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Dragon Ball Super: Broly (2019)

Many years ago, the Saiyan race met its end at the hands of the warlord Frieza. Killing all but a handful of the once mighty warrior race. This catastrophic event sent each survivor down their own path to the strength that all Saiyan's strive for. Kakarot, now called Goku, lives a relatively peaceful life as Earth's protector. Prince Vegeta, formerly a ruthless mercenary, has also settled down to live on Earth. The two have fought many challenging foes over the years, but their greatest adversary has yet to show himself. Another surviving Saiyan, Broly and his father Paragus, have been recruited into Frieza's army. The latter dead set on revenge against Vegeta for their banishment at the hands of his father. With Broly's chaotic power and adept fighting prowess, will Goku and Vegeta be able to overcome their new foe? Or is there another path to victory?

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is the 20th film in the Dragon Ball franchise. The first to be tied with the Super anime series. The film is set after the events of the Tournament of Power arc in the show and is considered part of the series official canon. Mainly due to the involvement of the series original creator, Akira Toriyama, who wrote the screenplay for the film. This new script redesigned the pre-established titular character, who was originally designed by Takao Koyama and featured in 3 previous Dragon Ball Z films. The character's background has been completely rewritten by Toriyama along with the events surrounding the eradication of the Saiyans. Incorporating elements of the Dragon Ball Minus manga that was released in English in 2015. The film was directed by Tatsuya Nagamine with Naohiro Shintani as the animation director, and Kazuo Ogura as art director. 

Though the film has been out in Japan since December 14th, 2018, the film did not hit US theaters until January 16th, 2019 with UK audiences awaiting release on January 26th. Since its release, it has continued to break records worldwide. Earning over 7 million dollars on its opening day in the US alone and breaking similar records all over the world.

This film certainly had an interesting build up to release. Its initial major selling point was the fluid animation featured in the film's first teaser along with a new design for Goku that harkened back to his look in the original Dragon Ball manga. After Super's rough history of animation difficulties, fans like myself were chomping at the bit to see how drastic the changes would be and what it meant for Dragon Ball as a whole. However, when it was announced that Broly would be the primary combatant, my enthusiasm faltered.

To me, this was a clear marketing ploy to bring in a one-note character's legions of fans and nothing more. Despite the fact the character was getting a Toriyama makeover, I had little faith that the film would do much other than incorporating some fresh new animation. Still, I was curious to see a new look into the series lore regarding the Saiyan's and how that would reflect in the narrative. A narrative that seemed to sit squarely on the shoulders of Goku and Vegeta.

I couldn't have been more wrong. in all of the best ways.

Though this is still very much a Dragon Ball film, you're not gonna find over the top drama or over complicated dilemmas here, I was extremely surprised at the number of wonderful character moments building up to the big brawl. And these character moments are not limited to the established Dragon Ball characters. The heart of the narrative, in truth, is Broly himself. I was stunned when I found myself hoping that Broly would survive his fight with Goku and Vegeta in the latter portion of the film. All because Toriyama did a wonderful job establishing this character and giving him a depth that he had not been given in his previous appearances. Even new characters Cheelai and Lemo (soldiers for hire in Frieza's army) really steal the show and are a welcome addition to the already large cast of characters.

The 2D animation on display in this film is nothing short of stunning. The soft designs lead to a lot of wonderful expressions and character acting. However, it is in the action scenes that the animation truly shines, with fluid motion and top tier choreography that takes advantage of each character's superhuman abilities. This includes some unique camera shots, such as a POV shot from Broly's perspective as he fights Goku and a gorgeous transition shot as the film fast forwards to our character's present day (showing a brief recap of major scenes of past Dragon Ball).

It is remarkable just how much was packed into this film (which supposedly had to be cut down quite a bit) but, true to Toriyama's style, there is just as much humor as there is action. Some of it coming from the usual shenanigans, but even from some unexpected places. Frieza himself was given some of the funniest moments of the movie, all while staying in character as his malicious and petty self.

It is incredible how this film alone took a character I loathed to hear about in the Dragon Ball fandom and made him one of my new favorites. Unlike previous Dragon Ball films which are typically inconsequential off-shoots, Dragon Ball Super: Broly seems to be setting the stage for what is coming next. Though there is a great deal of fan service in this movie (Broly's appearance, rumors of Super Saiyan 4 and the fusion character Gogeta), the film doesn't rely on it to get by and can be enjoyed by casual fans just as much as die-hard fans. If you have no knowledge of Dragon Ball and expect this movie to change your mind, I wouldn't count on it. Though the early exposition does provide some context, it isn't enough to really give you an idea of what Dragon Ball is about.

However, if you are any type of Dragon Ball fan, I cannot stress this enough. Go see this movie. As soon as possible.