When the Great Demon King Piccolo was released upon the world, he broadcasted a message on television declaring May 9th as “Piccolo Day”…and promptly celebrated by announcing his ownership over the planet. Since then, May 9th has been officially recognised as “Goku Day” but, to make things simpler, I’m using this as a good excuse to celebrate all things Dragon Ball and spend this month taking a look back at one of the franchise’s most popular villains: Broly.
Released: March 1993
Director: Shigeyasu Yamauchi
Distributor: Toei Company
Budget: ¥713.7 million
Stars: Sean Schemmel, Vic Mignogna, Christopher R. Sabat, Stephanie Nadolny, Eric Vale, Sonny Strait, Mike McFarland, and Dartanian Nickelback
A rare moment of peace for Son Goku (Schemmel) and his friends is interrupted when Paragus (Nickelback) lures them to New Vegeta by appealing to the vanity and ego of Vegeta (Sabat), prince of the Saiyan race. Their curiosity is piqued by stories of the “Legendary Super Saiyan” running amok but things soon take a turn for the worst when they encounter Paragus’s unhinged son, Broly (Mignogna), who desires nothing more than death and destruction.
Debuting in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump back in 1984 as Dragon Ball, Dragonball Z is the much-loved and popular creation of writer and artist Akira Toriyama. Originally borrowing many of its plot and characters from Journey to the West (Cheng’en, 1592), Dragon Ball followed Goku, a young boy with a monkey’s tail and exceptional martial arts skills, as he travelled the world growing stronger and often searching for the seven magical Dragon Balls. In Dragonball Z, Goku was depicted as an adult and a member of the exceptionally powerful Saiyan race. Dragonball Z took a far more science-fiction-orientated approach to the narrative, introducing several new characters and concepts that would come to define the entire franchise in popular, mainstream media.
Dragonball Z was a massively popular anime in the West and was first licensed by Funimation back in 1996, who set about cutting or otherwise altering the often graphic and violent content of the original anime for its less desensitised audience. Nevertheless, the anime was popular enough in both the East and the West to inspire the creation of several feature-length films, seven of which had been produced prior to this one for Dragonball Z alone. Generally produced without the direct involvement of Toriyama, these films told a truncated version of the “Sagas” depicted in the anime and often failed to align with established canon as a result. As is often the case, though, Toriyama was invited to conceive of the design for an all-new antagonist, creating one of the most recognisable characters in Dragon Ball canon as a result, one who was so popular that he featured in three more movies (two of which were direct sequels to this one) and numerous videogames and ancillary media.
Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan sets the stage for the threat the titular Super Saiyan poses right from the off as it opens with the South Galaxy being “shattered by a Super Saiyan”; the level of destruction is so fearsome that it puts the wind up King Kai (Schemmel). While that may seem impressive, though, you have to remember that every threat that comes along in the Dragon Ball franchise tends to give King Kai the shivers; it’s such a common theme that it doesn’t really carry the same weight, especially when viewed retroactively. We then jump to series protagonist Goku, who has been forced into a fancy suit and is being badgered, as always, by his highly strung wife, Chi-Chi (Cynthia Cranz). Desperate to make a good impression so that their son, Son Gohan (Nadolny), can get into a fancy private school, Chi-Chi is even more overbearing and demanding than usual (if that’s even possible) and Goku is just as awkward and dumb-headed as ever, thinking only about fighting and food, and only serving to aggravate his wife even more.
Goku is restless not only because he’s bored and hungry but also because he’s missing out on a nice little picnic for his closest friends and family; in many ways, though, I envy Goku as he doesn’t have to put up with Krillin’s (Strait) God-awful singing, which is so bad that Vegeta looks ready to kill him. Thankfully, this ear-splitting screeching is interrupted by the arrival of Paragus, who drops down in a massive spaceship full of alien soldiers, all of whom immediately bow and pay reverence to Vegeta. While Vegeta isn’t massively impressed with Paragus’s desires to rebuild the Saiyan army, his curiosity is piqued when Paragus mentions that the “Legendary Super Saiyan” is wreaking havoc across the galaxy. Sure that it’s some kind of trick, Future Trunks (Vale) moves to stop his father from leaving and stows away on the spaceship with Krillin, Master Roshi (McFarland), and Oolong (Bradford Jackson), of all people. These latter two character exist simply to act as our comedy relief for the remainder of the film, which is generally their role in most of the Dragon Ball movies and anime but it’s somewhat out of place here; Roshi’s intoxicated state is good for a few laughs but I can’t help but feel like Krillin could have handled the awkward comedy relief parts perfectly well all by himself.
Goku, having learned of the “Legendary Super Saiyan” from King Kai, is just as excited at the prospect of facing such a powerful opponent. While Vegeta views the presence of the mythical warrior as a worthy challenge, arrogant in his belief that he will be able to overcome such a foe, Goku is as giddy as a schoolkid at facing someone that is potentially more powerful than him and immediately heads to the South Galaxy to track the Super Saiyan down. Neither character, or any of the others for that matter, seems to think about the fact that Super Saiyans already exist (Goku, Trunks, and Vegeta are already Super Saiyans by this point) but there is clearly a distinction between their power-ups and the “Legendary Super Saiyan” that inspired their golden forms. Equally odd is how easily impressed Goku is with the destruction left by the Legendary Super Saiyan; considering Frieza (Linda Young) did far worse to both Planet Vegeta and Planet Namek compared to what Goku sees, it’s a bit strange to see him so concerned about this new being’s power when all he’s seen is a wrecked city. Still, once the others reach New Vegeta, Vegeta is hailed as a king and takes an instant liking to Paragus’s Saiyan son, Broly. Vegeta even chooses Broly to accompany him in confronting the Legendary Super Saiyan over his son, which is a bit odd considering everyone goes out of their way to say how weak, timid, and unassuming Broly is.
Clearly affected by his father’s choice, and concerned about Paragus’s true motives, Trunks investigates the planet with Krillan and Gohan and discovers that New Vegeta is little more than a barren wasteland filled with the skeleton of a civilisation to give the illusion of a vastly populated world. They also discover an alien race being enslaved by Paragus’s troops to power his citadel but, after Goku arrives via Instant Transmission, their concerns about Paragus are almost immediately and stupidly put to ease. However, we the audience are then subsequently shown that Paragus is, in fact, plotting to have a comet destroy the planet. Vegeta and Broly return empty-handed soon after; Vegeta is characteristically frustrated not just because they failed to track down the Legendary Super Saiyan but also because of Goku’s presence. And he’s not the only one annoyed by Goku as, upon meeting him, Broly gets extremely agitated, is barely able to contain himself, and must be subdued by his father and his handy-dandy remote control. The very next scene reveals that the remote is starting to have less and less effect on Broly’s power due to Goku’s presence and we get the first of a number of flashbacks to help flesh out the backstory of Paragus and Broly. Broly was a super destructive feral child and Paragus, unable to control him, was forced to fit him with a suppressing device out of fear for Broly’s violent and ever-growing powers, which almost caused Broly to kill his father, and in a bid to use that same power to dominate the universe.
Critically, Broly was also born with a power level of ten thousand and on the same day as Goku; baby Goku’s constant wailing and crying disturbed Broly, traumatising him and causing him to grow up with a dead-seated hatred for Goku. Unable to contain this hatred, Broly attacks Goku in a mindless rage, proving a formidable opponent whose power appears to be almost limitless, until Paragus is able to calm him once more. The fight is enough to convince Goku that Broly is the Legendary Super Saiyan they have been searching for, a fact he shares with Vegeta just as he is about to leave and which is corroborated when the alien slaves identify Broly as the one who ransacked their world. With the truth revealed, Paragus immediately reveals his true intentions: he orchestrated the entire charade in order to use the oncoming comet to remove the only ones capable of keeping him from invading and colonising Earth with a new Saiyan army (quite how he intends to do that without any Saiyan women is beyond me…). He also reveals that he desires revenge against Vegeta since it was his father, King Vegeta (Sabat) who, fearing Broly’s power, banished the two of them and tried to have them killed. Unable to contain himself any longer, Broly disobeys his father, begins to power up, and engages with the Saiyans. Even as a Super Saiyan, Vegeta’s attacks don’t even faze Broly, who relentlessly targets Goku, shattering his restraining headband and finally transforming into the hulking Legendary Super Saiyan in an explosion of power so immense that it threatens to split the planet in half.
Now little more than a mindless, ravenous beast, Broly’s awesome power is enough to bring Vegeta to his knees in fear; seeing that Broly truly is the Legendary Super Saiyan, Vegeta refuses to fight, believing that they (and even he) are powerless in the face of such awesome might. Broly makes short work of all those who oppose him, his power actually increasing the longer the fight progresses, and lays waste to the entire planet in a burst of rage. So total is his mindless, insane fury that he callously murders his father, freeing him of all restrictions and allowing him to truly let loose his full power. True to form, Piccolo (ibid) eventually arrives to lend a hand, healing the protagonists with some Senzu Beans and setting the stage for the film’s ultimate climactic battle and eventually convincing Vegeta to join the fight. Of course, Vegeta’s fears are true and they are no match for Broly’s power, even fighting as a group, forcing the protagonists to pool their energy into Goku for one last blow, defeating Broly and leaving him to die as the comet strikes New Vegeta.
Broly is a nigh-unstoppable force of nature not unlike DC Comics’ Doomsday, who debuted a few months earlier, and attacks do little to faze him even before he powers up to his “Legendary Super Saiyan” form. He has the same distinct footsteps as Cell (Dameon Clarke) but, despite having an interesting backstory that directly ties him to Goku and being far chattier here than in other appearances, he is a far cry from more loquacious and charismatic villains like Frieza or Cell. Instead, Broly is all about sheer, mindless power and unbridled destruction; he is the Saiyan lust for battle incarnate and dialled up to eleven, revelling in death, devastation, and driven only to kill Goku and all those who stand before him
So awesome is Broly’s power that he destroys an entire world with one energy blast; this puts him at a level above Frieza, who took forever and a day to charge enough energy to destroy Planet Namek. His sheer indestructibility and ability to absorb and no-sell hits also puts him on a similar level to Cell, though he favours raw, unbridled strength over absorbing or adapting to the abilities of his opponents. In just a few blows, Broly is able to blast Gohan and Trunks out of their Super Saiyan forms and, even after Piccolo’s Senzu Beans restore their vitality, Goku is, of course, soon left to tackle the Legendary Super Saiyan alone with only his strength and matchless tenacity.
Vegeta is so horrified by Broly’s power that he refuses to fight; never before has Vegeta been so crippled by fear and awe. Even in the face of Frieza and Cell’s final forms, he would rise to fight, refusing to admit that he was outmatched but, here, he can’t even bring himself to defend himself much less try to oppose Broly. He cannot understand why Goku and the others even attempt to match fists with Broly, so total is his despair at the futility of their situation; even when completely out-matched by Kid Buu (Josh Martin), Vegeta at least attempted to fight but, against Broly, it’s all he can do to begrudgingly lend Goku the power to defeat the Legendary Super Saiyan. It’s an interesting new twist on Vegeta’s stubborn, prideful nature; seeing him shaken to the core and paralysed by dread is a sobering moment and really helps sell the level of Broly’s threat just as much as seeing him make mincemeat of Goku and the other Super Saiyans.
Yet, as impressive as Broly is, he is little more than a mindless beast and this film essentially boils down to an extended fight scene. The plot moves along briskly, never stopping to dwell or elaborate on things and characters more than it has to, which is something I always liked about the Dragon Ball feature films: they distil the generally prolonged fight scenes and endless power up sequences of the anime down to the basics and get right to the action as quickly as possible. Broly has an interesting backstory and certainly makes an impression…right up until his anticlimactic defeat. In the end, after all the ki blasts, power-ups, and blows he has absorbed, Broly goes down relatively easily from a super-powered blow to the abdomen. At least it makes a change from Goku defeating his opponent with a Spirit Bomb but it’s a disappointing way to defeat what is an otherwise very impressive villain; luckily, though, the next movie retroactively shows that Broly actually survived this attack (and rightfully so) but Broly’s unbeatable aura would be diminished in his subsequent appearances.
The Dragon Ball feature films have always been quick snapshots of the generally long-winded anime and Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan is no different; flying through the simple plot and getting right to the action, Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan stands out from its predecessors through the sheer impressive presence of Broly. A sadistic, merciless, hulking monster of a Saiyan, Broly is fascinating for the questions he raises about the Super Saiyan form alone: is he truly the Legendary Super Saiyan whom Vegeta had heard stories of as a child or is he simply an enormously powerful Saiyan who has tapped into a raw form of the same energy the other Saiyans use? While little more than one massive fight scene, Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan is worth a watch for the titular Super Saiyan, if nothing else, and definitely to see Vegeta so wracked by horror that he flat out refuses to fight.
What did you think of Dragonball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan? Where does it rank for you against the other Dragonball Z feature films? What did you think of Broly’s introduction and how would you rate him as a character and antagonist? Would you have liked to see Broly integrated into the main series canon sooner or do you feel he’s over-rated and, perhaps, a relatively underwhelming character? What Dragon Ball character (hero, villain, or otherwise), saga, or movie is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating Piccolo/Goku Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on Dragon Ball, please leave a comment below.