Dragon Ball Super: Broly, the latest feature film and 20th in the series, is almost all brawl by the second half. But the early parts delve deeper into the series’ mythos, focusing on the Saiyan race before they were destroyed, and introducing Frieza as their new emperor.
This history lesson (which includes a bite-sized Vegeta and Raditz chewing scenery) shows just how much the universe of Dragon Ball has changed in the years since Goku arrived on Earth. And the film’s ending sets up a different expectation for its villains — one that could impact all future Dragon Ball stories from here on out.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Dragon Ball Super: Broly.]
What happens to Frieza
To call Broly a villain in Dragon Ball Super is a little misleading. Instead, the now-canonized fighter is more of a blunt, uncontrollable object egged on by Frieza.
Having returned from the dead back in the Tournament of Power saga and finally realizing that he may never be a match for Goku and Vegeta, Frieza is settling into a new role in this film: sniveling opportunist.
Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super are filled with great villains. But no one compares to Frieza. Since his first appearance, the emperor of Universe 7 has been the perfect bad guy to root against. He’s rude, he pompous, and he’s as fun to watch being evil as he is getting the snot beaten out of him by Goku and friends.
Frieza is the perfect villain, but one the Saiyans have grown far beyond. Bringing him back as Golden Frieza can only take the villain so far, and that’s for the best: He should never be the bad guy that keeps up with the boys on transformations and power gains. He’s done it once already, but never again.
Broly takes him back to who he was before we ever watched him get out of his chair and transform. In Broly, Frieza devolves back into the evil ruler that he was literally born to be, manipulating those under him to do his bidding.
In the modern era — one where there are 12 different universes, and Frieza knows that world domination only means so much — the villain is less of a series big-bad than he is a heel. The end of Broly sets up Dragon Ball Z’s original alien bad guy as a tool to bring in more powerful fighters for the boys to take down together.
Frieza seems less interested in destroying his enemies than in testing them and breaking up their happy lives. A modern Frieza would get more joy in forcing Vegeta to leave Trunk’s birthday party to save the universe than from actually watching the Saiyan die a painful death. The world of Dragon Ball has changed, and Frieza — despite his longtime absence — has changed with it.
But in a series where bad guys regularly change sides, Frieza doesn’t feel like the next to join the Z Fighters. Instead, he’ll be off floating in space, sometimes offering his services for the greater good — always interested in his own slice of the pie above all else — or annoying the protagonists with stronger fighters who fight in his name as the years go on.
It’s the role Frieza was designed to play in the series, and watching him return to that point is one of the highlights of Broly.
What happens to Broly
In case it wasn’t clear enough from the trailers, Broly isn’t bad in this movie — though he’s not really misunderstood, either. Instead, he’s a tool for stronger-willed men to use.
For the entire movie, we watch Broly’s father boss him around, then see Frieza trick him into fighting. But Broly doesn’t have the mental capacity to understand fighting for sport or anything other than survival.
He has no social skills and can’t understand deeper motivations of characters. For all the destruction he causes, he doesn’t know any better. He’s lost control of his power. It’s sad, and often pretty tough to watch as Goku and Vegeta beat him within an inch of his life.
Unlike Vegeta, Broly doesn’t need a complex redemption story. When Goku visits Broly at the end of the movie, it’s with the understanding that there is no animosity there. Goku wants a powerful ally to train his power against, and Broly needs someone like Goku to teach him how to control his abilities.
Broly may be marooned on a less-than-hospitable planet, but the movie leaves him with more potential than we’ve ever seen in a Dragon Ball character — maybe even more than Goku. With Frieza, it’s easy to see his future as a master manipulator, but Broly is a bit harder to track.
If anything, Broly is the sparring partner. Goku needs more powerful enemies to go against, and allies to train with. Creator Akira Toriyama has proved over the past 20 years that he’ll never run out of foes, but Vegeta has been struggling to keep with Goku for a decade now. Broly presents an unlimited well of potential. He and Goku can theoretically grow together in perpetuity.
If Goku and friends can help mold Broly into a functional member of society, there’s a lot of potential for the Saiyan trio to save the galaxy. But no matter where Broly ends up in the long term, he’s in the perfect position to be Toriyama’s surprise character reintroduction when things get too dire for Goku and Vegeta to handle on their own — a deus ex machina to end all dei ex machina.
Broly and Frieza will show up again in the series, there’s no doubt. But for Dragon Ball fans, the difference between their endings is probably the most exciting aspect of the film. By setting up both of these iconic characters in two completely unique positions, Toriyama has blown the cap of power wide open, and given himself a perfect delivery device for new and powerful beings to fight Goku.
Because of Broly’s villains — not our usual heroes — the future of Dragon Ball looks brighter than it has in years.