Japanese Title: The Galaxy’s at the Brink!! The Super Incredible Guy
Original Release Date: July 10, 1993
English Release Date: August 17, 2004
Directed by: Yoshihiro Ueda
Screenplay by: Takao Koyama
Running time: 51 minutes
Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound is the rare DBZ movie that actually could be considered canon, should someone want to. Like most, the stakes and impact of the film are basically nil in the grand scheme of things, but it takes place during the period following the Cell Saga but before the Buu Saga that the manga and anime both skip over. This movie is also the last to use the classic opening theme song of “CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA” and also the last to feature an appearance from Future Trunks (Eric Vale). It is the first to feature the bumbling World Martial Arts Champion Mr. Satan (Chris Rager), who plays a role in the film’s plot. And it’s also the first to feature a dead Goku (Sean Schemmel), which doesn’t seem that weird for DBZ, but it’s a pretty odd concept nonetheless. With Goku only playing a minor role, this is essentially Gohan’s (Stephanie Nadolny, making her last appearance as the voice of Gohan) chance to assume the starring role for a change.
Bojack Unbound essentially takes place in one location. A martial arts tournament is being thrown by a mega wealthy individual who is basically just trying to please his young son. To make things more interesting, his son requests that the tournament feature alien warriors from another planet, and his dad promises to make it happen. And waiting at the end of the tournament for whoever can topple the aliens will be the champion himself – Mr. Satan.
This tournament has attracted a lot of media attention, and with a large purse as reward, a great many warriors have turned up for it including most of our favorite characters and Yamcha (Christopher Sabat). The tournament differs from the ones we saw in Dragon Ball. It’s a multi-tiered, open-air arena where the goal is to either incapacitate your opponent or knock them into the water. Water you say? That’s because the whole thing is on a man-made, movable island. It’s a pretty neat design and basically every background in this movie is quite unique in relation to what we’re accustomed to seeing. The tournament opens with a massive melee. Gohan (dressed in his father’s gi), Trunks (sporting his long hair and blue jacket but the sleeves have been cut off), Piccolo (Sabat), Krillin (Sonny Strait), and Tien (John Burgmeier) all advance out of the melee along with some no-names to the second round. Bulma (with baby Trunks) and Chi-Chi (Cynthia Cranz) watch from the stands while Oolong (Brad Jackson) and Master Roshi (Mike McFarland) scope out the babes around the area. Goku and King Kai (Schemmel), along with Bubbles and Gregory, are watching via broadcast TV from beneath Snake Way since King Kai’s planet was blown up by Goku during the events of the anime.
Notably missing from the action is Vegeta (Sabat). We learn via conversation between Bulma (Tiffany Vollmer) and Chi-Chi that Vegeta has lost his fighting spirit since the death of Goku. He’s shown briefly watching the broadcast of the fight on television before turning it off in disgust. Trunks’ sword is in the foreground of the shot and Vegeta is strangely laying on a bed wearing his full armor. It’s a pretty interesting way to approach Vegeta. He has never had warm feelings for Goku, but Goku did represent a rival for him and his constant superiority over Vegeta was a prime motivating factor for Vegeta in his training. Seeing Goku’s son Gohan surpass him during the fight with Cell probably damaged his ego, and add that in with Goku’s death and you’re left with a Vegeta suffering from depression.
The tournament moves onto one on one battles and by now Mr. Satan has taken note of who’s participating. He immediately starts feigning a stomach ache to hopefully get out of any obligation to fight since he knows he can’t compete with the likes of Gohan and co. Meanwhile, Trunks and Tien get to have a match and it’s pretty entertaining. Tien gets to save some face by forcing Trunks to go super, but the outcome of the match is obviously never in doubt. Krillin has to face Piccolo, and while he stands there shivering bemoaning his poor luck, Piccolo shows disgust and decides to bail on the whole tournament deeming it not worth his time allowing Krillin to win by forfeit. I get that Piccolo wouldn’t have any interest in a monetary prize, but surely he would have relished the thought of having a real battle with either Trunks or Gohan so I don’t really get why he would bail like that. I guess I should just laugh like the movie wants me to and move on.
Gohan is matched-up with just some guy who he’s able to take out with ease, and the four semi-finalists move onto the next round. That’s where things get weird as the third round is apparently a race. Each contestant is put in some Tron-like rocket car that will jet them off to a new island where one of the four alien contestants that have been hyped are waiting. Whoever beats their opponent and gets to a certain spot the fastest wins and gets to move onto the final round with Mr. Satan.
Gohan, Krillin, and Trunks, along with another random guy, head off to meet their new opponents, only what they encounter is not what was expected. It would seem the alien warriors have been replaced, and Krillin encounters his one weakness. Well, actually Krillin has many weaknesses, but his biggest are the ladies. The mysterious Zangya (Colleen Clinkenbeard) appears before him and he’s pretty much too charmed to put up a fight and she takes him out easily. Trunks is matched off with the sword-wielding Kogu (Ethan Rains), who appears to be a worthy adversary, but has to power-up into this green-skinned super state to bring out Trunks’ true power. Trunks eventually seizes the upper hand, and punches a hole right through Kogu, but is immediately assailed from behind after the fact. Gohan is left to face the diminutive Bujin (Christopher Bevins), but soon is forced into fighting all of the victors of the other bouts, which also include Bido (Robert McCollum) who took out the random fighter who joined the three.
It’s at this point that Bojack (Bob Carter) shows himself. He’s the leader of this gang of djinn-like fiends and he offers no explanation for why they’re there. King Kai is able to fill-in Goku on just who this guy is. Apparently he’s just some asshole who loves genocide that King Kai and the other Kais were able to seal away long ago. When King Kai’s home world was blown up by Goku, the seal was broken and Bojack became unbound. King Kai just sort of forgot about this guy until now. He stresses that Gohan and the Earth is in a lot of danger, but Goku isn’t too concerned.
At least he isn’t at first. Gohan more than holds his own against the lot of Bojack’s men, though they soon demonstrate this technique that’s similar to spider webs that can hold people in place and drain their energy. When Gohan gets into some trouble, Piccolo makes the save as he does in basically every movie. Trunks re-enters the fight and when it looks like he’s about to bite the dust Vegeta is there to provide the assist (with Trunks’ sword, no less). Vegeta tries to take on Bojack himself, but he’s no match for him once he powers-up into his green-skinned form. Trunks tries to help him out, but Vegeta is not too receptive which only really leads to the two of them eventually unconscious.
It basically comes down to Gohan, and as a Super Saiyan he’s able to stand his own but the numbers are against him. He gets caught in that web stuff, but Mr. Satan (who was basically forced into one of those rocket cars) crashes into the scene and makes the save inadvertently. He also takes out the cameras, so suddenly the audience has no idea what’s going on. Bojack gets ahold of Gohan though, and it starts to look bad for the young warrior. Goku can’t take it, and he uses his instant transmission technique to warp in and punch Bojack in the face. He gives Gohan a quick pep talk, before he has to bail, but it’s enough to convince Gohan to unlock his true power and go Super Saiyan 2.
Now fully powered-up, Bojack’s minions stand no chance. Gohan literally punches one guy in half and kicks another in two. When Zangya is in his crosshairs, the fine folks at Toei wisely made the call to not have their hero butcher a woman and instead Bojack uses her as a shield and fires a massive blast at Gohan from behind which kills her in the process. It does nothing to phase Gohan and it soon becomes apparent that Bojack is no match for Gohan in this form. He dispatches him with ease while Goku and King Kai look on (apparently their Other World television set is not reliant on cameras).
The film ends with Gohan, Trunks, and Krillin in hospital beds (must be a senzu bean shortage) yukking it up with the other characters. It’s revealed that Mr. Satan received all of the credit for killing Bojack and Oolong encourages Gohan to try and get a piece of the pie for himself. Piccolo and Vegeta, in a familiar nod to Super Android 13, quietly sit on the hospital roof away from the main throng of folks in silence as the picture comes to an end. During the credits, we’re treated to images of Gohan and his family from throughout the events of the anime which are rather sweet. It’s like a final farewell to the child version of Gohan and a surprising touch for a Dragon Ball Z film.
Bojack Unbound is a solid entry into the Dragon Ball Z film-verse. Actually, it’s more than solid as it might be my favorite thus far. It’s a tight, simple story, but the premise makes sense given the source material. Everyone is given a logical motivation for wanting to participate given the huge cash outlay, and the film even explains why Future Trunks is there and why Vegeta is not, and usually these films see no need to explain much of anything. The villain still shows up largely out of no where and with little reason. The film decides to just say “screw it” in giving Bojack any real goal and literally just decides he loves killing and genocide. I guess if you don’t want to have to bother with developing a villain just make him love genocide. Like a lot of the films before it, this one does mostly take a large arc from the anime (The Cell Games) and condenses it into a brisk film. We get a few shining moments from Trunks, a Vegeta cameo, Mr. Satan hijinks, and a Super Saiyan 2 transformation and subsequent domination by Gohan. The fighting prior to that transformation is fun and imaginative, so it doesn’t bother me so much that we have another movie where a hero powers-up and effortlessly disposes of the bad guy in the end. I was a bit surprised they didn’t go for another Father-Son Kamehameha, but not disappointed. Gohan does use his father’s most famous technique as part of the dismantling of Bojack, and he actually does it in a really bad ass way.
Bojack Unbound is also possibly the best looking Dragon Ball Z movie so far. I was pretty impressed with Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, but this one ups the ante by having more diverse backgrounds and even unique character designs for our heroes. Gohan, for the first time since his early days in the anime, sports an orange gi just like his father. Toei didn’t have to do that, but given his dad has died, it makes sense why Gohan would want to wear that and honor his memory in a tournament. Trunks also gets a design unique to this movie and he looks pretty cool. I’m not a huge fan of his long-haired look, but he pulls it off with the sleeve-less jacket combo. Mr. Satan also gets some new duds and he’s pretty regal-looking as the World Champ. The villains also have a neat look as they’re all this blue-skinned djinn-like race of beings with orange hair. Series creator Akira Toriyama actually designed Bojack, though I’m not sure if he had a hand in designing the others. There isn’t much personality on display beyond cocky, evil people who like inflicting pain, but at least they mostly look cool. They remind me of Zelda’s Ganondorf, who was still a few years away from making his debut in Ocarina of Time.
Bojack Unbound is a movie I had seen long ago as a fansub but remembered little of it beyond the unique character designs. I wasn’t that eager to revisit it, but I’m glad I did as this is my favorite DBZ movie so far. There’s still some nits to pick here and there. Bojack is just all style as a villain and Goku breaking the rules of the after-life to just pop-in is kind of dumb. I also wanted to get a little more out of Vegeta given the depressed state of mind he was in. That just seems like an interesting layer to add to the character and I’ve also been fascinated by the Vegeta/Trunks dynamic as well so more of that would have been appreciated. Coming in at 51 minutes though puts this one right in line with the other movies and it’s a solid running time for a DBZ feature. There isn’t enough plot to typically sustain these things past the one hour mark, though given the story-telling possibilities I mentioned in regards to Vegeta, maybe this one could have gone past that with some success. It’s still a tight story with plenty of action, a lot of humor from the supporting cast, and a mostly satisfying conclusion which is where so many of these films seem to stumble. If this ends up being my favorite of them all, then I’m fine with that.