Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods Review

 "Battle of Gods"



Spoiler-Free Synopsis: After a thirty-nine year sleep, Beerus, the God of Destruction, has awoken, and is seeking the "Super Saiyan God" he saw in his dream. He and his attendant Whis sense the remaining Saiyans, first questioning Son Goku as he trains on Kaio's planet. Goku is soundly beaten in battle with Beerus, even at Super Saiyan 3 level, and the God of Destruction goes to Earth to inquire of Vegeta. On Earth, Bulma's birthday party is interrupted by Beerus, Whis, and the Pilaf gang (who are looking to make money). Beerus is accomodated by Vegeta, but soon loses his temper when denied pudding from Buu, and a battle breaks out. When Goku himself is no match for the God of Destruction, what chance do the others have? Beerus demands the Super Saiyan God to appear or he'll destroy the planet Earth!



First an invocation to our Patron Saint of Voice Actors, Sean Schemmel, who, like a rock, anchors us to the shore in the storm of life's challenges. O Great Schemmel, whose voice acting is Ever So Much Better Than Japanese Voice Acting, may we avail you of an English dubbed version of this film, so that we might again witness the soul shaking tones of your everpresent talent. May nobody ever say a bad thing about you, or else face exile from the golden shores, and be cast into the cold of barely read anime blogs, such as the tattered parchment the Dear Reader sees before them. O Schemmel, forgive all our past blasphemies against thee. We implore you to cast your holy visage upon us, in this, our time of need, so we may bask in your shining glory. Schemen. (Book of Schemmel 16:9)
Now that we're protected, we can proceed with the review. 
It's kind of difficult to imagine a Dragon Ball Z movie actually coming out, in theaters, with full theatrical movie quality production values, eighteen years after the last one, Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Fist Explosion!! If Goku Can't Do It, Who Will? (perhaps smartly, if not dully retitled Wrath of the Dragon for its North American release). That's a full generation. That's a grown adult. The person born on the day that movie closed can now live on their own, vote in elections, join the military, or disappoint their parents by staying around for decades, eating their food and using his English Major skills from a state university to write poorly structured reviews of Japanese cartoons on a computer they bought for him, which is now covered in cookie crumbs and other substances.  
Uh... oh. Yeah. I kind of let that get away from me. Don't read too much into it. (Put a fucking pillow over my face and...)
Anywho, it's been ages since Goku pulled a new super move out of his ass and saved the day despite an entire movie building up a new character we'll never see again, and this time Akira Toriyama had a bit more input into the story, which was otherwise written by Yusuke Watanabe, who wrote the 20th Century Boys movies, and beefed up with government yen. Yes, a Japanese government-funded, 20th Century Fox distributed Dragon Ball Z movie. Pretty neat, huh? 
But what about the movie itself? It's pretty fun, let me tell you, friends. O High Schemmel, grant me the power to tell these wretched masses of this film! Forsooth, I will need Schemmel's blessing for this arduous undertaking.
[...] I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous review,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th' Fort Worth, while it pursues 
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime.
And chiefly Thou O Actor, that dost prefer
Before all blogs th' upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know'st; Thou from the English dub
Wast present, and with mighty screams outspread

(Schemmeldise Lost, Book 1)
Battle of Gods is an eclectic mix of silly Dragon Ball hijinks  that Toriyama started his epic with and peppered throughout, and the dangerous, high stakes combat with powerful menaces that audiences are used to in the Z era. It's not a mix that many people are satisfied by, and even I was slightly put off by it, but after further examination, it really seems like a true celebration of Toriyama's oeuvre in the franchise, both humorous and exciting. I think a lot of people are annoyed by the relaxed, laid back attitude in the first half of the film given the gravity of the looming menace, but it only serves to highlight the overall bizarre lives this group of characters live on a daily basis. 

I mean, they're practically having English high tea with the universal God of Destruction. But in their defense, they don't know who he is, and knowing wouldn't really change their situation. This is what makes it compelling, that Beerus is such a devestatingly powerful, apocalyptic threat, but he's sitting at a table at Bulma's birthday party, chowing down, exchanging pleasantries. Why wouldn't he? They already have the world's god (of whom Sean Schemmel is surely a prophet) there, the former god, a god-killing monster, the two richest people in the world, and most of the greatest fighters in the universe. Not to mention an ogre king, two shape-changing animals, a guy with three eyes, an android, a sexual predator hermit, and two of the world's greatest scientists.


Also, Yamucha.


They probably tried to not invite him, but he would just come as Puar's "plus one" anyway. Chaozu must've been at home weeping into a bottle of Grey Goose and watching snuff films. It looks like Mr. Popo wasn't invited, either (fucking racists).



Like I said, most of the humor is derived from the serious, powerful beings all sort of enjoying each other's company for a while, not knowing just how close they teeter to the edge of oblivion. Poor Vegeta's pride takes a beating as he tries to keep Beerus from just offing the whole planet from impatience. It doesn't help the situation being aggravated by Pilaf's gang (now children because of a poorly-worded wish to restore their youth, which Shu doesn't mind, because he's past the normal life expectancy for a dog) trying to steal everything from a diamond to the Dragon Balls, a drunken Gohan deflecting bullets that hit a pregnant Videl (fortunately just her leg, which is healed) as well as Beerus, and finally, a greedy Buu who won't share any of the flan... oh, sorry... pudding.


It's Buu's refusal to share that finally sets Beerus off and leads to the real combat of the movie, though in the beginning there was about a second of Super Saiyan 3 Goku making a mess of Kaio's planet (how'd he get that back?) trying to "spar" with the God of Destruction. And boy does Goku lose. It's not even a contest. In fact, it's a little disappointing, but understandable.


I mean, Goku totally would have won had he been voiced by Sean Schemmel. I expect the dub to chalk up the defeat to a total lack of rugged gravitas, what with Goku being a sissy-man with that old lady's voice, am I right? When Sean Schemmel, Sanctified From On High, unleashes his mighty roars, the Japanese commit ritual suicide in droves. It was clearly he who was plucked from the tree of life by Toriyama himself to speak through Son Goku, and this Japanese version is clearly lacking such purity of spirit. O Save Us From Our Foolishness, Great Schemmel. Schemen.

I'm not entirely sure about the power level standings in this movie. If Gohan is still capable of summoning his Kaioshin power-up, he should probably be the strongest non-fused character, because it's essentially SSJ3 but without straining. And yet he and Majin Buu are taken down quite handily, at the same time, by Beerus. Again, I understand that Beerus is kind of a big deal. But then Vegeta, seemingly only in Super Saiyan form, is able to get so enraged when Bulma is knocked down, that he is said to have "exceeded Goku" and actually injure Beerus, because Power of Love ("MY BULMA!"). Uh, bullshit. If SSJ3 Goku and Mystic Gohan can't touch Beerus, no amount of Power of Love power up should allow SSJ Vegeta to injure Beerus, and certainly if Vegeta can't even reach SSJ3, he can't have "exceeded Goku", even for a moment. I can understand if he took Beerus off guard, but exceeded Goku? Give me a fucking break. But, again, the characters could just be making guesses, talking out of school. It's best not to get too caught up in power debates in DBZ and just enjoy what's going on, even if the internal consistency isn't perfect.


We can't all be a shining beacon of perfection like Sean Schemmel of Latter Day Voice Actors, praise be to him for his sanguine aura, and yet powerful masculinity. O Schemmel, do not forsake us peasants in our need for an English dub of this movie. Let us be blessed with many a belted bellow powered by your puissant lungs. We tremble in anticipation of your stout, throbbing talent entering our quivering earginas. Take us! Take us, Mighty One!


Swing low,
Sweet Sean Schemmel,
Coming for to voice Son Goku,
Swing low,
Sweet Sean Schemmel,
Coming for to voice Son Goku.




One of the big pulls of this movie is the existence of the Super Saiyan God. Apparently, there used to be pure-hearted, good Saiyans (apparently Toriyama intends to make Goku's mother, Gine, like that) who, with their power combined, summoned Captain Planet... I mean, the Super Saiyan God. But alas, it still failed (perhaps foreshadowing the ending of this movie), and disappeared from legend (though apparently not, since Shenron knew all about it), along with the time-travelling Super Saiyan Bardock, Vegeta's brother, who the REAL Legendary Super Saiyan was, and Lunch. When Goku, Vegeta, Gohan, Trunks, Goten, and the fetus of Pan (Saiyanhood begins at conception, you liberal butchers! Less Planned Parenthood and more Pan Childhood!) combine their power, we get the new Super Saiyan God Goku, with hot magenta hair, a Kaioken-like aura, and about twelve minutes of screen time, which is still more than the average plot device from one of these movies gets.


It looks kind of... well, kind of fem, to be honest. Without the Holy Untainted Majestic Sacred Super Pope Incarnation Of Radience Sean Schemmel to beef him up, Goku is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from being kawaii uguu~ and with him already fighting a purple Egyptian cat man (damn furries), it's not a surprise that Goku suddenly "loses" the appearance of the form and fights with the power internalized, saving some of his dignity to lose later at the hands of Bulma. But the fight with Beerus is so fast-paced it's not really a huge problem, because Super Saiyan God Goku doesn't stand still long enough for you to be weirded out by him.


I've read a lot of complaints about how the fight isn't long enough, doesn't have enough techniques being used, goes at too quick a pace, isn't as brutal as they wanted it to be, and so on. It's not the greatest fight in the franchise, for sure. It seems like they kind of wanted to screw around with the sheer insanity of the power of Goku and Beerus and use some new technology to do so. I don't think any real effort was meant to the actual battle between Goku and Beerus, as far as variety. At their level, techniques have become fairly meaningless. Soon these characters will be swinging around galaxies like Gurren Lagann and picking their teeth with the rings of Saturn. Sure, I'd like to see a bit more of an eleborate fight if they do another movie to follow this one up, but the combat here is fine.


Plus, you have to love that moment where, much as Sean Schemmel is capable of with a mere whisper, Goku and Beerus part the sea in the midst of their conflict. The CGI is still a tad conspicious compared to the rest of the animation, but this bit still looks excellent.


My favorite thing about the battle is, and I'm sure the people only familiar with the English dub, which undoubtably improves upon the TV show, what with featuring peerless Sean Schemmel, Ally to Good, Nightmare to You (if you're Freeza or a doubter of his talent), would be unable to recognize, is how Goku is frustrated by having to use the powers of others to boost him to the level of Super Saiyan God. Goku is, much like Vegeta, throwing away his pride to satisfy Beerus. He is unable to reach that form himself and for Goku that's annoying because he prides himself at reaching his goals mostly himself, through hard work. I have to applaud Watanabe for writing this part, assuming it was primarily his idea to, because it offers some insight into Goku's personality. Goku loves to fight strong guys, but he's obsessed with reaching greater levels of strength through training himself, improving himself. To him, becoming a Super Saiyan God through the combined powers of others doesn't mean as much as fighting at equal level with a strong opponent under solely his own strength. And what's more, though he obviously doesn't want Beerus to destroy Earth, his fight with him is mostly to experience a greater level of power and fight an interestingly powerful opponent.


You see, Goku isn't just your run-of-the-mill protagonist. Sure, he cares about his family and friends, wants to save the world when he needs to, but his greatest desire is to build his strength and challenge himself. He doesn't see himself as heroic nor the world in need of a hero. He just does what he pleases and hopes he can help through that. Maybe he's a bit selfish, a bit coarse and difficult to know, but he is pretty well self-actualized. He's probably not the best role model for children, but he has this purity of spirit that speaks to youthful dreams. That's the essence of the kind of shonen manga Dragon Ball is and the anime they're adapted into. It's why I love the character of Son Goku. He's not as melancholy as Spike Spiegel, tortured as Shinji Ikari, clever as Yang Wenli, or practically messianic as Amuro Ray. However, he brims with this boy like enthusiasm that shimmers through the page and the video and warms the cockles of my obsidian heart.


I, too, want to improve, to enhance my skills, and live my own desired life.


Granted, lying on a sweaty blow up mattress in a Bradenton apartment at 7:34 in the morning using a Shin-chan DVD case as a mousepad, refreshing Twitter to see if anybody mentioned me, is probably not the best way to obtain my goals. But I'm a work in progress, Dear Reader. I am not the light in the darkness, I am not truth, and I am certainly not the hope of the universe. And neither is Goku.


Point of fact, Goku kind of, well, loses this. He manages to hold Beerus' planet-killing attack and (seemingly) push the God of Destruction to his limits, but loses all ability to maintain the battle. However, it seems like Beerus really isn't that eager to destroy Earth after all. Is it because he's grown fond of Goku or did he really not have enough power to? Signs point to an ambigious conclusion. Perhaps Goku's greatest talent isn't fighting, but making allies out of enemies with his charm. Not a charm of guile, but a charm of spirit.


From the sound and audio side, things are mostly as expected. Masako Nozawa, though no Sean Schemmel, Master of Sound and Space, still brings out the playfulness of Goku, especially when he's hanging out at Kaio's place, meeting Beerus, and becoming bored by Shenron's Super Saiyan God story. Koichi Yamadera plays the God of Destruction very well, lending a sense of aged grandiosity, even when shouting about snack food. Time has not been kind to Ryo Horikawa's Vegeta, who seems extremely weathered, and pushed to his limits, vocally. I get the impression that he smokes, which is a shame, given what happened to Hirotaka Suzuoki, who played Tenshinhan. Poor Tohru Furuya only got a single line as Yamucha. Even the new Mr. Satan spoke longer. Despite the mains showing their age, generally servicable performances by all. Hiromi Tsuru is still spunky as Bulma. Shigeru Chiba still has it as Pilaf. You don't even notice that it's Aya Hirano voicing Dende, she's just Dende.


The soundtrack is, well, different. The music composed by Norihito Sumitomo range from quiet and reflective, to boisterous and, for lack of better word, epic. There's an especially fun tune for Bulma's party's bingo game, which Vegeta himself belts out in a rare moment of levity (though he's forcing it for Beerus). Some tracks seem like they're trying a little too hard with the ominous chanting, however. I do want a sense of grandness from DBZ music, like Kikuchi provided, but I don't need "Carmina Burana". There's intensity and then there's melodramatic. Still, a good effort. I wonder if Sumitomo will be picked to compose the music for the Buu arc of Kai, now that Yamamoto is out.

Of course, all of this sort of material will need a make over if it's going to appeal to an American audience. Perhaps some Pantera. Fortunately, The Most Worthy One, Our Champion, Sean Schemmel, Who Is Forever Gracing Us With His Undying Mastery Of All In His Purview, is more than capable of filling in the gaping voids in this paltry shonen action romp with his intense, burly, mountain rending, pulsating, gyrating, white hot talent, which must for all time go unmaligned by us lesser beings. O Schemmel, grant us tranquility in this gaping maw of dispair that is the world of anime fandom. May your brilliance shine a ladder of artistry down to us unwashed so that we may climb our way to your glistening palace, and forever be at peace in the warmth of your Eternal Wisdom.


Schemmel Schemmel burning bright
Your portrayal of Goku's right
What immortal voice or scream,
Could match thy fearful quality?

In what dub recording mic
Did you speak words that dub fans like?
On what stand did rest your script
Written by a dozen dips?

Schemmel Schemmel burning bright
You give Goku all his might
What immortal voice or scream
Dare match thy fearful quality?


Can I get a Schemen?

Overall Score:





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Disclaimer: If you think this review is actually about Sean Schemmel, you don't get the joke. 

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