[This review contains SPOILERS. You have been warned.]
Dragon Ball Super: Broly feels like the culmination of everything that the legendary franchise has accomplished so far. It features the triumphant return of several fan favorite characters (albeit slightly recontextualized in order to better fit the notoriously forgetful author’s revised canon), including Bardock, Gogeta, Paragus—and, of course, Broly himself. That last one is particularly noteworthy: whereas he was previously depicted as little more than a mindless plot device, this reboot emphasizes the eponymous Saiyan warrior’s tragic backstory (abandoned on a hostile and inhospitable planet, abused and brainwashed by his own father), transforming him into a sympathetic figure and contributing some much needed personal stakes to the conflict—underneath his tough, cold exterior, our “villain” remains a lost, frightened child; we don’t want to see him sacrificed as a pawn in Frieza’s vendetta.
Which brings me to my next point: Broly beautifully reinforces the series’ central theme (yes, contrary to its reputation for straightforward storytelling and moral simplicity, this children’s battle manga does have thematic concerns). Despite his obsession with increasing his physical power, Son Goku’s greatest strength has always been his ability to forgive, turning former foes into steadfast allies (see: Yamcha, Tenshinhan, Piccolo, and Vegeta). Thus, it is appropriate that the climactic showdown of this film ends not with a flashy eleventh-hour martial arts technique… but with an act of compassion that manages to quell Broly’s blind rage—an unexpectedly elegant and succinct expression of Akira Toriyama’s belief in redemption and second chances.