Dragon Ball: The Road to Film 20 – Part VI [Finale]
It seems we’ve come to the end of our little journey. Dragon Ball Super: Broly just hit U.S. theaters today, so expect my review by the end of the weekend. I’m looking forward to it immensely. For now though, let’s talk about the precursors to Dragon Ball’s revival as a modern property. We’ve got good and bad here, so let’s dive in with a pinched nose.
Plan to Eradicate the (Super) Saiyans
Original release date: November 2, 2010
So this one has some history I need to talk about. Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans was an OVA included with the release of Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2 for 7th generation consoles, the OVA itself is actually a remake of an infamous one from ’93 made up from the animated cutscenes of an old Dragon Ball Z game on the Bandai Playdia, which itself was a remake of an older game on the Famicom. The cutscenes were meant to be an visual guide for both games, so editing them together into an OVA is the equivalent of releasing the cutscenes for FighterZ as a straight-to-video movie. The 2010 remake gets rid of the video game logic and fourth-wall breaking instructions to make it more of a standalone story. Is it good? Nope.
Dr. Lychee was the only remaining survivor of the Tuffles, the race the Saiyans conquered and eradicated before rebranding their planet in King Vegeta’s name. His greatest experiment, known as Hatchiyack, is completed in the event of his death and conjures ghost warriors of series past, led by a spectre of Lychee fueled by his hatred of the Saiyans. He plans emitters of Destron Gas throughout the planet, which weaken anyone who breathe it. When the Z-Warriors attempt to destroy the emitters, ghosts of those with grudges toward the Saiyans are conjured. In this case, Turles, Lord Slug, Frieza and Cooler. Gee, it’s almost as if these were the only villains they had to mine for at the time the original game came out.
Eventually, they defeat the spirit clones and confront Dr. Lychee on Dark Planet (yeah, that’s what it’s called) and have to contend with Hatchiyack itself, which has materialized its own body, which looks like a cross between Frieza and Super Buu, despite predating the latter. This is an original plot very much at home for one of the games, and that being what it is, you sort of know what to expect. It’s so bottom-tier that you forget it exists, but it’s not offensively bad. The basic premise would eventually completely retooled for GT, in fact, and it was much better there. Plus, there’s something worse coming.
Episode of Bardock
Original release date: December 17, 2011
Oh, I hate this one. I hate this one so much. This is most likely my least favorite of the bunch. Whether or not it’s worse than Bio-Broly is certainly up for debate, but I think what makes this worse for me is that Bardock was always a more nuanced character than Broly ever was, so ruining him hurts a lot more. Based on a standalone spin-off manga written by Naho Ooishi, this story picks up where we left off at the end of Bardock: The Father of Goku with Frieza eradicating Planet Vegeta and Bardock caught in the blast.
Except… not. Instead of dying, like the original intention, the energy somehow sends Bardock back in time. While in the past, he eventually confronts Lord Chilled, Frieza’s ancestor. In their fight, Bardock also becomes a Super Saiyan, and defeats Chilled, who flees… thus instilling the fear of the Super Saiyan legend in Frieza’s clan. Yeah. Sounds like fanfiction, doesn’t it? It kind of is. It’s just officially sanctioned fanfiction.
I mentioned before when I talked about The Father of Goku that part of the essence of Bardock is that he wasn’t a good person, and even though the dub tries to slip in more of a redemption for him by the end, it’s nothing like this. While I don’t generally mind Ooishi’s other contributions to the franchise, like Dragon Ball SD (a more comedic reimagining of the series aimed at very young), her attachment to Bardock is for all the wrong reasons. She takes the genocidal warrior and turns him into just a grump with a heart of gold, retroactively made a hero and the representative of the entire Saiyan race in mythology? Yeesh.
Bardock being able to go Super Saiyan is also an insult. He’s not meant to be that kind of character. And this special has now had a lasting impact on the way he’s marketed. Now Super Saiyan Bardock has to be present in all the games and supplemental material. It’s kind of like the Yoda effect in the Star Wars prequels. Yoda whipping out a lightsaber and jumping around acrobatically is a “cool” idea on paper, but get past the superficial novelty of it and it undermines the overall point and integrity of the character.
Battle of Gods
(God and God)
Original release date: March 30, 2013
Here it is, the one that brought the franchise back to life. So when that… live-action Dragon Ball film we don’t like to bring up released, Toriyama was so alienated by it that it actually helped inspire him to get a little more involved in the series for the first time in a very long time. Here we have the first movie in the franchise that feels like a feature film with structure, a 90 minute runtime, character development, and world-building for the franchise going forward. It was also the first film part of the main series timeline (note how I’m avoiding the C-word).
Like Wrath of the Dragon and Son Goku and His Friends Return, this takes place after the defeat of Kid Buu but before the final timeskip and 28th World Tournament epilogue. Beerus: The God of Destruction, (Beerus the Destroyer in the dub, an admittedly cleaner name) has awoken from a thirty-nine year slumber, detailing a vision of a worthy opponent present in this era for him to fight. A Super Saiyan God. Confronting Goku and King Kai on the lower god’s planet, Goku admits he’s plenty privy to Super Saiyan, but has never heard of a “Super Saiyan God”. And because Goku has no restraint, he challenges Beerus to a fight despite King Kai’s warnings and is defeated without much effort.
Upon heading to Earth, Vegeta, having met Beerus before, does everything in his power to keep Beerus in a good mood so he doesn’t destroy Earth. Of course that goes awry, and it’s all an uphill battle to stop him while Goku figures out what this whole Super Saiyan God thing is all about. This movie is great. The script of it was initially written by Yusuke Watanabe but heavily rewritten by Toriyama himself, and feels like the only movie with an intent to move the story forward rather than just provide a one-and-done spectacle. Although Vegeta’s development came to a head by the end of the Buu arc, this film provides us with what the means, and what he’s willing to go through to protect his accepted home. We’re also provided a better insight into Goku’s character, as Toriyama’s always felt that Toei portrayed him in the movies as a little more altruistic than he’d like.
Beerus and Whis have now gone on to be primary staples of the franchise moving forward and this was a great introduction to the both of them. Beerus isn’t a traditional antagonist, he’s a deity responsible for balance. Creation and destruction are two sides of the same coin, and his purpose is the latter. While he’s regal and short-tempered, he’s also very objective and non-malicious. He’s on a higher plain than our characters and this is the first time since Kami’s introduction where it’s felt legitimate. While the visuals aren’t at the same level as Z Movie 9-13, given Yamamuro’s character designs have drastically declined in the intervening years, it’s still relatively polished and clean.
This was the shot in the arm the franchise needed, and although Super wasn’t on the docket just yet, the ending in particularly hinted at more to come. Given the franchise had been concluded for some time, I would’ve been happy with the same fare as the original movies, but we were given far more than that. I remember thinking that if this was the last thing the series produced, I would’ve been happy with it. I still think that, but I’m not exactly unhappy with all we’ve gotten since then.
(Revival of ‘F’)
Original release date: April 18, 2015
So with Battle of Gods ending on the reveal that there are 12 other universes, and we’ve only seen the 7th up to this point, one would think the next film would make that a primary focus. Instead, Toriyama, the primary scriptwriter this time, decided to bring back an old foe. Officially, at that, and with a lot more fanfare than the cameos in stuff like Fusion Reborn or GT. The concept of Frieza’s return was actually inspired by ‘F’, the metal song by Maximum the Hormone from 2008, which is a tribute to the character as well as an allegory for the oppression of Tibet by the Chinese government. It’s quite a song, and Toriyama put ‘F’ in the title as a wink and tribute for inspiring the story. The song is also an insert in the film, both with vocals and instrumentally twice throughout.
Sometime after Battle of Gods, Sorbet, a commander leading what little remains of the Frieza Force, travels to Earth and uses the Dragon Balls to wish Frieza back to life. Frieza remains cut into pieces after his battle with Future Trunks and Shenron can only bring back those pieces. However, since his death, the army’s regeneration tech has advanced to the point where they can reconstitute his body so long as his soul is intact. After successfully resurrected (wink wink), his initial instinct is to get revenge on the Saiyans, particularly Goku. But, after Sorbet tells him Goku defeated Majin Buu, he restrains himself and resolves to train for a while before confronting either of them. He’s always had natural talent and has never had to actually train, so putting in the effort would make him extremely powerful.
Meanwhile, Goku and Vegeta have been training with Whis on Beerus’s planet, even sporting new outfits. Goku has also learned how to tap into the God power-up on his own (which was hinted at in the last film’s climax), adding it into his Super Saiyan form in a mouthful of a form called Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan, later renamed Super Saiyan Blue. It’s literally what it says on the tin, Super Saiyan imbued with God ki. Frieza has a new form as well.
Speaking plainly, this isn’t as good as Battle of Gods. In fact, this is a lot more along the same lines as the films prior. It’s a lot shallower, and more about the action sequences than the story, although it does plant seeds for future arcs, including the concept of Ultra Instinct, although we wouldn’t know it at the time. Where this film suffers is a lack of believable tension, and somewhat stale direction. This was the first time Yamamuro directed a film and his age shows. A lot of the action is displayed in static shots and the storyboarding is never what it could be. What little we’ve seen of the action sequences from the trailers for the new Broly film have already outclassed this film by a wide margin, at least in terms of delivered spectacle. For what it is though, it’s still better than a lot of what we’ve talked about, and I think Chris Ayres and Ryusei Nakao’s performances as Frieza in either language are worth the price of admission alone.
And… that’s it. Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ were eventually (very poorly) adapted into arcs for Super and we’ve been on this new series hype train for almost 4 years. After it’s initial run ended, we figured a movie was on the way to give the series a bit of a break in between in order to fine-tune the production side and potentially rebrand itself going forward. Super had a very troubling production, especially at the start, so it’ll be interesting to see how this new movie will influence the franchise going forward. Although people like to write off the original movies for various reasons, they’ve always had a bigger influence on the franchise as a whole than people admit, our villain for the upcoming film should be evidence enough of that. Before we talk about Dragon Ball Super: Broly in it’s own standalone review, I’d like to leave you with a personal Favorite to Least Favorite of all I’ve talked about. Not Best to Worst, as what that would be a different, more critical list from me. There’s an element of guilty pleasure here.
- Fusion Reborn
- The History of Trunks
- Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan
- Dead Zone
- Battle of Gods
- Bardock: The Father of Goku
- The Path to Power
- Resurrection ‘F’
- Cooler’s Revenge
- Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return
- Super Android 13
- Wrath of the Dragon
- Broly: Second Coming
- Mystical Adventure
- Bojack Unbound
- Curse of the Blood Rubies
- The Return of Cooler
- Lord Slug
- A Hero’s Legacy
- Sleeping Princess in Devil’s Castle
- Tree of Might
- The World’s Strongest
- Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans
- Episode of Bardock