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” and, accordingly, I have spent the last few Sundays looking back at one of the franchise’s most popular villains: Broly.
Released: December 2018
Director: Tatsuya Nagamine
Distributor: Toei Company/20th Century Fox
Budget: $8.5 million
Stars: Sean Schemmel, Christopher Sabat, Vic Mignogna, Chris Ayres, Erica Lindbeck, and Dameon Clarke
After restoring peace to the Earth, and the multiverse, in the Tournament of Power, Son Goku (Schemmel) and Vegeta (Sabat) have been undergoing rigorous training to combat both the renewed threat of Frieza (Ayres) and unknown enemies from beyond their world. However, they face a threat unlike no other when Frieza joins forces with Paragus (Clarke) and his son, Broly (Mignogna), a being whose power eclipses both Saiyans and forces them to turn to the one technique they swore they’d never use again: Fusion.
After debuting in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump back in 1984, Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball has proven a popular and influential manga and anime; its sequel series, Dragonball Z, not only came to define the entire franchise in popular, mainstream media but also spawned several feature-length movies and even a third series, Dragonball GT, all of which are generally considered non-canon as they lacked the direct involvement of Toriyama. After years of speculation and anticipation, Toriyama returned to Dragon Ball in 2015 with Dragonball Super, an official continuation of his popular manga that spawned two more feature-length movies in 2013 and 2015 and, of course, an accompanying anime series that ran from 2015 to 2018.
Picking up immediately where Dragonball Z left off, Dragonball Super has largely supplanted Dragonball GT in the Dragon Ball canon and saw series protagonists Goku and Vegeta transform into even more powerful states, harnessing the powers of Gods, the return of many familiar characters and villains from the franchise’s rich history, and a tournament that spanned parallel universes! Soon after the end of the anime, Toryiama began working on a feature-length film to cap off the series that promised to introduce a “long awaited, strong opponent”. Thanks to his immense popularity among Dragon Ball fans, this turned out to be none other than the Legendary Super Saiyan, Broly, redesigned by Toryiama and officially integrated into his main series canon for the first time. This popularity, alongside improved worldwide distribution compared to previous films, saw the film eventually eclipse even the U.S. lifetime gross of the much-lauded Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001) to amass over $120 million worldwide.
It is to my great shame that I have to admit that I haven’t really watched much of Dragonball Super, much less read the original manga. I’ve been patiently waiting and debating about buying the physical releases of the anime and caught a few episodes here and there, but the majority of my knowledge of the series comes from what I’ve read online and the previous movies in the series.
Luckily, Dragonball Super The Movie: Broly opens in familiar-enough territory; with King Cold (Jason Douglas), Frieza, and the Ginyu Force arriving on Planet Vegeta to meet with King Vegeta (Sabat). If there’s one thing I’ve found Toryiama likes to do whenever he revisits his seminal franchise, it’s digging up the past; he unnecessarily resurrected Frieza in the previous film, Dragonball Z: Resurrection “F” (Yamamuro, 2015), and even brought back Future Trunks (Eric Vale) in Dragonball Super. It’s a helpful shorthand for getting a sense of how powerful certain characters are by having Frieza around but, generally, I don’t really like that villains and characters so hopelessly outclassed are suddenly brought back and deemed a threat once more.
The film even revisits Frieza’s eventual campaign against the Saiyans, including Goku’s father, Bardock (Strait), into the plot and officially incorporating him into the overall canon at the same time. Interestingly, the alterations made to Goku’s origins not only recontextualise the characterisation of Bardock but also slightly alter the specifics of how Goku escaped the destruction of Planet Vegeta and the majority of the Saiyan race and even his early years on Earth. This also allows us to see Vegeta and Raditz (Justin Cook) as little kids, which is something we’ve never really seen before in the series.
All of these elements form the background to Broly’s revised origin: similar to his original incarnation, Broly is still a child prodigy with a power level that initially appears to eclipse that of even King Vegeta’s son and who has the potential to be even the Legendary Super Saiyan. King Vegeta is still fearful and frustrated by Broly’s superiority over his son and ostracised the child, and his father, Paragus, by sending them to the backwater world of Vampa where Broly’s power would not be a threat to his rule or the purity of the Saiyan race. Angered, Paragus pursues his son and vows to harness Broly’s power to oppose his former king, resulting in a backstory that is largely the same but slightly different in subtle ways; clearly, Broly’s original origin as a Saiyan born with incredible powers was iconic enough to leave mostly intact but his eventual personality and the circumstances of his madness are altered quite considerably.
Originally, Broly was overwhelmed by his power, frustrated by his father’s control over him, and enraged to the point of mindless insanity thanks to Goku’s crying disturbing him as a child; though initially quite eloquent, he was always a mindless engine of destruction even before he literally became little more than a rampaging monster. Here, though, Broly is a far more complex character; naïve and almost caveman-like, he’s easily controlled by his father thanks to a restraining collar and is quite passive and childlike even when fully grown. He’s not only far more gentle and eloquent, he also makes friends with Cheelai (Lindbeck) and Lemo (Bruce Carey) and grew so attached to Ba, a gigantic creature from Vampa, that his father had to mutilate the beast to keep Broly focused on his training as an unstoppable weapon. These elements all add much-needed layers to Broly’s backstory, transforming him into a far more tragic and sympathetic figure who is a victim of his machinations of his father and upbringing as much as his limitless power and uncontrollable rage.
When we are finally reintroduced to Goku and Vegeta, they are still just as enthusiastic about sparring and growing stronger than ever thanks to their experiences in the Tournament of Power. While Goku wishes to grow more powerful to take on opponents from other universe, Vegeta desires to increase his power in order to defeat Frieza, angered that Goku not only resurrected Frieza but allowed him to go free after he helped them in the anime. It’s interesting to see Vegeta be the voice of reason; I would have assumed that his and Goku’s motivations would have been reversed but, instead, Vegeta is most perturbed by the potential threat Frieza poses, especially after they discover that he has stolen six of the seven magical Dragon Balls.
Convinced that Frieza can’t be up to much good, Goku agrees to go with Vegeta and Bulma (Monica Rial) to the ice continent (picking up some nifty cold-weather clothes along the way) to find the last Dragon Ball. In a strangely amusing twist, though, it turns out that Frieza’s motivations for finding the Dragon Balls are as laughably vain and simple as Bulma’s: Bulma wants to wish to look five years younger and Frieza wants to be five centimetres taller, with both characters reasoning that any more would be “too noticeable”. It’s a tenuous reason to get the plot in gear but a recurring joke in the film and perfectly in line with the wackier elements and motivations of the franchise.
Frieza’s motivations change, however, when his soldiers find the now-aged Paragus and Broly; impressed by the potential of Broly’s power, Frieza feeds Paragus’s desire for revenge against Vegeta by coercing them into engaging with his hated enemies. This time around, Broly’s rage is not at Goku alone but, instead, at anyone his father deems to be an enemy and, specifically, Vegeta for being the son of the man who condemned them to death. Once he begins to engage in battle, though, his formally peaceful and serene nature gives way to an insatiable bloodlust and increasing, overpowering rage that pushes both Goku and Vegeta to their limits.
Overwhelmed by Broly’s limitless rage, power, and brute strength, Goku and Vegeta are forced to not only team up with Golden Frieza to defeat Broly but also to turn to Piccolo (Sabat) for help in mastering the Fusion Dance. Previously, the two had fused into Vegito using the Potara Earrings and, though they had performed the Fusion Dance and transformed into Gogeta in non-canon anime, movies, and videogames, they’ve never performed the dance or assumed this form in canon until this moment. It’s a striking contrast to Vegeta’s fear and helplessness in Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan (Shigeyasu, 1993); there, he was so reluctant to fight against Broly or lend Goku his power that he was almost willing to accept what he saw as his inevitable death at the hands of the Legendary Super Saiyan but, here, his resolve against Broly’s power never falters and he begrudgingly agrees to undergo the transformation in order to prevail. As much as I enjoyed seeing Vegeta’s usual arrogance and ego stripped away and him brought to his knees by fear, it’s equally as entertaining to see him forced to merge into the same body as his hated rival.
Unlike his original appearances, which quickly devolved into little more than an extended series of fights against a near-unstoppable opponent that ended in anti-climatic fashion two out of three times, Dragonball Super The Movie: Broly depicts Broly as a formidable opponent whose power increases again and again as the film progresses and, yet, also a foe whom Goku and Vegeta are able to put up a much better fight against than in his original incarnation.
Unlike his original counterpart, Broly is actually rather untested in battle, relying on brute strength, anger, or instinct in a way that is slightly different to in the original films; despite his vast power level, he cannot even transform into a regular Super Saiyan, much less the Legendary Super Saiyan, at the start of the film and, yet, his base form is more than capable of matching Super Vegeta and pushing him to his limits. Broly also demonstrates the ability to learn, adapt, and increase in power as a fight progresses and, after being bested by Vegeta’s Super Saiyan God form, Broly summons the power of the Great Ape but channels it through his normal body, attaining a new form not seen before: his Wrath State.
In an interesting twist, Broly is far more devoted to his father than in his original depiction; rather than turning against and killing Paragus in the midst of his onslaught, Broly follows his father’s directions (when not in a mindless rage) and is so traumatised by his death at Frieza’s hands that he finally transforms into a Super Saiyan. Nothing, not even a Kamehameha/Galick Gun combination or Golden Frieza is enough to stand against Broly, forcing Vegeta to swallow his pride and endure the Fusion Dance to allow Gogeta to be born in canon for the first time.
Their eventual team up with Golden Frieza makes for a suitably impressive finale; as much as I may dislike Frieza being resurrected and even him being somewhat redeemed and becoming more of an anti-hero and reluctant ally, it’s still impressive seeing him forced to fight alongside his hated enemies in their merged form. The result is a series of far more impressive and spectacular fight scenes than in any of Broly’s previous appearances; as awesome as it was to see the original Broly swat away our heroes like they were nothing, there’s no denying that Broly’s fights are bigger, more explosive, and far more exciting as the stakes continually increase and each character is forced to up their power level again and again to match the other.
Even better is the climax of the film; as noted, Broly’s previous appearances all ended in anti-climatic fashion save for one and even that did little to redeem the film that proceeded it. Here, Super Saiyan Blue Gogeta and Legendary Super Saiyan Broly fight so hard that they threaten not only the safety of the Earth but the entire universe as well. Tying back into Broly’s introduction as a simple man-child with a kind heart, he is ultimately transported back to Vampa by Cheelai’s wish right as Gogeta is about to finish him off. Frieza allows Broly to go, confidant that Cheelai and Lemo will be able to domesticate him so Frieza can utilise his power at a later date, and the film ends with Broly, now living a simple life as a farmer with his friends, content and at peace with himself. Unlike in his original incarnation, he even ends the film on good terms with Goku, who not only wishes to face Broly in battle once again but also finally, surprisingly, embraces his Saiyan heritage for the first time in a nod to the original films by insisting that Broly call him “Kakarot”.
Of all the films to feature Broly, Dragonball Super The Movie: Broly is easily the best one, even better than Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan. One of the biggest issues the original Dragonball Z feature films had was that they were so condensed that they often focused solely on comedy or fight scenes, with little substance to their style. This is great when you’re burned out from watching characters power up over the course of three or five episodes of the anime but not so much when you’re trying to invest in their original characters and the potential of their premises.
Dragonball Super The Movie: Broly takes everything that worked from Broly’s previous appearances and expands upon it, giving him a far more intricate and interesting backstory while still portraying him as a brute of near-unstoppable power. At this point in the franchise, Goku and Vegeta are so powerful that it’s hard for any opponent to be taken seriously but the fact that Broly forced them to not only merge together but also turn Super Saiyan Blue in that form shows that he’s just as formidable, if not more so, than his original incarnation. With far more impressive fight scenes, much better use of characters, comedy, and action, and even some much-appreciated peeks into the past, Dragonball Super The Movie: Broly is probably the best Dragon Ball movie out of them all and the fact that it leaves the door open for Broly to naturally and seamlessly return to the franchise is all the better.
What did you think of Dragonball Super The Movie: Broly? Were you happy with the alterations made to Broly? How do you feel about characters like Frieza returning to the franchise and being somewhat redeemed? What did you think of Dragonball Super as an official continuation of the series? Which story arc from Dragonball Super did you like the best and which characters from the multiverse would you like to see show up in future films? Whatever your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.