but if one hasn’t seen My Hero Academia before, then there is a lot to enjoy here since this film carries the same sheen and polish found in the rest of the series. If you have the patience for it, then once things get going there is an acceptable, if not predictable, story here.
The main trouble is that Two Heroes lacks confidence. It tries too hard to be accessible by an uninitiated audience, but the main viewership of a movie like this comes from the die-hard fans who are hungry for every scrap of My Hero Academia they can get. Because of this, the movie completely misses its audience and delivers a movie that serves as little more than a primer for people who haven’t seen the show already. If you’re a long-time viewer who was looking to see what My Hero Academia could bring to the big pictures, then I’m sorry to disappoint, there isn’t a whole lot for you here. Overall, this is a down note for the otherwise impressive track record of My Hero Academia, but hopefully not one that will bring down its future attempts at going plus ultra in the world of movies.