Anime Review: Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F

by Cody Baier

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F
Before we begin this review, full disclosure: I am a pretty big Dragonball fan. So I can’t say I’m going to be 100% impartial going into this. So obviously, I was pretty excited for this film going in. Battle of Gods was a fantastic movie, and a welcome return to form for Dragonball (Z). It reminded us of everything great about the franchise as a whole, from the entertaining characters to the engaging action. From the boundless creativity Akira Toriyama can display, to the moments of humor and character that make this series so damn lovable–melodramatic Orange Box Dub be damned. Needless to say I was left wanting more. I thought I was done with Dragonball. I thought the series had run its course. Battle of Gods showed that Toriyama had a lot left in him, and knew how to keep the series fresh. I’m sorry I ever doubted the man.

DBZ Battle of Gods

Resurrection F brings with it something extra to be excited about. Or, more accurately, someone. The return of Freeza is the central theme of this movie. In fact, Freeza himself is probably more of the star than Goku or Vegeta in this film. Freeza has always been the ur-example of a Dragonball villain, as well as one of the most influential shonen antagonists of all time (right up there with DIO and Raoh). He was, after all, developed with the intention to be the series’ ultimate villain, and it still shows to this day. I could go all day dissecting Freeza’s character and why he works so well, but the point is he made such an impact that Japanese “Shut Up Mom and Dad” Metal band Maximum the Hormone went and wrote a song about him, titled “F”. A song that, one day, Akira Toriyama just happened to hear, which inspired him to make this movie. So, finally, Maximum the Hormone justifies their existence.

Maximum Hormone F

I won’t go too deep into the story because I don’t want to spoil too much. You know the basic rundown by now; the remnants of Freeza’s army uses the Dragonballs to wish the galactic emperor back to life. Freeza is quickly resurrected with revenge on his mind. As I stated before, Freeza is the real star of this movie (and probably has more screen time than any other character). You’re quickly reintroduced to just how much of a glorious bastard this guy is, and thankfully he manages to do his part to carry the film quite nicely. Seeing Freeza interact with the modern protagonists is a treat, and his dialogue is positively engulfed in a veneer of evil aristocrat that makes him a joy to watch. You could feel how much fun Toriyama was having writing for this guy again.

It also felt appropriate to bring Freeza back. Plot-wise, Freeza was the most important villain in the entire series. With character powers reaching cosmic levels, bringing Freeza back and putting him on that same level of godhood as the Super Saiyan Gods just felt right. This is the climactic battle the way it should have been, complete with Vegeta getting his moment with Freeza he’s always deserved (especially since his rivalry with Freeza was much more personal than Goku’s). Barring any developments Dragonball Super or any future films may bring, making Freeza the big, ultimate, final boss is the way it should be, in my opinion.

But what about those Saiyan monkeys and all their insolent little friends? Well that’s where the movie is a bit of a let-down in comparison to its predecessor. One of the best parts of Battle of Gods was the reintroduction to the cast, seeing where they were in their lives since we last saw them, seeing them all come together and interacting with each other, etc. etc. There isn’t a Dragonball fan out there who didn’t smile–maybe even cheer–when Pilaf and crew came back (god bless Toriyama for making them recurring characters again), and we didn’t really have a moment like that in this movie. The whole reason we give a damn about all these fights is because we’re invested in the characters having them, after all. Not to say Resurrection F doesn’t deliver in that department, but it’s nowhere near the level of Battle of Gods. I wasn’t kidding when I said Freeza was the star, here. The good guys, for the most part, really do take a backseat. Even Goku and Vegeta spend a good deal of this movie off on the other side of the universe training with Whis.

Pilaf and Crew

That said, the time we do spend with our heroes is great, and really showcases a strength Dragonball has always had that too few people give it credit for; character growth. Piccolo’s relationship with Gohan now extending to his family; Krillin now becoming a cop and seeing the relationship between him and 18 (in a scene that is just sweet as all hell, and also shows quite a bit of character growth from 18 herself. Think back to how she started in the Cell saga, then see her in this movie); Goku and Vegeta’s relationship evolving from mortal enemies to bitter rivals to friendly rivals; indeed Vegeta himself is one of the best examples of character development in anime/manga, to the point where he’s graduated to Goku’s co-star in the franchise. The best thing you can say about a cast of characters in a long running show is that, by the end of it, they’re not the same people they were when the series began. With Resurrection F, Dragonball still pulls this off flawlessly, and is one of the best examples of character development in shonen history.

While we’re on the subject of the characters, there’s something here that’s bound to throw some viewers off; Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. This new character just shows up seemingly out of nowhere and suddenly everyone in Bulma’s family knows who he is. He casually mentions that Bulma has a sister named Tights, brings warning of Freeza’s arrival, and sticks around as comic relief (and unlike most obvious comic relief, he actually manages to be legitimately funny). Well if you’re a little more familiar with Toriyama’s other works you won’t be so confused. Jaco is the star of a miniseries done by Toriyama taking place in the Dragonball universe where he travelled the galaxy with a motley crew that included Bulma’s aforementioned sister. This movie obviously takes place after the Jaco miniseries, and while Japanese audiences are already familiar with him and his story, I’m almost positive there were a lot of casual American viewers in the theater who were thoroughly confused as to who this new guy is.

DBZ Jaco

Special mention must be given to the scene with Goku, Vegeta, and Whis. Not only did it give us promise of further character development for Vegeta and even Goku (props to the series for finally treating Goku like he’s not a saint), but we’re left with some questions about Whis’ origin. Questions we’ll likely have answered down the road. Also Beerus and Whis remain endlessly entertaining, and just like in the previous movie every scene they’re in is an absolute treat.

Beerus and Whis

But what about the fights, you’re undoubtedly asking? Well, that’s a mixed bag. When Freeza’s soldiers begin their invasion and the “Z Fighters” hold them off, the sequence ranges from fantastic to boring as sin. Scenes like Piccolo’s supremely badass shedding of his weighted clothing, to every moment Jaco was on screen, to the triumphant return of Master Roshi to the battlefield (which was, hands down, the highlight of that sequence. Welcome back you beautiful old bastard) we’re all a delight to watch. Krillin and Tenshinhan flying away from crowds of enemies and blasting randomly, not so much. At some point we, as a people, need to finally accept the fact that Tenshinhan is dull as dirt and will never be interesting.

Tenshinhan DBZ

The fight with Freeza is the highlight for many reasons. I’ll skip all the obvious reasons and bring up a couple points I really did appreciate. First, without spoiling anything, it showed that, despite reaching godhood, characters can still be harmed by mundane things. It doesn’t seem like much, but we needed a moment like that. These characters had become so strong they were bordering on nigh invincible, so it was nice to see they’re still fallible and–for all intents and purposes–human. Second, it showed that Freeza is still his own worst enemy, with his sense of entitlement and lack of discipline being what defeats him, rather than simply being out-powered (in fact, his Golden Freeza form is initially more powerful than the Super Saiyan God. What ends up defeating him is, essentially, classic Freeza). There’s even a few moments that pull the final battle out of the more formulaic nature of latter day DBZ fights, from some dirty tricks to Freeza busting out one hell of a surprise at the end. We even top it all off with a turning point for Goku (again; more character development)!

I feel like I should mention that the aforementioned Maximum the Hormone song is featured in this movie, but it’s used in a pretty sloppy way. The sequence when it plays just seems to linger on shots for too long just to let the song play so it can cue certain moments to the chorus. It seems extremely forced. Also the end credits song is absolute J-pop trash with some hilariously bad English lyrics. Where’s Hironobu Kageyama when you really need him?

In the animation department, the movie was serviceable, but not as good as I would expect from a feature film. Not to mention there were a few times when the characters obviously switched to 3D models, and the animators seemed incapable of properly drawing Form 1 Freeza’s face at any given time, especially the lines on his face, which often looked inexcusably slipshod.

I saw this film dubbed in English, and man-oh-man I’m glad I did. It still astounds me to this day how far the actors in DBZ have come since the days of the horrendous Orange Box Dub. I remember there was a time I simply could not watch DB(Z) in English because of its piss-poor dub. Now I find it difficult as hell to go back to the Japanese cast whenever I catch the newest episode of Dragonball Super. Chris Ayers remains the now definitive voice of Freeza (sorry Ryusei Nakao, you’re amazing and all, but Ayers conquered this role like an emperor himself), and turns in a stellar performance. The post-Kai recast crew all reprise their roles, and do bang-up jobs all around. The script for the English dub is equally impeccable, especially in translating Freeza’s loquaciousness and Jaco’s punchlines. FUNimation did a hell of a job.

If I had to criticize anything on FUNi’s part, it would be the pre-show that played in the theatrical showing. Words cannot express how much I did not care about anything they were showing. I came for the movie. I didn’t come to see Justin Rojas ask the voice actors Dragonball trivia questions he got from skimming the Dragonball wiki. I did not care about the pointless sequence of the actors talking about the fact that Freeza is an important villain and now he’s back like the title didn’t give that away. Hopefully next time FUNi has a showing of an anime film like this, they do away with the obnoxious, boring pre-show.

This movie could have easily ended up feeling like filler, but thanks to a hefty amount of character development, world building, entertainment value, and a new power up or two, Resurrection F earns both its place in the Dragonball canon, and the price of admission. See it in theaters if you can. If not, snatch up that home video release ASAP!

And on a personal note; shout out to the super nice people in the back row of the theater who were willing to move their seats so my friend and I could have a place to sit. Also, another shout out to the antisocial douche sitting between two empty seats who refused to move in the most assholish way possible. Here’s a tip, guy; sitting with a sour look on your face with your arms crossed and acting like a dick to people doesn’t make you Vegeta. It makes you a jackass.

 


 

WRAPUP:

Pros:

  • Character development and world building make the movie worth watching for more than just a fanservice grudge match.
  • Freeza steals the show.
  • Jaco is genuinely funny.
  • Scene with Krillin’s family is genuinely sweet.
  • Pilaf, Shu, and Mai are back.
  • Beerus and Whis remain as likable and entertaining as they were in Battle of Gods.
  • Fight scenes are a treat overall.
  • Final battle with Freeza is entertaining throughout, stays fresh, and avoids monotony.
  • Fantastic English dub.
  • Master Roshi whoopin’ some ass.

Cons:

  • Not as many character-driven moments as in Battle of Gods.
  • Parts of the fight with Freeza’s army are pretty dull.
  • Animation quality not quite as good as it should have been.
  • Maximum the Hormone song that inspired the movie is poorly utilized.
  • End credits song is garbage.

Highly Recommended