It’s another day in Goku and Chi-Chi’s domestic bliss, stuck in the parents’ interview queue for private school admissions. It’s all Gohan’s mama can do to stop Daddy blabbing his penchant for punch-ups, thereby ruining his son’s chances of getting a better education. Perhaps it’s fortunate that the wrath of a legendary Super Saiyan interrupts Goku’s need to make small talk. The upshot is that he must now face up to his darker reflection, Broly, with whom he practically shared a cradle after being born the same day.
In Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan, the savage champion and his father seek to re-establish Saiyan dominance over the Earth, which couldn’t mean anything other than first mowing down our planet’s ditsiest defender. Cue possessive Vegeta, except this time we see a crack in his armour. A prominent look at his home planet, its brutality and merciless king, shines a thawing light to the heart of its prodigal son. While Goku gets on with beating down as per and in the usual fashion, Prince Vegeta is terrified of Broly, this threat to his father’s power.
The pathos this movie finds for its villain and reformed ex-villain is where it really packs a punch, the combat strung from the familiar formula of speed thrashing and exploding sets. Broly was scarred in the hours after birth by the incessant wailing of Goku beside him, as though penetrated by the intuition that he would be cast to the depths by those scrunched up hands. The cold, grey climes of those parts of Earth he’s touched and decimated reflect his agonised struggle with the fury within, imprisoned by that anger which makes him monstrous. More’s the pity, then, that the following two films in the Broly trilogy fell to trivialising his character with flat humour and petty grudges.
Second Coming opens with the exhausted realisation that another big bad has survived his supposed defeat by Goku. On a playful search for Dragon Balls, Goten, Trunks and Videl find a village beset by earthquakes and about to slay a young girl in appeasement to their gods. Little were they to know that the quakes were being caused by a Broly-pop, on ice beneath the lake and waking. Goten and Trunks head up the fight for much of the movie, their boyish antics giving the whole process a slide-whistling cartoonishness, bare buns, toilet humour and all. Though a delayed appearance from Gohan rescues the fight somewhat, it’s doomed to be a precursor to the trilogy’s frustrating conclusion, Bio-Broly.
At the outset of this final film’s descent into full-blown Scooby-Doo mode, Mr Satan is under threat of being exposed for the fraud he is by stumpy former opponent Mr Jaguar. He’s blackmailed into battling Jaguar’s patented Bio-Warriors, but apparently the squawking fancy-frou-frou plait in a dinner jacket isn’t so concerned with fighting prowess. In true danger is Mr Satan’s deepest, darkest secret…that he wet the bed once in summer camp. Under threat of this career-destroying exposé, he, Android 18, Goten and Trunks come face to face with Broly’s bio-manufactured clone.
Resurrected from a blood sample and drenched in a goopy ‘culture liquid’ with what looks like a weasel tail perpetually dangling between his legs, this swamp beast incarnation keeps the cringe going until the bitter end. He’s even defeated by a lone Goten and Trunks this time, Android 18 always present but forbidden by bamboozling forces of plot from flexing a single muscle against him. A sequence of terrible choices, and a once elegant and cocksure Broly being reduced to a dumb and lumbering ogre, makes his final stand a long way to a fall for a villain who deserved much better.
English dub with choice of Japanese music; trailers