By Bob Miller | Animation Scoop August 4, 2014 at 6:00PM
Nearly 30 years ago, manga artist Akira Toriyama created a fantasy universe full of gods and demigods and beings that could destroy whole worlds … an Earth where both humans, talking animals and dinosaurs co-existed … planets with their very own wish-granting dragons … and a flaming-haired wide-eyed hero who flew on a nimbus cloud.
Since then, the Dragon Ball / Dragon Ball Z franchise has encompassed over 500 TV episodes, three TV specials, 42 graphic novels, plus numerous soundtracks, video games and toys. Now comes the eighteenth animated feature: Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods.
Beerus, the feline “god of destruction,” is hungry. Not only for food, but for combat. He has learned that a Super Saiyan has defeated Frieza, thought to be the most powerful mortal in the galaxy. With his ego threatened, Beerus will seek out the Saiyan, humiliate him in battle, and if he has to destroy Earth to get his way, so be it.
That Saiyan, of course, is our hero Goku. As a Super Saiyan, he has the power to obliterate a planet. He can increase his power to Super Saiyan level 3. Yet, that is insufficient. To fight a god, Goku has to become one himself, which he does--but how long can he sustain the power, and is it enough to conquer the cosmic cat?
It’s been seventeen years since the last animated Dragon Ball film, the story occurring after the conclusion of the Majin Buu saga. Longtime fans will welcome the reunion of Goku’s family and friends, who have gathered to celebrate the birthday of Bulma Briefs. However, first-time viewers may wonder: Who are all these weird people and talking animals? How can a spaceship pop out of a patio? There’s even a dinosaur tromping around the countryside.
It doesn’t matter. The movie provides enough exposition without bogging down the plot. If one wants to learn more about this crazy universe, the American distributor, Funimation, has a solution: Buy the videos.
Thankfully, the Japanese continue to make traditional hand-drawn animation, digitized in color and partially- enhanced with CG. With Battle of Gods, it’s a seamless blend, and entertains as any CG-animated film. In the climactic battle, the camera follows the two combatants, with landscapes and buildings whizzing by in shifting perspective. The effect is amazing.
Likewise, Japanese moviegoers continue to support hand-drawn animation. When the film was released there in 2013, it earned the equivalent of $29,947,013 in U.S. dollars. Notably, it was also the first-ever Japanese film to play in IMAX theaters.
Now Funimation has brought Battle of Gods to America to show on the big screen (though, apparently, not in IMAX) at some 800 theaters—but only for two days in some areas, four days in others: August 5, 6, 7 and 9, skipping Friday the 8th. Check your local listings.
Note: The movie is unrated, though it appears to be in PG-13 territory. For fans of the series - I highly recommend it.