The first of these tightly related Dragon Ball Z flicks begins with the sobering realization that “the Southern Galaxy has fallen under Super Saiyan attack,•bCrLf and is followed by the plump King Kai dreading that the same dark fate will befall his Northern Galaxy, and then KAPOW! The best darn theme song in any galaxy kicks into gear and we’re left knowing why DBZ characters are so pumped all the time. Show me a man who doesn’t get jazzed by these jams and I’ll show you a true ghoul. We need to take a note from people in Spain and Italy and start throwing our panties at vocalist Hironobu Kageyama every time he comes on stage.
The Japanese title of the first of these two stories, Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan, sums up the series better than any mortal man could ever hope to: “Burn Up!! Hot Fight, Fierce Fight, Super Violent Fight.•bCrLf Good lawd, that’s the kind of title that can instantly rip the shirt off of someone’s back Hulk Hogan-style. It’s also the kind of title that doesn’t spoil the very tale you’re about to absorb, which continues with a Saiyan warrior named Paragus landing in the middle of some public park karaoke to present an offer to Vegeta that he can’t possibly refuse.
For the low, low price of vanquishing the previously mentioned galaxy-crushing Super Saiyan, Vegeta will reign as the rightful ruler of his very own planet, appropriately named “Planet Vegeta.•bCrLf One might imagine Planet Hollywood-style novelty jackets handed out to every brave warrior in the new king’s dominion, or hamburgers named after his majesty and his most loyal of followers.
But Goku has also been dispatched by King Kai to clear up this very threat, and this is something that doesn’t make Vegeta happy at all. For the unfamiliar, these two are natural enemies in the wild, like a super-ripped mongoose running into a •roided-up rattlesnake. On this strange new planet, they are introduced to Paragus’s son, Broly, who appears to be a calm, kind Saiyan. But something about Goku makes him burn inside, loosening the control that Paragus has over his boy’s overwhelming power. Once this Legendary Super Saiyan is free to rain punishment on everyone, the time for the promised “hot, fierce, and super violent fight•bCrLf is upon us!
And what a doozy it is. While Broly doesn’t feature the highest quality of animation amongst DBZ features, never rising too high above what you would have seen on a weekly basis when the show aired, it nevertheless maintains the frenetic and insane style of scrapping that fans have come to know and adore. If you’re not a fan of the typical setup—a slow build to quick and explosive movements—then this is just going to reinforce your distaste for the series’ motif, but it’s also doubtful that you’ve made it this far into the review without a bit of a stomach for some good ol’ spiky-haired clobbering.
Overall, Broly‘s first foray into film is a pretty standard Dragon Ball Z flick (the eighth in the series) that introduces some cool back-story and climaxes in a decent battle that, while not entirely amazing, is outrageous enough to fit the desired bill. The great thing about fighting anime, and this also works the other way around for those that can’t stand the sub-genre, is that you always know that there’s someone much stronger right around the corner. You can’t regress or take even a small step backward with this type of series, so one of the hooks is seeing how many muscles, eyes, or arms the next enemy will have.
But just when you think you’re done with Broly, he virtually rises from the grave in the tenth film! Personally, Broly doesn’t seem spectacular enough to warrant a 1994 comeback, but what do I know? Surely there was some sort of short-pants survey amongst the children of Japan begging the question “Do you heart Broly?•bCrLf and fitted with an enormous Y/N checkbox.
Well, the people spoke loudly with a permanent marker and a mighty check of the Y, and Broly’s return sparked the emotions and inspired the guts of DBZ fans all over with Broly: Second Coming OR “A Pair in Peril! Super Warriors Cannot Rest.•bCrLf Indeed, though the title isn’t quite as inspiring as that of the former, you can expect more of the same from our heroes’ clash with Broly’s extraordinarily muscled exterior; we’re talking muscles on top of muscles on top of veins and more muscles.
Since we last saw our heroes, seven long years passed. New characters have since been introduced and children have aged, but they’re naturally afflicted with the malicious presence of yet another tough ne’er-do-well, one that somehow managed to survive a truly brutal pummeling courtesy of Goku. The catch this time, however, is that the battle must take place on our beautiful planet Earth! Paragus was avoiding such a conflict the first time around because he wanted to preserve the planet that he aspired to conquer, but Broly’s on his own now and he’s mad as hell!
While this is most definitely a bit of a retread, it’s a little more lighthearted, especially in the opening, than Legendary Super Saiyan. It also clocks in at a modest 45-minute running time, so it’s over before your TV dinner and doesn’t waste much time getting to the heart of the action.
Dragonball Z movies do an amazing job of illustrating the pacing issues that the series itself has. Though Akira Toriyama’s original manga can be enjoyed at a generous stride, one that makes the downtime between action scenes fly by as quickly as one can flip the page, the never-ending anime is notorious for taking its sweet time powering up characters between large-scale bouts of intergalactic fisticuffs. This is why the “sagas,•bCrLf which typically center around the threat provided by a single, super-powerful enemy, could take dozens and dozens of episodes to resolve, only a handful of which feature the heavyweight bruising that everyone’s here for.
But the movies and specials eradicate this issue like a planet-exploding blast from the fingertips of a Super Saiyan. Within their brief durations, the audience gets a condensed storyline that would normally take up a few hundred hours of airtime. Of course, Broly’s dual tales are an exception to the rule, and pretty much all of these stories are stand-alone yarns that don’t mess with the overall continuity; perfect for a festival opener to get those kids jumping and cheering.
Or maybe that’s just me, watching with candy-shot eyes in my pajamas late at night.
[Excerpted from the February 2008 issue of Otaku USA Magazine, on sale now]