“This is what happens when mortals don’t share their pudding.” Lord Beerus, God of Destruction.
It’s Bulma’s birthday party (she’s not saying how old she is, though!) and she’s invited everyone, including Goku, to a lavish spread at the Capsule Corporation. However, Son Goku, away training with King Kai, just happens to have forgotten all about it… Meanwhile, far, far away, in a distant galaxy, Lord Beerus, the God of Destruction, is awakened from a thirty-nine-year sleep by Whis. Refreshed after his rest, Beerus determines to seek out a legendary Super Saiyan God (whose appearance has been prophesied) and challenge him to a duel. When he learns that the only surviving Saiyans are now on Earth, he and Whis go there and crash Bulma’s party.
Seduced by the delights of delicious Earth food, Beerus seems to have forgotten his mission – until his wish to sample some pudding is frustrated. Furious at being thwarted, he threatens to destroy Earth – unless he gets his opportunity to fight this legendary warrior god. And so it’s up to Goku (aided by the faithful Z Fighters) – although, given the fact that even the Supreme Kai is not powerful enough to stand up to Beerus, the good-natured hero’s chances don’t look so good. Oh – and to add to the confusion, the villainous Emperor Pilaf, aided by his faithful bodyguards/sidekicks Mai and Shu, are trying to steal the Dragonballs again (all seven have been collected again by Bulma with a wish as one of the party prizes). The fact that Pilaf’s last wish from Shenlong misfired, resulting in all three being turned back into children, has not put the emperor off his evil scheming one little bit. Will Pilaf’s cunning plan succeed as the other guests are distracted by the appearance of the two aliens? And can Goku push his strength to a hitherto undreamed-of level to stand a hope of defeating the stupendously powerful Beerus – and saving the Earth?
This film – which you can watch in the Theatrical Version at 85 minutes or the full Director’s Cut at 105 minutes – will put a big smile on the face of Dragonball Z fans. The first film in the series for seventeen years – and the nineteenth to be made – it has the advantage of a big budget and a story (and, of course character designs) by original creator Akira Toriyama. Which means you get that irresistible blend of absurd humour and thrills that has endeared so many fans to the work of the master mangaka. The extra twenty minutes of the Director’s Cut will prove especially appealing to fans, as they contains some cherishable character vignettes, featuring everyone from Mr Satan and his daughter Videl to Buu and Oolong. There’s even a scene where Vegeta desperately tries to save the day in a totally unexpected way that will have you squirming in your seat with embarrassment – or laughter – depending on the way that you view the proud Saiyan prince.
But what if you’re unfamiliar with the DBZ universe and you’re coming to this film with no previous experience? Is this a good place to start? The answer is, probably, no. (Best to start with Dragonball Z Kai or the manga.) The film will still play out as a fast-paced martial arts combat anime in which a likable, unassuming hero goes up against a seemingly unstoppable god of destruction to save the planet. But without prior background knowledge, the new viewer will probably be a little baffled. (Who are the Kais? Why is a green-faced alien with antennae the Guardian of Earth? Who is the pink marshmallow-bodied powerful alien with high-pitched voice and the penchant for sweets? What is Fusion technique? Kamehameha? etc. etc.)
It’s not often that I express a marked preference for the US dub over the original Japanese version but Dragonball Z is one of those special cases. The Japanese have kept the original veteran voice actress, Masako Nozawa, as Son Goku (as well as his sons Gohan and Goten) – and while the voice was fine for the young Goku of the first series Dragonball, to my ears, she just sounds wrong as the hunky grown-up (and father of two boys). Sean Schemmel has made the role very much his own and all the FUNimation cast have grown into the parts over the years recording the anime series. I particularly like Jason Douglas as the (cat god?) Lord Beerus with his purringly smooth delivery (do I detect echoes of James Mason in his interpretation?) Playing opposite him as Whis, Ian Sinclair is a delight, a perfect foil for the unpredictable Beerus. The dub script by Jared Hedges is wittily reversioned from the subs and flows more naturally, taking full advantage of the opportunity to adapt the dialogue for Western audiences.
Both Blu-ray and DVD versions look good, although the CGI doesn’t always blend so successfully with Toriyama’s iconic character and classic designs. However, the fast-moving animation in the action scenes matched to some snazzy sound effects result in some dazzling battles.
Flow (Eureka Seven, Code Geass) have re-recorded the famous “Cha-la Head-Cha-La” Dragonball Z signature song and they’ve given it a new lease of life, with a pounding drum track; they are also responsable for the insert song “Hero – Kibō no Uta” and new Ending Theme “HERO – Kibô no uta”. And – a nice touch – the final credits show a delightful montage of panels and pages from Toriyama’s original manga, from the early pages of Dragonball onward.
The Blu-ray special edition comes with an additional DVD disc containing bonus extra featurettes: The Voices of Dragon Ball Z: Unveiled and Behind The Scenes: Battle of Voice Actors! Packaged along with 4 collectable art cards and a limited edition o-card.
A Super Saiyan anime fighting-fest treat for all Dragonball Z fans, enlivened by original creator Akira Toriyama’s quirky sense of humour .