Tag Archives: vegeta

Unifive Ultimate Evolution Vegeta

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My, my, what do we have here?

In America, we’ve always got kind of the short end of the stick when it comes to high quality Dragon Ball Z toys. Sure, Irwin did some okay things with the license, which I covered recently by highlighting Vegeta, one of the more popular characters from the franchise. We would even get a few imports courtesy of Jakks Pacific who brought over Bandai’s Ultimate Fighters series. Now a days, we have more access to imports and the Internet is full of retailers who will bring these things over here. Even Gamestop and Barnes & Noble carry the SH Figuarts brand.

During the mid 2000s though we were still mostly left in the dark. While Jakks was running the line into the ground, a small toy maker named Unifive was putting out some really interesting action figures based on Dragon Ball Z. Dubbed the Ultimate Evolution series, these figures aimed to capture the many different looks of the shows Saiyan characters. It started off with Goku and Vegeta and expanded to include Future Trunks and Teen Gohan. Unifive also made other Dragon Ball Z toys, but these were the only true action figures, and they’re pretty unique.

Since they had to be imported, I only purchased one – Vegeta. Had I waited for all four to be available I may have opted for Trunks or Gohan instead, but I can’t say I’m disappointed with what I have here. During this time in my life I was a recent college graduate so I didn’t have much money for toys, and the money I did mostly went towards Marvel Legends. For a long time, this Vegeta toy was the last DBZ related piece of merchandise I had bought up until recently.

As the name implies, this Vegeta is intended to be the ultimate representation of the character. It’s intended to cover all of Dragon Ball Z from the character’s first appearance in the Saiyan Saga into the Buu Saga. As you will see, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Unifive would do a better job of reflecting this with basically all of the other characters in this line. Part of that is a willingness to include more pieces with the likes of Trunks, and part of that is simply due to the fact that a character like Goku didn’t change much through the life of the show and manga. Vegeta had basically three distinct looks:  Saiyan Saga with tail and shoulder pads, Android Saga with the vest armor and ability to go Super Saiyan, and Buu Saga without armor and the Majin Vegeta look. There are other more minor looks like Namek Vegeta or the much loved Bad Man shirt look, but I’d say those three are the most iconic.

Unifive’s Vegeta opts to use the Android Saga Vegeta as its base and it really can’t deviate much from it. This is due to the armor being sculpted on. They could have gone with a removable chest piece and separate bare arms to approximate the Buu Saga Vegeta, or just go with a whole new torso as they would with Trunks, but they chose not to. Somewhat more frustrating is the lack of removable shoulder pads to create the Saiyan Saga look. They’re included with one of the heads, an Oozaru/Great Ape head, but not one of the normal Vegeta heads. It’s really unfortunate because the regular, black-haired head includes a removable scouter and he also comes with a removable tail and a base featuring some emerging Saibamen. It’s almost perfect, and admittedly I still do like the look of him even without the shoulder pads and skirt, but it could have been more. Also notable is that this series uses the manga for inspiration over the anime so the coloring is a little different. Vegeta is a bit darker than his anime counterpart, this choice of coloring is most notable for Trunks who had a different colored jacket in the manga. There’s a nice paint wash applied to the body that gives his muscles some added definition. The gloves and boots have a gray wash as well and there’s liberal use of shading on the armor. He’s not as brightly colored as most DBZ figures, but he still looks pretty sharp on a shelf.

Since this Vegeta does not have removable armor, he also can’t pull-off a proper Buu Saga Vegeta despite the inclusion of a Majin Vegeta head. Majin Vegeta in Saiyan armor is kind of interesting, but obviously still lacking. Ignoring the issues of authenticity, this Vegeta does boast quite a bit of accessories to make up for that. He has four heads:  normal, super saiyan, majin, and great ape. As I mentioned earlier, the great ape head includes the shoulder pads from his armor, with one being battle damaged as it were during the actual appearance of this Vegeta in the show. Since the head is molded to the shoulder pads and chest, it can’t turn, but that’s all right considering how cool it looks. Even neater, the base comes with an attachment that covers the Saibamen heads with a rock formation that a tiny representation of Goku can be placed on to give off the illusion of scaling. Vegeta also has swappable feet, the second pair being fatter than the standard to add some bulk to the ape form though they mistakenly include yellow-gold toes when that Vegeta featured all white boots. His chest and arms could use some bulking up as well, but that would obviously be a lot harder to pull off. As it stands, this a pretty neat attempt at an oozaru Vegeta.

Vegeta also comes packed with several different hands for various poses. He has two fists, two open “Final Flash/Gallic Gun” hands, a Big Bang Attack hand, and one making kind of a piece sign. The only shortcoming with the hands is that the peace sign one is a right hand, but his scouter is worn over his left eye. Had it been a left hand, it would have worked as a way for him to “activate” his scouter. Speaking of which, he has a scouter with a red transparent lens. It looks great and pegs into the normal head. The other heads can’t wear it, unfortunately, but I suppose they didn’t need to. The normal head also has a peg hole in the back for a halo for dead Vegeta. I’m not sure why the super heads don’t have a peg hole, but it’s not that important. The halo is made of translucent plastic so it has a nice floating effect and is superior to the Irwin halo we saw on their Buu Saga Super Vegeta.

Each individual Vegeta head looks pretty great. The normal head features kind of a blank expression. He very much looks like Vegeta, but I would have preferred a cocky Vegeta since this is primarily his Saiyan Saga head. The Super Saiyan head is similar in that it’s a fairly neutral expression. The hair looks awesome, though there’s a weird paint imperfection beneath his left eye that is really visible in the pictures, more so than in reality. The Majin Vegeta head has an awesome arrogant Vegeta expression and is really appropriate for the character. It also sports the thick, black outline on the eyes that’s authentic to the look of that particular version of Vegeta. He even has that throbbing vein along his left temple he often sports in the anime. It’s a real shame the look of the body doesn’t match up, since this is the best head of the bunch. Though oddly, it sits real low on the neck ball peg, unlike the other heads. It looks fine and can be manipulated to look more like the others, but it takes away from his range of motion. The Oozaru head, as covered earlier, also looks great.

The body of these figures is comprised mostly of pegs and swivel joints. The only real socket joint is for the head. It’s a strange approach for creating an action figure, but it does mostly work as the figure is sturdy with a wide range of movement. Not as wide as he would have if he had ball-jointed limbs and standard hinge joints for his knees and elbows. The various pegs throughout his body means you could disassemble the figure fairly easily if you wanted to. The pegs for his hands and feet are easy to work with and they’re nice and thick so I’ve never felt I was in danger of breaking anything. It’s a figure you really have to play around with to get a feel for what kind of posing it’s capable of. I appreciate the oddball nature of it, though I wouldn’t want all of my action figures to be constructed this way.

This Vegeta figure from Unifive was a purchase I was really happy with at the time. I appreciate what it’s trying to achieve, even if it comes up short, and I find it’s construction really interesting even if it isn’t perfect. I was content with it, but not sold on it completely to the point that I even bought another figure in this line. I’m still tempted by the Future Trunks version, but given what it would cost I’d probably be better off just getting the SH Figuarts Trunks or even saving a few bucks with the Dragon Stars version. Neither achieve what Unifive tried to do, create one figure to stand-in for all of the various looks of the character, but they’re probably better action figures. As kind of a random oddball piece of my collection, this figure is pretty fun to have around and still looks good enough by today’s standards for display, as long you’re not going for a Majin Vegeta or proper Saiyan Saga look.


The Prince of All Saiyans – In Action Figure Form!

IMG_2274Jumping back into the world of Dragon Ball, and especially the SH Figuarts Vegeta figure, has made me especially nostalgic for all things Dragon Ball Z. Back in the early 2000s, I was an avid collector of Irwin Toys’ Dragon Ball Z line of action figures. When Dragon Ball Z first showed up in America, Irwin licensed the old Bandai Super Battle Collection line of toys for distribution in North America. This proved a smart move because the show didn’t catch on so Irwin wasn’t out a ton of capital. The Bandai toys, and also a series also licensed by Irwin from a company called AB, were pretty dated in the late 90s. They contained minimal articulation, almost no accessories (something DBZ didn’t really lend itself well to, in fairness), and were just an adequate representation of the characters from the anime. Arguably their best feature was the nice box-styled packaging, something that was probably expensive relative to other toys so the Irwin ones came in standard blisters with “loud” 90s styling.

These toys, as released by Irwin, were largely peg warmers. They paled in quality to the stuff being put out by Toy Biz and McFarlane and since the show didn’t catch on kids really didn’t want them. They eventually made it into the discount bins, which was when I got my Super Saiyan Vegeta figure for a mere four dollars. Eventually, Cartoon Network picked up Dragon Ball Z and began airing it during the afternoon timeslot. It soon caught on, and suddenly America was in love with this series from Japan that had long since ended. Funimation, the company distributing the show in North America, eventually went back to the series to dub it in its entirety which also gave Irwin the confidence to go all-in on the license and start creating its own toys. DBZ was mostly a show that appealed to an older audience, so Irwin made it a point to appeal to collectors and longtime fans, which was pretty cool from a collector’s standpoint, but maybe not the best marketing decision. They first concentrated on characters that Bandai never tackled such as Nappa, Krillen, and the non-final forms of Frieza, to name a few. They didn’t even release a Goku until Series 4, which is pretty damn crazy since almost every series of modern figures includes one Goku.

In light of my enjoyment of the Figuarts Vegeta, I decided to dig out all of my Vegeta toys from storage and take a look at them. They’re all Irwin releases, except one. Irwin eventually went bankrupt as DBZ was basically its only successful property. They were able to sell the license to Jakks Pacific who would continue the line for a few years. The Jakks toys initially were fine because they were mostly unreleased Irwin designed figures, but the Jakks originals were rather poor which is when I stopped collecting. Jakks seemed to use a lower quality plastic and a much simpler paint application giving their toys almost a rubbery look, even though they were hard plastic. Their only good releases really were the re-releases of older Irwin toys that they were able to make paint corrections to, most notoriously Perfect Cell who had a very blue skin and no purple sideburns as released by Irwin. Lets take a trip through the toys I did get though. I did not get every Vegeta released by Irwin, but I did get all of the main ones (I mostly skipped the gimmick lines, with one exception) and one of the Jakks releases. Let’s start with the first one, the re-release of the Bandai Super Battle Collection Super Saiyan Vegeta.

This figure is pretty damn basic for a toy. He’s mostly comprised of colored plastic with minimal paint applications and almost no articulation, which was par for the course for this line. His only articulation is in the shoulders, wrists, and calves. His hair is glued on and doesn’t look particularly great, but in a way it accentuates his receding hairline. The battle armor is removable and it’s just two pieces of plastic that snap together. This was the standard approach for this line as most characters had a removable shirt. His boots are missing the yellow/gold tips. Still, for the time, the likeness was fine and he mostly looks like Vegeta, especially from the side. Not a fun toy by any means, but at least his bum looks nice in blue spandex.

Our next figure was Irwin’s first attempt at a proper Vegeta. Based on his look in the Androids Saga, this was a Series 4 figure and a much anticipated one. He’s a solid representation of what Irwin’s approach was. They utilized ball joints for the shoulders to go with legs, knees, and head articulation. It was pretty standard for the time, but obviously not on pair with what we’re accustomed to today. After all, he basically can’t be posed in any of his signature stances and what you see is kind of what you get since he has no elbow or wrist articulation. Like the Bandai toys, he is mostly done with colored plastic as well, but the white and yellow of his armor is painted on. The blue of his suit is a deep royal blue and the tips of his boots are molded on, but not painted. This was an artistic approach for the figures as we’ll see with the Super Saiyan version, Irwin would go lighter on the suit and paint in the boot tips. The likeness is solid, though something is off a bit in the face and I think it’s the thickness of the eyebrows. Part of the likeness issues is probably due to the relatively small scale Irwin is working with. Vegetal stands just under 5″ at about 4 7/8″ to the tip of his hair. This line is basically in-scale with the Bandai line, though most of the figures were about the same height with only the obviously taller ones coming in greater than 5″. This figure does accentuate what I love about this look for Vegeta which is the contrasting bright white of the armor with the rich blue of the bodysuit. It pops, and making the armor molded onto the figure is a much better choice than making it removable.

The next figure is Irwin’s first go at Super Saiyan Vegeta. Coming in the very next series following the non-super version, this figure had an entirely new sculpt which was a positive as I feared they’d just put a new head on him and call it a day. There’s evidence of minor enhancements too in Irwin’s sculpting process. This figure is more rounded in the torso, possibly to accentuate the bulkiness of Super Vegeta. He also has molded kneecaps and a slightly open hand showing that Irwin wasn’t going to shy away from doing fingers. The hair is much spikier, and there’s a pearl finish to the white of the armor. As I mentioned with the previous figure, this one is a lighter blue and the yellow pieces are slightly lighter as well to give off the impression of that Super Saiyan glow. The yellow tips of the boots are also painted in as well. For some reason, Irwin associated that feature with the Super Saiyan form as they would repeat this with Trunks. The face sculpting was more ambitious as well as he has sunken in eyes, a furrowed brow, and more detail in his ears. He looks pretty solid, though the shape of the hair feels off and I wish he had a sneer instead of a scowl. The pupils of his eyes aren’t lined up either and he looks kind of goofy upon closer inspection. I was pretty satisfied with him though at the time, and he is an improvement on the previous Vegeta in many respects, though at the expense of looking a little less like Vegeta.

Our next figure is from the non-mainline series and from the Striking Z Fighters line of figures. These ones all featured some action they could perform. In the case of this Super Saiyan Vegeta, clad in his Buu Saga attire, he’s supposed to do a flip. It’s an exceedingly lame action feature as you basically just hold one arm between your fingers and literally flick at him to make him spin around. Basically any figure can do this, this one just features a ratchet joint in the shoulder so he’ll move more freely and easily without getting so loose that the figure can’t hold its arm up when posing. The good thing is this lame feature doesn’t harm the look of the figure, but it does mean he lost knee articulation and can only stand with his right foot slightly in front of his left. This stance makes him shorter than our other Vegeta figures, which actually makes him more in scale with the likes of Goku and Trunks. He’s a quieter looking figure too when compared with the prior Super Saiyan version as his hair is less spiky and his facial features are more simple. He has a sort-of angry, smug look on his face that’s almost the much-wanted Vegeta smirk but not quite. He looks fine, though I wish he posed better. He came with a plastic board originally that he could flip through that I didn’t drag out as it was pretty lame. And it was nice that Irwin made the effort to put him in different attire, even though the Buu Saga was still a little ways off at the time of release.

The next figure is the first Vegeta from the Buu era of the show in the main series and it’s Majin Vegeta. He had an interesting existence as the first version released to retail incorrectly colored his hair black. If you’re thinking this makes that version rare and valuable you would be wrong. While perhaps it could become that eventually, the figure was mass released and I honestly don’t know which is more rare – the error version or the running change yellow seen here. Since it was so obviously an error, I’m sure many people bought multiples and kept them carded in hopes of re-selling them later. Unfortunately for them, this line doesn’t command much money probably due to the abundance of better DBZ toys out there. Anyway, this figure was a bit of a disappointment. Series 6 for Irwin marked a new era of paint experimentation that included applying a paint wash to give the toys more definition and personality. They also tried to give them a bit of a dirty look as well. This Vegeta came well after that and Irwin toned it down some, but they still had’t quite figured things out. His clothing is very muted while his skin has a lot of red to it, including around the eyes which should have been heightened with black for this version of Vegeta. The M on his forehead is nice and sharp, though his hair should probably be spikier given this is also our first Super Saiyan 2 Vegeta. His arms are posed oddly, making it look like he’s riding an imaginary motorcycle. Maybe this was done to recreate the scene where he gives young Trunks a hug before sacrificing himself in a bid to kill Majin Buu. This figure disappointed me at the time, but at least they did finally give Vegeta a cocky grin.

Next up is I guess what you would call dead Vegeta. This is after he’s been brought back by the Kais to help Goku defeat Buu, marked with a halo above is head. He’s in his super form and it looks like the head of the first Super Saiyan Vegeta may have been re-tooled for this figure. At least the hair looks to be about the same. The only real different is he’s sporting an open mouth instead of a closed one. The outfit is less drab compared with Majin Vegeta as Irwin dialed back the dark blue wash they used on that figure. There’s also way less red in the flesh, though the center piece of plastic on the shoulders remains unpainted. His gloves feature a lot of grime on them, as do his boots. Interestingly enough though, Irwin finally adopted elbow articulation so this Vegeta can be posed a little better than others. For the first time he can kind of look like he’s getting ready to power-up his Final Flash attack, so at least that’s pretty cool. The halo is a little warped from storage, though I recall most had a little bend in them, and is supported by a very sturdy peg. It’s not removable, and the tallness of his hair does a solid job of hiding the peg when viewed from the front. This was the last official Irwin Vegeta in the 5″ line and you could argue it was their best take on the character which isn’t a bad way to go out.

Our last 5″ figure is a Jakks Pacific release, but I’m pretty sure this was an Irwin design. This Vegeta was a bit of a surprise, but also a sign of where Jakks would take the line. This is Vegeta as he was on Planet Namek during his fight with Frieza. It features the Namek armor vest which lacked the yellow straps and it’s also battle damaged. The paint is a bit off though as the bodysuit is a very light blue, almost as light as the Super Saiyan Vegeta, when it should be a very dark blue that’s almost black. He also has the yellow tips on his boots when this particular version of Vegeta should have all white boots. The paint is a little sloppy in places, mostly where the vest ends and the bodysuit begins just before the neck, though overall I’d say it’s pretty good. The battle damage on the vest looks awesome and really adds depth to the armor pieces. He has a great looking cocky grin recalling the time just after Dende healed him and Vegeta challenged Frieza thinking he was a Super Saiyan. Best of all, he has more articulation than the other figures including ball-jointed elbows and twisting wrists. He even has ankle articulation, though the shape of the boots makes it very limited. Aside from the incorrect paint choice, the only drawback to this figure is his almost total absence of a nose. The nose is always one of the hardest parts to get right on these characters since they’re so small. It’s not awful, but his face looks a little weird as a result. After so many Super Saiyan versions of the character, it was nice to get another black-haired Vegeta. Jakks would release one more Vegeta that I believe originated as an Irwin sculpt, a version with a black jacket from the very end of DBZ. They would never top this one though.

Oh, but wait! We’re not done yet! In addition to the 5″ line of figures, Irwin also dabbled in the collector market. They first released a trio of figures in a 9″ scale – Goku, Super Saiyan 2 Gohan, and Super Saiyan Vegeta. These figures were more like statues and featured extensive battle damage. Goku looked pretty awful, but Gohan and Vegeta were pretty cool and both were depicted as they were during the Cell Games. This Vegeta is in sort of an odd pose as he almost looks like he’s surfing. As a result of the pose, he comes in at about 8 1/2″ tall. I’m not sure what the source material was, maybe the death of Trunks? What you see here is largely what you get. He does have a thin, black display stand I neglected to remove from storage that helps him stand, but he doesn’t need it. His attire is pretty well beat-up and there’s a real brightness to the blue of his suit. There’s some color blending on it as well that looks pretty sharp. The same trick is used for his skin tone and the color of his hair. It’s similar to what they did with their 5″ version of the character in an attempt to try and make it look like he’s glowing, only with this larger format the results are more convincing. He has a concerned look on his face which i suppose is appropriate. I would have preferred something else though. I really like the shape of his hair, and I wish they could have pulled this off with the smaller figures. He does have articulation in his shoulders and waist as well as his neck. No ball joints though. The rear of his vest has yellowed too, possibly due to when I had him on display which may have been in sunlight – I’m not sure. Oh well. At the time, this was one of my favorite pieces in my DBZ collection, but he’s kind of just so-so now.

Lastly, but not least, we have the IF Labs take on battle damaged Super Saiyan Vegeta from the film Cooler’s Revenge. After just the three figures in their special 9″ line, Irwin created the brand IF Labs (later re-named Giant Ape after the Jakks sale) for large scale collector figures. Most of the figures released in this line were based on the many DBZ films getting dubbed and released by Funimation, but they would eventually tackle DBZ characters like Vegito and Super Buu. This Vegeta is about 8″ tall, making him much shorter than most of the characters released in this line which actually put him in scale for once. His articulation is expansive when compared with the 5″ line – ball shoulders, neck, elbow, hips, knees, shins, and waist. He’s not capable of much in the way of dynamic poses, but his standard look is pretty nice on its own. The sculpting is the real stand-out with this Vegeta as his armor is cracked and broken in places, the bodysuit torn with fragments hanging, his skin is scratched and bleeding and is very evocative of the source artwork. He has an angry, but determined, look to his face and the hair is in two distinct pieces giving the spikes nice definition. There’s finer details as well like stitching on the boots and gloves really giving this figure a jolt of realism, even above what is present in the film. Some of that realism, like his teeth, actually take away from the figure slightly because he looks too real and unlike the actual cartoon. Otherwise, the attention to detail is rather impressive including the all-white boots which is film accurate, even though he always had gold-tipped ones when wearing this attire in the anime. The only thing that stinks about my particular figure is the tiny paint chip on the end of his nose, a terrible place for a spot of missing paint. This was probably my favorite Vegeta figure, until I got the Figuarts one, though I do have another non-Irwin/Jakks Vegeta I’m quite fond of. I suppose I would have preferred a really awesome, non-battle damaged version of the character in this line, but at least the battle damage looks good. They also did eventually do a normal Vegeta and he looked pretty terrible. A lot of the figures in this line suffered with scale as often the heads would be too small, but for at least this figure IF Labs nailed it.

Hopefully you had fun on this trip down memory lane with me and Vegeta. I plan on doing more Dragon Ball related posts in the not too distant future so if you like that franchise you might want to hit that subscribe button!


Dragon Ball Z – Resurrection ‘F’

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Resurrection ‘F’ (2015)

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.

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Pilaf always has to be starting trouble.

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.

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He’s back! Technically again, since Cyborg Frieza was his first surprising return.

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.

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Goku and Vegeta have been spending their time training with Whis, apparently ignoring their families back home.

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.

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Making the leap from manga to anime is Jaco, and his impressive artist’s rendering of Frieza.

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!

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Some old friends are going to have to get their hands dirty while they wait for Goku and Vegeta to arrive. Nothing really changes.

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.

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Goku’s got a new look to debut.

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.

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Frieza’s new form is quite statuesque.

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.

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For once, Vegeta and Goku have reached a new level of power together making the two as close to equals as they’ve ever been.

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.

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Oh, and this is apparently what Hell looks like.

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.


SH Figuarts Kid Goku

IMG_2167I was so happy with my Super Saiyan Vegeta from SH Figuarts that the very next day I purchased a second figure:  Kid Goku. Now I’ve mentioned more than once here that I prefer Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z. It’s just a tighter and more fun series with better action sequences. The characters become so overpowered in Dragon Ball Z that the fight scenes became a series of dashing lines as characters move faster than sight and lots and lots of posturing. Dragon Ball has some of that too, but not nearly as much. And shining like a beacon through out it is young Goku. His ignorance of virtually all of society is what drives much of the show’s humor (as well as the perversions of one Master Roshi) and it’s a personality trait that suits the youthful version of our hero better than the adult version. This isn’t to say the adult Goku of DBZ isn’t charming, he’s just less believable.

I initially bought Vegeta instead of Goku for the simple fact that he was five dollars cheaper. I assume he runs a little less because Goku comes with more accessories. His little box is packed to the gills with extra hands, face plates, and power poles and even boasts a Flying Nimbus with an extravagant action stand. A stand is what’s really missing from the Vegeta figure and seems like something that should be included for all of the flying characters so I’m happy to see it here. So while Goku is certainly smaller than Vegeta, I’d wager this set has more plastic in it (and that Nimbus is quite dense) than most of the SHF figures.

For this figure, Kid Goku comes depicted in his orange gi that he first started wearing following his training with Master Roshi. Prior to that he sported a blue attire, and while I would have probably preferred that to the orange one, it’s not really a big deal to me. Goku is about 4″ tall from head to toe and nearly 5″ when you factor in his hair. Height-wise, he seems to be pretty much in scale with Vegeta, though the proportions aren’t quite perfect with Goku being a little chunky. Like most of the kids in Dragon Ball, he has an oversized head which also looks a little funny next to Vegeta, though in all honesty Vegeta’s head could probably have been a little bigger upon reflection. Either way, Goku feels like he’s at about the right size and I’m more curious to see how he compares with the upcoming Master Roshi when that drops.

Young Goku has tremendous articulation, which is to be expected of any toy in this line. The giant melon atop his shoulders doesn’t appear to hinder his ability to stand much too, which is nice. If anything, the smallness of his feet can make it a bit of a challenge to get him to stand in more dynamic poses, but you always have the stand if need be. His articulation is good enough to that he can handle a Kamehameha pose or event sit slightly cross-legged upon the Nimbus. I’ve had a lot of fun moving him around and seeing what I could get out of the stand. The stand has to be partially assembled and it has movable grabbing parts so it’s really easy to fit it onto Goku. I was initially skeptical that it would do the trick, but it’s plenty sturdy and even the additional legs for the Nimbus have no trouble supporting both the weight of the Nimbus and Goku. The stand also isn’t necessarily needed to position Goku on his trusty flying cloud, but it helps and provides peace of mind for standing poses while a seated Goku probably doesn’t need it.

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Look at all this stuff!

Goku has a vast assortment of hands and extra little bits, enough so that it was easier to just take a picture. In addition to his smiling, but determined expression he also has a happy open mouthed face and a giddy, squinty-eyed face. All are very appropriate for Goku and they are all easy to swap in and out. Goku’s bangs pop off and from there the face plate can be removed which does a great job of hiding the seams and keeping things nice and neat. His head pops off as well to allow his power pole sling to be worn (otherwise you won’t get it over his dome) which features the handle of the infamous pole sticking out. For when you want Goku to hold his weapon he has a separate extended pole he can wield, and to make sure everything is consistent, the handle on the holstered pole is removable preserving the illusion of an empty sling. His hands pop off and on just like Vegeta’s, though here I’m a little more concerned about eventual damage. Goku has some skinny arms, and the pegs his hands snap onto are even skinnier. Thus far, I’ve had no issues, but I probably won’t be switching poses too often with this one, at least with hand placement. Goku also has a pair of swappable tails, one that’s more natural and another that’s running up his back for when he’s seated. Rounding things out is Goku’s prized “Grandpa,” the 4 star Dragon Ball, which appears to be in perfect scale with the character and apparently can be fitted onto a base for the Shenlong/Eternal Dragon action figure.

IMG_2180Kid Goku is a damn fine piece of plastic. I think I like him more than the Vegeta figure, but that’s mostly due to my fondness for the IP. He looks great, moves great, and has enough accessories to keep you entertained if you’re the sort that likes to re-pose your display constantly. If you’ve been aching for a good Dragon Ball accurate Goku, it’s hard to imagine a better one than this will come along anytime soon (unless there’s a blue gi repaint, then maybe).


SH Figuarts Super Saiyan Vegeta

IMG_2172He’s the Prince of all Saiyans. The last survivor to have laid eyes on Planet Vegeta, home world of the mighty warriors and birthplace of the legendary Goku. And he’s also a pretty fine toy. Vegeta, arguably the most popular character to emerge from Dragon Ball Z, has seen his likeness cast in numerous forms of plastic over the years. The Dragon Ball franchise is probably the most recognizable anime franchise around the globe and probably the most beloved. Despite concluding over 20 years ago, Dragon Ball Z remains insanely popular. It has experienced a renaissance over the past few years due in large part to the launch of Dragon Ball Super, the Akira Toriyama blessed true sequel to Dragon Ball Z which basically erases the lackluster Dragon Ball GT from canon. It’s thanks to that series, as well as Giant Bomb’s new Dragon Ball Kai podcast All Systems Goku, that I’m feeling awash in Dragon Ball related nostalgia. And when I get nostalgic, I often turn to toys.

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Final Flash, sort of?

SH Figuarts, a division of Bandai, has been releasing high quality action figures for a few years now. I reviewed each figure in its aborted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line and came away really impressed with the build quality of those figures. That license was reportedly rather expensive for SHF, so I should not be surprised that their Dragon Ball products actually seem more substantial and are even a bit cheaper in price. They’ve been dabbling in the franchise for a few years now, but it’s only just now that I finally bit the bullet on my first DBZ figure and who else was I going to pick other than Vegeta? Truth be told, my options were rather slim at my local comic shop as these figures aren’t stocked like a typical action figure line or the much cheaper Dragon Ball Super figures. I had my choice between Vegeta, Tien, and Kid Goku from Dragon Ball and opted for Vegeta because he was always one of my favorite characters and at $50 he was also the cheapest. That price point is substantial for a lone action figure and it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a DBZ figure, but after having a couple of days to mess around with him, it’s hard not to come away impressed.

Super Saiyan Vegeta comes in at roughly 6″ in height and is depicted in his iconic Cell Saga blue armor attire. He has more points of articulation than is worth mentioning and loads of optional parts. His parts list includes 4 interchangeable face plates, nine different hands, and a set of crossed arms. His wide range in articulation means he’s capable of numerous dynamic poses, though the lack of a display stand of some kind is a bit disappointing (they’re sold separately) as he can’t truly assume his classic Gallic Gun pose or Final Flash. His joints are nice and tight so there’s no flopping around. The paint apps on my figure are all really clean. His face has few paint accents, but his expressions work really well and it kind of plays off of the yellow in his hair this way. His bodysuit has some shading and the armor does as well so it’s not just stark white. There’s no battle damage or anything like that and nothing is removable, but the armor itself is part of the sculpt providing maximum articulation at the slight cost of true likeness.

The SHF line is composed of numerous smaller pieces and the figures can practically be deconstructed if you so desire. This means you can get a little rough with them without fear of breaking anything as it’s more likely the piece will just pop out instead. The hands all popped out rather easily for me. They’re seated on a small peg which is attached to a ball joint. Snapping on a new hand can be a little tricky as that ball behind the pegs wants to move, but it’s still fairly simple. The cross arms piece is a little more tricky as you have to remove Vegeta’s arms just above the bicep. They come apart easy enough, but getting the crossed arms to fit means inserting one side then kind of bending the other arm to make it work. Still, I never felt like I was endangering my figure when putting it on. The end result is a classic Vegeta pose, though it looks slightly unnatural. That may just be due to me knowing it’s one solid piece and overthinking it, so judge for yourself in the picture below. As you can see, SHF did a great job of making sure the blue of the sleeves matches Vegeta’s shoulders.

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Vegeta is not impressed with your fighting ability.

Veneta’s face plates are all relatively easy to remove and re-apply. His “bangs” are attached to his face and including that as part of each face plate helps add depth to his hair and also hide the seem. After struggling with the face plates of the recently released Bucky O’Hare from Boss Fight Studio, it was nice to have no similar issues with the faces here. He comes capable of four different expression: a serious face, a cocky grin, an angry scream, and an angry scream while looking off to the left. I’m not really sure why that last one is included, but I’m not complaining as it’s not like anything is missing (unless you enjoy horrified Vegeta). His screaming faces even have that little vein that shows up in the show whenever Vegeta gets pissed which is a nice touch. The only challenge to the faces is finding a spot to place your fingers as you push another face on – that hair is pretty damn spiky!

Between the numerous hands and the various expressions it’s relatively easy to recreate any scene you wish from the show or manga. The only thing missing is a true Big Bang Attack hand gesture, which if I’m being honest actually is a pretty disappointing omission. He can handle the Final Flash with ease though and it’s possible to kind of contort him into a Gallic Gun, but that one always was a bit odd and a pose more appropriate for a Saiyan Saga Vegeta. It would have also been nice to get a a non-super head, though I personally wouldn’t display him with black hair so I guess I shouldn’t complain. Now if they had wanted to go the extra mile and include removable shoulder pads, tail, and armor “skirts” then that would have been great – basically creating an ultimate Vegeta figure. That would have also added considerable cost to the figure and already being at $50 I can understand why SHF would rather not. If you love all forms of Vegeta though SHF has you covered as they’ve done a Saiyan Saga Vegeta, Majin Vegeta, and a Super Saiyan Blue version as well.

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Hug me!!!

Considering prior to purchasing this Vegeta action figure the only ones I had were made by Bandai, Irwin, and Unifive, it probably comes as no surprise that this is the best Vegeta I’ve ever purchased. Since it’s the most expensive, I guess that makes sense. It’s also given me a bit of an itch to acquire a few more of the Dragon Ball figures released by SHF. I can’t see myself going nuts and trying to collect the whole line, but a few choice figures is not out of the question and I may or may not have already bought a second figure (spoiler alert, I did and you can expect a review of that one in the not too distant future). The only danger is with companion figures. If I decide I really want a Saiyan Saga Vegeta will I then feel the need to pair him with a Nappa which runs around $75? It’s a dangerous game. For now at least I can feel pretty happy with this figure.

The optional power blasts can add a bit of excitement to your display (sold separately).


Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

Dragon Ball Z:  Battle of Gods (2013)

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods (2013)

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find Dragon Ball Z to be a pretty overrated anime. Some of that sentiment stems from the fact that it’s considerably more popular than its predecessor, Dragon Ball, despite being the inferior product. Part of that also stems from the fact that Dragon Ball Z fans seem to regard it as the greatest anime of all time, rather than what it really is; the most popular anime of all time. This is not to say I find the show to be a bad one. For awhile during the 1990’s I found myself quite captivated by the show. I was incredibly disappointed that the dub, for many years, ended right in the middle of the Namek Saga with Goku preparing to take on The Ginyu Force (I was also really disappointed when the series finally returned with an all new and quite terrible dub). Little did I know, that I had basically seen the best of the show up to that point. While the Cell Games and Buu Saga have their moments, for the most part the show became almost a self-parody with extended filler sequences and familiar plot lines.

It’s the formula of Dragon Ball Z that makes it a rather pedestrian television program. The characters are all simply constructed and tend to embody one archetype. Each “season” consists of the gang being forced to take on the latest “Most Powerful Being in the Universe” with the same familiar pattern: dispatch weak enemy, hear latest prophecy of doom, be defeated by said enemy, train endlessly, power-up and defeat enemy. The stakes are always the same, and even though characters are killed off several times, they usually find their way back to the land of the living and there are few lasting repercussions on the show (aside from the novel concept that the characters do age over time). It was basically like watching an animated fighting video game: it just moves from one battle to the next with very little connecting tissue in-between. As such, it’s quite easy to take a cynical view towards the show but it still has its moments where it’s genuinely entertaining and even charming.

Beerus and Whis are the latest antagonists to threaten earth.

Beerus and Whis are the latest antagonists to threaten earth.

If one were to be jaded with the prospects of another extension of the Dragon Ball Universe, they’d likely be less interested in yet another Dragon Ball Z film. The show was so successful that it rather logically spawned feature films. These films were little more than cash-grabs and often contained less plot than the show and an even more obvious formula. Thirteen films in all were released based off of Dragon Ball Z with virtually none fitting into the canon of the show’s storyline. Aside from a select few that contained some genuine entertainment value, most are just mediocre with the only contribution they made being the superior animation when compared with the show. As a result, I was not all that enthused to hear that Toei Animation was returning to the series for a new film:  Battle of Gods. The only cause for optimism was that it was announced series creator Akira Toriyama, who had little involvement with the awful Dragon Ball GT, was handling the screenplay and character designs. Toriyama, unlike some of his fans, seems to understand what makes Dragon Ball special. It’s not some super sophisticated anime meant to challenge the likes of Neon Genesis or Cowboy Bebop, it’s strictly intended to entertain with humor and action.

Battle of Gods opens with some familiar characters pondering the awakening of The God of Destruction. Supreme Kai, along with Elder Kai, fear what this god may do now that he’s awoken early while King Kai gives Goku a quick lesson on who this guy is. It’s not a very promising open for the film as it’s pretty much in line with most of the movies and we know Goku and this god are going to have to have a showdown. We’re then taken to this god’s home world and are introduced to Beerus, The God of Destruction, and his attendant Whis. One of the themes of Dragon Ball is to never a judge a book by its cover, and Beerus embodies that concept quite well. He’s basically an anthropomorphized sphinx cat complete with tall ears and a wrinkly cat muzzle on his face. Not only does he look like a cat, but he also embodies one as well. When we first meet him he’s just waking up from a 39 year slumber much in the same way we’d expect any cat to awaken. He’s lethargic, hungry, and summons for Whis almost immediately. Later we’ll see him acting rather petulantly and impatiently while also toying with his prey, further driving home the point that he doesn’t just simply look like a cat, he is one. Whis gives him a refresher on what transpired during his slumber, and he’s quite pleased to learn that Frieza dealt with those insolent Saiyans by destroying their planet. He’s further surprised to learn that one dubbing himself a Super Saiyan defeated Frieza, which reminds him of a dream he had where he encountered a Super Saiyan God. Remembering this, Beerus decides to journey to earth to meet the one who defeated Frieza and to hopefully find out more of this Super Saiyan God.

Beerus and Goku reenacting the infamous WCW Finger Poke of Doom.

Beerus and Goku reenacting the infamous WCW Finger Poke of Doom.

When Beerus arrives he encounters Goku almost immediately, and in true DBZ movie fashion, they fight and Goku is easily outclassed. Unlike other films, Beerus is essentially neither friend nor foe. He isn’t a good guy, but he’s also not really a bad guy. Sure he’s The God of Destruction, but apparently someone has to be. He decides to seek out Vegeta to see if he knows anything of this Saiyan God, since he learned nothing from Goku, and finds the Saiyan prince at his wife’s birthday party. Beerus loses interest in his pursuit of a Super Saiyan God when it turns out Vegeta knows nothing, and not wanting to turn down an opportunity to feast, invites himself to the party. Some hijinks involving some familiar faces for Dragon Ball fans occur at the party and things seem to be going well until Buu hogs all of the pudding, sending Beerus into a rage. Only Vegeta knows just who Beerus is and what he’s capable of, which is why the other party-goers jump to their friend’s defense further irritating Beerus. This causes him to declare that it’s time he destroy earth, just as Goku shows up. The heroes are able to request Beerus give them five minutes to consult The Eternal Dragon on the matter of a Super Saiyan God, and when Shenron reveals the secret of how to produce one, Beerus gets his wish.

Of course, Goku is the one to step-up and challenge him as the very underwhelming Super Saiyan God. If you were expecting a fantastic new transformation then you’ll be let down to see that “God Mode” is essentially a skinny Goku with a bad dye-job giving his hair a reddish hue. He possesses a fiery aura, which looks kind of cool but is also visually distracting, but that’s about it. Goku and Beerus fight, and I won’t spoil the outcome but you can probably guess at the ultimate end result.

The gang's all here.

The gang’s all here.

The plot for the film is rather familiar, and judged solely on that, the film is a disappointment. However, how it navigates the plot is what helps to elevate it above the normal DBZ fare. For one, Toriyama’s humor is sharp, and while there are some in-jokes to be found for longtime fans, the majority of the humor is fairly natural. It’s also refreshing as Beerus is the source for much of it. He’s definitely one of the better villains Toriyama has conceived of and his ambiguous nature and ambivalence towards mortals makes him almost charming, in a way. He plays off of his attendant Whis fairly well, a character who also embodies a notable Toriyama trait in that he’s a supremely powerful male with obvious feminine features. Toriyama’s affinity for food-related humor shows up in both Whis and Beerus as they’re very interested in the different flavors present on earth. Thankfully, we’re spared the often repeated visual of Goku stuffing his face which stopped being funny somewhere around the character’s first visit to King Kai’s planet.

For fans of DBZ’s unique action sequences, the film may be a disappointment. A lot of the time is spent on Beerus interacting with the earthlings at the expense of the big fight scenes the show is known for. When the film does go there, the action is a bit restrained. Some of that is a plus. As the characters grew in power during the show there was basically no way to visually establish they were stronger and faster than they were 100 episodes prior making many fight scenes look visually lazy as the characters “moved too fast for the naked eye.” In Battle of Gods the action is slowed down and there’s a satisfying weight to the blows landed. There’s still a few instances of old standby DBZ staples, but they’re not overused. Despite that though, the action is underwhelming and some curious uses of CG effects didn’t help things.

Goku's "God" form is a bit underwhelming, but at least it's better than Super Saiyan 4.

Goku’s “God” form is a bit underwhelming, but at least it’s better than Super Saiyan 4.

Visually, DBZ never looked better. The animation is smooth and every scene pops with bright colors. Some may have thought the more muted color palette of the manga would be present since Toriyama was so heavily involved but that is not the case. The only criticism I have of the visuals is the just mentioned CG used in the fight scenes. While the characters fly through a city landscape, it’s rather obvious the backgrounds are being drawn by a computer. This is a fairly common effect going back to the 1980’s but I’ve always found it jarring. Less forgivable are the few instances in which the characters themselves are CG animated making them look like they’ve been ripped right out of the latest DBZ video game. It looks silly and something I would recommend they scrap for future features.

Dragon Ball Z has had an up and down relationship when it comes to the english dub. The original Ocean Group dub was a mixed bag, but was miles ahead of the original Funimation dub that followed. Funimation first starting dubbing DBZ over 15 years ago, and all of that time with the series has actually lead to a pretty wonderful english cast. The voice actors, most of whom have been on the series since the beginning, really know their characters. The writers handling the localization also know these characters and they’ve created a very lively and witty script. The language is probably of a PG nature though there’s very little in the way of graphic violence. If you’re a longtime fan of the series who prefers to watch it subtitled, then by all means, watch it subbed but you won’t be missing anything if you go the dub route.

Dragon Ball Z:  Battle of Gods managed to both meet my expectations and also exceed them. The general plot is typical for a DBZ movie and rather boring, but the presentation is excellent (aside from a few visual hiccups) and the film is genuinely entertaining. It’s probably too long by about fifteen minutes, but not long enough to feel like a drag. The way the film is written makes this feel more like Dragon Ball than Dragon Ball Z. For me, I consider that a good thing but those who enjoy DBZ for the over-the-top action may be disappointed. Lastly, the introduction of Beerus was a success as I’m actually interested to see more from him. Apparently, Toei and Toriyama were banking on that as he’s in the recently released Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F and is also a recurring character in the new television show, Dragon Ball Super.  I have no idea if more Dragon Ball Z is a good thing or not, but I do know that Battle of Gods was a fun nostalgia trip. Time will tell just how long that trip lasts.


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