Awakening from a thirty-nine year slumber, Beerus (voiced by Koichi Yamadera) the purple catlike god of destruction is instantly intrigued by the one being in the universe whose mystical martial arts powers rival his own: alien monkey-boy Son Goku (Masato Nozawa). Always looking to improve his fighting skills, Goku is equally intrigued. Yet for all Goku's abilities his battle with Beerus ends in defeat. On a whim Beerus and his effete, blue-skinned sidekick Wiss (Masakazu Morita) decide to visit planet Earth. They arrive in the midst of a lavish birthday party for Goku's gal pal Bulma (Hiromi Tsuru) where the entire Dragonball gang of friends and family are playing a game of Bingo. First prize happens to be what else but the legendary seven Dragon Balls able to summon the wish-granting Dragon God Shenlong. While everyone else is too busy having a good time only Bulma's husband, reformed super-villain Vegeta (Ryo Horikawa) realizes a hot-tempered alien god is scoffing sushi at the party. He tries his utmost to ensure Beerus does not blow his cool then blow up the Earth. But when someone eats all the desserts (!) Beerus stands ready to vent his rage on the mortal world unless Goku can find some way to stop him.
Dragonball Z: Battle of the Gods, the eighteenth feature film in the long-running anime franchise, is the first new Dragonball movie in almost two decades since Dragonball: The Path to Power (1996). It is also the first Dragonball anime in quite some time with creative input from series creator Akira Toriyama. His influence is palpable from the film's zany, lighthearted tone. While the early films and television episodes were charming kung fu comedies with heady doses of Asian mythology, silly slapstick and surreal science fiction, later entries abandoned all pretense at storytelling for constantly escalating video-game battles bringing on bigger opponents and ever more mind-blowing superpowers. Where do you go when your hero grows so powerful he can blow up a planet?
Set in-between chapters five-hundred and seventeen and five-hundred and eighteen of Toriyama's epic manga, which is four and a half years into the ten-year time skip between episodes two-hundred and eighty-eight and two-hundred and eighty-nine of the Dragonball Z TV series, Battle of the Gods does not really get things back to basics but restores some the original charm. For all the threat posed to humanity, Beerus the Destroyer is an oddly affable antagonist with his amusingly catlike mannerisms and fondness for Earth cuisine. His cordial rivalry with Son Goku stays true to the ethos of the Dragonball saga which always emphasized befriending enemies through honorable combat rather than simply kicking ass though there is a lot of that too. It is a feather-light story strictly for long-time fans, more a post-script than a new chapter in Toriyama's seemingly endless cosmic saga.
The film suffers similar problems that plagued the later Dragonball Z films yet outdoes them by switching focus away from stoic combat to silly comedy and includes the odd heart-warming moment. While the outbreak of battle sadly sidelines the original, more amusing supporting players in favour of the blander, more earnest fighters from later films, the comic antics of the returning cast prove genuinely delightful. Seasoned Dragonball fanatics will welcome the return of Mr. Satan (Unsho Ishizuka), Pilaf the shape-shifting cat (Shigeru Chiba), Oolong the horny pig (Naoki Tatsuta) (who challenges Beerus to a game of rock-paper-scissors for the fate of the world!) along with a sweet-natured twist wherein the salvation of the world coincides with a key character revealing she is pregnant (it's not Bulma). Masahiro Hosoda mixes traditional two-dimensional animation with flashy CGI sequences that inject a real sense of cosmic wonderment to the action scenes, in particular the final showdown between Goku and Beerus, and bring Toriyama's wildly whimsical fantasy world vividly alive. Olympic gold medalist in judo Kaori Matsumoto and singer Shoko Nakagawa, both avowed Dragonball fans, have vocal cameos. Manga Video's two-disc DVD set includes both the theatrical cut and uncut versions.