His Characterization is Maximum: “Dragon Ball Super: Broly”

There’s an old and famous picture from a newspaper’s children’s section, where they asked kids, “If you could be a superhero, who would you be?” In response to this question, a boy named Markus answered, “Broly from Dragon Ball Z. His power is maximum.” But while people online have gotten lots of laughs from this innocent answer over the years, Markus’s words almost perfectly encapsulate the character of Broly, the Legendary Super Saiyan.

As an antagonist, Broly was always a one-dimensional character whose primary trait is being ridiculously and impressively powerful. To be fair, the way it’s portrayed in his appearances leaves a lasting impression, and has a clear, primal appeal to Dragon Ball Z fans. However, he’s ultimately a simplistic villain to be overcome by blasting him harder.

The character is also non-canon, appearing only in Dragon Ball Z anime films, which is why it’s rather significant that the creator of Dragon Ball himself, Toriyama Akira wrote the script for Dragon Ball Super: Broly. It not only means introducing Broly into the Dragon Ball universe proper, but also an opportunity to transform this flimsy rage machine into a fully fleshed character.

On a skeletal level, Super Broly is basically the same character: an instrument of revenge for his father, Paragus, against Vegeta  (the son of the man he hates most, King Vegeta), who goes berserk and must be stopped by Son Goku and his allies. There are a couple of crucial changes, however.

First, in the original Broly film, Broly is shown as having an inadvertent deep-seated trauma caused by Goku when they were fellow infants, which causes him to wantonly attack Goku. This no longer is a thing, and when he and Goku fight as adults, they’re meeting for the first time. Second, in the new film, Broly is shown as being ridiculously strong and terrifying but ultimately innocent inside—as if his personality isn’t inherently that of a fighter.

Both are smart choices that lay the groundwork for making Broly a properly three-dimensional character. The Goku grudge used to come across as largely a flimsy device to get Broly in direct conflict with the hero of the story, and it kind of punks out Vegeta in the process. Without it, his background focuses more on him being unfairly raised by his own father to be a tool for revenge, and the different ways in which Goku, Vegeta, and Broly have been shaped by their upbringings and experiences. An extensive background story in the first half of the film highlights these differences.

That being said, I don’t want to make this film sound like a deep look into character psyches, as it’s mostly one gigantic fight scene full of the fast and frenetic combat Dragon Ball is known for. However, those crucial differences between Goku, Vegeta, and Broly come out even as they’re pummeling each other. Goku’s Earth-bases martial arts background, Vegeta’s elite Saiyan training, and Broly’s mostly unrefined berserker rage are all conveyed in the action, which does a lot of showing instead of telling somewhat reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road.

A few bits of welcome comedy alongside some new characters help keep Dragon Ball Super: Broly from feeling too heavy—a clear indication of Toriyama’s hand in the process. Overall, it ends up being a really solid film, and one that manages to give depth and meaning to a pure power fantasy character like Broly without taking away the strength that made him popular in the first place.

 

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The Best Argument for Creationism: Dragonball Evolution

Dragonball Evolution, what can be said about it? Well,  I can certainly call it a “movie.” It is a series of scenes placed one after the other on a film strip and shown in a sequential order. Dragonball Evolution: People involved in a production to put a form of entertainment in theaters.

Upon first hearing that a live-action Dragon Ball movie was being made, I had an image in my head full of cheesy lines and attempts to bring stories full circle, revisions to existing aspects of Dragon Ball designed to make it seem “cooler” and less “cartoony,” unfaithfulness to the source material’s characters and their personality, and awkward special effects. When the first trailer was released, and then the second, this prediction still appeared to hold true. Now, after having seen the whole thing, I can say that the movie was exactly what I expected it to be.

Where to start with this, “Evolution” of Dragon Ball as it wishes to be known? Well, how about the way in which it relates to Charles Darwin’s theory, or rather the attack on it by certain religious groups?

Proponents of Intelligent Design commonly state that there is evidence in the bedrock that shows that the Earth’s history is not a continuous chain of events, and that there are mass extinctions and sudden increases of certain types of animals, as if the history of the Earth and its wildlife are a series of islands connected by a higher power. This is in fact how Dragonball Evolution feels. You know it’s a story mainly because you’ve been told that it’s one, but while the events of the movie follow a chronological order, there is almost nothing which smoothly connects one scene to the next. Master Roshi will claim that going to the tournament is vital to their quest to defeat Piccolo. Then no one will participate in the tournament and then we never find out what going to the tournament actually accomplished. Yamcha and Bulma hate each other in one scene and in the very next they’re already falling in love. There isn’t even at the least a generic scene where Yamcha catches Bulma while she’s falling or something. Goku is in high school for some reason, and he gets picked on by jocks. He meets Chi Chi there. Then high school is never ever mentioned again. Master Roshi, the narrator, and Piccolo will all mention that Piccolo was responsible for nearly destroying the Earth until he was sealed 2000 years ago, but now he’s free and looking to enact revenge on humanity. How exactly did he break free from his confinement? Apparently NOBODY KNOWS OR CARES, at least not enough to tell the audience.

That’s not to say EVERYTHING is bad about this movie. Characters are occasionally true to their manga portrayals in certain ways. Goku is always naive, gets one or two nice lines to show how dumb he is. Master Roshi’s introduction feels very much like Master Roshi except in every scene after that he turns into generic old master. Also, sometimes the action scenes make it feel like a generic action movie, which is to say not super awful. Also my friends and I burst out laughing practically every minute at one bad line after another until we lost count.

An interview with the people who made Dragonball Evolution has members of the cast and crew defending the production, saying that the director succeeded in keeping the spirit of Dragon Ball alive and adapting it just enough to appeal to a wider audience. The problem is that they’re totally wrong and Dragonball Evolution is not faithful to the spirit of Dragon Ball at all. I can go into the many reasons why this is the case, but I’ll just give one: the core of Dragon Ball is represented by its main character Son Goku and his personality: goofy, often very dumb, loves to fight, and has a strong sense of justice when it comes down to it. There’s a certain kind of whimsy and humor that never leaves the series even when planets are being destroyed and limbs are being chopped off. That is to say, Dragon Ball is all about having serious fights never be too serious because it’s always been about the comedy as well. Dragonball Evolution throws all of this out and decides to be an action movie and coming-of-age story like so many others out there. Even if it succeeded in being a well-constructed story with brilliant direction, it would still not be Dragon Ball.

Giving Shounen Jump Fans the Bird

Weekly Shounen Jump is celebrating its unbelievable 40th anniversary, and as part of the festivities Shounen Jump has all-new episodes of three of its series. By downloading their own proprietary media player, you can actually watch these episodes subtitled for free until January 2009. One of the titles is One Piece, another is Letter Bee (which I know nothing about). I’ll get to One Piece and Letter Bee’s exclusive episodes another time; this is all about perennial favorite Dragon Ball.

Akira Toriyama’s most famous work is by far the most popular Shounen Jump properties of all time, its worldwide success is rivaled by few other. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that there hasn’t been any new Dragon Ball anime for a long, long time. Even in America the final episodes of GT aired years ago. But some would argue that at some point the Dragon Ball series took a bit of a detour and lost some of its original spirit. Among these critics might be Toriyama himself as this new Dragon Ball anime special feels very much like a return to form, and it’s written by Toriyama too. “Yo! The Return of Son-Goku and Friends!!!” is like a combination of everything that made Dragon Ball popular throughout its incarnations rolled into one.

The story is about Mr. Satan opening up a new hotel to celebrate his victory over Majin Boo and inviting Goku and Friends over for a sumptuous banquet. Some new characters show up, stuff blows up and things get eaten. Really, the story is just a flimsy excuse to get everyone together and for chaos to happen, and it’s the type of chaos which combines the fighting of Z with the humor of the original. Kamesennin is back to wearing his old turtle shell and making lewd comments towards Chi-chi, Goku powers up to Super Saiyan just because, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance but not really. It’s just a single-episode adventure dedicated to the fans and it really shows.

The most notable addition is the introduction of Vegeta’s little brother, Tarble. I’ll let the pun sink in for a second before I move on.

Man, Toriyama.

Tarble would be a spoiler except he’s right there on the front page and in the character descriptions, so he’s fair game. Tarble was sent away long ago by King Vegeta because Tarble lacked any sort of fighting prowess. Having avoided much of the events of Dragon Ball, Tarble even still has his tail. With the existence of Tarble now revealed, it just makes me think that every time Vegeta said something like “WE ARE THE LAST SAIYANS IN THE UNIVERSE KAKARROT!” he was murmuring under his breath, “exceptforthatotheronehrmrmrmr.”  Well Dragon Ball was never super big on maintaining canon anyway so it’s no big deal. It’s just another way of humanizing Vegeta just a little because you’d have expected him to fly over to Tarble at some point and punch him in the face for being so weak. Then again, Vegeta might respect the fact that Tarble tries to fight even when he sucks at it. I’m thinking too much about this, but how could I not when I now know that Vegeta is also Reinhard Von Lohengramm?

If you’re a Dragon Ball fan, I really don’t have to tell you to go watch this, but go watch this. If you’re not a fan of Dragon Ball, or you’re the kind who complains about powering up taking too long, keep in mind that this is just one 20-something minute episode and there’s no time to waste on powering up excessively and standing around. There isn’t even an deserted area in the middle of nowhere to fight and blow things up in! There’s only Mr. Satan’s hotel.

Poor, poor Mr. Satan.