Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

Note: The following review contains spoilers for Dragon Ball Super.

Since Broly’s first introduction in Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, he has become a popular, if divisive, character among fans. After 25 years and two prior movies, Broly is the subject of a new movie, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which not only sees him reinterpreted by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, but also officially inserted into the Dragon Ball canon, following the events of Dragon Ball Super. Following a recent theatrical screening of the official English release, we can safely say that this film’s version of Broly is significantly improved in just about every way.

Following the Tournament of Power, Universe 7 has returned to a peaceful state. With the knowledge of stronger fighters in other Universes, Goku (Sean Schemmel) continually trains with Vegeta (Christopher Sabat) so that he can better fight them in the future. During a sparring session, six of the seven Dragon Balls are stolen from Bulma’s (Monica Rial) lab by members of the Frieza Force, which leads them to travel to the Arctic to retrieve the final Ball before Frieza (Christopher Ayres) can. When they reach their destination, however, they are forced to fight a Saiyan named Broly (Vic Mignogna), who turns out to be their strongest adversary yet.

The story is somewhat complex, though pretty easy to follow. The first part of the movie explores the origins of the Saiyans and their relationship with Frieza, specifically the events surrounding the destruction of Planet Vegeta and what led up to it. We also see the new origin story for Broly and his father, Paragus (Dameon Clarke), which provides a better motivation and context for their actions while tying them into the Dragon Ball timeline pretty seamlessly. However, there is somewhat of a pacing issue when the backstory shows Bardock (Sonny Strait), since his attempt to defend Planet Vegeta occurs very quickly after protecting his son, Goku, by sending him off-world.

When the story gets to the present day, it moves along at a better pace. It doesn’t waste too much time to get to the confrontation with Broly, but it spends enough time to properly flesh him out into a more three-dimensional character with his own personality and desires that clash heavily with what Paragus wants from him. This helps to make Broly more sympathetic and provide a deeper motivation for his anger-induced fighting abilities. Once the fight with Broly begins, the movie follows a similar trend from Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan where the majority of the remaining runtime is spent on the fight. Unlike the original Broly movie, however, the fight is more of a tense back-and-forth, with a couple major scenery changes, that escalates to a climactic finish that, in the end, feels earned.

Broly (Vic Mignogna, left) in a fight with Vegeta (Christopher Sabat, right).

As for the animation, it’s quite simply the best that Dragon Ball media has to offer. A bump in quality is to be expected from a movie with a higher budget than a typical anime episode, but the difference is spectacular here. Largely due to a change in character designer, with Naohiro Shintani replacing Tadayoshi Yamamuro after a decades-long run on the franchise, the designs are more animation-friendly, which allows the fights to be animated with unprecedented fluidity. Even outside of the fight scenes, the vivid color palette helps everything pops off the screen as a visual feast for the eyes.

During the actual fights, every movement is very fluid and the animation is highly consistent while still retaining the feeling of hand-drawn animation. There’s a portion of the fight against Broly that’s rendered in CG, but the stylized approach to it, seemingly inspired by Dragon Ball FighterZ, helps it blend in to the point where it’s hardly noticeable. Energy moves are very flashy and in a greater abundance than Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan, but does nothing to remove the tension of the fight. In fact, I felt a chill while witnessing Broly’s new transformation sequence, as the animation was able to perfectly capture the pure rage that built up within him throughout the fight.

Paragus (Dameon Clarke) as portrayed in Dragon Ball Super: Broly.

Of course, the English voice acting is the best I’ve heard yet for the returning characters, as the same voice actors have been playing them for over 20 years. Having seen Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan beforehand, there was an especially noticeable improvement in Vic Mignogna’s portrayal of Broly and Dameon Clarke’s portrayal of Paragus, the latter of which sounded much less stiff and more emotive than before. I also liked the voices of the newly introduced characters, including Erica Lindbeck as Cheelai and Bruce Carey as Lemo, as they seemed to fit the characters.

If there’s one real criticism, it would be that Goku and Vegeta don’t really have a character arc to speak of. Apart from some character development for Goku at the very end, neither of them really changes in any significant way. However, since this film placed a lot of emphasis on fleshing out Broly as a character, one could argue that this was really less of a “Goku” or “Vegeta” movie and (fittingly enough) more of a “Broly” movie.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is, simply put, the best Dragon Ball film I’ve ever seen (even if I haven’t seen very many). The story and development of Broly are both a vast improvement over Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan and the animation shows just how far the franchise has come and how far it could continue to go with a new character designer and animator at the helm. This is a must-see for Dragon Ball fans, especially if you’ve also seen Dragon Ball Super or are a fan of Broly in general. Though the story is written in a way that could potentially be viewed on its own, it’s still not completely penetrable for those unfamiliar with Dragon Ball. That said, if you’re in that camp, I’d still recommend it on the animation and character of Broly alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment