A spiritual waste spill at the check-in point between Heaven and Hell sets the evil dead free to walk among the living. So commences this film duette’s final all-killer-no-filler flourish, beginning with Fusion Reborn in the last of the Dragon Ball Z Movie Collections. As the dearly departed, vampires and Hitler ooze, float and tank their way across the earth, Goku decides to leave the world to it, alongside Piccolo’s poor substitute Pikkon. They have bigger monsters to bash, and rush straight to the perpetrator of the ectoplasmic leak; a giant Buddha-bellied custard demon named Janemba.
First impressions aside, this squidgy lard tub surely has more hidden up his belly suckers, as Goku is tested to his limits by his ability to bounce back. He spits that only Majin Buu has pushed him so far in battle before, a clear hint that appearances are deceptive. Sure enough, Janemba transforms into the Devil incarnate, red-tailed, goat-horned and burning for a real battle. With Pikkon blocked from the action behind a golden barrier, Vegeta’s spirit respawns from the Other World, ever Goku’s guardian angel. Only in consummating their powers can they defeat this demon, so as an added bonus, we get to see our Saiyan prince twinkletoe through his first ever Fusion Dance situation.
Action and humour in harmonious union, just like the two best frenemies, Hitler’s march for world domination turns surface-side into a Goten and Trunks pulp comic, poppy block art with chunky black outlines and all. This film is built as an exercise in experimentation with the Z formula, changing up the artistic details to exemplify the clash of flying fists and emotions the whole franchise is beloved for. Dragon Ball’s hellscape visions never fail to inspire some gut feeling, the landscape in which Janemba lives a terror-stricken shrapnel waste. The spires of warped metal and spikes incite a claustrophobia fitting of Vegeta’s suffering in death, and feelings of impotence in life. There’s a pang of sorrow to see him paled from existence again in this place, pinned between the realms of life and death.
Wrath of the Dragon carries the experiment right on through to round off this collection, this time revisiting the fantastical strains of the original Dragon Ball for its tale. The Saiyan fam are required to release a genie from a music box, on the word of an eccentric old codger that the world is in dire peril otherwise. When the box is unlocked, Tapion emerges an elfin-eared curmudgeon from a distant land. He might have stepped right out of the Zelda games with his ocarina song that soothes the savage god-beast Hirudegarn, his lower half mysteriously unleashed and devouring flesh to become whole again.
Tapion makes it clear that he’s having none of this world’s ignorance, after being forced out of the box he was imprisoned in for good reason. He sets up house in a dilapidated building, where Trunks often visits with food for his new idol, this grim-faced punk warrior with a greatsword on his back. The little hero’s hero-worship is touching, as Tapion’s melancholy parallels the cruel future in store for Trunks. He will face it all alone as Tapion has his own loss and curse of fate, intrinsically linked with the hunger of Hirudegarn.
The brotherhood forged between the two far outshines the battle with the bisected beast, galvanised by Tapion’s anguished past on his home planet of Konats, choked by the fires of dark magic. The tragic bonds between their stories are what lights up the whole Dragon Ball cast at its best, when it feels like the family we’ve known for decades. Even so, it could be said there’s no finer note on which to end six collections and six years of DBZ movies.
English dub with choice of Japanese music