Originally published on August 3.
While it definitely has a fanbase, which can’t be denied with Broly’s continued popularity and its two follow-up movies, Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan has a pretty bad reputation in the fan community (at least in my experience). It’s always surprised me, but I can see why.
Broly as a character and the film itself exemplifies some of the less-respected traits of the series, especially for those that prefer the original Dragon Ball series over the more serious Z.
Absurdly big muscles: check.
Another form of super saiyan (kinda): check.
Vegeta’s useless: check.
(More of a Vegeta-fanbase thing, but they’re pretty loud about stuff like that. I get it.)
Barely has a plot: check.
Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan is, for some people I imagine (especially Dragon Ball fans), an over-serious, action-based and largely useless addition to the series. Just another hour for Z diehards to jerk off to while headbanging to nu-metal (if you’re watching the original American-ised English dub at least).
So, because I grew up with Z: I fucking adore Broly (both the movie and the character).
Part of it is nostalgia – I remember renting it out from the store more than a few times when I was a kid. But on rewatch it still holds up and, even though the nu-metal soundtrack doesn’t (the original Japanese soundtrack + English dub is the way to go), it’s a solid side-story.
When I was a kid, I watched and loved Broly for the expected reasons: big buff super saiyan villain, the movie’s mostly action (a good 25 minutes of a one-hour movie), the overbearing soundtrack, and the story is basically a truncated version of Namek as ‘New Vegeta’ crumbles alongside Broly’s defeat. Plus, Broly gets a pretty hardcore ending as far as Z goes: a twisting punch in the gut that somehow opens Broly up like a vault. Ten-year-olds are practically mandated to love it.
I still really enjoy it, but it took me a while to figure out why (past the rose-tint).
Then it hit me: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan is Dragon Ball Z’s horror movie.
(I say that without rewatching any of the other movies in a long-ass time, but hopefully my point still stands.)
It’s worth pointing out the scary, horror-like elements of the original series, which I guess stuck with me considering my love of Broly. Throughout each saga – especially the Saiyan saga – Dragon Ball Z has moments of fantastic tension and suspense.
The Saiyan saga was goddamn terrifying as a kid, and I was shocked at how bleak it was when I watched it again. Nappa is a monster of a villain who crushes pretty much the whole team with ease. Yamcha is fucking killed by a Saibaman. Nappa isn’t even phased by Chiaotzu’s kamikaze attack (Chiaotzu: dead), and then he goes and kills Tien right afterwards. Gohan and Piccolo are beaten within an inch of their lives. All by a villain who jobs to the next guy (Vegeta).
Shit gets dark.
‘Chiaotzu sacrificed himself for nothing.’ – Dragon Ball Wiki
The Frieza saga has its own moments, though the rest of the Z series doesn’t really stack up to the Saiyan saga.
Following Frieza’s henchman across Namek as they gleefully slaughter civilians. The escalation of Frieza’s power, rising as the saga continues in an almost nihilistic fashion. Vegeta’s simultaneous rise in power, a villain in his own right. Krillin’s death! (That one still shook me, watching recently.) It constantly dashes your hopes brutally against the rocks until, like the last, Goku arrives to save the day.
The Cell saga is scarier early on, goaded by an eerie soundtrack as the mystery around the Android threat is gradually uncovered. The way the androids are revealed – They destroyed the future! Wait, that’s not them! Wait, they’re way stronger! – before it segues into Cell as the main villain, killing entire towns by sucking their insides out like a vacuum cleaner designed by H.R. Giger. When Cell eventually absorbs the Androids, their deaths are chilling themselves.
Lastly there’s the Majin Buu saga, which doesn’t have a whole lot of horror. Very early in the martial arts tournament perhaps – with the two henchmen and their stabbing power-absorber – and then the open brutality, almost sadism, of Majin Vegeta. Otherwise, the Majin Buu arc is ironically light on all that dark stuff (though it’s my personal favourite regardless).
But back to Broly.
Broly was the horrific, unrelenting and genuinely sadistic villain I didn’t know I wanted in Dragon Ball Z. I can understand if others don’t (he’s a bit excessive, especially when he’s described like that), but Broly doesn’t really gloat, doesn’t wait around for another power-up, doesn’t let up. Once he’s powered up, without restraint, Broly just doesn’t stop.
Okay, he stops for a minute – but you’re not waiting for some sudden transformation or realization during that pause. It’s just a respite from the pain. It’s a half-hour of everyone’s ass getting beat to hell and back, and even when Piccolo appears in a ‘save-the-day’ capacity, nothing really happens aside from Gohan not dying at that particular moment. It just keeps going.
Suddenly, Broly kills his fleeing father, horrifically crushing him in a Saiyan pod like a cubed car.
“Did he really think I would die just because this planet is going to explode?” Broly says, twirling his muscled super-saiyan moustache.
Broly’s transformation into ‘Legendary Super Saiyan’ is pure gothic horror. Green light bursts from his eyes and mouth before his body explodes with a painful scream. The sky turns black, lightning blasts around him, and he emits this surreal ‘circle wipe’. It’s as if Broly’s sheer power affects the dimension itself, like he’s just too much for the entire universe to hold.
Broly is a god and he knows it. He doesn’t hold back at all and he fights like the difference in power actually matters. Even Goku is harmless to him.
There’s a profound sense of physicality to Broly that no other Z villain resembles: he pitches balls of energy like missiles, charges through buildings as a cackling battering ram, and tears through everything around him like tissue, with no effort at all. Every attack bounces off his hide like nothing.
A disaster come to life.
Which I think is why I still like Movie 8 so much, even discounting how much I enjoy its action. Broly has a genuinely different tone – much darker (which, to note, doesn’t automatically make it better) – and a pace that’s almost jarring compared to the normal series. There’s no real back and forth at all compared to the usual shounen fight. While there’s an early fight with Broly, foreshadowing his power, lack of control and hatred for Goku, there’s only one actual ‘round’ with Broly and it’s massively unbalanced. Goku and co. can barely survive him, let alone make a dent in his apparently rocky hide.
Broly just wins for about thirty minutes, until, through the power of barely-surviving (and also teamwork, I guess), Goku suddenly wins.
In conclusion, here’s a decent line that I couldn’t fit anywhere else:
Goku: Hey, what do you say you give us a handicap?
Broly: Is that another word for ‘coffin’?