Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dragonball Z Movie 3: The Tree of Might

Tree of Might is particularly significant to my generation because it's the first (and for a while, only) DBZ movie that got brought over to the U.S. by Funimation. This originally aired in three single-episode blocks over a number of weeks back in 1997, and since they dropped it right into the middle of the show's Freeza Saga airing, it was confusing for kids like me to say the least. Let's get going.

 We begin with our heroes on a camping trip... i.e. the boring "regular life" stuff that this series usually skips over (unless it's Dragonball Super...POW)

Kuririn is out looking for food while Bulma readies the cooking pot. The good news is that if things get desperate on the food-finding front, they brought Oolong.

 In some distant land, Piccolo is meditating to train his anti-gravity muscles when he senses a disturbance in the force.

Gohan arrives at the campground in THE WORST OUTFIT EVER.

This guy is probably the most interesting character in DBZ. He evolves a lot over the course of the series, something that doesn't really apply to anyone else (except Vegeta, to an extent). Gohan even becomes the hero of the story for a while later on. Of course, he's completely shunted aside during the final arcs of the show, but that's neither here nor there. I've already mentioned it and I'll mention it again.

Our heroes go to sleep...or at least try to sleep through that weird buzzing sound coming from Bulma's tent.

 A startling sound occurs! ...why is Bulma naked?

...oh. In any case, the quiet night was interrupted when a meteor crashed in the woods, starting a huge forest fire. Smokey Bear was OUTRAGED when reached for comment.

Animals flee from the forest en masse! God help us all!

...wait, what the hell? Why is there a dinosaur in there? What is this, EVO: Search for Eden?

Gohan and Kuririn are on the case and blast the fire with waves of force, smiting it out. This is pretty cool, all things considered. I think the same exact thing happens in the show when they have to save that space station full of refugees.

With the fire put out, the forest is still in ruins and the animals have no place to live, leaving a big empty space (not unlike the inside of Gokou's head). Gohan and Kuririn decide to collect the Dragonballs and wish the forest back to life.

Credits! It's the "Head Cha-La" intro. I remember seeing the "Rock the Dragon" intro when I was a kid. Man, that intro is so much fun. The majority of the scenes in that intro are from this movie, too.

 The credits end, and the Eternal Dragon is summoned to restore the forest. Well, that was quick. I'm sorta glad the movie skipped over Dragonball Hunt #338.

(Editor's Note: In the Japanese version, they actually show the Dragonball Hunt in the background during the opening credits. Whoa, cool.)

Meanwhile, in space... a bunch of guys with scouters are watching Earth from afar. Who are these guys? As a kid, I had no idea, and thought this was the Ginyu Force. They'd placed this movie right before the arrival of the Ginyu Force in the show, and with no context it was a logical assumption to make. More on that in a moment.

Regardless, these space-travellers sent the meteor that burned down the forest. It was actually some sort of probe droid that relayed information back to them.

There's five of them, and here's the moment where things got REALLY confusing in 1997. This movie aired right after the episode of the show where Freeza summoned the Ginyu Force. In that episode, they talked about how the Ginyu Force consisted of five guys, and said five guys were all shown in silhouette only. All we could see is that they wore Freeza armor.

The next week, instead of a new episode, we got this movie. It left me wondering why everyone was back on Earth and what the heck was going on.

The villains have the creepiest of cliches: A Secret Boss. While the Not-Ginyu talk about how Gokou didn't pacify the planet as he was supposed to and speculate on his fate, the Secret Boss walks in and (in the dub, at least) raspily says "Saiyans never perish."

Uh...yes they do. Remember how the entire planet full of them got blown up by Freeza in the past?

And how only like six or seven of them survived the extinction of their race? That sounds to me like perishing is something they do quite often.

Meanwhile, that sexy minx Chi Chi is startled by...

 "Wii want to play!"

AHHHH! JESUS!, the dinosaur from earlier. Apparently he's a young dragon. Gohan names him Icarus and wants to keep him. Those who know DBZ know that Icarus is one of the most hated characters, and I don't get why. He's a little irritating, sure, but it's cool to see Gohan have a pet and he's only around for a short time.

Luckily for our hero, the dragon-slaying Dovahkiin from Skyrim isn't nearby. Icarus wouldn't be long for this mortal coil dimension.

The Not-Ginyu Force arrives on Earth and plants a seed. I'm told that these guys are actually called The Crusher Corps. So...yeah. They're a goon squad. As far as goon squads go, they're alright. The armor adds a lot.

The seed sprouts into THE TREE OF MIGHT, a massive fungus that covers the planet in writhing tentacles. It's like a dream come true for hentai enthusiasts.

We get a good shot of Icarus hovering and looking upon the instantly-massive Tree of Might. This thing can suck all of the life energy out of a planet and convert it to power-giving fruit.

When reached for comment, various corporations and their senate backers licked their lips at the monetary possibilities.

Meanwhile, back at the hovel... Bulma yells at Yamcha for some reason. I think they were still "dating" at this point. It's "DBZ Romance", who knows.

Tien and Chaozu are shown to have a MUCH healthier and more stable relationship. But does it have the passion?

Icarus keeps showing up to visit Gohan, and Chi Chi tells him to "get rid of it". Oh my God!

"Just think of a beautiful meadow, Icarus!" ::cocks gun:: "Think of a beautiful field where you can run free! Do you see it, Icarus? It's right over there! You'll be happy there, Icarus! YOU'LL BE HAPPY AND SAFE FOREVER!" ::BANG::

Gokou gets a telepathic message from King Kai about the Tree of Might, which is already sucking the energy out of the planet and everyone living anywhere near it. Our heroes need to swing into action and somehow destroy the tree.

"I'm in!" says Oolong. "Me too!" says Puar. "Give us a couple days to get ready!" says Oolong.


 Gokou insists that they take action NOW, with or without UN approval. Everyone who can fly (so...NOT Oolong) head for the Tree and attempt to get rid of it. Unfortunately, it's too thick for them to simply blow it up. Even worse, they're confronted by...

 ...the Crusher Corps, who are on hand to greet them. I'm not sure, but I think the two little goons are actually one guy; he can split in two like Gemini Man. Though you only see him in combined form at the very start here, so it's a very minor aspect of his character.

So minor that I might be totally wrong. Maybe the second dude was just hiding behind the first one before. Pretty sure it's a Gemini Man situation though.

Kuririn with the Destructo Disk, one of my favorite DBZ moves. It's basically an energy-frisbee that buzzsaws through enemy defenses.

 A traditional Irish donnybrook follows, as our heroes brawl with the Crusher Corps. It's pretty awesome seeing the entire crew, like Yamcha here, in action.

Back in 1997 - before I saw any Ginyu Force episodes - I was certain that we'd see Piccolo/Yamcha/Tien/Chaozu return from King Kai's planet in time to fight the Ginyu Force (while Gokou and Vegeta took on Freeza). That might have been more interesting than what we got instead. Aside from Piccolo, their training on Kai's planet ended up serving very little purpose because none of them really did anything else in the series.

I also really wanted to see Gokou and Vegeta fight Freeza as a duo. It's cool when they get to be co-hero.

Gohan somersaults in with a Masenko that's bigger than he is! Glad to see him join the fight, even though he's supposed to be doing homework.

Gohan catches the attention of the Higher Power, who finally decides to beam down to Earth himself.

The higher power in question is the infamous Turles, whose very existence causes all kinds of canon issues because he's a Saiyan.

Supposedly only four saiyans survived the destruction of their homeworld. Gokou was elsewhere, as were Vegeta, Nappa, and Raditz.

It makes TOTAL SENSE that more than four members of a race with access to space would be off-world at any given time, but regardless, the show (via Vegeta) told us that four survived. Broly's existence later makes sense, as he was kept hidden and secluded to prevent his execution; Vegeta wouldn't have known about him earlier. Plus he was just a baby at the time. Turles, on the other hand, is older and a fairly accomplished/noteworthy saiyan warrior who Vegeta would surely know about.

A better way to do all of this, in my view: Turles should have been Gokou's brother instead of Raditz. Rather than being defeated so early in the show, he escapes and returns powered-up for this movie. You'd think the BROTHER OF GOKOU would be a slightly bigger deal in the series than "first boss". Plus, Turles looks just like Gokou, while Raditz looked nothing like Gokou. On a re-do I'd have Turles be the brother and be a recurring character, with Raditz accompanying Nappa and Vegeta as a minion or simply not existing.

Turles being Gokou's brother would also explain them looking so much alike, which as things are has no story reason whatsoever.

In any case, Turles goes after Gohan, hoping to adopt the powerful youngster into his goon squad.

 Piccolo saves him and they have a tender moment before Turles blasts Piccolo into the ground. Turles is really powerful (probably on par with a Ginyu Force member) and everyone else at this point is... quite a bit lower than that.

Then again, none of this is canon, so what does it matter? Regardless, Turles steps on Gohan, causing his tail to re-grow. ...yeah.

Turles spends a LOT of time hovering around and smirking. He must have just gotten his DBZ Villain Starter Kit in the mail, because they're all like this.

I will say that this guy is interesting because he's essentially a look at how Gokou might have turned out had he grown up "normally" in the warlike Saiyan society.

Turles creates a fake moon to turn Gohan into a Great Ape, then quickly blows it up lest it affect him too. I guess Turles isn't as in-control of the form as Vegeta. Gohan on the other hand is just a kid so he has no control whatsoever, and goes on a stomping rampage.

Meanwhile, Gokou single-handedly holds off the Goon Squad after they beat up most of the other characters. At the time of this movie, this situation was still pretty new. Problem is, they ended up repeating the formula for like EVERY DBZ MOVIE after this.

The first two movies give some of the weaker characters room to shine, at least.

Gohan catches Gokou and CRUSHES HIM. This whole deal is unpleasant... and extremely reminiscent of the Vegeta fight in the Saiyan Saga. Actually, this movie straight-up duplicates a few parts of that battle.

Gohan's destructive rampage is stopped by the appearance of his dragon buddy, Icarus. Gohan lets Gokou go and sits down to play with Icarus, which means Turles has no more use for him.

Commence one of the most interesting DBZ moves ever:

Turles' energy ring is AWESOME. When I was a kid I really liked this move.

 It even made it into some of the later video games.

In response, Gokou busts out a Destructo-Disk (for the only time ever that I know of, that's Kuririn's move) to slice off Gohan's tail and turn him back into a kid; the energy ring misses him as a result and decimates the surrounding landscape. Some really good physics in the combat of this movie.

Now Gokou catches Gohan and we get a rare tender moment with them. Later on Sociopath Gokou would pretty much throw his son to the wolves, but at this early stage he's very protective.

This shot is also pretty much taken right from the Vegeta fight. However, the visuals/background are much nicer here. That generally applies to all of the movies; they look much better than the show. They're short, so they could afford to have more ornate environments. The show, which would often have 20 episodes transpiring in the same spot, couldn't really have interesting environments for the most part. Instead it's full of bland rock-terrain.

The Crusher Corps return, now done dealing with Gokou's friends and wanting a rematch.

I like the spikes on the shoulders of the big guy. Earring-guy looks a bit too much like Turles; he must be the Yamcha of the group. The visual heat-thief.

Gokou fights them all off at once in a scene right out of ROCK THE DRAGON. In a series full of one-on-one fights, it's great to see group brawls like this.

Meanwhile, the Tree of Might finally bears fruit. Turles eats some of it and gets a massive powerup. Looks like the powerups are incremental, given that the fruits are storing energy taken from Earth and the creatures on it. I.e. each fruit eaten gives you 300k more power or something to that effect.

The Earth is a total gold mine for this kind of energy-thievery, and Turles says that once he eats all the fruit he'll be the strongest warrior in the universe. This implies that he could pass Freeza up, even.

Problem is, this whole fruit deal created a headache that has never ended for people who debate on the power levels of various characters. Turles pre-fruit was roughly Ginyu Force (Recoome/Jeice/Burter) level or a little higher (he owns Gokou at Kaio-Ken x10), while after eating one fruit he's probably above the Ginyu Force...yet below Freeza Form 1, maybe? It's hard to say. The movie doesn't give us too many numbers to work with.

Turles could pretty much power up endlessly with the tree of might. In theory. We're talking about billions of ki-points from Earth here. He should be able to well surpass Freeza, and perhaps most of the later villains too, should he eat enough fruit.

Again, Turles is a headache for people who like to debate on who would win a fight between X and Y. Well, it isn't that he's a headache so much as the Tree of Might concept itself.

Now Piccolo gets to play the jobber role as he fights Turles.

 His fearsome Special Beam Cannon gets no-sold by Turles' hand. Wow.

I'd be shocked too, that move is usually an OHKO. Unfortunately, Turles is severely beefed-up from eating fruit.

Turles blasts Piccolo into submission. This battle is becoming quite epic. It's nearly as cool as the Vegeta battle at the end of the Saiyan Saga, with a ton of similarities.

Gokou dusts off the Crusher Corps once and for all. Now that both leaders have disposed of the respective Job Squads, time for the main event.

Gokou uses Kaioh-Ken x10 here (incorrectly dubbed x20 in the version we got here...yes, this does matter) to go all-out against Turles, but thanks to his own boost Turles is able to evade all of Gokou's attacks.

 Boosted Turles smacks Gokou down with ease. This is a one-sided beatdown on par with what Broly dishes out later on, and up to now I think it's the worst-off that we've seen Gokou in a one-on-one fight.

Here's another theoretical: Is the fruit boost temporary? Will Turles' power die down after a little while? Is it better to carry fruit in reserve than eat it all at once, as a result? Will the fruit rot if not refrigerated? These factors have a lot to do with whether or not he'd actually be able to overpower Freeza. Imagine if he showed up to fight Freeza and found that his boost had worn off and the fruit had all gone bad in the spaceship-fridge.

Gokou summons the Deus Ex Machina of kings, the Genki Dama (Spirit Bomb) and unleashes it.

 Turles then proceeds to BLOCK THAT TOO with an energy beam, which follows through to drill Gokou into the ground. HOW BEAST IS TURLES?

Just to really get the point across, we see a red balloon in the ruins. The same red balloon that a kid was holding in an earlier shot. WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW, EARTH PEOPLE?

Note: This is making me instinctively want to jump up and grab the balloon for an extra life.

While Gokou recovers on the ground, the rest of the team show up to fight Turles.

...they lose.

 Gokou powers up for another Spirit Bomb. The last one didn't have enough energy in it because the Tree of Might is absorbing all the energy, as Kuririn helpfully explains. How will this one be any different? I don't know, but apparently it is because...

...Gokou limps up to Turles and unleashes a second Spirit Bomb, this one strong enough to overpower his counterattack.

Turles tries to hold it off, to no avail, and it blasts him into the tree itself. He shoulda eaten more fruit.

Side note, the final moments of this battle are outstanding. Gokou pretty much sucker-punches him with the second Genki Dama, giving little warning that it's on the way. Turles detects it at the last second when his scouter breaks and actually fires first, but Gokou's attack goes through Turles' pre-emptive beam.

 A massive explosion results as Turles gets atomized (and the tree itself magically gets destroyed from within).

I could swear they re-used the exact same animations from when Vegeta got hit with the Spirit Bomb here. Seriously, that's Vegeta.

With Turles dead, the various tree-appendages around the world shatter into dust that rains down, returning all of the energy back to the world.

Wolves come back to life from the magical energy snow, dogs and cats live together, it's mass hysteria.

The world goes from brown to blue again as life is restored. Not sure how Turles' death via Genki Dama caused the massive Tree of Might to completely go away, but just roll with it.

This apocalyptic event will take YEARS for humanity to recover from. Years of rebuilding...and years of courage.

...which apparently are already over, as we cut back to our heroes going camping again. It's almost shot-for-shot identical to the beginning of the movie, like nothing even happened.

Gohan has a new buddy, at least...which scares Oolong. So basically, one thing changed from this movie. All in all, this is one of the better DBZ movies, though I'm not too keen on the ending being a mirror-image of the beginning.

Even Piccolo is seen doing deep meditation again, in a scene taken shot-for-shot from the beginning of the movie.

And now, meme time!


  1. Those "Wii would like to play" guys were awesome.

    It's not that I hate Icarus, but if you took him out of the movie it would shave off half an hour, which is particularly notable in a movie that's half an hour too long.

    As the picture expertly shows, they're clearly still a couple that really really need to break up.

    The main problem with the Turliss rewrite is that he doesn't actually exist, so there's no reason for change anything regarding Raditz for him.

    Man, Gokou beating ALL of the bad guys in this movie sucks. Love how Piccolo manages to get all of the goon squad in 5 though.

    Sweet gif at the end there.

  2. This is my first time watching Tree of Might.

    Cool to see the guys using their energy for something besdies violence.

    "DRAGON DRAGON. ROCK THE DRAGON. DRAGON BALL Z." Ohh man this is so campy it's good. You DEFINITELY know what the name of the show is by the end.

    The Tree of Might is terraforming huh? Great idea for a scenario.

    Your Icarus scene is spectacular. Horrifying but perfect.

    This seems like a pretty good movie all around. Brayn says it's too long so you must have whittled it down to the essential entertainment.

    That ending GIF, whoa.

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