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’ve been using this as a good excuse to celebrate all things Dragon Ball and to take a look back at one of the franchise’s most popular villains: Broly.
Released: July 1994
Director: Yoshihiro Ueda
Distributor: Toei Company
Budget: Unable to verify
Stars: Kara Edwards, Laura Bailey, Vic Mignogna, Meredith McCoy, C.T. Anger, Bill Townsley, Chris Rager, Sonny Strait, and Robert McCollum
When the World’s Martial Arts Champion, Mr. Satan (Rager), is challenged by his old rival, Mr. Jaguar (Townsley), Goten (Edwards), Trunks (Baily), and Android #18 (McCoy) accompany him to an island laboratory to take part in a special tournament only to find that Jaguar’s bizarre cloning technology has resurrected the Legendary Super Saiyan, Broly (Mignogna), now mutated into a grotesque abomination.
Dragonball Z, the anime that defined a generation of kids, was the sequel series to Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, a manga and anime that followed the adventures of Son Goku, a young boy with incredible martial arts prowess who grew up to become the kind-hearted (if goofy) saviour of the world. With the anime proving to be even more successful than its original series, a number of feature-length animated movies were produced without the direct involvement of Toriyama. Though they are largely non-canon to the wider Dragon Ball story arc, they did introduce us to Broly, a near-unstoppable and mindless antagonist who appeared to be the “Legendary Super Saiyan” incarnate. So popular was Broly upon his debut that he became only the second movie villain to star in more than one film and quickly became a popular character in Dragon Ball fighting games and merchandise. This, and the ¥2.33 billion brought in by his debut feature, Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan (Yamauchi, 1993), no doubt contributed to Broly featuring in not one but two movies in 1994 to complete a loose trilogy of sorts.
Bio-Broly gets off to a bad start for me, personally, right from the get-go. Because of where it takes place within the Dragon Ball timeline, Goku (Sean Schemmel) is back in the afterlife after returning to Earth for one day for the World’s Martial Arts Tournament and, given the absence of many of the series’ most popular and powerful characters, this movie is awkwardly placed in the early going of the “Majin Buu Saga”. This, unfortunately for me, means that the film’s primary focus is on Goku’s youngest son, Goten, and Trunks, the son of Goku’s arch-rival and fellow Saiyan, Vegeta (Christopher R. Sabat). This wouldn’t be a problem were it not for the fact that I find both of these characters incredibly annoying; they’re all the worst parts of Saiyans (overconfidence to the point of arrogance, insatiable hunger, and being bored to the point of distraction when they’re not fighting) dialled up to the nth degree thanks to their childishness and immaturity. They’ve never made for compelling characters for me, personally; Trunks was only interesting when he was a time-travelling prodigy and Goten never even managed to grow up to match the disappointment his brother, Gohan (Kyle Hebert) turned out to be. The only time I really enjoy the characters is when they’re fused or being beaten to a pulp as it’s the only time I find them credible or tolerable, respectively.
The same can also be said for my thoughts about Mr. Satan (or “Hercule”), though I do find him to, at least, be a far more enjoyable and hilariously ridiculous character when he’s used sparingly and smartly. Luckily, that is largely the case here and we get to see a little bit more of Mr. Satan’s past and backstory but I find the movie’s focus on Dragonball Z’s more ridiculous characters to be its downfall and it only serves to further devalue Broly’s mystique and aura. This means that it’s largely up to Android #18 to carry the film’s fight scenes; a cold, focused character, #18 is only interested in receiving the money she is owed by Mr. Satan. In the absence of Vegeta or Piccolo (Sabat), she’s easily the film’s most credible fighter, fulfilling the same stoic, grouchy characterisation those two typically have and she’s perfectly cast as the reluctant muscle of the film.
Sadly, though, the film’s fight scenes leave a lot to be desired; for the most part, our heroes are battling Jaguar’s generic-looking “Bio Warriors”. Jaguar himself is a largely ineffective and bumbling fool; the entirety of his threat is based around his cloning technology and his ability to create monstrous fighters, the majority of which are largely unimpressive to look at. Unfortunately, far too much of the movie’s runtime is devoted to fight scenes involving these Bio Warriors; the opening already hints at Jaguar having a Saiyan ready to go and we know Broly is in the film but he doesn’t actually show up until a good way into the movie, meaning the bulk of the film’s focus is on a bunch of unimposing freaks that are easily dispatched by #18, Trunks, and Goten.
As it is part of a loose trilogy of films revolving around Broly, Bio-Broly sees the return of a small character from the last movie, Maloja (McCollum); rather than developing into a fully-fledged character or playing a pivotal role, however, Maloja simply exists to explain how Jaguar was able to recreate Broly. In some ways, the film’s plot would have made more sense to me if Maloja had replaced Jaguar entirely as the film’s primary human antagonist; after all, he has an axe to grind against Goten and Trunks after the last movie and it would have been a far better pay off than randomly bringing in a guy who even more pathetic and foolish than Mr. Satan. Once Broly is discovered by Goten and Trunks, the film steps up a notch for the briefest of moments; still just as obsessed with killing Goku and overcome by his limitless power, Broly is just as sadistic and terrifying as ever…for about five minutes. Rather than going on a destructive rampage as the Legendary Super Saiyan, Broly is almost immediately engulfed by a mutagenic liquid and becomes little more than a mindless slop monster, severely diminishing his threat.
Bio-Broly suffers quite a bit by focusing on slapstick and nonsense for the majority of its runtime; the film’s central plot revolves almost entirely around Mr. Satan, which is somewhat amusing when he’s either being pummeled or held up for money by #18, but quite a step back considering the different facets of established characters we saw in Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan or the potential of a cross-generation conflict in the previous movie.
Truthfully, Broly was always kind of one-dimensional in the previous movies, motivated purely by his destructive rage and hatred of Goku but, here, he’s even more of a blank slate; he literally could have been replaced with any other dull monster so ineffectual is his presence. The potential threat Broly has is given some lip service but the film does little to follow through on it other than showing Bio-Broly to be just as unstoppable as the original Broly, but nowhere near as eloquent or visually appealing, until he is unceremoniously dissolved with relative ease. I’m not really sure why these films go to such lengths to portray Broly as this creature of limitless power and largely immune to pain and physical damage only to have him destroyed with the most anti-climactic of methods; the last film set such a high standard with its triple Father-Son Kamehameha but this film’s climax is even more disappointing than Broly’s end from his debut film.
This time around, there’s no magic assistance from dead fathers or other Saiyans; Goten and Trunks are just as physically outmatched as ever and, thankfully, never depicted as being physically capable of matching or besting Broly’s power. Instead, they have to rely on dousing Broly in a caustic liquid that dissolves him on a cellular level; while this does initially cause Broly to transform even further into a gigantic goo creature, he simply collapses from the strain of the damage. I can’t help but feel like the film would have been a little better if Broly had retained his usual appearance for the majority of his screen time, exhibiting new or enhanced abilities (elasticity and near-instant cellular regeneration), and not assumed his monstrous, gunk-covered form until the end of the film. At least then he’d be far more imposing and interesting to look at rather than being reduced to a mindless sludge monster.
Dragonball Z: Bio-Broly is a pretty poor end to what was, initially, one of the more impressive movie (and Dragon Ball) villains. While always little more than an engine of destruction, Broly at least looked impressive and intimidating, dominating the most powerful characters of the series with ease and only being defeated by pure luck more than anything. Rather than focus his second appearance around a generational conflict that saw Broly go head-to-head with a more powerful and experience Gohan, his subsequent appearances have been little more than shameless attempts to cash in on his popularity. There was so much potential in repeat appearances from Broly to expand on his characterisation and threat but, in each reappearance, he was neutered further and further until he literally became nothing more than a mindless monster that was more an inconvenience than a true, life-threatening menace. It’s not just my bias against Goten, Trunks, or Mr. Satan that drags Bio-Broly down; it’s flawed on almost every level of its execution and can’t even be salvaged by the brief return of Broly let alone its few unimpressive fight scenes and, even when compared to other Dragon Ball features, it is one of the weaker entries for me.
What did you think of Dragonball Z: Bio-Broly? Were you as disappointed as I was at the way Broly was treated in this film or do you actually rate this movie quite high? Are you a fan of Goten and Trunks or do you also find them to be annoying and grating characters? Which Dragon Ball characters do you like, or dislike, the most? How do you feel about this loose trilogy of films involving Broly? No matter what you think, feel free to leave a comment below.