Just after season five of popular anime My Hero Academia ends its run in the U.S. and before the sadness of no new episodes can set in, fans of Class 1-A may rejoice in a new adventure featuring their favorite young heroes: My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission (WHM). In their third feature film, the students of esteemed hero school UA High will be pushed further than they ever have as the stakes will require them to go beyond their limits. This may describe just about every individual story, larger arc, or season (depending on if you’re coming from the manga or anime), except this new script from returning series and film writer Yosuke Kuroda takes the imminent danger faced within and truly makes it a global event. Because of this, audiences are going to get a true world-spanning adventure as their favorite heroes attempt to save the day. But be warned: the advertising for WHM is incredibly misleading as it implies a heavy focus on characters Izuku Midoriya (Daiki Yamashita/Justin Briner), Katsuki Bakugo (Nobuhiko Okamoto/Clifford Chapin), and Shoto Todoroki (Yuki Kaji/David Matranga), when the truth is this trio, marketed as The Three Musketeers, take the lead, but not necessarily center stage.
In the wake of a horrific attack from terrorist group Humarise and their leader Flect Turn (Kazuya Nakai/ Robbie Daymond), the heroes of the world join forces to prevent a larger, global event from occurring. While stationed alongside Japan’s number one hero Endeavor (Tetsu Inada/Patrick Seitz), Midoriya, Bakugo, and Todoroki find themselves on their own separate, yet vital, mission as Midoriya is placed on a wanted list for murder, placing him and his new friend Rody (Ryo Yoshizawa/Ryan Colt Levy) on the run. Could the two things be related? If so, can the three heroes figure out what it is before time runs out and Humarise claims victory?
While it’s entirely possible to enjoy WHM without having the context of this world, it will be difficult to feel quite as drawn in by the story without it — even more so if you haven’t completed the second half of season five as that introduces Midoriya, Bakugo, and Todoroki as Endeavor’s interns, as well as other tiny details. More than the previous two (Two Heroes (2018) and Heroes Rising (2019)), this film jumps right into the action, using Turn’s villainous exposition to give new audiences about all they need to know about the world, eschewing the usual voiceover intro from Midoriya. Given the nature of Turn’s plan, there’s little time for the unessential, so folks new to the series will have more difficulty wrapping their heads around who is important and why. That said, Kuroda does find small and natural ways to offer explanations of how this world works and fill in some of the gaps that help allude to a deeper mythology. It could be a mini-monologue from Midoriya, a montage of images in a dramatic moment, or just a small line of dialogue from another character, but the script does help those less familiar recognize the emotional weight of the stakes at play.
One can take a guess as to when Heroes Rising takes place within the greater continuity, but the public explanation is that it takes place during an unspecified period. What’s really interesting about WHM is that this film has a set timeline that has it very clearly taking place before the end of season five, which wraps after the internships are over and before the central characters finish their first year of school. However, those familiar with the series will absolutely delight in seeing Midoriya making good use of his new blackwhip quirk, a skill he was only beginning to develop at the end of the season. There’s a sequence involving blackwhip where you can tell that the animation from Studio Bones is pushing the limit, making you feel as though you’re swing up, around, down, and across, flipping and dodging along with Midoriya. Moments like these are saved for when the movie really needs the umph. In between action scenes there’s also a really adorable buddy road comedy that almost makes you forget that Midoriya’s on the run for murder and billions of lives hang in the balance. (This last bit may sound like a snarky joke, but it’s the truth. You do forget for a bit and it’s quite sweet.) But when the action does come back, it comes back big, giving The Three Musketeers their due, making fans in and outside of the world proud.
Where this film falters, though, is similar to the issues of Heroes Rising: false sense of danger. Hear me out now before the thought of haranguing me for this notion washes over and consumes you. Season six of the series is already picked up and, at least as of this writing, there’ve been no reports of any of Class 1-A having died in the manga. Because of this, no matter how amplified Kuroda designs the threat, we already know how the story is going to end. Perhaps not the details, but we know. There was a moment in my not-yet-caught-up mind while watching Heroes Rising where I thought the confrontation between villain Nine and Midoriya and Bakugo would have universe shattering consequences. Having that illusion made the gorgeously blocked and animated fill with emotion, only for it to be hand-waved away. Though WHM doesn’t indulge in such manipulation to defeat the bad guy, any audience member familiar with the anime (minimum) is not going to worry about the fate of the heroes so much as wonder how they will defeat their opponent. This, at the very least, Kuroda nails: coming up with ways to highlight each of the Musketeers that’s true for each without diminishing them in the process. Nothing quite hits the level of majesty of Nine vs Midoriya and Bakugo, but it’s no less evocative, eliciting more than one yelp of joy or fist in the air. For those who know, consider the brilliance of season four episode “Infinite 100%.” This final sequence for the three almost hits that level of strategy, brilliance of animation, and emotional wallop. That said, I do caution you that the bulk of the narrative does follow Midoriya and Rody with the others jumping in as necessary. As such, WHM does often feel more like a solo outing with character support than the My Hero Academia stories we’ve gotten thus far.
If you’re a My Hero Academia fan, seeing World Heroes’ Mission isn’t a question of “if” but “when.” If the idea of watching some of your favorite Class 1-A and 1-B students fighting alongside some of the world’s best heroes (zup, Godzillo!) tickles your fancy, WHM won’t give you precisely what you expect but it won’t disappoint either. Though there’s no real sense of finality, there’s plenty of dread and it’s balanced nicely against the generally light tone that anchors the series. These are young kids, after all, something which we tend to forget as they fight to protect the innocent. Given the scope of some of the fights and they’re design by Bone, if you are comfortable going to a theater, you won’t regret shelling out the coin. If, however, you would prefer to wait until a physical release comes available, with the right home set-up, you won’t feel like you missed an opportunity. Though my issues with the film are more than stated above (and are more uber-nerd nitpicks), I feel comfortable recommending World Heroes’ Mission on the whole. Sometimes what you want isn’t what you get and sometimes what you get is just want to need. Thankfully, for the most part, World Heroes’ Mission falls into latter.
FYI: If you plan to go to the theater, Funimation is giving away a 76-page collectible booklet at U.S./Canada screenings on opening weekend while supplies last. It will contain information on the making of the film, a limited edition manga, original drawings from My Hero Academia creator Kohei Horikoshi, and a Q&A. One booklet per ticket holder.
Screening at the 2021 Animation is Film Festival October 24th, 2021.
In select theaters in Australia and New Zealand October 28th, 2021.
In select theaters in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ireland October 29th, 2021.
For more information, head to the official My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission website.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.