Dragonball Z Movie Collection Two: The Tree of Might/Lord Slug (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 61 minutes approx. / 52 minutes approx.
Continuing the remastered releases of the original Dragonball Z “films” (none have barely broken the hour mark thus far), Manga Entertainment have two more action packed adjuncts for your delectation.
The first film is The Tree Of Might, originally released in 1990 and fits into the DBZ timeline between episodes 54 and 55 of the TV series. A camping trip with Son Gohan, Krillin, Bulma, and Oolong is interrupted by a forest fire which Gohan and Krillin manage to put out but the forest has been ravaged. Using Bulma’s Dragon Radar they collected the dragonballs and summon Shenron to restore the forest to its former glory.
Unbeknownst to them, the fire was started deliberately by a Saiyan named Turles (or Tullece in the subs) who is seeking a fertile planet onto which he can plant the seed for the Tree Of Might, which will absorb the planet’s energy. When the tree grows and bears fruit, Turles will eat it and will be granted God like power.
If we’ve learned anything from watching DBZ – or any sci-fi/comic book adventure series for that matter – it is that aliens are a solipsistic bunch obsessed with having supreme power over everyone and everything. Quite where the fun is in that, having such immense responsibility of dictating everyone’s lives, seems baffling to us regular folk so we should be thankful for heroes like Son Goku and the Z Warriors.
On this occasion, the group has a new member of sorts in the form of a dragon Gohan met during the fire, which he named Icarus (or Haiya Dragon in the subs), a cheery purple beast of a friendly nature who gets involved during a critical fight that helps save Gohan. Even though Icarus returns in the next film as Gohan’s pet, he never appeared in the TV series which gives you an idea of how flexible the rules were towards non-canon material.
Turles is an interesting villain being another Saiyan familiar with Goku, yet referring to him by his given name of Kakarot and assuming the quiet planet he discovered had been left that way as a result of the original mission set for Goku when he was just a baby. However this doe pose the question “Where is Vegeta?” since he is supposed to be the only other Saiyan left to challenge Goku, despite occasionally being on the same side.
Another niggling problem is how easily and quickly the Dragonballs were collected in the mission to restore the forest to its prior state. Given how they are supposed to be scattered all over the world and previous searches for them have taken years, the idea this was achieved inside one 24 hour period is a huge leap of faith to expect the audience to take non-canon or not.
Ultimately this is another by-the-numbers DBZ adventure and I am sure the addition of Icarus will be enough to win some fans over while the action is brisk but plentiful, leading to a rather rushed ending that unfortunately exposes the folly of building up too much excitement inside a compact runtime.
Film number two is Lord Slug, from 1991 and set during episodes 81 and 82. After an asteroid hurtling towards earth is destroyed by Goku and Krillin, a vast planet sized craft lands on earth and armoured soldiers under the control of the titular character, a Namekian like Piccolo, attack the watching crowds. Unfortunately for them Gohan and ChiChi are on hand to fight back until three tougher opponents, Angila, Medamatcha and Wings even the odds.
Piccolo arrives to take care of the new arrivals, killing Wings straight away but struggles with Angila and Medamatcha until Goku and Krillin hit the scene. Meanwhile Slug has taken Gohan’s four star Dragonball and Bulma’s dragon radar, and has sent his men to collect the dragonballs (again in record time) summoning Shenron to give Slug eternal youth.
This time our antagonist’s masterplan is to terra freeze the Earth and turn into another Planet Cruiser so he can conquer the universe, while being turned back to when he was at his prime will see him remain at peak condition. Loyal Dragonball fans might recognise this story as a re-run of Piccolo’s introduction into Goku’s life, except Slug is the last of the Super Nameks and apparently Namekians can be harmed by whistling.
Yup, whistling which is where Gohan and Icarus come into play in helping defeat this powerful interloper which is explained at the very beginning of this film. However, with Piccolo and Slug being of the same race once would expect the former to have a greater role in this story and in Slug’s defeat – yet he remains a bit player so Goku can save the day again.
It would appear that an opportunity to put Piccolo in the spotlight and expand a little more upon his race’s background was squandered here, not in the least since the main plot is a rehash of Piccolo’s own debut. The nearest we get is some clumsy telepathic exposition from King Kai who watches all of this from the heavens but does nothing, merely imparting this info to Goku.
For those with short memories watching this (guilty!) or have not seen the original Dragonball series this issue with the recycled plot won’t matter a jot to your enjoyment of it while the more ardent fan might feel a little cheated. For this writer, it is seeing Piccolo reduced to a supporting role in a story where his prominence as a feature player could have freshened up the tired formula that permeates through each of these brief side stories that is the real disappointment.
Therefore of the two films, The Tree Of Might gets the de facto nod in this release, not that Lord Slug isn’t good despite the frustrating reliance on the status quo. Overall this is another two hours of acceptable escapist entertainment as only Goku and co can deliver.
English Language 5.1 with Japanese Music
English Language 5.1 with US Music
Original Japanese Mono
Rating – ***
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