Dragon Ball Super still feels very much like a new series to me, which is kind of funny since it just concluded with episode #131. Although it may have just ended (and production company Toei Animation has suggested it’s likely to continue), I’m currently about 80 episodes behind since I’ve been watching it on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block which just aired episode #59. It’s been really interesting seeing the franchise resurrected, no pun intended, after being seemingly relegated to video games for the foreseeable future. Maybe it was getting older, maybe there were just new stories to tell, but something compelled series creator Akira Toriyama to return to the franchise that made him famous around the world. And wouldn’t you know? The fans have been there and willing to re-embrace this franchise. It’s been something to behold as I personally never saw it coming after Dragon Ball GT was so poorly received, but here we are.
Battle of Gods was the film that got the ball rolling on this new era of Dragon Ball. It brought the old gang back together and introduced some new characters in Beerus, the God of Destruction, and his attendant Whis. It was a mostly fun little film that managed to rise above the Toei Dragon Ball Z films that were largely generic filler. It certainly helped that Toriyama wrote the picture, but it also really helped that it was both canon and it is basically a replacement for the unimpressive GT. Still, some fans were left feeling a bit underwhelmed. The movie was heavy on personality and humor and light on DBZ’s trademarked action. It may have also disappointed fans to see their hero, Goku, actually fail in his bid to top the God of Destruction giving the film a very different feel from the usual fair. I was actually pretty receptive to the film. While I could see the obvious faults and the age-old formula at play (minus the little twist ending) I found it very charming and really enjoyed the introduction of both Beerus and Whis.
Battle of Gods was a fairly simple reintroduction for the Dragon Ball franchise, enough so that it was adapted as the first arc of Dragon Ball Super (along with the movie I swear this post is about), but it was light on fan service. In to make up for that is 2015’s Resurrection ‘F,’ and make no mistake, the ‘F’ is for Frieza.
Frieza was the big baddie of DBZ’s second major story arc. In some ways, he was the ultimate villain of DBZ as he was responsible for the death of Goku’s father and his home world, though to Goku neither was a huge loss. Frieza was also the catalyst for Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan, the blond-haired ultra-powerful version of the character that’s almost now more famous than the old black-haired spiked version. He was an incredibly detestable villain, a ruthless tyrant willing to kill anyone who stood in his way – including children. He casually ended the lives of many of Planet Namek’s inhabitants as well as both Krillen and Vegeta, just when the audience was warming up to the Saiyan Prince.
Toriyama apparently felt there was more to do with old Frieza, even though the protagonists of Dragon Ball Z have long since surpassed the villain’s strength. Frieza barely survived his battle with Goku, needing to be partially rebuilt using cybernetics, and briefly returned to battle only to meet his end at the hands of a debuting new character – Trunks. Ever since then he’s been dead, confined to Hell which is where our story begins. What looks like the setting of a preschool show is actually Frieza’s own personal torment. Teddy bears and bunnies happily prance about playing happy songs in a pastel paradise where the once mighty Frieza (Chris Ayres) dangles from a tree like a pupa. He’s obviously agitated and the implication is this has been going on ever since the tyrant’s demise many years ago.
In deep space, the remnants of the Frieza Force, lead by the diminutive Sorbet (Jeremy Schwartz), are struggling to maintain control over Frieza’s once vast empire. Sorbet has decided they can no longer continue without their lord, and having failed to locate the new Planet Namek, he decides that he and a small force need to head to Earth and find the Dragon Balls there to revive Frieza. He’s done his homework and knows that the fighters of Earth are capable of detecting power levels without a scouter and thus the decision to only bring along one attendant is made. Aiding him in his mission is that fact that both Goku and Vegeta have journeyed to the home world of Beerus to be trained by Whis while the other earthlings are too busy with their own day-to-day lives to notice Sorbet’s presence.
Using the aid of an old enemy, Pilaf, Sorbet is able to locate the Dragon Balls and make his wish. Unfortunately for Frieza, since Trunks decimated his body the dragon can do little except restore life to a pile of flesh and cybernetics. Sorbet indicates they have the technology to heal Frieza, even from this state, without the need for cybernetics. Pilaf’s underling, the canine-like Shou, uses the second wish to acquire a million Zeni and Sorbet, along with the remnants of Frieza, take their leave.
In space, Frieza is healed and quickly decides his first order of business is revenge. When some of his followers politely suggest that this may be unwise, considering that Goku has since defeated Majin Buu who even Frieza feared in his old life, he lashes out killing some and making his point clear. For the first time in his life, Frieza decides to train and work hard to make himself stronger, which is how Toriyama is going to convince the audience that Frieza could perhaps go toe-to-toe with the current version of Goku. Apparently Frieza’s power before was just natural talent. He was never tested or forced to work and was able to effortlessly take whatever he wanted. He concludes four months should be enough, and thankfully, we’re in for a time jump.
On earth, the Galactic Patrolman Jaco (Todd Haberkorn) makes his series debut when he arrives on Earth to warn Bulma (Monica Rial) that Frieza was alive and coming for Goku. Bulma is only slightly concerned, but there is the issue of Goku being too far away to get ahold of easily. She explains to Jaco that Whis can be lured to Earth with tantalizing sweets, and Jaco doubts that Beerus and Whis even exist assuming the God of Destruction is the stuff of fairy tales. Still, Bulma is only slightly annoyed when Whis fails to notice the strawberry sundae she’s waving at the sky, but then becomes a bit concerned when Jaco informs her that Frieza will be there within the hour. Well, that changes things a bit!
Krillen (Sonny Strait), introduced doing some cop stuff, along with the other fighters assemble. Krillen even has his wife 18 (Meredith McCoy) shave his head so he can capture that classic Krillen look before he heads out to take on Frieza. 18 correctly reminds him that she’s stronger than he and should go, but he thinks it’s more important she stay behind to take care of their daughter and she puts forth no argument. She remarks that he’s so cool as he flies away, which is the most affection we’ve ever seen her show up to this point (that I can recall, anyway).
In the outer reaches of space, Goku (Sean Schemmel) and Vegeta (Christopher R. Sabat) are sparring with their latest teacher, Whis (Ian Sinclair). Unable to land even a single blow, Whis explains to the two their weaknesses. In his estimation, Vegeta is always one step behind Goku because of the rather large chip on his shoulder. Meanwhile, Goku is too arrogant and lets his guard down too easily, which Whis demonstrates with a sucker punch. Their training awakens Beerus, who nearly annihilates them all with a simple sneeze. Whis warns the Saiyans to be careful around him for Beerus once accidentally destroyed the sun their planet orbits around. Goku is pretty shocked to hear that and assumes they have the power to give birth to the very stars, but Whis corrects him by explaining he can actually rewind time by a few minutes and was able to undo Beerus’s mistake. Beerus is still agitated about being woken up from his slumber, but Whis cures his angst with some pizza he acquired on Earth. If you didn’t see Battle of Gods, the gimmick, if you will, of Beerus and Whis is their fascination with Earth cuisine. They love experiencing new dishes and could best be described as foodies. It’s also why Beerus decided to spare the Earth from destruction.
With Goku and Vegeta occupied, the other fighters of Earth are forced to confront Frieza and his army of 1,000 men when they show up. Leading the charge is Gohan (Kyle Hebert) along with Krillen, Piccolo (Chris Sabat), Tien (John Burgmeier), and Master Roshi (Mike McFarland). Two notable absentees are Trunks and Goten, and it’s explained that Bulma didn’t want them to know about Frieza to keep them safe. Frieza’s army offers little resistance when it engages the fighters, which is fine because it’s a way for the film to shine a light on some of these forgotten characters. It’s been a long time since Master Roshi, in particular, got to mix it up and do some damage and it’s definitely a whole bunch of fan service. When they’re out of the way, it’s down to Frieza who quickly puts Gohan on his back. Since this is a film, we don’t have time to mess around and Goku and Vegeta quickly show up to challenge the old tyrant.
Frieza is delighted to see Goku and immediately goes to his final form. Goku does a lot of posturing while Vegeta angrily waits his turn. After some warming up, the two decide there’s no point in holding back. Goku unveils his new form, Super Saiyan God Super Saiayan. That mouthful of a form will eventually be simplified as Super Saiyan Blue as it’s basically just Super Saiyan but with blue hair instead of yellow. Of course, in terms of power it’s well beyond even Super Saiyan 3. Not to be outdone, Frieza unveils a new golden form that appears to be roughly equal with Goku’s new form. The two trade blows until Goku boasts about discovering Frieza’s weakness. When he starts to take control of the fight, Frieza resorts to some dastardly tricks and interference like a classic wrestling heel, forcing Vegeta to enter the fray. Frieza, holding out some hope that Vegeta will return to him and kill Goku, is shocked when Vegeta turns down his offer to be his Supreme Commander and he too transforms into this blue-haired form for a final showdown.
As a plot, it’s simple and fast-moving though the picture still ends up around 90 minutes. It doesn’t drag at all, unlike the Dragon Ball Super version of this arc which stretches it out over the course of 13 episodes. It’s packed with fan-service as a pretty sizable portion of the plot is devoted to the Goku/Vegeta rivalry and how the two view it and each other. It firmly confronts and establishes how those two coexist and view each other, and it’s kind of sweet to see it confronted openly. It’s also a source for a lot of humor and having both Beerus and Whis around adds to that. The film also teases a team-up between the two proud warriors, with both of the god-like characters remarking the two Saiyans would be unstoppable if they worked together.
Resurrection ‘F’ is also the best Dragon Ball Z has ever looked. There’s still some of that CG junk that marred Battle of Gods, but it’s relied upon sparingly here. The opening, featuring an underwater scene, is kind of ugly, but thankfully not a harbinger of things to come. The colors all pop and are richly vibrant. There are no obvious animation shortcuts and some genuinely nice uses of CG like a battle among some colossal trees that invokes images of Endor, only the speeder bikes have been replaced by supersonic warriors. The film also slightly upends the old formula of the other DBZ movies which often featured Goku having to clean-up after Vegeta was defeated. It’s a small change, but welcomed.
The score for the picture is also quite well done. It feels very much like a DBZ score, but with a modern touch. There’s some contributions from two noted Japanese bands, Momoiro Clover Z and Maximum the Hormone, the latter of which served as the inspiration for the plot as Toriyama was a fan of their song “F,” which was all about the villain, Frieza. It’s good stuff, and the English voice cast is pretty great as well. Voicing Frieza is Chris Ayres, who took over voicing duties for the character when Funimation went back and re-dubbed the series for Dragon Ball Z Kai. His Frieza is stupendous, and he does an especially great job of screaming as the character. And I continue to be a huge fan of both Whis and Beerus, even though their obsession with food will start to feel repetitive come Dragon Ball Super, but here it’s still funny.
Battle of Gods was the return to Dragon Ball Z I never knew I wanted. Resurrection ‘F’ manages to top it, even if it sounds kind of stupid on the surface. Somehow the film is able to make Frieza a compelling threat so many years after his defeat and I didn’t realize how much I appreciated him as a villain until I revisited him. It’s also nice that he’s just confined to this movie, as opposed to a massive arc where a single confrontation is spread over 30 episodes or whatever the old fight encompassed. And since I had already seen this plot covered in Dragon Ball Super, it was interesting to see what changed when they stretched it out over more than a dozen episodes. Super did deal with one long lingering pothole that the film does not touch, the frog version of Captain Ginyu, but other than that it doesn’t add anything important and really just contains a lot of subpar filler. That’s Dragon Ball though, you kind of have to both love it and hate it at the same time. At least here, for a brisk 94 minutes, you’re able to mostly just love it.