Reviewed by Justin D Williams
This series is an adaptation of “The History of Trunks” TV Special. In this timeline, Goku & the other Z Warriors are dead. This is the story of Gohan & Trunks in their battle to survive against the Androids. Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope is a non-profit, live-action Dragon Ball Z web series. It’s made by fans, & is not affiliated with or endorsed by the official license holders.
Anytime there is a live action adaption of an anime/manga property usually fans are on high alert. To be honest there really hasn’t been any home run live-action anime adaptation. There has been various adaption that has been abysmal Dragonball Evolution, Kite, Fist of the North Star just to name a few. There have been some decent ones such as Ouran Highschool Host Club, Rurouni Kenshin, Pat Labor. Robot Under Dog attempts to break the mode with their fan-made film Dragonball Z: Light of Hope. This fan-made film is based on the side story film The History of Trunks which takes place in Future Trunks timeline.
One thing that a lot of anime adaptions get wrong is story, characters and lacks the heart and love to give an accurate depiction of live action film. Dragonball Z: Light of Hope I’ am happy to report has stayed true the Future Trunks timeline. Previous the pilot introduce the beginning of the arc; introducing key characters such as Gohan, Trunks, Bulma and the Androids. This next installment finishes the arc in an enjoyable fashion. The director, actors, screenwriter, cast, and crew all put their heart into this film to give us the most accurate live-action adaption in DBZ yet. One thing I really enjoyed about this story is the emotional weight it carries. Future Trunks saga is probably the most character developed, emotional and dark entries in the DBZ lore and I felt that Dragonball Z: The Light of Hope really capture that. We get to see how the Androids not only impacted Gohan, Trunks and Bulma but we get to see everyday civilians as well. Credit to extras for using the right emotion and facial expressions of sadness, fear, and depression to really convey the tone of the film. DBZ Light of Hope nails the story while exploring other aspects that weren't greatly explored in the Future Trunks timeline such as, finding a cure for Goku, Bulma trial, and error to build the time machine and more emotional depth to Gohan, Bulma and Trunks.
The acting was pretty good and I had no real complaints. Standout performances will definitely go to Gohan played by Kenny Leu, The Androids 17 and 18 played by Tyler Tackett and Amy Johnston, and Bulma played by Ruthann Thompson. The best scene that really hits home is the chemistry between Gohan and Bulma when Trunks is recovering from an encounter from the Androids. This is my favorite scene as it had the sense of dread, hopeless and the stakes rise with one man or kid out of commission. Bulma really lets Gohan have it and the chemistry between Thompson and Leu really hit the mark for me. However, The Androids performances were also very entertaining. They gave a vicious, cold but also charismatic which resembles there anime counterparts. Overall the actors did a fine job of bringing the Z Warriors to life.
The story is solid and true to the source material. The actors do a good job of bringing these characters to life. However, how does this film look and how was the directing? The answer to that question is damn good. It is amazing what you can do with a small budget but have a million dollars worth of passion. Directed and Produced by Donnie McMillin & Rita McMillin with Action Director by Lohan Buson and Fight Choreography by Lohan Buson, Fabien Garcia made this DBZ entry put the big-budget Dragonball Evolution to shame. If you don't think DBZ can be done right then I will refer you to Light of Hope. Yes, there are scenes that you can tell are shot via blue or green screen but the film still looks beautiful. Some of my favorite shots are the establishing shots with the Androids. The use of color in the background gives a dark and grim vibe which really matches the tone of the story. Finally, since this is DBZ I have to say the action really did well in the final act. The first few fights were appetizers for the big finale and they went full DBZ here. The close-up shots of the fights, use of color for powering up and the visual effects all did well for the budget. I won't spoil the end for those who never seen The History of Trunks but all the emotional weight paid off for the final battle and it looks great.
Overall DBZ: Light of Hope is a live action DBZ film for fans made by fans. The film might not have the biggest budget, or the millions of dollars going into the effects. However, it has something that most live action anime adaptation are missing and that is heart, knowledge of the source material and respect for its fanbase.
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