With 200+ chapters of manga, 4 seasons of anime, and another feature film under its belt, fans of My Hero Academia know exactly what to expect from the beloved shōnen saga. That’s precisely what they get in Heroes Rising, the second theatrical release of the globally popular franchise – but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling of an experience.

For the uninitiated, My Hero Academia operates in a world similar to Disney’s Sky High. 80% of the population was born with a Quirk, meaning a power or special ability of some kind. While some might be as mundane as knowing exactly what ingredients are in anything you eat, others are as spectacular as fire breath or electric touch. Naturally, those with extreme Quirks wind up as heroes or villains, and heroes need to attend the very best schools to train for their tasks.

This is where young hero Izuku Midoriya comes in. As one of the unlucky few who was born without a Quirk, he can’t fulfill his dream of becoming a hero until the famed All Might passes his own Quirk down as a testament to his purity of heart. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising takes place during the anime’s 4th season, many moons after Midoriya (known affectionately as “Deku”) has become a hero-in-training, so long time viewers don’t need the refresher. Newcomers, however, could jump right into the film with just this information and hardly miss a beat.

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No Power Is Too Small In My Hero Academia

deku in my hero academia

Heroes Rising takes place almost entirely on the new location of Nabu Island, where Class 1-A of U.A. High has been sent to test their pro hero skills for the Summer. Their internship protecting the islanders goes almost too smoothly until a new crew of villains, run by the mysterious Nine, wreaks havoc beyond their control. The biggest difference from a regular episode of the anime is simply that the trained adults aren’t around to provide back-up, and the kids are mostly on their own.

The fact that the plot is incredibly easy to follow, and doesn’t delve much deeper than the theme of the anime itself, is not to the film’s detriment. In fact, it makes Heroes Rising the perfect introduction to My Hero Academia for skeptics and strangers to the genre.

Not only do each of the members of Class 1-A get their moment to shine, showcasing some of what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown over the past few years, but Deku himself gets to be a mentor this time around. New characters Mahoro and Katsuma act almost like audience surrogates, doubting the abilities and kindness of heroes as a whole. This allows Deku, Bakugo and their friends to not only prove them wrong and open their eyes, but also to move beyond their students into teachable moments.

For those who are already invested in My Hero Academia, the biggest beat that plays out in Heroes Rising revolve around Deku and Bakugo’s tentative truce. This film is one of the first times fans get to see them genuinely work together after years of being at odds, and the character development for the latter especially is delicious to witness. As mentioned before, though, the rest of the class still gets their chance to show off. In fact, what makes the film so heartwarming is how the kids put their heart into protecting the villagers instead of winning every battle. It’s a big and worthy step for a story based around fighting.

There’s also All Might’s retirement, which is a concern in the background of the story and further emphasizes how it’s Deku’s turn to mentor someone else. Both of these elements are truly touching, and perfectly encapsulate the inspirational heart at the center of the My Hero Academia story.

If there’s any weak spot, it’s the villain in question. Nine is a ferocious fighter who is suitably difficult to defeat, but his crew – made up of Mummy, Chimera, and Slice – aren’t particularly well-defined. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to remember what he even wanted to accomplish, outside of being tangentially connected to the broader story and another villain therein. Nevertheless, it’s a fun outing full of heart whether you watch it in the original Japanese with subtitles or with Funimation’s well-executed English dub.

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising arrives in theaters on February 26, with a runtime of 104 minutes.