New 'Dragon Ball' film hits Chinese screens

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 8, 2023
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Chinese fans finally get to see the latest "Dragon Ball" feature film this weekend, a high-adrenaline addition to China's winter vacation film market.

A popular Japanese manga film released in June last year, "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" was directed by Tetsuro Kodama, produced by Toei Animation, and written by Dragon Ball series creator Akira Toriyama, making it the fourth film produced with his direct involvement and the 21st Dragon Ball feature film in the franchise overall. Rather than focusing on a Goku-centric storyline, this new film follows Piccolo and his former student Gohan, Goku's son, as they undertake a mission to save the world from the newly reformed Red Ribbon Army in addition to its two new androids and the super-monster Cell Max.

Although the "Dragon Ball" manga series is quite popular in China and a childhood fixture for generations born after the late 1980s, this is only the second feature film imported into the country for theatrical release. The previous film, "Dragon Ball Super: Broly," was released in China in 2019 and grossed 31.64 million yuan. Sony Pictures Entertainment heads this latest release on Jan. 6 in China.

The Japanese manga was originally created by Akira Toriyama in 1984 and is inspired by China's classical 16th-century Chinese novel "Journey to the West," with the first chapters being a loose adaptation of the novel. The protagonist is Son Goku, the Japanese pronunciation of Sun Wukong -- the name of the Monkey King borrowed from "Journey to the West" -- and is an alternate take on the same character by Toriyama. When creating the manga, Toriyama said he was also inspired by Hong Kong martial arts films, including Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon" (1973) and Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master" (1978).

From Goku's growth from childhood to adulthood, the manga's wildly imaginative universe has expanded in parallel, becoming a hugely popular martial arts manga that involves many characters, from the villains on Earth to others from all over the universe. Since its release, "Dragon Ball" manga has sold over 160 million copies in Japan and 350 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling manga series. The franchise also includes popular TV anime series, feature films, action figures, and a multitude of merchandise.

"Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero" has received good critic reviews, holding an approval rating of 93% based on 56 reviews to date on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, with consensus noting that "Blending beautifully animated action with fresh character development, 'Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero' is everything fans of the franchise will be looking for." It has grossed more than $86.56 million worldwide prior to finally being allowed to release in China, according to Box Office Mojo website -- already making it the second-highest grossing "Dragon Ball" film to date, only second to "Dragon Ball Super: Broly."

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