Anime review: Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon

Wrath of the Dragon begins pretty much the same as any other Dragon Ball Z film - things are peaceful and quiet, aside from Gohan and Videl being occasionally late to class due to their role as crime fighters. That is, until an elderly alien presents Gohan with a music box which he says houses Tapion, a strong warrior. He wishes to free Tapion, but despite the best efforts of all the Z-fighters , the box refuses to open. The group then decides to gather the Dragon Balls and spend their wish on unlocking the music box, much to the alien's delight.

After Tapion is released, it becomes quite clear that danger will follow in his footsteps. He is among the last of his race of people, and despite his best efforts to quell an ancient beast named Hirudegarn by playing his Ocarina, the monster intends to come through a rift to wreak havoc on Earth. Compounding the problem is the fact that the beast's lower body is largely beyond Tapion's control, as it manages to destroy a number of buildings before it disappears, and the elderly alien's intentions of destroying Tapion's Ocarina and granting Hirudegarn absolute freedom.

Tapion is a rather interesting addition to the DBZ universe, as he behaves like a big brother to Trunks, even though he tries his best to distance himself from the young fighter in the interest of Trunks' safety. Tapion is likely the strongest warrior from his home planet, or at least the strongest among the survivors of Hirudegarn's original rampage. His interactions with the Z-fighters actually bears some significance on the greater storyline, as his interactions with Trunks shape his character traits that are displayed in the Android and Cell sagas.

Where the movie most lacks believability is the fact that none of the main characters suspected the elderly alien of anything before opening the music box, despite his constant chuckling and mumbling to himself. These should be immediate red flags to Goku and company. Also, they fail to recognize him as an alien, referring to him as an old man, even though his skin is red and he has antennae on his head. That said, the way that this character and Tapion are worked into the film stands as one of its most original elements.

The film is paced well, offering a sufficient portion of the hour-long run to set up and develop the story before the Z-fighters and Tapion face down Hirudegarn. Goku, Gohan, Videl, Goten, and Trunks all get their fair share of screen time, while Piccolo is absent. Vegeta shows up halfway through the fight for a brief moment before he gets his butt kicked. His absence beforehand is left unexplained and his inclusion is entirely unnecessary.

In typical DBZ fashion, nearly everyone is beaten and bruised before Goku unleashes one of his ultra-powerful moves to save the day. The final moments of the battle with Hirudegarn have tense build up, but with such emphasis on Tapion, it seems like he should be the hero of the day instead. Still, Tapion's relationship with Trunks helps him to become more of a fully-realized character and less of a convenient plot device, and to that end aids Wrath of the Dragon to be one of the more original DBZ films.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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