Talking Movies: Dragonball Evolution

Released: 10 April 2009
Director: James Wong
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Budget: $30 million
Stars: Justin Chatwin, Emmy Rossum, Chow Yun-fat, Jamie Chung, Joon Park, and James Marsters

The Plot:
After breaking free from two-thousand years of imprisonment, Lord Piccolo (Marsters) begins scouring the world for the seven legendary Dragonballs, which he intends to gather to summon a magical dragon and gain immortality. After his beloved grandfather is killed protecting the four-star Dragonball, young outcast and martial arts prodigy Son Goku (Chatwin) teams up with a head-strong inventor Doctor Bulma Briefs (Rossum) and eccentric martial arts master Muten Roshi (Yung-fat) to track down the Dragonballs and avert word-wide disaster!

The Background:
I might be a day early for “Piccolo Day” (or “Goku Day” if you prefer) but I’m never one to pass up a good excuse to celebrate all things Dragon Ball, which debuted in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump back in 1984. The creation of writer and artist Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball originally borrowing many elements from Journey to the West (Cheng’en, 1592) before delving into a far more science-fiction-orientated approach with is successor series, Dragonball Z, which would come to define the entire franchise in popular, mainstream media. Dragonball Z was first licensed by Funimation in 1996; despite the omission of its often graphic and violent content, Dragonball Z was a massively popular anime and even led to several feature-length animated films, though these were generally produced without Toriyama’s direct involvement and often failed to align with established canon as a result. Development of a live-action Dragon Ball movie can be traced back to 1995, when noted Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan expressed an interest in taking on the iconic role of Son Goku; Toriyama himself would late state that Chan would have been his choice for the role if the actor was younger, but development of a live-action adaptation wouldn’t properly get underway until 2002, when 20th Century Fox acquired the rights and set to work developing a script and finding a director. In the end, it was youngster Justin Chatwin who won the lead role, and the production was forever condemned for “white-washing” as a result. James Marsters took on the role of the film’s antagonist, Lord Piccolo, and was particularly enthusiastic about the project given his love for the anime, though both he and co-star Cow Yun-fat were unimpressed to find they’d been duped into thinking the project had a higher budget and that director Stephen Chow would be in charge of the film. Dragonball Evolution’s $58.2 million worldwide gross meant it was a box office bomb, and the reviews were scathing across the board as critics bemoaned the lacklustre story and characterisations, its lack of fidelity to the source material, and it was slammed as being a surreal mess full of poor special effects and overacting; even Toriyama was disappointed by the adaptation, and plans for a number of sequels were subsequently cancelled.

The Review:
I was a bit late to the Dragonball Z party as a kid since it took me a while to be able to watch it (satellite television isn’t cheap when you’re income is low), but I’ve been a long-time fan since I was a teenager and the idea of a live-action adaptation was quite exciting. However, right off the bat, I (and the wider audiences) were having to temper our expectations; many of us in the West grew up watching Dragonball Z and, arguably, that’s still the most popular iteration of Toriyama’s long-running franchise, but it wouldn’t make a huge amount of sense to do a big screen movie that skips of Goku’s time as a youth and establishing the fantasy world he lives in, so right away the idea was that we’d have to get through an “origin” story before we started to see Super Saiyans and alien, technological, and God-like beings challenging our heroes. I get the idea in principal but there is a counter argument to that thinking: start with Goku as a young twenty-something and do a truncated version of the Saiyan Saga since that’s what many people wanted to see and, if it’s successful, you can maybe do a prequel later down the line. Instead, though, Dragonball Evolution opted to focus more on reconfiguring the lesser-known Dragon Ball anime for its story, specifically elements of the Emperor Pilaf, Tournament, and Piccolo Sagas…which is pretty convenient for me since I’m much more familiar than the start and end of Goku’s childhood journey than the middle parts. Like all great movies, Dragonball Evolution opens with an opening narration that tells the legend of a maniacal tyrant known as Lord Piccolo, who terrorised the world alongside his monstrous minion, Ōzaru, before finally being sealed away using the mysterious “Mafuba” enchantment. Thankfully, Goku is only too aware of the Piccolo/Ōzaru legend thanks to the wise and benevolent teachings of his beloved grandfather, Gohan (Randall Duk Kim).

Despite his grandfather’s best efforts, Goku just wants to fit in and be able to talk to girls.

Unlike in the manga and anime, Goku has lived only a semi-sheltered life; he essentially lives out in the countryside, not far from the main city, and has been taught martial arts, legendary scripture, and the basics of ki by his elderly grandfather, a playful and mischievous old man who delights in sparring with his grandson in frankly ludicrous displays of green screen and “wire-fu”. Although Goku is a formidable opponent, Gohan emphasises that he relies far too much on his senses rather  than the strength within him; Goku’s difficulty at mastering his ki to perform air-bending techniques is a recurring element in the film and part of his larger character arc of realising the true potential that dwells within him and turning it towards good. Sadly, however, Justin Chatwin isn’t really that great of a fit for Goku; he’s got the youthful charm, for sure, but lacks the physical stature and believability to really fill out the role. Not only that but he’s really not that great an actor; some of his line deliveries are embarrassingly cheesy and not in a good way. It’s strange as he does a decent job of conveying Goku’s frustrations and social awkwardness, but whenever he has to be “serious” he stumbles quite noticeably, making for an inconsistent and disappointing depiction of the goofy Saiyan fighter. Still, Goku is depicted as overtly superhuman, easily able to dodge and subdue even multiple opponents at once without even throwing a punch. However, he’s also as an outcast and, while grateful for his grandfather’s teachings, he longs to be accepted by his peers and to get the girl; in this case, the cute and attractive Chi-Chi (Chung). Although Chi-Chi has apparently been claimed by Goku’s long-time tormentor, Carey Fuller (Texas Battle), Goku is besotted by her but even more stunned to learn that she knows about ki. Clearing interested in him, she’s sympathetic to the abuse he suffers in school and invites him to her house party, which means he isn’t there when Piccolo comes calling for the Dragon Ball and kills Gohan. Chi-Chi continues to be full of surprises when Goku and his allies travel to the Stone Temple, only to find it a training ground for the fights of the World Martial Arts Tournament; there, Goku learns that Chi-Chi is actually an admirable fighter in her own right, with designs on taking part in the tournament, and the two grow close when she helps him to focus his ki. As the battle to recover the Dragon Balls escalates, Chi-Chi gets to show off some of her fighting prowess, but ultimately end sup the victim of Piccolo’s machinations when his shapeshifting ninja-like henchwoman, Mai (Eriko Tamura), assumes her form in order to get closer to Goku and steal his Dragon Balls.

Bulma and Yamcha are two of the film’s few high points but even they can’t save it from mediocrity.

Although Gohan told Goku that gathering all seven Dragon Balls will summon the mighty dragon Shenron and grant “one perfect wish”, it seems he didn’t fully believe this story, or the threat of the Nameks, until Piccolo kills his grandfather. Although devastated by this loss, Goku vows to protect his grandfather’s Four-Star Dragon Ball from falling into the wrong hands, which causes him to form an unlikely alliance with the headstrong Bulma, who attacks Goku after thinking he stole her Five-Star “Promethium Orb”. Although she has her Dragon Radar, Bulma is smart enough to agree that she needs backup and agrees to help Goku find Gohan’s old friend and master, Roshi, but holds Goku to his promise to help her locate her missing Dragon Ball. Bulma’s technology is essential to their group’s quest; not only can she locate Dragon Balls with her radar, but she has the vehicles to transport them vast distances and can even hold her own thanks to her pistol. While she is unimpressed with Roshi’s lewd attempts to get close to her, she attempts to charm Yamcha (Park) into helping them out when they crash into a whole, only to be spurned since the desert bandit set the trap specifically to try and rob them. A selfish, arrogant thief, Yamcha is initially dismissive of Roshi’s (literal) campfire tales about the coming danger but is convinced to help them out first by being impressed with Roshi’s incredible physical prowess and then by the promise of payment. I can’t explain why, but Yamcha is one of my favourite non-Saiyan characters from the anime and, while Joon park certainly doesn’t look anything like the character, he brings a certain appealing energy to the role that, while bordering on the ludicrous, makes him a far more charismatic character than Goku. Bulma and Yamcha remain the standout characters for me, and not just because I have an unapologetic crush on Emmy Rossum or a bias towards Yamcha; they have a decent amount on onscreen chemistry (certainly more then Chatwin and Chung, despite the latter’s best efforts), capture the spirit of the characters pretty well, and I even appreciate the little blue streak in Bulma’s hair as a nod to the source material.

Roshi endeavors to teach Goku to harness his ki, a technique markedly different in this adaptation.

Another relatively faithful highlight is Master Roshi; although he lacks the character’s trademark bald head, sunglasses, and beard, he at least wears the same loud Hawaiian shirts and exhibits a lewd, playful personality. An aloof and unusual master of the martial arts, Roshi is only too familiar with the threat posed by Piccolo and Ōzaru, which heralds the coming of the apocalypse. Distraught to learn of Gohan’s death and Piccolo’s return, Roshi insists on coming along and teaching Goku how to refine his ki: this involves forcing him to run through the desert carrying all of their supplies, performing one-handed headstands, and learning to master two things at once. While he’s definitely an oddball character, Roshi is dead serious about the threat posed by Piccolo and Ōzaru and can effortlessly hold his own in most fights; however, his primary purpose is delivering exposition regarding the Mafuba (which claims the lives of those who use it) and training Goku to harness his ki and learn the most powerful of all air-bending techniques, the Kamehameha Wave. It’s interesting that the depiction of ki is quite different here than in the source material; it’s more akin to what is seen in Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005 to 2008) in that characters are manipulating elements using their inner energy rather than literally channelling that energy into destructive attacks, and I’m not entirely sure why the change was made beyond a cursory implication that Piccolo favours for fire-based energy attacks since his attacks are often depicted in red. While Roshi pushed Goku’s strength and skills to the limits through rigorous and unorthodox training methods in the source material, it’s only through the encouragement (and the incentive of a kiss) from Chi-Chi that Goku is able to pull off the Kamehameha for the first time here. Fully aware that Goku won’t be ready to face Piccolo in time, Roshi turns to Sifu Norris (Ernie Hudson) to prepare the Mafuba once more, fully prepared to sacrifice himself to save the world from destruction.

It’s pretty sad to see one of Goku’s fiercest rivals and foes reduced to a one-dimensional villain.

Another commendable aspect of Dragonball Evolution has to be James Marsters as Lord Piccolo; released from his confinement offscreen by Mai, Piccolo is a grim and ruthless individual who has no compunction about raising entire villages to smouldering ruins in his search for the Dragon Balls. Regal and menacing in his posture, Piccolo is a villain of few words and even few wasted movements; he sees all life as beneath him and wants nothing more than to enact a merciless revenge upon the world that imprisoned him for so long, and personally crushes Goku’s home using his immense power, killing Gohan in the process and thus making their antagonism very personal. Piccolo is a fearsome opponent; not only can he lay waste to entire areas and dry up bodies of water in a single blast, but his blood can also spawn monstrous minions to cause minor inconveniences to the protagonists. Indeed, Piccolo spends the majority of his time just posturing and floating around seemingly in no hurry to find the seven Dragon Balls despite literally being on a deadline. Although he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty in the search, he continuously leaves Mai to screw around impersonating Chi-Chi to steal the heroes’ Dragon Balls rather than simply take them by force like he did the others and wastes his time delivering villainous monologues rather than just bringing forth the dragon when he has the chance. He literally jumps at the chance to lord himself over Goku, especially after he’s transformed into Ōzaru, and  prioritises fighting with the boy rather than locating the scattered Dragon Balls. Ultimately, Piccolo lacks any of the menace or subtle nuance of either his father or his more well-known son/reincarnation; he’s ridiculously one-dimensional, being “bad” for the sake of it, and is defeated with depressing ease when all’s said and done. While Marsters may have hoped to return and do the character justice in future sequels, and Piccolo is shown to have survived, it’s difficult to envision this version of the character ever being more than a one-note kids’ villain in a regrettably poor adaptation.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Although Dragonball Evolution appears to take place in our world, or at least the near future, it’s actually surprisingly faithful to the source material in a lot of ways. Sure, there’s no anthropomorphic characters and a lot of the more fantastical elements are excised or subdued, but there’s a decent attempt to including such concepts as the Capsule Corporation’s wearable technology, Piccolo travels the world in a futuristic and elaborate airship, and Bulma not only carries her trusty Dragon Radar but also rides a bike not a million miles away from her manga counterpart. Characterisations are far more on point than some people give credit for, too; sure, this “teen” version of Goku has a bit more in common with his teenaged son, who also struggled a bit to fit in at high school, but Goku has the same voracious appetite and aptitude for martial arts in the source material and is just as wide-eyed and naïve in a lot of ways (although here that’s reconfigured as a shy awkwardness around Chi-Chi rather than a general naivety towards life outside of his sheltered upbringing. Bulma is pretty on point as well; she’s as stubborn and forthright as in the source material, but also far more independent and capable. She’s searching for the Dragon Balls to use them as an unlimited energy source for the world rather than to wish for a boyfriend, is nowhere near as objectified or insufferable, and actually proves to be a valuable asset to the quest.

Despite some half-hearted attempts, the film fails to capture the fun and action of the source material.

There are a few other notable allusions to the source material as well: Goku can sense ki, which alerts him to his grandfather’s death; he also takes up Gohan’s bō staff (a far more grounded interpretation of the extendable Power Pole Goku wielded as a child in the source material), and eventually dons a keikogi that’s admirably faithful to his traditional attire. While Master Roshi doesn’t live on a small island in the middle of nowhere, his house is on an isolated “island” of sorts in Paozu City and he’s just as excitable and inappropriate as his admittedly more iconic counterpart. While Piccolo is freely identified as a Namek rather than a demonic entity as was originally implied in his first appearances, there’s a definite sense of otherworldliness to him that hints at threats from beyond the stars; however, one of the most interesting alterations to the established Dragon Ball lore is the depiction of the Great Ape, Ōzaru. Here, Goku is able to look at a full moon without fear (potentially because of his lack of a Saiyan tail), but the impending solar eclipse triggers his transformation into a much smaller version of the iconic monster, one far closer to the Wolfman than King Kong. While the film presents Ōzaru as being a destructive monster sent to destroy the world, it also positions the creature as another of Piccolo’s henchmen in a bit of a bizarre and confusing alteration; the film’s rushed and ugly finale attempts to present a version of the usual story surrounding the Great Ape (that the Saiyan loses control of their senses and must be subdued or calmed down to stop their rampage) by indicating that Goku’s memories of his grandfather and friends allows him to master Ōzaru’s power, and thus gain mastery of his ki, but it’s a bit of a messy execution and I honestly think the film (and the effects budget) would have been better off just omitting Ōzaru entirely.

Despite some fun references to the source material, the film’s fights and CGI really let it down.

These references are tenuous at best, however, and amount to little more than Easter Eggs; Dragonball Evolution thus ends up being an adaptation that tries far too hard todumb down or omit the more fantastical elements of its source material and simply drop in a few sly winks and nods for the knowing audience. This probably wouldn’t be so bad if the film made up for it with some thrilling and visually interesting fight sequences but, sadly, there’s a disappointing lack of actual martial arts in the film. The opening sparring match between Goku and Gohan, while fun, is hardly what you’d call ground-breaking fight choreography; Dragonball Evolution takes its cue very much from films like Bulletproof Monk (Hunter, 2003) for the depiction of its martial arts, emphasising unnatural camera angles, quick cuts, and a light-hearted bending of the laws of physics. There’s a very “floaty” feeling to all the moves that means characters bend and twist and flip in ways that go against everything you’d expect in the natural world and, while this is a sour point for fans of more traditional or visually interesting martial arts films, it does fit rather well with Dragon Ball’s whimsical and over the top nature. The franchise has never really been one for realism; characters routinely float, fly, teleport, and perform superhuman feats that have no basis in reality, and Dragonball Evolution is clearly made for a younger audience who aren’t expecting long, continuous, brutal sequences like those of Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (Pinkaew, 2003), so I don’t begrudge the film for utilising such a farfetched visual direction for its fight scenes. Still, having said that, the film really falls off a cliff around hallway through when the characters inexplicably tunnel through the dirt in the arid wastelands and find themselves at a raging volcano! While I applaud the use of practical effects to render Piccolo’s rock-like henchmen, they’re dispatched with ridiculous ease and the editing is almost as bad as the green screen.

Embarrassingly bad special effects bring this laughable effort to a merciful end.

Things only get uglier and when the film reaches what is supposed to be a dramatic conclusion and instead becomes a disappointingly underwhelming light show where the actors are clearly flailing around on a green screen and throwing poorly rendered blasts of light at each other. It gets even worse when Goku transforms into Ōzaru; thanks to fan backlash regarding the creature’s initial design, which seemed far more practical despite looking nothing like an ape, Ōzaru is rendered as a monstrously ugly CGI creature that stands out like a sore thumb even amidst the shoddy computer-generated landscape. To the film’s credit, it at least attempts to recreate the kinetic battles from the anime, some of the camera shots even evoke those from the source material and Piccolo and Goku certain throw their fair share of energy blasts at each other, but by this point it all just looks like a bad videogame. It’s amazing to me how, in a post-Matrix (Wachowski Brothers, 1999) world, Dragonball Evolution fails to even remotely capture the tangible thrill of two hated rivals exchanging blows in mid-air and crashing through rocks. Obviously, The Matrix Revolutions (ibid, 2003) had a much higher budget than this dreck of a film but it also came out six years previously and you’d think that even a throwaway kids’ movie like this would be able to learn something from its approach. While I appreciate the attempt to try and recreate Lord Piccolo’s death from the source material, the scene of Goku channelling the Kamehameha and Ōzaru’s energy into himself to launch his final attack at his foe is laughably awful and looks more like a bad fan film than a big-budget release. Even more incredible is that Goku wastes his one wish on resurrecting Roshi (why not wish for all lives lost at Piccolo’s hands to be restored, thus returning Gohan and all those senseless killed by Piccolo to life?) and that the film ends with sequel bait!

The Summary:
I was actually quite sympathetic towards Dragonball Evolution when I first saw it at the cinema. I enjoyed Bulletproof Monk for what it was and the similarities between the two films, and the references to the source material, were enough for me to consider it a decent enough kids’ movie that tries its best to capture some of the spirit of Dragon Ball. But, over time, those positives have dulled and this has become nothing less than a painful chore to sit through. It’s pretty amazing how awful this film is when you consider that Casshern (Kiriya, 2004) released about five years before this and did a far better job of crafting a live-action anime on a far smaller budget. It’s not as if Dragonball Evolution is elevated by the quality of its cast; Emmy Rossum and Joon Park aside, the film is full of inconsistent, lacklustre, and over the top performances that only serve to give it a mixed tone. If it had fully committed to being an action/comedy or a fantastical martial arts tale, maybe it would have landed better but it’s just all over the place and it’s difficult to really care about the stakes as a result. Dragon Ball often has its whimsical and comedic elements but, when the battle for the world starts, things usually always get pretty serious but, here, they just become an unimpressive and ugly CGI light show that makes everyone look like a complete fool as they scream against a green screen and are awkwardly jerked around in the air in a poor attempt at recreating the intensity of the anime. I definitely feel like there’s potential for a live-action Dragon Ball, but this reeks of corporate mandates and just comes across as a cheap cash grab that tries to pay homage to the source material but ultimately fails to appeal to fans of the franchise by dumbing everything down to the point of insult.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.


What did you think to Dragonball Evolution? Were you a fan of Justin Chatwin’s portrayal of Goku? Which of the characters was your favourite? What did you think to the changes made to the source material? Were you also put off by the muddled tone and poor special effects? Would you like to see another live-action Dragon Ball some time? How are you celebrating Dragon Ball day today? Whatever your thoughts on Dragonball Evolution, or Dragon Ball in general, sign up to leave them below or feel free to leave a comment on my social media.

Game Corner [Dragon Ball Day]: Dragonball Z: Battle of Z


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,

Released: 23 January 2014
Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Also Available For: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita

The Background:
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball franchise, particularly Dragonball Z, has a long history with videogame adaptations; the first Dragonball Z videogame released for the Family Computer (Famicom) back in 1990 and, since then, a range of different titles based on the long-running manga and its popular anime counterpart have been released, generally in the form of tournament fighters or one-on-one beat-‘em-ups that retell the events of the anime over and over again. In 2009, Bandai Namco acquired the rights to the franchise and, since then, got into a bit of a routine of releasing new Dragon Ball titles on an annual basis. With Dragonball Z set to make a long-awaited return with the first feature-length production in seventeen years, Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods (Hosoda, 2013), the publishers produced a new Dragonball Z game to coincide with the film’s release, one that focused on team-based combat rather than one-on-one fights or role-playing mechanics. Dragonball Z: Battle of Z received mixed reviews upon release, however, with criticisms levelled at the game’s repetitive and unreliable combat mechanics and artificially augmented difficulty.

The Plot:
Through a series of battles, ranging from one to four characters at a time, Dragonball Z: Battle of Z retells famous events from the long history of the Dragonball Z franchise, from the arrival of the Saiyans, to the Z Fighters’ battles against Frieza, the Androids, Perfect Cell, and Majin Buu, and even select fights from the many non-canon movies and alternative timelines, culminating in battles against the franchise’s biggest names, enemies, and characters and a showdown with the God of Destruction himself, Beerus.

I’ve played a handful of Dragonball Z  videogames in the past; I remember really enjoying Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (Spike, 2007) and have been putting off picking up Dragon Ball FighterZ (Arc System Works, 2018) for ages as I’m waiting to see if it gets re-released with all the downloadable content (DLC) included. As a result, and being a big Dragonball Z fan, I was intrigued when I was gifted Dragonball Z: Battle of Z but instantly a bit perturbed when I discovered that the game was a team-based fighter. Call me a traditionalist but I really don’t enjoy team-based fighters; I find it just artificially drags out the gameplay and the fights because you’re forced to fight two or more fighters in every round, meaning more chances to lose and more frustrations. I just don’t get why games that utilise this feature can’t just have the option to disable it and let players fight one-on-one. Interestingly, you can do this in Battle of Z but it’s really not recommended as you’re generally fighting a slew of enemies at once so you’ll need all the backup you can get.

Rush at your opponent and smash them into the air to pull off a Meteor Chain combo.

Controls and fighting in Battle of Z are surprisingly complicated for a fighting game; you can attack your enemy with Y, fire a ki blast with B, and use X and A to ascend and descend, respectively. You can target an enemy with RB (remember to do this or else you’ll have a hard time actually landing a hit on your opponent), cycle through available targets with the right analogue stick, and dash towards your intended target (and, usually, head-first into their attacks) by holding A or X. Holding LB will see your character put up their guard to minimise the effects of incoming attacks (though, annoyingly, there is no counter attack system in place), and you can press LT and RT simultaneously to unleash your character’s signature attacks when they have enough ki energy. You can also perform a side step and dodge with LB and the left analogue stick and hit your opponent with a “Strike Impact” blow that allows you to chase after them and bash them around the environment and build up a “Meteor Chain” combo with your teammates.

Fill up the Genki Gauge to unleash your character’s most devastating Ultimate Move.

As you attack your opponents, you’ll build up the “Genki Gauge” as well as your ki energy. When your ki energy is full enough, you’ll be able to pull off more powerful ki attacks such as Son Goku’s Kamehameha, Vegeta’s Garlick Gun, or Majin Buu’s Chocolate Beam. However, wasting your ki on normal ki blasts and your character’s other special attacks can make it harder for you to pull off these more powerful attacks and, if the bar is completely drained, you’ll be left stunned and vulnerable as you wait for it to refill. If you manage to completely fill up the Genki Gauge, though (and if you’re playing as the right character), you’ll be able to pull off an Ultimate Move, such as Goku’s Spirit Bomb or Super Saiyan 2 Son Gohan’s Father-Son Kamehameha blast. In some battles, the only way to win is to pull off these Ultimate Moves and fights are specifically structured in these cases to allow you to perform them but you’ll still have to work to build up the gauge. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to rapidly tap B to “share your energy” from the Genki Gauge, which seems to restore the ki energy of you and your fighters but, honestly, I must have missed the actual point of this as it just seemed like a waste of time, especially when you’re forced to switch your team out in the next mission more often than not. Of course, a major feature of Battle of Z is its team-based mechanic; before each mission, you’re asked to assemble a team of four fighters (comprised of you and three computer-controlled players or you and fellow human players if you’re connected to the internet) but, unfortunately, you’re rarely ever given free reign to pick your team as the characters you can select are restricted to the Saga you’re playing. For example, in the Saiyan Saga, you won’t be able to play as characters from the Cell Saga and you won’t be able to play as the Androids when taking on the Buu Saga.

Assemble a diverse team of fighters and issue commands on the fly to best your opponents.

You can, however, assemble a team of multiple duplicate fighters, which can be helpful for the game’s tougher missions. Each fighter has a different speciality and, thus, each behaves and controls a little differently: Melee Types excel in up-close melee attacks; Ki Blast Types deal greater damage with their ki attacks and can fire three blasts at a time instead of just one; Interfere Types specialise in distracting and disrupting enemy movements; and Support Types will prioritise healing, reviving, and restoring you and your teammates in battle. During a fight, you can issue basic commands to your team using the directional pad (D-Pad) to instruct them to fight at full power, join forces with you against an opponent, go on the defensive, or hang back and leave the fighting to you (not really recommended and I never found a time when this was preferable). If you co-ordinate with your teammates, you can chain together Meteor Strikes to bash a target all over the place and even perform a “Synchro Rush” combo where you and your allies will pummel a chosen target with a combo of strikes. You can also target your allies and restore their health, ki, or revive them if they’re fallen but I found it much easier to concentrate on the offensive and leave the reviving to my teammates. When you head into a battle, you share a limited number of retries with your team mates; when your health is drained, your allies have ten seconds to revive you before you lose a try and, if all tries are exhausted by you and your teammates falling too often, the battle ends. It’s essential, then, to keep an eye on how many tries you have left as, quite often, battles can abruptly end without warning simply because your allies have fallen once too often. You’re also constantly battling against a time limit (usually about ten minutes), which makes every fight a constant struggle and a chore to get through, especially when you’re faced with wave upon wave of seemingly endless enemies.

Battles are hetic and leave you pummelled relentlessly, which can be extremely frustrating.

Like pretty much every single Dragonball Z videogame, Battle of Z takes you through an (extremely) truncated retelling of the entire Dragonball Z saga using a strict mission-based structure, with a few bonus missions tossed in that adapt some of the feature films or present hypothetical scenarios. If you’re not that familiar with Dragonball Z then you might get a little lost as the story is told in brief snippets and character interactions before each fight and split across different missions; if you simply play the main missions, you’ll only experience events from one perspective and will have to switch to playing as the villains to experience the full story. On the one hand, this is a pretty decent way of getting you accustomed to a variety of different fighters but, on the other, it makes the story mode very fragmented and has you constantly switching out your load outs and setups as you’re forced to assemble new teams each time. Personally, I found it much easier to stick to one fighter (usually Super Saiyan Goku, Super Vegeta, or Full Power Frieza) and have three computer-controlled allies who all specialised in healing (such as Android #18 or Jeice) to avoid being pummelled into oblivion within the first few seconds battle. Since you’re forced to make a team of four for every fight, Dragonball Z’s story is tweaked to accommodate characters who weren’t present at certain events. Other times, you’re forced to battle against waves of opponents or certain foes (such as Raditz) who are inexplicably joined by disposable grunts who relentlessly bombard you with ki blasts. Every time you win (or, at least, complete) a fight, you’re given a ranking, earn a number of Battle Points (BP), and acquire cards and items. Unlike most Dragonball Z fighting games, Battle of Z opts for a quasi-open world presentation which allows you to freely fly and dash around a large environment ripped right from the anime from a third-person perspective. Unfortunately, the camera, physics, and controls are often as detrimental to your success as the often overwhelming difficulty of your opponents and you’ll be struggling with the janky camera as much as trying to land blows on your chosen target. If you forget to lock on to a target, you’ll simply swipe at thin air and, often, you’ll be battered by ki blasts from all angles or attacked from behind and, in the time it takes you to switch targets, you’ll probably end up knocked out on the ground like a chump. Helpfully, you can view your character’s abilities, your mission objectives, and the difficulty level of each mission from the pause menu and can simply manually retry if you are close to failure, which you may have to do a few times as, while the game starts off pretty simple, it quickly ups the difficulty level. It doesn’t help that downed enemies don’t seem to lose health when you attack them and you can never assemble a team of your favourite characters as you often need to have specific characters of Support Types on your team in order to succeed.

Graphics and Sound:
As is the case for pretty much every single Dragonball Z videogame, Battle of Z emulates the style and fast-paced, kinetic energy of the anime by employing a cel-shaded aesthetic. This is fitting but nothing you’ve not really seen before in other Dragonball Z games or similar fighters and results in character models looking pretty much spot on, if a little static and lifeless at times as they tend to just stand there or strike a dramatic pose while spouting abridged lines from the anime. Battle of Z expands on its roster by having each character’s different forms and transformations take up a character slot; as a result, you won’t be powering up or transforming mid-battle like the characters do in the anime and, instead, must select these forms from the character select screen. This means that we miss out on the iconic visual of the characters surrounded by crackling auras and powering up (outside of cutscenes, at least) but the game does a pretty good job of recreating the big, explosive special attacks from the anime…when you actually have enough ki to pull them off, that is. Still, it’s pretty cool to finally bust out attacks like Evil Buu’s Assault Rain, Super Vegito’s Spirit Sword, and Super Saiyan Broly’s Burst Eraser.

Environments may be accurate to the anime and partially destructible but they’re also quite barren.

Environments are just as faithfully recreated, almost to a fault; you’ll battle out in the countryside, in the middle of cities, out in the desert, and on iconic planets such as Namek and the Supreme Kai’s world. Unfortunately, while much of the environments are destructible (if you manage to smash your opponents into them properly), they’re largely barren and lifeless and often only varied by such exciting elements as different times of day. They’re also quite large, which is helpful if you’re trying to take a break from being relentlessly attacked and means that the onscreen radar actually comes in useful at times, but also means that it’s very easy for you to be attacked from afar due to lack of cover and results in you flying head-first into attacks as you desperately try to dash across the open plains to reach your target.

After an incredible anime opening, the game relies on its in-game graphics to give a little context to its fights.

As I mentioned, the game’s story takes a bit of a backseat; the in-game graphics are used to relay a condensed version of Dragonball Z’s sagas and movies through a few brief interactions between your team and their enemies. This can result in some different lines and interactions if you have different characters from the Saga present, and unique interactions between characters like Goku and Bardock, and all of the voice actors from the anime return to recreate and redub their lines from the anime. The game also recreates the music from the anime, including a remix of the iconic theme song, ‘Cha-La Head-Cha-La’, over an impressive anime opening sequence created specifically for the game that is, honestly, one of the more entertaining moments of Battle of Z.

Enemies and Bosses:
Since Battle of Z recreates the events of the anime and a handful of the feature-length movies, you’ll be tasked with tackling all of the series’ most iconic villains and characters as you play through the different missions with certain specific characters. Along the way, you’ll also have to contend with waves of disposable enemies who either come at you over and over again, support the more formidable characters, or respawn after being defeated. This means you’ll face numerous palette swapped variants of the Saibamen, Frieza’s grunts, Cell Jnr’s, and facing off against Z Fighters like Piccolo, Yamcha, and Tien Shinhan who often come in to tip the odds against you right when it seems like you’re on the cusp of victory.

The Saiyans arrive on Earth to cause trouble and wreck havoc in their Great Ape forms.

In the Saiyan Saga, you’ll have to battle Raditz, Nappa, and Vegeta in a variety of different formations; the first time you face Raditz, you’ll first have to dispose of a wave of Saibamen, which can leave you quite drained and underprepared for the actual battle against Goku’s brother. After recreating Gohan’s training against Piccolo out in the wastelands, you’ll then have to take on Nappa, first accompanied by Saibamen and then joined by the main antagonist of this Saga, Vegeta. Vegeta’s ultimate threat comes when he transforms into his gigantic Great Ape form, which you can stun by targeting its limbs while trying to dodge his massive mouth laser and crushing grip. Honestly, though, the most annoying enemies in this Saga are Nappa (who constantly targeted me with relentless melee attacks) and Vegeta (who fires a non-stop barrage of ki blasts when you’re trying to fend off his cohorts). When playing as the villains, you’ll have to take on the Z Fighters as the perspective shifts to you mainly battling against Goku; you’ll also have to take on Gohan’s Great Ape form, which is far more rampant than Vegeta’s and likes to toss boulders right at your head.

To finish off Frieza, you’ll have to also battle against a tight time limit and deal with his rapid teleporting.

In the Frieza Saga, you’ll mostly be confined to the planet Namek in various stages of disarray; Frieza’s soldiers are a constant headache all throughout this Saga and make battling the Ginyu Force much more annoying than it needs to be. The Ginyu’s are also far more versatile and frustrating than their Saiyan counterparts as Guido will freeze you in place with his telekinetic powers, Recoome will constantly fly at you with melee attacks much like Nappa, and things only get more annoying when the entire Ginyu Force comes at you in waves. Thankfully, Captain Ginyu doesn’t bust out his annoying change form mechanic (or, at least, he didn’t in my playthrough) so you don’t have to worry about him taking over your body or being forced to play as him but it’s quite a shock to find the Ginyu Force being so formidable when they’re generally depicted as being incompetent nincompoops. Once you get past the Ginyu Force, you’ll have to battle against Frieza’s various forms as Namek disintegrates around you. While his first form is a walk in the park, his second form allows him to shield himself with a protective aura and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, you’ll be forced to take on his third form in the same mission, making it more of a gauntlet. Another mission has Frieza zap your team to half health and asks you to either defeat him or survive for three minutes before he reaches his full power form, which you’re given just five minutes to defeat him. This makes this fight needlessly frustrating as Frieza is an absolute bitch and teleports all over the place while blasting at you with devastating ki attacks but it does work to your advantage in the villain story where you get to play as Frieza and battle against Super Saiyan Goku. Another alternative mission in the Frieza Saga has you battling all of Frieza’s forms at once which, honestly, I found easier than battling the damn Ginyu Force!

After besting the Androids, you’ll face your toughest challenge yet in the form of Perfect Cell.

In the Android Saga, you’ll first have to spar against the other Z Fighters before tackling Future Trunks and then confront Android #19 and Doctor Gero; unlike in some Dragonball Z videogames, and the anime, the androids are susceptible to your ki attacks rather than absorbing them and you’re also given a bit of a break as you don’t have to defeat Dr. Gero when he decides to run from the battle. Android #18 and #19 are more formidable, primarily because of how good #18’s healing abilities are, but they’re easy to target individually since they’re not supported by endless swarms of goons. Once the Cell Saga starts, you can actually have Cell attack the Androids on your behalf as the mission briefing is to destroy Cell’s different forms and the only real benefit to taking out all your enemies is the acquisition of additional BP. Cell isn’t much of a threat in his Imperfect form but he loves to spam Solar Flare to evade your attacks and his threat dramatically increases when you’re forced to battle Android #16 and #17, then them and Semi-Perfect Cell, and then fight Perfect Cell all in the same mission! This, however, is nothing compared to the sudden brick wall of Mission 26, which sees you annihilated by aggressive and frustrating Cell Jnr’s before being wrecked by Perfect Cell once more. The only way I could clear this mission was to have my three teammates be Teen Gohan so that I could be consistently and reliably healed and revived during the fight, which was particularly annoying to me as I wanted to use a team of Super Saiyans. Things only get more challenging in the villain and alternative missions, which have you battling against Perfect Cell as the Androids or fighting as Perfect Cell against Super Saiyan 2 Gohan (alongside Super Saiyan Vegeta, Super Saiyan Trunks, and Android #16, of course).

Buu becomes a significant threat once he assumes his powerful, maniacal Kid Buu form.

Things get a little less frustrating in the Buu saga, which sees you battling the likes of Dabura (who can turn you to stone with his spit) and, of course, Majin Buu’s various different forms as well as Majin Vegeta (who loves to block your attacks and is, fittingly, super aggressive). In these missions, Buu will also attack your enemies so it can be useful to hang back and let him weaken them on your behalf while conserving your ki energy but you’ll also have to battle Evil Buu right after defeating regular Buu, which can be quite the chore. The shit really hits the fan when you face off against Kid Buu, a maniacal and hyper aggressive enemy who is super fast and super tough, dashing and teleporting all over the place, blocking your attacks, and attacking with his stretchy limbs, furious ki combos, and even gaining invincibility frames and taking refuge behind the environment to really drag out the battle. When playing on the villain’s story, you’ll also be tasked with defeating or surviving for three minutes against Super Saiyan 3 Goku and a particularly gruelling gauntlet that sees you battling Son Goten and Kid Trunks individually, fused as Gotenks, their Super Saiyan 3 form, and Piccolo all in the same mission within the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.

Fight hard enough and you’ll unlock missions based on the feature-length movies and specials.

As mentioned, you’ll also recreate some of the most recognisable fights from the feature films; this means battling the Androids as Future Trunks, taking on Bardock (who has his own Great Ape and Super Saiyan forms), and fighting against the likes of Cooler (a battle that I found impossible to clear because of how tough and annoying his goons were), Hirudegarn, Meta-Cooler (which are essentially the same as battling the Great Apes but made far more frustrating), and Broly. As you might expect, Broly represents one of the game’s most challenging battles as he’s not only accompanied by constantly-respawning Saibamen but he also powers up to his Super Saiyan and Legendary Super Saiyan forms. Additionally, there are a number of alternative battles on offer that see you fighting against all of Vegeta and Goku’s family, all of the Saiyans in waves where they power up to their strongest forms, the entire Ginyu Force followed by all of Frieza’s forms and Cooler, and, eventually, a battle against Beerus (and against Super Saiyan Vegito as Beerus) in an adaptation of the Battle of Gods feature film. Unfortunately, to reach this (and unlock all of the game’s fights), you must complete and clear every single mission in the game, which is an incredibly tall order and one unfortunately, beyond my ability as I tapped out some time after losing to Super Saiyan 3 Gotenks.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
When you select characters, you can customise their palette and power them up with cards and items. These are often earned, or unlocked, by clearing missions but are primarily purchased in the in-game shop using your BP. Cards can be used to increase your character’s melee attack power, defence, ki blast attack power, and have their natural abilities increase or cause their attacks to have detrimental effects on their targets. You can also earn Premium Points (PP) by meeting certain conditions or earning SS ranks in missions. PP can be spent in the Premium Shop and allow you to acquire more powerful items (most of which can only be used once before you have to buy another one and cards). These will buff your character and team’s stats, increasing them under certain conditions or draining health or ki from your enemies, speeding up your ability to level up and earning you more BP, or restoring you to full health upon defeat using Senzu Beans. Since you’ll be switching your teams out quite often, it’s best to make use of the auto customise options, which allow you to assign the most powerful cards to your characters (or which remain after equipping cards) at the push of a button.

Additional Features:
There are forty-nine Achievements on offer in Battle of Z; a lot of these are awarded simply for clearing each of the available story routes, though this becomes increasingly challenging as you tackle the alternate story missions. Others are tied to performing Ultimate Moves, clearing every mission, earning certain cards, playing as every character, or meeting certain conditions in the game’s online mode. You can team up with other players online to take on the game’s missions in co-op mode, battle against each other in a standard four-on-four fight, fight to attain the highest score, or race to acquire the seven Dragon Balls scattered throughout the environment. Sadly, the game doesn’t include couch co-op or offline multiplayer, so I never got to experience any of these modes as the servers don’t appear to still be active (or, if they are, players are few and far between these days). There’s a decent amount of replayability on offer through the many different story mode missions on offer; clearing missions unlocks parallel, adjacent, and subsequent missions that see you playing as different characters or taking on characters from the feature films. However, as these are some of the more frustrating and difficult missions in the game, it can be very tedious and challenging to clear every mission and unlock all the game’s playable characters (many of which can only be attained by clearing certain missions with the highest rank). You can also purchase some additional DLC in the form of extra fighters and forms, such as a Naruto (1999 to 2014) inspired outfit for Goku, Super Saiyan Bardock, and Super Saiyan Vegito.

The Summary:
Dragonball Z: Battle of Z certainly looks and sounds pretty good; its cel-shaded aesthetic closely mirrors the look of the anime and it’s great to hear the voice cast come back and re-record their lines for some new interactions in certain situations. It provides a slightly different spin on the usual formula through its use of team-based fighting mechanics, meaning that it’s a little different from most videogame adaptations of the anime but, essentially, if you’ve played any Dragonball Z videogame, there’s not really anything new here narratively speaking and it’s the same retreading of the Sagas we’ve seen numerous times before. What lets Battle of Z down, though, is the steep difficulty curve and the reliance on these team-based mechanics. Your teammates are often not really good for much more than distracting your enemies and will drain your retries if you don’t heal them up; it’s equally annoying that you can’t form your own, personalised team right off the bat and have to compromise or cheese the more challenging missions by loading up on Support Type characters. The game’s focus on a heavily condensed version of the story also hurts it as you simply jump from fight to fight and mission to mission with very little context and have to hop between the different story routes to get the full story, which is a bit annoying. In the end, it was fun at times but infuriating for the most part as missions were a chore to clear, the requirements to unlock everything were ridiculously unfair at times, and I can’t say that I’d recommend this one over other more traditional, 2.5D/tournament-based Dragonball Z videogames.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Have you ever played Dragonball Z: Battle of Z? If so, were you a fan and how would you rate it compared to other Dragonball Z videogames? Are you a fan of team-based fighters? Who was your go-to team in this game? What did you think to Battle of Z’s recreation of the anime and the slight twists it took with the different missions? What is your favourite Dragon Ball videogame and how are you celebrating Dragon Ball day today? Whatever your thoughts on Battle of Z, or Dragon Ball in general, leave a comment below.

Talking Movies [Dragon Ball Month]: Dragonball Super The Movie: Broly


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.

Talking Movies

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

The Plot:
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.

The Background:
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.

The Review:
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.

In detailing Broly’s new backstory, the film features some unexpected cameos.

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.

Broly is now a far more sympathetic and tragic figure, making him much more complex and relatable.

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.

Despite his lack of training, Broly’s raw power is enough to push Vegeta to his limits.

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.

Goku and Vegeta are forced to merge into Gogeta to counter Broly’s unstoppable rage.

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.

The Nitty-Gritty:
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.

Broly’s Wrath State quickly overwhelms Goku’s Super Saiyan God form.

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.

Broly‘s fights quickly escalate into some of the most furious and explosive the series has ever seen.

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”.

The Summary:
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.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


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.

Talking Movies [Dragon Ball Month]: Dragonball Z: Bio-Broly


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.

Talking Movies

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

The Plot:
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.

The Background:
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.

The Review:
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.

Mr. Satan plays a central role in the movie’s plot.

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.

Jaguar’s Bio Warriors are little more than generic goons for the heroes to pummel.

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.

Broly is quickly, disappointingly, transformed into a mindless goo creature.

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.

The Nitty-Gritty:
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.

Broly is just as unstoppable as ever but looks far less unique and appealing.

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.

Broly’s threat is minimal, at best, and he meets his most disappointing end yet.

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.

The Summary:
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.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.


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.

Talking Movies [Dragon Ball Month]: Dragonball Z: Broly – Second Coming


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.

Talking Movies

Released: March 1994
Director: Shigeyasu Yamauchi
Distributor: Toei Company
Budget: ¥14.5 million
Stars: Kyle Herbert, Vic Mignogna, Kara Edwards, Laura Bailey, Robert McCollum, Sonny Strait, and Sean Schemmel

The Plot:
Whilst searching for the seven magical Dragon Balls with Videl (Edwards), Goten (ibid) and Trunks (Bailey) accidentally awaken the Legendary Super Saiyan, Broly (Mignogna), who crash-landed to Earth after escaping the destruction of New Vegeta. With Goku (Schemmel) dead, it’s up to the Saiyan children, and Goku’s oldest son, Gohan (Herbert), to confront Broly and end his threat once and for all.

The Background:
After debuting in the pages of Weekly Shōnen Jump back in 1984, Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball spawned not only an anime of its own but also a sequel series, Dragonball Z, in which series protagonist Goku had grown up to become a superhuman defender of the world. After being licensed by Funimation back in 1996, Dragonball Z largely dominated the lives of a generation of kids who were exposed to its depictions of good and evil and wacky, otherworldly concepts. A series of feature-length animated films accompanied Dragonball Z; though produced without the direct involvement of Toriyama, and thus largely considered non-canon, the films did introduce us to Broly, the hulking, terrifyingly powerful Super Saiyan of legend. The character became a near-instant hit, which no doubt contributed not only to him being only the second Dragonball Z movie villain to star in more than one film but also his multiple appearances in videogames and being the only movie villain to eventually be integrated in Toriyama’s recognised canon.

The Review:
Broly – Second Coming opens to show a Saiyan pod ominously crash-landing on Earth. Its passenger is, of course, a seriously wounded Broly, who is quickly frozen and entombed in ice. Apparently, mere moments before the destruction of New Vegeta in the last movie, Broly was able to make his way to a Saiyan craft and escape; quite how his pod knew to come to Earth isn’t really explained (I assume Paragus (Dartanian Nickelback) pre-programmed all of his crafts to head there since it was his goal to invade the planet, after all) and, while it is a bit lame to have Broly’s injuries not be as fatal as they appeared in the last movie, it’s no more lame than him being defeated by a simple punch. We quickly join Goten and Trunks, who are searching for the seven Dragon Balls in order to summon the Eternal Dragon, Shenron, for Gohan’s girlfriend, Videl. Their motivation for this literally extends to simply being that Videl wishes to meet the dragon, Trunks wants his own amusement park, and Goten wants to live in a land of cakes and ice cream; the quest for the Dragon Balls has often been arbitrary and played for laughs but you’d think the group could think of something a little more useful to wish for.

Videl, Goten, and Trunks are searching for the Dragon Balls to make arbitrary wishes.

The group stumbles upon a village of locals, which is largely destitute despite the abundance of crystals scattered across the landscape. According to the village shaman, Maloja (McCollum) they are under constant threat from a monster that demands human sacrifice; Videl is characteristically sceptical but the village elder, Zalador (Grant James), attests that Maloja’s demands are the only way to appease their mysterious monster. Noticing that Maloja has a Dragon Ball around his neck, Trunks offers to take care of their problem and the three of them lay out an elaborate feast to lure the monster out. When Goten is unable to resist his Saiyan hunger, he gets a slap from Videl that sends him bawling; his cries echo through the mountain and awaken Broly, who was traumatised by the cries of Goten’s father as a child. The villager’s monster turns out to be little more than a dinosaur, a common creature in the Dragon Ball universe, which the Saiyan kids quickly taunt and make short work of, much to Videl’s chagrin. They then roast the dinosaur’s remains and return to the village as heroes, receiving the Dragon Ball for their troubles and disgracing Maloja. Their good time is soon interrupted, however, when Broly emerges from his frozen tomb and begins destroying the countryside; still baring the scars and wounds from his battle with Goku, and driven to insanity in his desire to kill the Saiyan who has haunted his nightmares, Broly violently attacks Goten (who naturally closely resembles his father) and the others.

Broly goes right for Goten, mistaking him for Goku and decimating anyone in his way.

Immediately outclassed, the Saiyan children are little more than play toys for Broly’s raw strength. However, while Broly is attacking them and searching for them in their many periods of hiding, they manage to locate the Four-Star Dragon Ball, the last one they need to summon Shenron, and make a plan to hold out against Broly long enough to call upon the dragon for help .Sensing the battle, Gohan rushes to join the fight and is horrified to find Broly still alive. Well, maybe “mildly aggravated” would be a better way of putting it as even Gohan, despite having witnessed Broly’s bloodthirsty and brutal nature, seems more annoyed by Broly’s presence than fearful. Equally outclassed, Gohan is unable to best the Legendary Super Saiyan, even when transforming into a Super Saiyan 2 and throwing everything he has at Broly and with Goten by his side. With certain death looming their way, they desperately wish for more power (specifically, in Goten’s case, for his Dad’s presence) and, finally, the Dragon Balls decide to activate, bringing Goku’s spirit to the battlefield and joining his sons in obliterating Broly with his own ki sphere.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Videl is just as pig-headed as always but, thankfully, her role in the film is relatively short. It’s amusing to see her charge at Broly head-on but at least the film never depicts her as having a chance at going toe-to-toe with the Legendary Super Saiyan. One scene that is a source of constant amusement, however, is when Krillin (Strait) impersonates and imitates Piccolo (Christopher R. Sabat) to rescue Gohan, proving that Krillin alone is all the comic relief a Dragonball Z movie ever needs. Goten and Trunks are as annoying as ever in their arrogance and stupidity; they constantly avoid serious harm simply by virtue of being little kids and having been basically born Super Saiyans. Realistically, they would never stand a chance against Broly based on his power level from the last movie, especially at this point when they haven’t even mastered fusion yet.

Even Gohan is no match for Broly’s raw power, which really isn’t all the surprising…

As expected, the children care more about food, peeing, sleeping, and looking cool rather than actually being capable fighters, lucking into a lot of their advantageous positions due to dumb luck and the raw power of their Super Saiyan forms rather than skill or strategy. The same largely applies to Gohan, who was continuously noted to be far weaker as a young adult compared to when he destroyed Cell (Dameon Clarke) as a teenager. Indeed, Gohan’s power at this point was presumably far lower than his father’s when he fought Broly, and Goku could only defeat the Super Saiyan through the power of his allies. Because of this, the battles against Broly lack the impact and danger of those in the last film; rather than seeing Dragonball Z’s most powerful characters helpless and beaten to within an inch of their lives by this monstrous new foe, Broly – Second Coming is more about the remaining protagonists trying to survive until Shenron decides to hear their wish and summon Goku to the battlefield.

A triple Father-Son Kamehameha is a fitting end for Broly.

As a result, Broly’s power and menace seems far less impressive this time around; injured and driven to a near-mindless rage, he even seems leaner and less imposing that in his debut appearance. Though he makes short work of the children, and Goten, it’s nowhere near as impressive as the way he no-sold the combined attacks of Goku, Vegeta (Sabat), and Future Trunks (Eric Vale), characters all far more powerful than those that appear in this movie. Sadly, despite his raw power and constant rage, Broly is a bit of a joke in this movie; he is easily outwitted and eluded by the kids (despite the fact that he should be able to sense their ki) and even gets pissed on by Trunks at one point and still fails to live up to even half of the threat he posed in the last film. Once Broly finally powers up to his “Legendary Super Saiyan” form, much of his former glory begins to return as he pummels Goten mercilessly, to the point where he is forced to beg for his father’s help. This, of course, leads to a pretty decent call-back to the iconic “Father-Son Kamehameha” that finally destroyed Cell as Goku joins his sons, in spirit, and, after Trunks follows his own father’s example and lands a minor blow that is enough to distract Broly, the three Saiyans vaporise Broly once and for all. It’s a great moment and trumps Broly’s disappointing end from the last movie, finally giving him a fitting death, but the entire film is a poor imitation of Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan.

The Summary:
Broly – Second Coming could have been so much more than it ended up being; thanks to the time period at which the film takes place (essentially some time after the end of the “Cell Games Saga”), we’re left following Goten and Trunks for the majority of the film’s runtime and, biased though I may be, I never found these characters that interesting; they’re an annoyance at the best of times and aggravating at the worst, constantly messing about and acting like…well, spoiled, arrogant little kids. I would have much preferred that the film focus on Gohan and his personal battle against Broly in a recreation of his battle against Cell; since much of the film borrows from these recognisable elements anyway, I feel it would have been far stronger if it had gone down this path and included Vegeta, Goten, and Trunks as supporting characters rather than not at all and primary protagonists, respectively. Either way, Broly is a neutered threat; he lacks most of the imposing menace and destructive power so brilliantly showcased in his debut film and seems to struggle against a handful of opponents who are far weaker than those he faced last time, making for a bittersweet reunion with one of Dragon Ball’s more ferocious villains.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you enjoy Broly – Second Coming? How do you feel it holds up compared to Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan? How do you feel about Goten and Trunks and the missed opportunity to have Gohan become the series’ main protagonist after Goku’s death? Do you agree that Broly was severely neutered in this film or do you, perhaps, rank Broly – Second Coming quite high compared to other Dragon Ball movies? Whatever you think about this film, feel free to share your memories of Dragon Ball in the comments below.

Talking Movies [Dragon Ball Month]: Dragonball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan


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.

Talking Movies

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

The Plot:
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.

The Background:
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.

The Review:
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.

Paragus and his troops pay reverence to their prince, Vegeta.

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.

Both Goku and Vegeta are excited at the prospect of battling the Legendary Super Saiyan.

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.

Broly is extremely agitated by Goku’s presence.

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.

Broly was an immensely powerful and violent child.

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.

Thanks to Piccolo’s timely intervention, and the energy of his allies, Goku emerges victorious.

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.

The Nitty-Gritty:
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 consumed by his rage and power is Broly that he mercilessly crushes his father to death!

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 uncharacteristically paralysed with fear in the face of Broly’s awesome power.

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.

A physically impressive, if somewhat one-note antagonist, Broly decimates our heroes with ease.

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 Summary:
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.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

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.