Dragon Ball Z is a cultural phenomenon that is regarded as one of the most influential anime of our time, accompanied by a passionate and die-hard fan base that will forever cement it as a powerhouse in anime for decades to come. Since its first airing in Japan in 1989, Dragon Ball Z has spawned multiple dubs for countries around the world, numerous games, and of course, 14 previous movies that tell of in-between stories that feature some of the most awesome moments in Dragon Ball Z. Now the fifteenth entry, Battle of Gods (first debuting in Japan in 2013), has finally made its way here in the U.S. and it’s quite different from what we’ve seen before.
[There will be spoilers below! I will put warnings in advance if you haven’t seen it yet.]
Our story begins between the 10 year gap of chapters 517 and 518 of the manga (or between the defeat of Kid Buu and the last World Martial Arts Tournament of Dragon Ball Z). Lord Beerus, a god of destruction that is quick to temper, has awoken after decades of slumber to check on a premonition that was foretold. After Whis, Beerus’ attendant, tells him the fate of Frieza at the hands of Goku, Beerus recalls a dream of an entity known as a Super Saiyan God fitting Goku’s description. The thought of finding a worthy adversary sends Beerus on the hunt for the fabled Super Saiyan God, which eventually leads him towards Earth, and with him, its potential destruction.
Unlike the other movies, Battle of Gods is very humorous and stays true to the light-hearted moments of the series. The majority of the setting takes place at Capsule Corp. on Bulma’s birthday, meaning that the whole gang is there and it made me feel all sorts of nostalgia. Even Emperor Pilaf, Shou, and Mai make an appearance as youths because of a wish they made before the events of the movie, and basically retcon the non-canon GT entirely. Speaking of non-canon, many consider Battle of Gods to actually be canon to the main series due to the creator, Akira Toriyama, being deeply involved wtih the movie.
Out of everything in Battle of Gods, I’d have to say that Lord Beerus is my favorite antagonist out of any of the movies, and maybe even more than the main villains of the show. Beerus isn’t the typical single-minded villain where world domination or destroying Goku and friends is his only reason for being. Beerus is a very likable, multi-dimensional character that has many traits of a fantastic bad guy – quiet and calculating, loud and roaring, joyful and content, and angry and bitter. Plus, the fact that he’s an anthropomorphic purple sphinx cat makes me think of an Egyptian god, which not too oddly, helps drive home the fact that he’s seen and feared as a god.
When I stated that Beerus isn’t a typical villain, it’s because he’s really isn’t even a bad guy to begin with. He is simply a deity who’s become so bored that he went out of his way to prematurely awaken from his 50 year nap to see if there was someone worthy enough to be his arch-rival. Even though he is a god of destruction, he treats the destruction of planets more like a job rather than for enjoyment like, for example, Frieza. The overall way he goes about things is hilarious; he’s a very animated character, that along with his design, comes across as laid-back and humorous, but still very intimidating. Throughout the movie he is regarded as a terrifying force of nature, so much so that even the Supreme and Elder Kai fear Beerus.
Early on in the movie you are able to witness Beerus’ power in a fight between him and Goku and let’s just say that things don’t go to well for our hero. Vegeta has heard of Beerus before and tries all he can to make sure that Beerus’ short fuse isn’t lit, which results in one of the funniest moments from Vegeta ever. Even the all-powerful Shenron gets shaken when he realizes that he is in the presence of the god of destruction, going so far as pardoning himself before he departs!
Beerus is unlike any foe that the Z Fighters have ever faced in terms of sheer power. He is a honest-to-goodness god whose job is to destroy planets. Now there is a well-established formula to Dragon Ball Z and it goes like this: heroes live in peace, strong bad guys show up, heroes discover new powers to defeat enemies, repeat. Something like that. But nevertheless, the enjoyment for me with this series was to see how powerful they would become and how crazy the fights would be.
In the final battle with Goku and Beerus you still get all that, you still get the new hidden abilities never before obtained, but this is where I absolutely loved where they took this movie – Super Saiyan God is not a permanent transformation that Goku can achieve or control at will and Goku still loses. Yes, you read that right, Goku loses the fight against Beerus. This is a total departure from what we all have come to expect and it wasn’t even a close fight, Beerus won.
Goku still manages to save Earth from annihilation. During their fight, Goku tests out his newfound Super Saiyan God powers; in the middle of the fight Goku returns to normal, but was still able to still keep up with Beerus, unlike before. Impressed at just how much stronger he has become, Beerus spares the Earth. In the end we still get our happy ending, and with all that has happened, I loved how the movie shared certain bits of information with us at the end. It is very open to the viewer’s interpretation, which can and will lead to hours of discussion. What that information is will be something for you to learn for yourself (I gotta keep something a secret)!
[You’re safe here!]
As to be expected, the entire FUNimation dub cast reprise their respective roles and do a fantastic job. Other voice actors fill in their roles very nicely, especially Lord Beerus voiced by Jason Douglas. The sound effects for the fights are bombastic and booming; every punch landed had a nice boom to it and each impact felt like the ground beneath my feet was shaking. And even the original opening theme “Cha-La Head Cha-La” was revamped and covered by the rock group, Flow.
Battle of Gods is simply stunning to look at. Every scene is crisp and the animation is smooth like butter. Looking back at the old-school episodes and then seeing this movie, the difference is night and day. I mean c’mon – 1996 to 2014 – of course the animation would improve by a great margin. But it is the fights that will make your jaws drop; watching Goku and Beerus fight at the end where they fly through the clouds is one of the most dazzling things I’ve seen. Magnificent use of colors, new CG animations to capture close up and intense fights, this is a real step up from the previous films, for sure.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods is funny, gorgeous, and action action-packed. Fans of the series will have no problems fully enjoying themselves, but even if you’re not the biggest fan of the show, I wholeheartedly believe that you will still get something out of it. I for one found myself loving every moment and can’t wait to see if Super Saiyan God ever makes a reappearance!