Super Android 13 (Extreme Battle!! The Three Great Super Saiyans), the seventh theatrical Dragon Ball Z movie, pulls its curtains back to reveal one of my favorite moments: Android no. 17 knocking Dr. Gero’s head clean off his body with the swiftness of one precise kick. Don’t count Gero out on account of that now-lifeless husk on the floor, though. He lives on inside the very circuits of his supercomputer, and his task is far from complete.
The warriors that this computer creates are the next in line for a showdown with Goku and friends, and they’re quick to interrupt a leisurely day of shopping that acts as the requisite opening shenanigans to this flick. Androids 14 and 15 were formed thanks to the computer’s extensive collection of Goku’s data, their creation inspired by its own bizarre mechanical desire for vengeance. This automated yearning eventually culminates in the appearance of a third menace, Android 13.
Now our heroes have their hands full, and 13 is a particularly nasty villain. He’s a tall, suspender-strapped bruiser topped with a Red Ribbon trucker cap and, much like any villain making a first appearance, he seems to border on unstoppable. His ability to telegraph pretty much every move Goku makes further cements this, and the rest of the feature finds them tackling 13 with every ounce of power they have.
Fans and newcomers alike will quickly find dialogue like the following to be pure DBZ: “Are you saying you plan to catch the whole of my S.S. Deadly Bomber? It has enough power to blow away half of this planet!” Android 13 screams these bold words as his glowing red bomb careens ever so slowly toward Goku. The real fun begins when 13 is the last android standing, pulling together the microchip remains of his robotic comrades and turning into what looks like a giant blip on Capcom’s original Akuma design documents.
Next, in Bojack Unbound (Milky Way at the Brink!! The Super Incredible Guy), we’re taken to the opening of the Tenkaichi Grand Tournament, funded by the not so subtly named Gyosan Money. Money’s motive isn’t greed or anything, though, it’s merely a combat contest to please his son, who beams at the thought of seeing Earthlings and aliens alike competing in battle. The prize for this tournament is likely to impress the boy exclusively, as well. Winners get the “honor” of facing off against Mr. Satan himself, who is now deemed publicly as the champion of the Cell Games.
It’s not long before it’s almost exclusively Z fighters left, the boy and his father noticeably horrified at the ferocity of their mid-air throwdowns. Mr. Satan is especially concerned with what he’s seeing, because he knows his fraudulent self will end up facing off against whichever one of these unstoppable warriors makes it to the finals. Before that, however, the finalists will have to fight in themed battle zones against extra-terrestrial opponents.
The catch comes when it’s revealed that Bojack, a veritable space menace that wants nothing more than to crush every corner of the galaxy, has escaped from his otherworldly shackles, and is now in the midst of the tournament with his goons. Thus begins one of the more colorful DBZ battles, as each fighter is pushed to the limit in locations ranging from an erupting volcano to an innocent field of flowers.
Bojack Unbound is definitely the better of the two features here, mostly because of its setting, as well as the always welcome inclusion of Mr. Satan into the festivities. Android 13 is no slouch, but after watching every DBZ movie numerous times, it tends to blend in more easily with the rest. Hailing from 1992 and 1993 respectively, the picture and animation hold up surprisingly well, and while the prints still show a bit of damage, the hi-def format does wonders in bringing out the colors, especially in Bojack.
When I first got into DBZ, I could only really afford access to dubious copies of the movies, so I can relate to anyone that may be confused by a double feature that has Goku fighting hard in one flick, and stone cold dead from minute one in the next. These aren’t really about keeping up with continuity, though, even if they do happen to fall in line between the show’s episodes. They’re about pleasing crowds and using a 50-minute run time to its maximum pugilistic potential.
By their very nature, Dragon Ball Z movies are mildly cheesy excursions, but they never go as far as having Goku turn to the audience to ask the children of Japan to clap if they want to give him more power. Some would say that’s a no-brainer, but I call it restraint, because Android 13, as well as a handful of the other films in the series, has a golden opportunity to do so. Still, while you won’t find me admitting it right out, I may have transmitted my mind back a decade or so and clapped a bit myself.
Images © 2008 BIRD STUDIO/SHUEISHA, TOEI ANIMATION