5: The History of Trunks
Dragon Ball Z did something interesting when it came to their “specials.” Rather than opening the floor to new villains like they did with their movies, they decided to focus on pivotal characters from the series’ past, hoping to fill in their stories a little better. Frankly, this list would have been plenty full without the inclusion of these specials, but they’re both of such a high quality (and some of the movies are so bad) that it only seemed right to feature something that’s put in the necessary effort.
While perhaps a little less poignant than Bardock – The Father of Goku (if only because we’ve heardTrunks get into his own timeline before, and even seen him correct it in an abridged version of this in the series), The History of Trunks is still a very powerful achievement from the DBZ team, and almost approaches the emotional levels reached in their other special.
The History of Trunks operates as a morbid “What If?” storyline, as we get a glimpse of a world where Goku dies of his heart disease and Androids 17 and 18 essentially wipe out the population. This turns into a touching story between an adult Gohan trying to mentor a young Trunks, as they train for five years to take down the Androids. The crux of all of this is the hope that Trunks can turn Super Saiyan for the first time and use that to destroy the Androids. It’s a difficult process, but the step that pushes Trunks towards finally transforming is a weighty, dramatic one. All of this culminates into a rather succinct story that reaches its natural conclusion.
The same setbacks that plague Bardock attack Trunks (budget and length, primarily), but the special is also a more contemplative tale than most of the entries on this list. It’s more concerned with psychological catharsis and emotional battles than actual physical ones (although it does inevitably get to them). This is all great, especially considering the bleak subject matter, but the light action approach might dissuade some.
4: Bojack Unbound
I have a real soft spot for Bojack Unbound, and it’s because it’s such an ugly duckling of a DBZ film, but in all of the best possible ways. It’s a film that’s mostly centered around a tournament, and it takes place during a time in the series where Goku is dead. As a result, Gohan is the lead of the film, with Goku’s appearances being limited to cameos in the afterlife.
That in itself would inject the film with some new life, but it’s also the picture that Toriyama was the most involved with until Resurrection F. That might be why this film feels like such a gem in comparison to the ones that it’s situated around. Toriyama’s touch is definitely felt here, and as a result, Bojack Unbound has some of the most memorable henchmen and villains of any of the movies. In spite of them not serving much weight, there’s clear thought put into each one and it shows. It also makes for one of the best fights in the series, as Gohan takes on Bojack and his men.
Bojack Unbound is just a lot of fun and has a different energy to it than the other DBZ movies. It also features one of the best scores of any of the films, but unfortunately, also one of the shorter runtimes.
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3: Bardock – The Father of Goku
Bardock – The Father of Goku works as a fantastic companion piece to the Frieza Saga, providing the necessary backdrop for everything the series would get into, while also filling in many of the details that were merely hinted at. It additionally picks up on many of the themes that Vegeta himself would echo to Goku in the beginning of DBZ, as he seemed set on cementing the fact that Goku did not come from royalty and that his family were the dregs of the Saiyan line.
This special brilliantly (and quite emotionally) expands on all of this by basically imbuing Bardock, Goku’s father, with brief psychic abilities. The Saiyan witnesses the soon-to-be extinction of his entire race and tries to stop the inevitable from taking place. There’s a whole grim layer of despondency hanging over Bardock’s altruistic journey too, as you know he is destined to fail.
The special is held back by the obvious limitations that its budget is lower than the movies, it runs at a mere 40 minutes, and the bulk of the score is reused from the series (although the track selections are spot-on). As far as content goes, it’s a great companion piece to the series and provides some much appreciated pathos to some under known characters.
2: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan
Here’s a big one. Both in reputation and Broly’s actual size. Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan is as well regarded as the Cooler one-two punch, with many people considering it to be the best of the films. This movie does a lot of things right, and so while even the sudden appearance of Broly rings all too familiar to other movies, it’s able to be forgiven.
We’re given a lot of backstory on Planet Vegeta for instance (which even manages to be emotional, to its credit), and shown some worthwhile scenes of how the Saiyans used to live before Frieza got a little genocide-happy. These scenes even help give the displaced Broly a sort of Superman-esque story that somehow works for him. Broly was also the longest Dragon Ball Z film of them all until Battle of Gods, and this longer runtime is certainly put to good use, giving this story is given the proper time to breathe.
In a welcome change, Broly is also one of the more sadistic, psychotic villains the Z Warriors have encountered and his twisted mental state is a wonderful element of the film (he straight up murders his dad). Watching how someone like this fights our heroes makes for some really brutal, chaotic fight scenes. He actually seems intimidating and has the reputation to back up his infamy.
Broly’s evolution into a “Legendary Super Saiyan” doesn’t feel as momentous as it could, but it still works as a plotting device. The only problem is that he’s a villain with enough depth that he continued to be mined for several more, less interesting movies.
1: Fusion Reborn
Sometimes throwing everything into a movie can be an utter disaster, but sometimes a miraculous juggling act where you keep adding more craziness to the mix can be exactly the way to create a sprawling success. Fusion Reborn is one such film. There’s a tremendous amount going on here, with a lot of subplots and fighting.
Not only does this film get all of our characters back in place, but it’s also playing with the fullest deck yet. The movie has the privilege of throwing Super Saiyan transformations into its arsenal, as well as the spectacle of fusion, not only with Vegeta and Goku, but Goten and Trunks as well. The film is pure fan service, but not in a way that feels cheap or gratuitous. Even the inclusion of a new form of fusion that sees Goku and Vegeta turn into Gogeta seems exciting and cool rather than some desperate movie ploy.
The humor in place is even the right sort of twisted comedy that Dragon Ball Z can pull off so well. The villain of the film, Janemba, comes from the afterlife, and ends up throwing the rules of the world into whack by bringing back to life everyone who has died. This results in the wonderfully brief reappearance of Frieza before he’s mowed down into oblivion, but perhaps more notably, the resurrection of Adolf Hitler, who tries to retake control of the world before Gotenks re-balances the scales.
More humor done the right way comes in the form of Goku and Vegeta unsuccessfully performing their fusion dance before getting it right, with the result seeing them fuse into a fat Gogeta who is practically useless. It’s a pretty inspired idea and adds more depth to the fusion concept than I’m sure they intended. Add to this one of the more creative villains out of the films (who has a killer sword), some landmark battles, and an unpredictable logic behind it, and you’ve got yourself a classic DBZ feature.
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[via denofgeek ]