Let me preface everything in this review by saying this, if you are not a current fan of Dragon Ball in any of it’s incarnations, Dragon Ball Super: Broly will not do anything to persuade you otherwise. With that being said HOLY F***ING CRAP!
Taking inspiration from a non-canonical film from 1993, Akira Toriyama repurposes the Legendary Super Saiyan Broly and his story into the modern story told in the (currently on hiatus) anime. If you have ever seen an anime-based film before, Brolydoesn’t stray far from the path. Instead, Broly’s path was forged of golden bricks and bordered by platinum gilded railings while angels fly above guiding you forward. That’s a flowery way of saying it is hella gorgeous. The anime often gets flack for it’s rushed art style used in the majority of episodes but from the opening moments of the film you can tell the animation team put their heart and soul behind the project. The animation is crisp, the art is sublime, and there is an actual story with some depth here! But I digress; let me take a moment away from gushing about how amazing it looks and get into the films other pros.
The film begins with an origin story on the planet Vegeta (the home world of the Saiyan race and origin point of our heroes Goku and Vegeta). We get a brief glimpse into the Saiyan culture and are introduced to a number of familiar faces from classic DBZ episodes. King Cool and a young Frieza appear, Bardock (Goku’s father) shows up, even Raditz has a short cameo that is bound to nab a few laughs from the audience. But the focal point here is a young Broly and his father Paragus.. Frightened by the latent power the child Broly possesses, King Vegeta exiles him to the brutal swamp planet Vampa to die. Paragus steals a ship to save his son and vows vengeance on Vegeta and his ilk. Unfortunately, Frieza decides to blow up the planet before Paragus can return. This is all a quick retread of story beats long described in the DBZ universe but rarely shown. Here we get to see the callousness of the young Frieza in all of his glory as well as the tragic death of Bardock (AGAIN, if you’re a long time fan). Fast-forward to modern times and the film picks up directly after the Tournament of Power comes to a close in the anime. Plot happens and Broly is bamboozled into fighting Goku and Vegeta at Frieza’s behest. Then queue the epic, hour-long battle sequence!
I gloss over it but the way they humanize Broly in this film compared to his non-canon appearances is quite impressive. You really feel for him (not so much his father) and you find yourself on the fence of who you think should actually pull through in the end. Alongside Broly, Toriyama introduces fans to two new characters to the DBS universe, Cheelai and Lemo (voiced by Erica Lindbeck and Bruce Carey respectively). Both are lower ranking members of the Frieza force that run into Broly originally and bring him into the fold. Considering how many beloved characters there are in the DBZ world I actually found myself quite endeared by these two and wanted to see more of them. They aren’t macho fighters like most of our favorite heroes but they have heart and they add some much needed reality to the larger than life goings on the rest of the film offers.
And now back to me gushing about how damn pretty the film is.
Director Tatsuya Nagamine and his art team didn’t pull their punches for a moment. Opting for a blend of exquisite hand drawn art and cell shaded 3D models, the fight choreography has never looked this good. Seamlessly blending between the two art styles, when the action picks up it doesn’t stop until the credits roll. The only thing that could have been done to improve the action would be to incorporate something as upbeat and intense as “Ultimate Battle” by Zenta and Akira Kushida (the theme for the Goku/Jiren fight in the anime). While the music they chose for the Broly fights wasn’t terrible it wasn’t very memorable either. The instrumental would probably play better over time but in action the constant chanting of either Goku or Vegeta’s names in the background was a little jarring and honestly made me want to get up and play as them in a Smash Bros game. Had the fight not been as good as it was I might have done just that (mods are cool).
From the introduction on Planet Vegeta to the unlikely ending and everything in between, I was hooked. The dialogue was crisp, the art on point and the action out of this world. Bringing in a number of non-canon ideas into the fold in much more interesting ways, Dragon Ball Super: Brolyis a tremendous success.