Anime films based on popular manga are the ultimate filmgoing “Stranger in a Strange Land” experience. They’re an alien movie outing that doesn’t abide by normal rules of plot, logic and story and an animated experience which you can’t measure against other animation.
So dropping in on one, as I tend to do, can seem unfair to aficionados, as the films are a bit of a head-scratch to anybody who isn’t invested in one of these “DragonBall” or whatever money makers.
To those not deep into the genre, the films look choppy, under-animated, and if not “cheap” then kind of sketchy, stylized in a way that looks unfinished. They are the closest to a comic book that a “comic book movie” ever comes.
While most movies — even five-or-more sequels into a franchise — need to stand alone as their own story with a beginning, middle and end with characters introduced and taken through character arcs, that doesn’t apply here.
The movies are for fans only But let’s see what the kids are burning their hours on these days.
“My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising” is the second feature film based on the long-running manga series, which has also spawned TV and video games. Fans deeply invested in the characters hoot and holler back at the screen when this or that hero makes a dramatic entrance or reemergence, this magic power is shared, that miraculous “He’s not dead after all” resurrection arrives.
I didn’t see this in an empty theater, and the box office receipts prove the franchise has a fanbase. But as a movie, is the story or the animation worth a 104 minute investment in time?
Maybe if you’re really young and time is something you’ve got a lot of. Yeah, you can pick up on (more or less) what’s happening within a few minutes. But I can’t say it’s really worth it.
Here is a tale of a future where humanity has acquired “quirks,” super-human powers. There are kids who want to be superheroes. A pair of feuding friends — Izuku Midoriya and Katsuki Bakugo — are role models to the kids.
And they themselves idolize All Might, whose All-for-One powers are what our hero apprentices will need when League of Villains member Nine (Johnny Yong Bosch) threatens Nabu Island, where kids — including hero-in-training Deku — are holed up.
Nine wants them because he can acquire nine quirks to complement his own power, and Deku has access to All-for-One.
The animated effects — battle royales of the “Transformers” variety, only in drawn animation — are tolerable.
The dialogue is peppered with “hero” rules and codes of honor of the “A real hero will always find a way for justice to be served!”
The villain is all “Why won’t you weaklings DIE already?” Classic villain trash talk.
And there’s a smattering of profanity mixed in with the epic fights to let us know how adult this all is. Sure.
There are a lot of characters to invest in, too many for a single feature film to allow that to happen. The running gags provided by returning characters are a big way “Heroes Rising” is a movie that panders to the fanbase and does nothing at all to lure in newcomers.
If you haven’t been playing along, watching along or reading along, you’ll still recognize the archetypes and story tropes. The arc here is folk-tale ancient, at its bare bones. It’s all the clutter dressing that simple story up that is what the fans are here for and anybody else will regard as supernaturalist jibberish.
A single movie as part of this long continuum won’t give you much that doesn’t feel puerile or incoherent or unoriginal. And I can’t see enough in this junk food film that would send anybody new to “My Hero Academia” (love those Japanese titles) back to “catch up” on the origin stories.
Still, it takes all types.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and language (dubbed)
Cast: The voices of Felecia Angelle, Christopher Bevins, Johnny Yong Bosch, Justin Briner, Clifford Chapin and Dani Chambers.
Credits: Directed by Kenji Nagasaki, script by Yôsuke Kuroda, based on the manga by Kōhei Horikoshi. A Funimation release.
Running time: 1:44