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Dragon Ball was a weekly manga published in the Shonen Jump magazine from 1984 to 1995—written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. Since 1986, there has been five incarnations of the story in anime format for television: Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, Dragon Ball Kai, and Dragon Ball Super. Dragon Ball GT being an original sequel to Z without Toriyama’s involvement, and Kai being a remastered version of Z. Dragon Ball Super is an adaptation of the currently ongoing manga that is written by Toriyama and illustrated by Toyotarou, running in Jump magazine since 2015. In addition to the manga and anime, there have been 20 anime movies based on the franchise, the latest being Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly was written by Akira Toriyama himself, with the director being Tatsuya Nagamine. Nagamine had already directed nearly 50 episodes of the Dragon Ball Super series. While Broly has appeared as a villain in his own trilogy in the 90s, it was considered non-canonical with Toriyama having only worked on the character's design while others developed the films. This film acts as a definitive origin for the character of Broly that is in line with the Dragon Ball canon.
This film is first and foremost entertaining, staying true to the spirit of Dragon Ball and all of its characters. The opening act of the film arguably takes the longest time to run through. It delves into the origins of Broly and his circumstances, the destruction of Planet Vegeta, and having a present day Broly (with his father) meet Frieza, encountering Goku and Vegeta on Earth. The second act, for all intents and purposes, is one long fight sequence, followed by a satisfying third act that ends in a way that only a character like Goku can end it.
The first act manages to introduce the characters, situation, and the story thus far without having to go down the route of contrived exposition dumps that break the flow of the film. In addition, it near seamlessly transitions to the current time period. One advantage this film has is not having an ensemble cast, which allows for the film to give more time to the characters that are already present—the character development that is needed so that the audience will care for them when in true Dragon Ball fashion the fighting begins.
From the start of the film, the audience begins to sympathize with Broly as a result of the circumstances that led to the hand he was dealt in life. As the film progresses, though he is the antagonist in the film, he is not quite the villain, and the film goes to great lengths to make this distinction known. He fights the heroes, not out of personal want, but because that was the only thing he was raised to do by his father, and one scene in particular involving two individuals in Frieza’s ship, reveals how much this is true and reinforces this.
In fact, all of the characters are well-defined with their own distinct designs and personalities that even if you do not recognize their names before introduced in this film, each of them stand out as an individual. Even in the time we spend with the protagonists before the battle begins, we understand the type of characters they are, and their motivations for fighting, as well as understanding how frightening Frieza is.
With this being a theatrically released feature film, the animation of the film is stellar. The sakuga sequences are at times mouth-watering with how fluid they are. The action sequences are kinetic with a frantic energy that leaves the viewer exhausted from having just watched it. The colors shift and change, filling up the screen in the shades of the characters power ups and special moves. There are even times when the action on screen is so visceral and the level of brutality is raised by a few levels that it makes it, at times, hard to watch, so much so to the point that one starts to ask why Goku loves this in the first place. There are moments when there is 3D animation mixed into the 2D animation, and for the most part, they remain invisible and blend near seamlessly; however, there were instances when the character animation was rendered in 3D animation that was reminiscent of a cutscene from the like of the game Dragon Ball FighterZ.
The music was created by Norihito Sumitomo, who also did the music for the Dragon Ball Super series. The score is fantastic. The theme used when the film is focusing of Frieza is absolutely regal, Broly’s theme is ominous, and the moments when the characters are fighting are exhilarating to listen to. "Kakarrot vs. Broly" being a particular highlight, alongside "Pinch of the World," the entire soundtrack was a rush of adrenaline through the body.
As someone who had only previously watched the Frieza arc of Dragon Ball Z, I am not one of the core fans of the show, however, seeing much of the callbacks to that particular arc, and seeing the characters on the big screen as I remember them, felt wonderful. The film may have been thin with regards to narrative depth, however, it makes up for it in leaps and bound by packing the film with emotional weight, stellar visuals, and its bombastic soundtrack. It is one I highly recommend.