By the time Dragon Ball Super finished its televised seasons in 2018, it had set up some enormous dangling plot threads, among them the existence of green-haired “berserker Saiyans” whose power levels rivaled that of Goku and Vegeta at the height of their rainbow-haired transformations. Fans of the Dragon Ball franchise immediately recognized this easter egg as an open teaser for the appearance of the green-haired Broly. Formerly a villain contained to three non-canon movies, Broly was set to arrive in his own movie overseen by series creator Akira Toriyama. Does it live up to the standard set by previous Dragon Ball Super movies Battle of Gods and Resurrection F?

Let me put it this way: if you surveyed a crowd of Dragon Ball fans to make a wishlist for a new movie, you would probably end up with most of the features of this movie. It adds new continuity to the Dragon Ball canon, features fluid and impactful animation, and uses its music and voice actors to full effect. The story revolves around galactic despot Frieza’s continued exploitation of the Saiyan warrior race and how it drives different Saiyan parents to place their hopes in their children to find the strength to fight back someday. Between the lighthearted Goku, elitist Vegeta, and naive but brutish Broly, there are three variations of the Superman myth at play. Over the course of the Dragon Ball anime, Goku and Vegeta have gone from mortal enemies to mutually admirable rivals, and now they get to test their mettle against Broly, who has been recruited by Frieza (via Broly’s father) to take them out.

Broly had a sad upbringing, the Saiyans struggled under Frieza’s thumb, got it, but action is what fans want from this movie, and I’m happy to report it is some of the best hyper-speed fisticuffs this side of Toei Animation. The showdown doesn’t properly begin until midway into the 100-minute runtime, but the plot smartly plays with expectations on the way there, establishing a mixture of drama and humor, even in the darker corners of each character’s history. In particular, the parallel between Frieza and Bulma’s wishes for the eternal dragon is nothing short of brilliant—brilliantly modest yet still driven by ego.

When they finally fight, hoo boy is it glorious: no more “zwip” fighting full of blurs, nor reliance on repeated animation frames to pad out a sequence. Fans will delight at the clear differences in fighting style and attitude on display. Vegeta is a cold and precise fighter, always looking down on his opponent. Goku is more playful and sporting, exuding power without a malicious bone in his body. Broly hits like a dump truck, punching Vegeta through ice walls and swinging Goku by his leg like the Hulk thrashing Loki. We get to actually see all the unique blows and reversals these super-beings perform in mid-air and as they’re plowing through mountains. The voice acting matches these sequences well, especially Goku’s panicked screaming when overpowered by Broly. The dub and sub versions of the dialog are well done.

The soundtrack deserves several nods, as well. A soaring rendition of Dragon Ball’s signature opening theme, Cha La Head Cha La, acts as a bridging song when the story turns to Earth. Unique songs in which deep voices shout KAKAROTT, BROLY, or GOGETTA lend more power to the blows than visuals could alone. Dramatic tones, chanting, electric guitar, and pounding piano only scale higher as the fights escalate, like the most serious video game boss battle you’ve ever sweated through. The damage escalation, from craters to mushroom clouds to reality-shattering blasts, is an exceptionally satisfying spectacle.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly made $116 million in box office from a production budget of $8.5 million, an incredible profit for an anime film. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: stock this in your anime collection! The nostalgic and recent fans alike will find plenty to enjoy here. Special features include a series of trivia questions answered by the voice cast, as well as general Q&A with them. This movie is rated PG, and I would wager showing this to your local anime club would be a real crowd-pleaser regardless of age.

Dragon Ball Super: Broly
Funimation, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: PG

  • Thomas

    | He/Him Teen Services Librarian, Richland Library

    Features Writer

    Thomas is a teen services librarian at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. While studying for his MLIS at the University of South Carolina, he won an award from Thomas Cooper Library for his curation of the works of “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. He has spoken about manga, graphic novels, teen programming, and podcasting at NashiCon, DragonCon, ColaCon, New York Comic Con, and American Library Association conferences. He has been on on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee, written articles for Public Libraries, The Hub, Book Riot, and Library Trends, and reviews for School Library Journal and Kirkus.

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