Otaku USA Magazine
My Hero Academia Reminds Us: We’re Lucky to Have Anime in Theaters

My Hero Academia is back in theaters this October!

So you’ve probably seen that My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission is coming to cinemas around the globe in October. This will make the third MHA film to get the big-screen treatment in the U.S., and the… Well, we don’t even know at this point how many anime films have gotten screened here lately. KONOSUBA, Lupin the Third: The First, even Mazinger Z/Infinity all got theatrical runs.

For those of us who’ve been around a while, it’s a dream come true.


Prestige Titles

Princess Mononolie

You can see My Hero Academia on the big screen with buddies, but what made it to cinemas used to be much more limited. In the earlier days of the anime industry, series and films got priority based on how quickly they made up their losses. That’s why Pokémon, Sailor Moon, and other shows with built-in merch tended to get priority.

Studio Ghibli was also a safe bet — and not just because Ghibli films are really good. The studio’s offerings were more accessible to a wider audience, especially their family fare. (Though, of course, Princess Mononoke didn’t do too shabby over here.) If you wanted deeper cuts, you had to keep an eye on art house cinemas.


Obscure, But Not Obscure

Ghost in the Shell

In anime circles, titles like Ghost in the Shell and Akira are legendary — preceding big hitters like My Hero Academia by decades. Outside the fandom, especially a few decades ago, they were downtown cinema fare. You’d find them between indie flicks and weekly Rocky Horror performances. And as much as we love to laugh at the idea of moms aghast because they took their kids to see a violent anime film, the audience was much more likely to be full of eager fans.

Titles that were prestigious in Japan but less easily marketable in America, fortunately, made their way in through these smaller screenings. That said, major movie theater chains have adopted a similar format for their runs of anime films.


The Present Day


My Hero Academia, KONOSUBA, and other big-screen iterations may not have full runs like Hollywood’s finest. At best, you’ll likely see anywhere from two to six screenings. But that’s what makes this possible, reaching the fan base without breaking the bank.

It’s a crossover of indie theater logic with event theater practices. Concerts, limited reruns, and live shows like Rifftrax pulled in their niche audiences with one-night-only screenings, while still getting the comfort of a nice big cinema. And, unbelievably, that’s where we are now. If you told me 20 years ago I’d get to see Mazinger Z fight Dr. Hell at my town’s biggest movie theater, I would have laughed. But here we are.

It pays to stop and remember sometimes that we have it weirdly good. We’ve gone from joining up tape decks to copy Star Blazers to pre-ordering tickets for a night out to see My Hero Academia. (Tickets go on sale October 1, by the way!) Here’s hoping it keeps getting better from here.

Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. She is a contributor to the celebrated Black Archive line, with many other books, short stories, and critical works to her name.