Film Review: Dragon Ball Super: Broly

Dragon Ball Super: Broly manages to include everything I love about Dragon Ball in its 100-minute runtime while also telling one of the series’ best stories so far. Throw in a new, jaw-droppingly gorgeous animation style, “growth” from Dragon Ball’s most iconic villain, some new supporting cast members, big laughs, the first canonical appearance of a fan-favorite character, and you’ve got a movie that’s sure to please fans of the legendary manga and anime.

The story is set within three different points in time: the first two are over thirty years before the ending of Dragon Ball Super, delving into the past of the Sayain homeworld, and the third takes place shortly after the conclusion of Super’s final arc. The earlier segments retcon a bit of the series’ history, introduce the tragic villain Broly, his father Paragus, and explain their motivations and why they’ve only shown up just now before giving us some of the best Dragon Ball action to date in the film’s back half.

This is the first time Broly has appeared in the official Dragon Ball canon, as his previous films were not tied to the manga and don’t really fit into the timeline of the anime. Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama had a hand in Dragon Ball Super: Broly’s story, screenplay, and character designs, including the new version of the titular antagonist. Super’s Broly is just as overwhelmingly powerful as the original, but now he’s also a sympathetic being with a depressing backstory instead of a one-dimensional mindless monster. No other character in Dragon Ball has made me care about them in such a short time.

Once Broly arrives on Earth he sets his sights on the series’ most powerful and prominent heroes, Goku and Vegeta, who are still an endlessly entertaining duo. Goku’s boldness and optimism continues to work (or not) with Vegeta’s arrogance and cold demeanor, giving us a clash of personalities that’s almost as fun to watch as the actual fights. I’ve enjoyed seeing them battle against and alongside each other since I was just a kid, and I doubt that will ever change.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly also acquaints us with a couple of new supporting characters, Cheelai and Lemo, who take the place of previous onlookers like Yamcha (that’s what he is now, sorry) for the majority of the film. Both of them are entertaining whenever they’re on screen, and the bond they build with Broly gives the action meaningful stakes on both sides of the tussle, something not often found in Dragon Ball. Fingers crossed that we get more of them in the future.

And then there’s Frieza, who might be the best thing (and surprisingly, the funniest) in the entire movie. He’s still the vain, cruel, gleefully evil heel that fans have loved to hate for decades, but his multiple defeats at the hands of Goku and others (along with a couple long stays in Hell) have changed him. The new role that Frieza seems to be settling into is a welcome one that allows him to share the spotlight with other big bads while securing him a more permanent placement in the Dragon Ball cast, even if he’s not always a big part of the battles.

Speaking of battles, the action in Dragon Ball Super: Broly is some of the craziest in the series’ 35-year history. What elevates the bouts in the movie even further than most of the already-stellar fights that Dragon Ball is known for is the new animation style, particularly in the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the film’s big battle. Naohiro Shintani replaces veteran animator Tadayoshi Yamamuro, and breathes new life and a unique visual flair into every movement, strike, energy blast, and explosion. The only hiccups were when CG animation was present, as it almost always took me out of the action for a few seconds. I personally abhor CG animation when it’s blended with hand-drawn stuff though, so I don’t think it will bug most viewers as much as it did me. Regardless, whenever Dragon Ball returns, I pray that Shintani’s absolutely stunning animation returns with it.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a fantastic addition to the classic franchise, and will definitely end up being one of the best action movies this year. It’s animation, scope, and story all set a high bar for the future of Dragon Ball, and I’m very excited for whatever comes next.

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