Dragon Ball fandom is usually fairly united on certain topics. While there are the expected disputes and disagreements over smaller matters, it's not uncommon to see most Dragon Ball fans holding similar opinions about the massive franchise. But one topic in particular has been at the center of a divide between fans for years: Is Broly good?
To some, the character is one of the most impressive villains of the franchise, while others believe he's among the worst characters ever introduced. He's simultaneously a major physical threat, a memorable presence, an unstoppable wrecking ball and evocative of all the worst kinds of excess that has ever plagued the franchise.
And yet, many fans love him.
So who is Broly, and why does he matter so much? And does Dragon Ball Super: Broly fix the perceived problems with the character?
Broly never actually appeared in Dragon Ball manga, or even the Dragon Ball Z series. He debuted in the non-canon film Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan, where he was introduced as another survivor of the destruction of Planet Vegeta, and was significantly more powerful than fellow survivors (and the series' main characters) Goku and Vegeta. He was a berserker brawler, harboring a hatred for Goku from their time together as infants in the same nursery where the cries coming from baby Goku bothered baby Broly so much, they inspired a lifelong hatred for the warrior. Seriously. He was eventually defeated by Goku using the combined powers of his and his assembled allies, seemingly destroying the villain.
Although series creator Akira Toriyama designed the character, he didn't have any further input on the character, considered by fans to be a big part of why Broly lacked any real personality or charm. Other more memorable Dragon Ball villains have their own quirks beyond their fighting abilities, making them more compelling to watch. Broly may have been an impressive threat for the heroes, but he had no personality to speak of, and razor-thin motivations. He was just there for the fight scenes, even if his Super Sayian Berserk form carried unique elements.
But his design and fighting prowess turned out to be more than enough to garner him serious attention by fans. In a manner similar to how Star Wars fandom turned Boba Fett from a bit-player into one of the most recognizable characters in the franchise, Broly quickly became a fan favorite. Two more films featuring him quickly moved into production, with Broly: Second Coming and Bio-Broly released within a year of one another, both featuring the massive Saiyan going head to head with the franchise's heroes.
While the Dragon Ball films aren't considered canon with the main series, they do form their own mini-canon, as evidenced by the sudden trilogy. Second Coming reveals that Broly managed to survive the events of his first film, and made his way to Earth. He eventually comes to blows with Gohan, Trunks and Goten, and is seemingly destroyed (again) when Gohan and Goten, alongside the spirit of their dead father Goku (don't ask), blast him into the sun with a combined Kamehameha. The character made a third and final film appearance in Bio-Broly, but only technically. That film centered around a clone of the Saiyan warrior, who ends up going on a rampage. He's finally stopped, seemingly once and for all, after his clone body is exposed to salt water and becomes petrified long enough for the heroes to destroy.
Broly never made an appearance in the original Dragon Ball shows, nor did subsequent movies return to the character. However, the positive fan reception led to him becoming a fixture in Dragon Ball video games, and a related manga: Dragon Ball Heroes: Victory Mission. This manga also featured other "non-canon" villains like fellow movie bad guy Janemba and Baby from Dragon Ball GT. (The character actually made his manga debut in 2012, but not in a story involving the main canon.)
Broly also served as a major inspiration for Kale, a female Saiyan from Universe 6 (a parallel universe to the main continuity, which is set in Universe 7) when she appeared in Dragon Ball Super. She borrows many elements of his design, and even has a similar Super Saiyan transformation. Broly himself, however, still had not made an appearance within the extended canon.
That changed this year when Broly appeared in Dragon Ball Super: Broly. The film is firmly within the current canon, with Akira Toriyama fully reworking the character. Broly has been given a great deal of newfound depth, while still being an unstoppable physical force. While the character always been a cult favorite, it's only now that he's finally reached the potential so many fans saw in him all along.
Directed by Tatsuya Nagamine, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is out in theaters now.