Dragon Ball Super: Broly offers its viewers a fantastic reminder of how great the series can be when Akira Toriyama and his team bring their passion to bear. The latest film in the Dragon Ball franchise has finally released in the US after rising to number one at the Japanese box office. Fans now have a chance to see Toriyama’s revised version of the Broly storyline first glimpsed in the non-canonical 1993 film, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly takes place during two different time periods. First, it tells the origin story of Broly, Vegeta, and Goku, a segment encompassing the destruction of the Saiyan homeworld at the hands of Dragon Ball’s most enduring villain, Frieza. From there, time skips forward to the present following the events of the latest Dragon Ball Super arc that saw Goku assembling a team of warriors to fight in a tournament that would decide the face of the multiverse (yes, Dragon Ball has a multiverse). A fun set-up orchestrated by Frieza puts Broly on a collision course with Goku and Vegeta, both fresh from the lessons they’ve learned fighting the denizens of other universes.
From the start, Dragon Ball Super: Broly demonstrates unmistakable marks of Akira Toriyama’s influence. The animation and character designs, especially the redesigns of Broly and his father, Paragus, return to the gorgeous kineticism and playfulness of Dragon Ball’s heyday. So many little nods to the series past are crammed into the non-fighting segments that it feels like a nostalgia trip even if the film isn’t setting itself up as a love letter to the franchise. The story, written by Toriyama himself, completely retells and re-contextualizes the narrative around Goku’s father, Bardock, and Broly. This leads to a far more satisfying film than the flat narrative of the 1993 movie.
The Animation Fuses Super's Fluidity With Z's Grittiness
One of the big complaints surrounding the initial launch of Dragon Ball Super revolved around some rough animated sequences. Due to becoming a meme, this perception persisted long after the show improved to some of the best that the franchise has seen. Dragon Ball Super: Broly manages to merge the best of Dragon Ball Z’s grittier style with the clean, fluid motion of Super’s aesthetic to create some incredible moments. This new artistic direction for the animation comes courtesy of Naohiro Shintani, the animation director on the film. The introduction of adult Goku and Vegeta stands as one of the best parts of the film simply on the strength of how gorgeous and fun their sparring match appears on screen.
It is a bit strange, then, that Dragon Ball Super: Broly occasionally shifts to using stylized 3D models for its action sequences. It should be said that these stylistic pivots aren’t necessarily bad, but they are noticeable. The visuals in those moments resemble the recent Dragon Ball FighterZ fighting game, and the blend into the film surprisingly well. For the most part the film remains rooted in the truly excellent 2D animation; saving the 3D models for some shots of wide-scale destruction and for when the camera really needs to provide some unique movements that would be difficult in 2D.
A handful of original characters and monsters are introduced in Dragon Ball Super: Broly. These were all crafted by Toriyama himself; the alien duo of Cheelai and Lemo feel right at home in the Dragon Ball universe with their colorful appearances and strong design. The strange, furry crater monsters that populate the planet on which Broly finds himself seem like the veteran designer having fun. Broly and Paragus feel much cleaner and more visually understandable than in the 1993 film. Their new designs help convey the untold story about their decades spent stranded on the deadly planet Vampa.