Dragon Ball Super: Broly // Review
The last few years have been something of a rebirth for the worldwide phenomenon from Japan known as Dragon Ball. Starting with 2013’s Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, Dragon Ball has seen another motion picture, multiple high-profile video games, new works of manga, another full television series, and fans just can’t get enough. With the end of Dragon Ball Super in early 2018, fans were just as thrilled to hear an announcement about a third new original movie.
Fans almost universally exploded with anticipation when the title was announced: Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
Broly is a very familiar figure to Dragon Ball fans. First showing up in the 1993 motion picture Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan (or, in Japanese, "Burn Up!! Hot Fight! Fierce Fight! Super Violent Fight!" Japan has some wonderful titles for movies.), Broly was nothing short of a massive and violent brute who gave the main cast quite a fight before the entire planet exploded in a collision with a comet. Death wouldn’t stop him, as he would return for two more movies: Broly: Second Coming ("The Dangerous Duo! Super-Warriors Can Not Rest" in Japan) and Bio-Broly ("Super-Warrior Defeat!! I'm the One who'll Win"), with diminishing results each time. It didn’t stop fans from latching onto the guy like he was the Japanese version of Chuck Norris, though.
However, unlike the previous Dragon Ball movies, this new movie would fit into the continuity presented by Dragon Ball Super, and act as a spackle to tie the previous show to the recently-announced new Dragon Ball series. And if this wasn’t enough, franchise creator Akira Toriyama was returning to create a new design for Broly and his father Paragus, as well as helping provide a new take on the character by writing the screenplay for the movie itself! Can the movie possibly live up to the hype? Or does it simply fall in line with the slowly worsening quality of the Broly movies?
Thankfully, the movie delivers in spades.
The first fourth of the movie opens with a new take on the final fate of the Saiyans, a key point in Dragon Ball lore that was never really covered in the original manga. The end result is a combination of fan-favorite TV special Bardock: The Father of Goku ("A Final, Solitary Battle: The Father of Z-Warrior Kakarrot, Who Challenged Freeza") and the controverial manga Dragon Ball Minus, showing how main character of the franchise Goku wound up on Earth. The main focus, though, is about the baby Broly and his father Paragus, exiled from the Saiyan homeworld. After a timeskip cutting to the present day in Dragon Ball, the real story begins. Galactic tyrant Freeza has decided to collect the Dragon Balls once more, and heads to Earth. With him are recent discoveries made by his men: old man Paragus and adult Broly! Of course, everyone and their anime-loving dog know what’s going to happen next: a massive all-out brawl that spans different settings and multiple transformations! Will Goku and Vegeta win? Well, it is Dragon Ball. That much seems obvious, but the real thrill is finding out how.
First thing’s first: the movie is utterly gorgeous. Director Tatsuya Nagamine worked close with animation director Naohiro Shintani, art director Kazuo Ogura, and their staff to craft what feels like a living, breathing world with even the smallest details animated. Each major setting honestly feels like the creators went to an alien world (or Antartica, in the case of the major battles) and studied the local flora and fauna to get some ideas for the movie. Even the transformations, which are a Dragon Ball staple at this point, look refreshing and beautiful on screen. There are some odd moments when CGI is used to fill in, but it’s not used for character animations and is less jarring than it could have been. This is a movie that really needs to be seen on the big screen at least once, if only for the spectacle and beauty found here.
Second only to animation quality, the fight choreography is perhaps the most important thing in all of Dragon Ball once the franchise went full martial-arts. The amount of effort put into animation has combined with the choreography to put some seriously incredible fights onto the big screen. Many fights in Dragon Ball often devolve into “big guy punches other big guy into rocks” or “big beams fly across the screen while people scream.” While these do happen during the movie, they’re used appropriately for the climax or when the movie desires to show how ridiculously strong Broly is. Between those moments are fluid and acrobatic moments, with swift kicks, flips, and maneuvers that have so far only been seen in games like Dragon Ball FighterZ, where fighting became an art form. While it takes almost an hour to get to the action, fans will not be disappointed.
The version seen for the purpose of this review was the Japanese edition, and the voice cast does a fantastic job in all respects. The elephant in the room for any fan is the fact that Bulma Briefs’ original actress, Hiromi Tsuru, passed away in November of 2017. Replacing a voice actress is something that can make or break a character, and Bulma herself features heavily throughout a good percentage of the film. Luckily, Aya Hisakawa performs in her place wonderfully. Hisakawa captures a lot of the nuance from Tsuru’s performance, and provides a different energy to the character that is a welcome breath of fresh air.
The returning cast also pull some great character work. Masako Nozawa pulls triple duty during this movie, as Goku himself, as well as his son Goten, and father Bardock. Each character features their own twist on her voice, and it’s impressive to note that Nozawa herself is eighty-two and is still pulling a great percentage of vocal foley work for her characters. Earlier screams from Goku’s past can be heard if one listens closely, but won’t pull anyone out of the action unless they’re specifically listening for it. Of special note is Bin Shimada, who returns as the title character Broly. Differentiated in Japan as “Broly:BR” to make the two versions of the character more obvious, Shimada brings a nice nuance to the character, working with the dialogue given by Toriyama’s script and a bunch of vocal foley to present a much more innocent version of the alien berserker.
Music is also solid, with some utterly bizarre but fitting music choices. The most strange is when the instrumental fight music takes to chanting the character’s names like a game of Super Smash Brothers. However, it utterly works. A new version of the franchises’ iconic Head Cha La is heard as well, a welcome reminder of fun times past while bridging it with the future. The movie’s actual theme, “Blizzard” by pop group Sonic Grove, is surprisingly addictive and has already become a fan favorite in many eyes.
There are a few weaknesses with the movie, and it mostly pertains to pacing. The movie spends almost a half-hour on backstory featuring Bardock, King Vegeta, and Paragus. While it’s a welcome addition to the canon and a fantastic expansion of the lore for the series, it ultimately feels like two shorter movies lashed together. It’s hard to argue how it could be done differently, however.
While Dragon Ball Super: Broly may not be the best motion picture overall in the Dragon Ball franchise, it is easily in the top five. With fantastic animation, an enjoyable plot that has even amounts of laughter and drama, and even a genuinely likable character in the new Broly, this movie has something for just about everyone. Especially Dragon Ball fans.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly can be found in theaters in the United States starting January 16th, currently can be seen in theaters in Japan, and may be coming soon to a theater near you in other nations.