First at the Japanese box office upon its release, the third biggest success for an animated film in the United States. Dragon Ball Super: Broly enjoyed a very flattering reputation before his arrival in France. Toei’s cleverly orchestrated communication made the fans want and eager for it. As a direct continuation of the eponymous series, the feature film was to succeed in making a place of choice in the hearts of the admirers of Akira Toriyama and his work. A total success?

The story of Dragon Ball, everyone knows it. A little Saiyan, named Son Goku, came to Earth as a baby and grew up to become a hero with extraordinary powers. Far exceeding hopes and his own limits, the pure-hearted warrior saved the Earth many times, confronting many enemies. Among them, it is Freezer who quickly stood out from the crowd and became, despite himself, a leading character in the new narrative created by Toriyama and Toyotaro.

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The tyrant is at the centre of the story even if he is not the main antagonist. This time, it is Broly who decided to resurrect the Toei directors, he who had been at the heart of a film dating back to 1993 that was very much appreciated by the fans, but never validated by Akira Toriyama. The mangaka was then commissioned to create his own vision of Broly, from his character design to his history. And that’s exactly what Tatsuya Nagamine’s directing is all about. In this, the beginning of the film is a real success. By retracing, with respect and intelligence, the origins of the conflict between the Saiyan people and Freezer’s army, but also the childhood of Gokû and Vegeta, Dragon Ball Super : Broly does what few others have succeeded in doing: bringing new and relevant elements to the overall plot and answering some old questions. We then discover, sometimes stunned, the origins of the man who called himself Kakarotto and we understand better the reasons that pushed his parents (Bardock and Gine) to send him to “a small harmless planet called Earth”.

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Beyond being a prequel to the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Super manga stories, the feature film formalizes a “new” character in the story. Broly, the mighty warrior, makes his appearance. 25 years after a first film that does not exist in the official timeline, Toei is back on track. This time, the character is better written and benefits from a much more interesting and relevant screenwriting background. Akira Toriyama’s feather is, logically, no stranger to it. Whether it’s his character traits, his father-son relationship with Paragus or the origins of his power, everything is far more sensible and intriguing than the perpetual clichés into which the film could have fallen.

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The first part of Dragon Ball Super: Broly does more than convince. Then, it is the fights that make up the entire rest of the story. We have to admit that we’re facing something we’ve never seen before. Technically, what is presented to the spectators is masterfully realized and staged. There’s an attention to detail that gives the various clashes an incredible aura that scares the hell out of them from start to finish. The Toei studios prove their know-how and skillfully mix quality animation and 3D technology for an explosive global rendering. Nevertheless, two areas of shadow somewhat tarnish the picture. The first is the screaming rhythm problem we feel. From the minute the fight against Broly begins, there is no respite for the spectator, sometimes forcing him to concentrate too hard to continue enjoying what is going on in front of his eyes. It would have been a good idea to break the rhythm at certain moments to get off to a better start and thus give more scope to this titanic confrontation. Another black point, although technically we are reaching new heights in terms of quality, we must admit that we sometimes face an overflow of colours and effects that somewhat spoils the overall feeling. In this sense, the film is not recommended for epileptics.

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As for the character-design, Naohiro Shintani has done a remarkable job. Gokû, Vegeta, Broly, Freezer, Piccolo or Bardock benefit from successful features sublimated by shades and postures that will remind many of the lively 90s. One often feels the film’s will to stick much more to Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z than to Super, especially regarding the character of the protagonists. Gokû seems to find his carelessness and, sometimes, his stupidity while Bulma and especially Vegeta make us forget the few gaps which were theirs in the current series. Small flat nevertheless for Freezer, too much in the background during the feature film and whose interest as an antagonist is sometimes as important as Yajirobé’s contribution in the original manga. The first hour fans will understand.

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Another point that is important to address is what Dragon Ball Super brings to the table: Broly for the future of franchising? To be totally frank, at the moment, not much. Not seeing the realization of Tatsuya Nagamine will not handicap the readers of the manga or the fans of the series, because what happens there has only a weak impact on the history of DBS. Too bad, one would have appreciated a little more consistency in the writing with real conclusions to be drawn from everything presented. When leaving the projection, the feeling of having attended a great show of limited interest predominates. Beware, this new Dragon Ball feature film is still a little nugget that makes history. In many of the points presented earlier, it stands out as a reference for fans of Akira Toriyama’s work. Maybe we’ve just become too demanding.

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