Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn

7e1c12908c1fd2ee3b2f5b99932706c8Japanese Title:  Fusion Reborn!! Goku and Vegeta

Original Release Date:  March 14, 1995

English Release Date:  March 17, 2006

Directed by:  Shigeyasu Yamauchi

Screenplay by:  Takao Koyama

Running Time:  51 minutes

The penultimate film in the original run of Dragon Ball Z movies is thus far the one with the closest translated title with the actual English title. Fusion Reborn is a pretty wild one that happily embraces the silliness of the Majin Buu Saga of DBZ. Almost the entire film is set in Hell as a being of supreme evil has cast a spell over Other World causing the barrier between the living world and the dead to cease to be. It’s timing in the DBZ universe is even muddier than usual, with both Goku and Vegeta being dead, but with Gohan yet to achieve his “mystic” form. It’s also the first film since Bojack Unbound to feature Vegeta and it’s the first to not feature Krillin. It’s also the only one of the 13 films to not receive a completely uncut edition in the US, but we’ll explain why later on.

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This dude is about to have an unfortunate accident.

The film starts in Other World with Goku (Sean Schemmel) and Pikkon (Kyle Hebert, utilizing a voice basically identical to that of his narrator role, which is distracting) battling in the latest edition of the Other World Tournament. The Kais are all looking on and rooting for their respective fighters with seemingly everyone rooting against King Kai and his fighter, Goku. At the Earth’s check-in station, something major is about to go down. Saike Demon (Jim Frond, with the character credited as simply Young Rocker in the Funimation dub) is in charge of making sure all of the souls inbound for Hell are purged of their negative energy, but he’s too busy rocking out with his head stuck between some headphones. He’s admonished by another worker after King Yemma (Chris Rager) complains about being able to hear the music from his desk. He’s allowed to continue to listen to his music after his superior seems to take pity on the lad, but he forgets to swap out the tank that stores the evil energy and it overflows. All of Other World begins to tremble, and the purple goo takes over the kid transforming him into Janemba.

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Goku is way too excited about meeting Janemba.

Janemba (Foronda) is a colossal monster that looks like a cross between Majin Buu and the baby from Dinosaurs. He’s infant-like, apparently only capable of saying his own name, and his presence causes the entire check-in station to be encased in an amber like substance. Weird, gigantic, jelly beans float all around him and dot the background. With the check-in station frozen, King Yemma informs us that the barrier between the living world and Other World is down and spirits can freely move between the two. The dead who were sent to Hell and denied their bodies, are now fully restored and able to reek havoc once again.

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Goku battles Fat Janemba in Hell amidst a backdrop of candy and jelly beans.

The Grand Kai (Evan Jones) stops the match between Goku and Pikkon and sends the two to see what’s going on at the Earth check-in station. The two happily head there and encounter Janemba. Goku is extremely eager to take on the baby-like monster and is able to convince Pikkon to stay behind and try to break through the barrier holding King Yemma and the check-in station. Pikkon, reluctantly agrees while Goku leads Janemba down to Hell where they can fight freely.

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Look who’s back.

On Earth, Videl (Kara Edwards) is dining with Gohan (Kyle Hebert) and his family at their house when she receives a call about some weird occurrences back in the city. The dead have risen and zombies are now roaming the streets of Satan City. Gohan puts on his Great Saiyaman costume and the two head out to see what’s going on. There they’re confronted by hordes of zombies and a dictator baring a strong resemblance to a real world villain is roaming the streets with an army of Panzers. Of more concern to Gohan is the presence of Frieza (Linda Young) who would love to get revenge on Goku by killing his son. Gohan is more than happy to dispatch the former tyrant with a single blow, heightening in a comical fashion how much has changed since we last saw Frieza. Legions of other fallen enemies fill the sky though, and it’s a lot of fun to pause these scenes to see who you can spot.

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Admit it, you’ve always wanted to see a Super Saiyan kick the crap out of Hitler.

In Hell, Janemba is proving to be a tricky foe capable of even reflecting Goku’s attacks back at him. He has no choice but to debut his Super Saiyan 3 transformation in the film-verse, complete with extended transformation scene accentuated with some mid-90s CG effects. In this state, Goku is more than powerful enough to pulverize Janemba, but just when he thinks he has the monster defeated, he does what most enemies do – he transforms! Gone is Janemba’s (now voiced by Kent Williams) bulbous exterior and in its place is a sleek, demonic form capable of so much more. He can still reflect some attacks, while also demonstrating an ability to break-apart like a game of Tetris and re-form in an instant. Goku does a good job of hanging with him, but his strange fighting style packs enough surprises to knock him off his guard. He then forms a vicious looking sword out of a mallet just hanging around Hell, and utilizes that to great effect knocking Goku into a strange conical pond of blood and out of his Super Saiyan 3 form.

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Super Saiyan 3 Goku gets to work.

On Earth, Goten (Kara Edwards) and Trunks (Laura Bailey) are having a pretty good time taking out the dead while even Mr. Satan (Chris Rager) is proving useful in dispatching the many zombies roaming about. Goten and Trunks soon find themselves in the crosshairs of The Dictator (Christopher Bevins), who even with an army of tanks, poses no real danger to them. They go super anyways just for the fun of it, and The Dictator remarks how he should be impressed with the blonde haired, blue-eyed (even though they’re green), super warriors.

SS Trunks and Goten

“Toon” Trunks and Goten power-up to take on The Dictator!

As Goku is getting beat down, an old friend shows up to give him a hand. Vegeta (Christopher Sabat), having regained his body thanks to the weird goings-on, is eager to engage Janemba since his existence since death pretty much sucks (his words, not mine). Goku warns him that Janemba is too strong, but Vegeta doesn’t care. He gets taken care of pretty quickly, and Janemba tosses him into this vicious looking mountain made up entirely of giant spiked balls. Goku is able to prevent Vegeta from getting impaled, and the two share a quiet moment amidst their surroundings. Vegeta expresses frustration at how strong Goku has become, while he has remained the same. Goku kind of tries to downplay everything, but Vegeta sees right through him. Goku then proposes that the only shot they have at defeating their enemy is to fuse. Vegeta is staunchly opposed to the idea and remarks he’d rather be dead than fuse with Goku, which just prompts Goku to point out that he is in fact dead already.

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The transformed Janemba is a lot scarier than that pudgy thing.

Vegeta is eventually forced to concede that it’s their only option after a lot of back and forth. His admission reads like defeat, and the two perform the fusion dance only for the results to be not desirable. Veku is the result of their fusion, a monstrously bulbous individual whose only strength appears to reside in his powerful flatulence. Veku is forced to dance around Janemba and hope to survive the 30 minute duration of fusion without getting killed. He never dubs himself Veku, that’s the Kais watching via a television set as they provide some commentary on our fight. Eventually the transformation wares off, and Vegeta and Goku are free to attempt the technique again. Only they would be if not for the fact that Janemba has caught on and is not exactly feeling generous. Pikkon shows up though, after having discovered the barrier Janemba created is weak to insults (really), and is able to utilize the same method on Janemba giving the Saiyans time to perform the fusion dance one more time.

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Veku’s only offense is his potent flatulence. He also has a Rabbit Feet technique, which is just what he calls it when he runs away.

The resulting fusion is Gogeta, a supremely powerful being most likely rivaled only by Vegito from the main series. Sensing the transformation of their fathers prompts Goten and Trunks to do the same. Again, they didn’t have to, but Gotenks wasn’t going to miss out on being featured on the big screen. He unleashes his Kamikaze Ghost Attack on the imposter Hitler and the results are what you would expect.

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Gogeta!

In Hell, Janemba is no match for Gogeta and their confrontation is surprisingly brief. Rather than utilize some mash-up of Goku and Vegeta’s attacks (as he will in Dragon Ball GT), Gogeta does this weird attack that creates an energy ball that kind of looks like television static mixed with a rainbow. It’s not at all impressive, but it is effective. With Janemba gone things can return to normal. The fusion wares off and Goku and Vegeta share a surprisingly tender moment before Vegeta’s body fades away. The films ends with the living congratulating themselves on a job well done. Goten and Trunks are able to rib Gohan and Videl so we can get our usual comedic ending.

Gotenks_in_Fusion_Reborn

Not wanting to be outdone, Gotenks decides to show himself.

Fusion Reborn is one of the better received Dragon Ball Z films, and for a lot of fans it’s the best. It’s easy to see how that can be since the film is able to deftly toe the line between being a comedy and taking its stakes seriously. The setup is admittedly bonkers even by Dragon Ball Z standards, but for the movies it’s also a welcomed change from the usual settings. The movie gets a lot of attention for the comedy bits involving the dead returning to life, but its real strength is in exploring the relationship of Goku and Vegeta. The proud Saiyan Prince still gets in his stale line of wanting to be the one to finish off Kakarot, but outside of that we’re mostly shown a vulnerable Vegeta. We saw a glimpse of this character in Bojack Unbound, but that was without Goku to interact with. I enjoyed how Goku went from being kind of a ridiculous caricature of himself to a very serious one once confronted by Vegeta. Their farewell is sweet, and it’s the type of thing I think Akira Toriyama deliberately avoids with Vegeta, not wanting to make him get too soft and show too much emotion, but the folks at Toei may not possess such hang-ups.

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The movie leans heavy into the Goku/Vegeta dynamic.

It’s not all a sappy love-fest though as much of the movie leans heavy into comedy. It’s kind of exciting to see someone like Frieza show up, and also funny to see him dispatched of so quickly. While I could have used more of him, I do see the value in the joke being made. It’s actually surprising that the film doesn’t delve more into the fan-service territory by having Gohan face off with more dead enemies from the past, but at 52 minutes this is already one of the longer DBZ movies. The stuff with The Dictator is also amusing from both a narrative and a visual style. When he’s onscreen, perhaps to lessen the real-life image of Hitler, the whole scene takes on a more toon-like vibe. The backgrounds are more colorful and the characters appear flatter, due mostly to the presence of thick, black, outlines. The inclusion of the failed fusion, Veku, is also handled well. He resembles Fat Gotenks from the main series, and for his voice Schemmel used something closer to his King Kai voice as opposed to his Goku one, while Sabbat does his interpretation of a fat Vegeta. It’s a nice touch and it adds to the comedy.

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It only took 12 movies, but King Yemma finally gets a turn on the big screen.

The Other World, and Hell especially, proves to be a pretty neat place to set a DBZ film. Hell is somewhat barren, but with some imaginative areas to spruce things up. The weird, cone-shaped pond of blood that Goku winds up in is pretty surreal, as is the mountain of spiked balls. The jelly bean background dominant before Janemba transforms is also wild, but it suits the personality of the villain. Janmeba, like Buu, is innocence run amok combined with absolute power and it’s a fun basis for a villain. Unlike Majin Buu, the short duration of a movie means Janemba doesn’t get to overstay his welcome.

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A side of Vegeta seldom seen.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this movie does feature some mild edits in the English version and you’re probably not surprised to read that they concern The Dictator character. His swastika has been replaced with an X on his hat and any mention of The Third Reich has been removed from the tanks and such. It’s a superficial edit. I’d probably be bothered by it if I were younger with a more absolutist take on cuts, but I don’t really care as an adult. I know why Funimation did it and it doesn’t do anything to harm the film. I don’t think they would have received any flak had they left those symbols in, but it’s understandable if it made them uncomfortable. Also, for some reason, the opening theme for the dub goes back to the Funimation English dub main theme. I’m not a fan of “We Gotta Power,” but it’s better than the instrumental theme Funimation crafted.

Dragon Ball Z:  Fusion Reborn lives up to the billing as one of the better Dragon Ball Z movies and I won’t fight you if you think it is the best of the bunch. I’m not sure I would put it that high, but after a couple lesser films, it was nice to sit down and watch this one. It has a good blend of action and humor and it doesn’t run on too long. Only one movie is left in our feature, so check back next week for the final Dragon Ball Z movie of the 90s, Wrath of the Dragon.


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