Being a critic you’ll eventually have the privilege and affliction of reviewing something you’re a fan of. You can tell when a writer has let themselves go with infatuation when the obvious faults so evident to anyone else are nowhere to be mentioned. We are journalists first and fans second. I’d be doing no one any favours by reverting to fandom statements and enthusiastic clichés to mask any glibness.
With pleasure then do I attempt to take my own advice and review Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods at my own request.
Traditionally a reviewer would now provide a plot overview, but this is a DBZ movie. I don’t think I could take myself seriously if I took this paragraph as seriously like many of my brethren might. Describing the events would be an insult to your intellect much as it would to mine. My job is not to routinely describe every cast member and character – not when other people have already done that, and not when there’s wikipedia.
All you need to know, is that there’s a new villain.
As DBZ antagonists go, Lord Beerus is somewhat left-field. He has much the same characteristics as any former nemesis; so it may be hard to notice upon first reflection that he’s inherently different. Whereas Frieza or Majin Buu were token evil, Beerus has no motivation for destroying things other than entitlement – he’s the god of destruction. His preposterous power is matched only by his reluctance to do his job and exacerbated by his intellect, as everything before has proved so disproportionate to his abilities. He’s simply bored – much the way you would be if you were a god.
It’s apparent from Beerus and some of the ideas found throughout, that DBZ is aware its audience has grown up. The humour, though still comically anime, is not without its brains. And even after some 300 episodes and 20 movies, Goku and Vegeta are still privy to small but significant moments of character elaboration.
The same syndrome Dragon Ball Z suffered during the show has still not been cured though. Akira Toriyama’s method for escalating conflict and danger was simply to increase the quantity. The solutions for overcoming such have always found themselves on repeat. Either by way of transformation, fusion, borrowed power or Goku’s spirit bomb. The deus ex machina here comes by way of a super saiyan god. A somewhat tacky ascendance of an already powerful being, but it highlights the problem this series has always had in keeping up with its own power escalation and finding new fixes.
The titular question that determines the verdict is whether something Dragon Ball Z should be judged in relation to itself or universal accordance with everything else. There’s a peculiar reverence for this series (certainly among my generation) that isn’t dying out. Perhaps because Dragon Ball Z wasn’t specifically for kids in the first place, and now we’ve simply grown more into the boots. But reverence should not exempt Dragon Ball Z from hearing what it needs to. The influence and respect it enjoys should galvanise us to see it better. Because inspiring as it was, much of it was filler, postulating and grunting – and as such should be judged shoulder to shoulder with the rest.
At the risk of my credibility – I am glad this movie exists. It’s encouraging to see that your childhood show was not the victim of mere puerile excitement and can stand on its own merit. And with an ending that can only be called ‘illuminating,’ I assume they’ll be many more chances for me to challenge my attachment.