My Hero Academia: World Heroes' Mission
2021, PG-13, 104 min. Directed by Kenji Nagasaki. Starring Daiki Yamashita, Ryo Yoshizawa, Yûki Kaji, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Kazuya Nakai.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Oct. 29, 2021
Sometimes it's OK to make your influences apparent, especially if you can still make your work feel original. In the case of the latest adaptation of Kōhei Horikoshi's massively successful manga My Hero Academia, the homages to Marvel's merry band of mutants, the X-Men, has rarely been clearer.
After the upbeat romp of the second film in the series, My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, the oddly high-stakes World Heroes' Mission picks up on some surprisingly dark aspects of the mythology. Most especially, the Purifiers, a mad cult of anti-mutant zealots. Here they're rewritten as Humarize, a mad cult hellbent on eradicating anyone with a quirk (this world's version of the x-gene). Most especially (deep nerdery incoming, so hang on or check out as you feel) the violence and look of the X-Force Volume 3 version, where they were genocidal maniacs, and messianic leader Flect Turn (Nakai) even has a dash of robot-human hybrid Bastion about him (look, I warned you about the nerdery). Humarize's plan involves unleashing a gas that kills anyone with a quirk, which is now 80% of the global population. Wide-eyed and ever-optimistic Deku (Yamashita) would normally be ideally positioned to take on such villainy, but he's on the run with petty thief Rody Soul (Yoshizawa) after being falsely accused of murdering a dozen civilians. Luckily, fellow heroes-in-training Shoto (Kaji) and Katsuki (Okamoto) are en route to save the day.
The series has been getting darker and more dangerous, but opening with a scene of mass slaughter by poison gas is quite the turn, especially after the more rambunctious Heroes Rising. Yet World Heroes' Mission never quite balances the darkness with the inherent plucky optimism and sporadic goofiness that makes the series so popular. It's spectacular, but oddly paced, like the long and consequence-free road trip that Deku and Rody take together across Europe. It almost feels like this would have been better served being a season than a movie, especially since the last 40 minutes is one big punch-a-thon, with most of the supporting cast yet again busy offscreen. It all settles out with a disappointing resolution that comes down to "hit the villain harder," which the rest of the story explains can't work. This is definitely one My Hero Academia adventure that should go back to the classroom.