Copious Haemorrhaging Never Harmed Anyone: My Hero Academia The Movie: World Heroes’ Mission Review
So today I had to explain to my previously excited 10-year-old son why I was unable to take him to the cinema to see the new MHA movie along with his two older siblings. When I booked the tickets a few weeks ago, the film had not yet been rated. Turns out that the BBFC have since rated it “15” for “strong violence, bloody images”. (The previous movie was rated “12A”, which means children under 12 are permitted to watch as long as they are accompanied by an adult who can cover their eyes for the scary bits. UK cinemas are legally obliged to prevent minors from attending “15” or “18” rated movies, whether accompanied or not.)
Oh well. Anyway, out of interest I checked their website, and it looks like the BBFC also rated MHA seasons 1, 3 and 4 at “15” too. Funimation’s online streaming service doesn’t use these ratings. My son and I just finished streaming season 5, during which a little kid watches, horrified, as his closest family members dissolve into bloody puddles of meaty chunks. And a bunch of random people detonate as human bombs. And a bunch of others are dropped from a great height to their bloody, crunchy deaths by a deranged psychopath. Oops. Now that I’ve hooked my own little kid on these damned Japanese snuff cartoons he’ll be binging Ichi the Killer, Audition and Battle Royale next. It’s all my own fault.
Of course, as soon as this third MHS movie joins its older brethren on Netflix, we’ll probably end up watching it together anyway, spurting blood fountains and all. Yes, for once, the BBFC actually have a point. Sometimes MHS is really bloody violent. And I love it. Of course I still took the older offspring to our local showing this evening, sans impressionable junior. Here follows an aggregate of our melded, conflicting opinions. Behold — the insane mutterings of the Doctorkev family gestalt! (It’s blood-soaked and hideous.)
ONLY VERY MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW
Occuring during the “Endeavour Agency Arc” in the middle of the recently finished MHA season 5, this third movie is a lot easier to place chronologically than the previous, 2019’s Heroes Rising, which most likely… probably… fits somewhere just immediately before this movie in terms of continuity. Season’s 5’s re-ordered adaptation of the manga makes accurate placement of this earlier film really tricky, however.
For today’s purpose, at this point in the story, Class 1A and 1B have just completed their joint combat training, the League of Villains are off elsewhere in the background doing various other things, so take no part in the movie, and our main trio Deku, Bakugo and Todoroki are training with current top Japanese hero Endeavor. This places us most likely between episodes 104 and 105.
Being a typical Shonen Jump — style movie, Many Flashy Things of Apparently Great Import happen, only to Never Be Spoken Of Again in regular continuity. So yeah, this is total filler, jammed into a space where no filler was needed. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad — I mean a chocolate sponge cake would be pretty disappointing without some sweet, sticky chocolate gooey stuff jammed between layers. This movie is the gooey stuff — sweet and fun, but not remotely filling.
World Heroes’ Mission begins with a horrifically disturbing terrorist attack that demonstrates the sheer carnage unleashed when an unuspecting city’s residents all lose control of their quirks simultaneously. We see violent, bloody deaths, screaming immolations and apocalyptic Man of Steel-style skyscraper-destruction. That’s one way to set the tone for a grim, intense disaster movie. And then the beginning credits roll and we’re into bright and breezy caper time as Deku and his buddies goof around a vaguely European city getting into hilarious scrapes. The change in pace and content is jarring, to say the least.
Deku inadvertently ends up as the target of a police manhunt, so he and new (movie-only, Never To Be Spoken Of Again) friend Rody Soul embark on an impromptu road trip/buddy movie where they learn about each other while sleeping in barns, dressing in pastoral disguises and stealing motor vehicles. This sequence is too slow, too heavy on broad slapstick humour and grinds the plot progression to an absolute halt for a large chunk of the film. Its tone and content are very different to the usual TV episode, so at least we should appreciate the writers attempting something different. It doesn’t really work that well though.
Eventually the main plot does kick into gear, and via a series of typical shonen movie contrivances, our bickering hero trio reunite and take the fight to the main bad guys. Where they proceed to fight, and fight, and fight, and fight, and fight some more. This is the closest that MHA has come to emulating Dragonball Z in terms of ridiculous power escalations, neverending battles, characters receiving near-fatal damage but suddenly recovering in a burst of power and kicking even more ass than they did before their repeated abdominal stabbings. Yup, there’s even Super Saiyan Hair and all that implies. Hell, we’ve even got a Fist of the North Star/Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure-homage towards the end. You’ll know it when you see it, it’s so unbelievably blatant that it must be deliberately hilarious.
Suffice to say the plot is not this film’s strong point. What I did appreciate was the villains’ ideological background. The series proper has made mention of “the Quirk Singularity” concept a few times now — the idea that with each successive generation, quirks are becoming more complex and powerful as quirk-holders interbreed with one another and pass their combined quirks to their children. The idea that eventually quirks may become too powerful for individuals to control is a legitimately terrifying one, and so far in the series we’ve seen little concern from general society in regards to how this might be tackled.
World Heroes’ Mission’s villains see quirks as a disease, and using their uncontrollably quirk-enhancing drug look to kill every quirk-having person to preserve the future of the quirkless 20%. Season 4’s Shie Hassaikai/Overhaul arc featured a quirk-erasing weapon, but that was wielded as an instrument of power, not one of hatred and genocide. The show (and the spinoff manga Vigilantes) has also toyed with the idea of pharmaceutical quirk-enhancement before, but not to this destructive extent. The villain’s interesting ideology certainly adds some flavour to this otherwise generic film, and I like the exploration of this element of the main story’s themes. It just doesn’t really amount to very much in the end.
Much like the previous two movies, Studio Bones use the extra time and budget afforded to them by the movie production process to really show off in terms of action scenes. If you’re not put off by ridiculously showy, kinetic fight sequences, there are a good handful of standout sakuga sequences here, drawn in a much looser fashion to facilitate some truly insane perspective changes and improbable character motion. Some other more static scenes are much simpler and more or less indistinguishable from the TV show — there are even a few, jarring off-model shots that really should have been identified during production. This entire thing was made during a pandemic, so perhaps we should give the animators a break though.
Perhaps as a result of this film’s throwaway nature, we don’t see a whole lot of character development in this. Deku shows off a new power that might be jarring to viewers not caught up to at least season 5’s halfway point. His final battle against the movie’s big bad of course features multiple power up/”Plus Ultra” sequences that did strain credulity, as all story consistency and established worldbuilding kind of gets thrown out of the window to be replaced by sheer goofy spectacle. And that’s fine in this kind of movie, I suppose.
Bakugo and Todoroki get their own, ample opportunities to shine, mainly by burning/freezing and exploding things repeatedly and noisily. It appears that being stabbed multiple times in what appear to be definitely fatal ways doesn’t seem to slow insane firebug Bakugo down, I supposed he just cauterises his wounds himself or something? The sheer amount of blood spewed forth from our heroes’ wounds in this film is staggering compared to the (relatively) bloodless TV show, and it almost becomes laughable by the end how indestructible they seem, shrugging off severe bodily injuries to come back stronger each time. It’s very Shonen Anime in a way that the TV series tends to restrain itself from. In the TV show, power escalation seems earned, while in this movie it just happens because the plot demands it, because the only way to beat the bad guys is just to hit them harder. I do wonder if Bakugo actually ended up murdering his two main antagonists at the end? Hmmmm…
I fairly enjoyed World Heroes Mission for what it was — a dumb, crowdpleasing action flick (with a slow bit in the first third). The rest of the folks in the packed cinema seemed to like it, with plenty of laughter for the goofy humour and gasps for the more shocking or sad moments. My eldest son seemed to enjoy it, and also appreciated its thematic links to the main series. My daughter hated it though. Partly because the entire female cast are completely sidelined except for mere cameos, or to comment on the male characters’ antics. (Though why should we expect more from MHA? This has been a longstanding and valid criticism…) She also found the extended fight scenes ridiculously contrived and overlong. She has a point. World Heroes’ Mission may have the most egregiously extended 5-minute countdown sequence in the entire history of anime…
Overall, World Heroes Mission is the absolute definition of disposable filler. It’s nowhere near as emotional and inspiring as the second movie Heroes Rising, nor as breezily fun as the first movie Two Heroes. It’s not a bad movie, but not especially memorable either. I’m not really looking forward with much excitement to revistiting it again later at home on streaming with my younger son. This is a shame, as we re-watched Heroes Rising this week, and I still maintain that it’s a fantastic movie, and one of my favourite parts of the franchise. If you’re unable to see World Heroes’ Mission in the cinema, don’t fret. I don’t think it’s worth going out of your way for. As something brainless to digest with friends and some snacks on a friday or saturday evening at home though, I think it would be just fine.
My Hero Academia The Movie: World Heroes’ Mission
Japanese Cinematic Release: August 6th 2021
UK Cinematic Release: October 29th 2021
Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Screenplay: Yōsuke Kuroda
Based on the manga by: Kohei Horikoshi
Produced by: Studio Bones
Duration: 104 minutes
Rating: BBFC 15
Languages: Japanese with English subtitles (version watched), English dub