Godzilla x Kong is basically a Dragon Ball movie

Dragon Ball’s Goku and the giant radioactive lizard Godzilla have one thing in common: their irrepressible fighting spirit. Both of them have been around for decades, starring in sprawling franchises full of shifting adaptations and overhauls. But in every new incarnation, they’re willing to throw down at the slightest provocation. That means their resumes are filled with takedowns of countless superpowered foes who got a little too big for their britches. The latest Godzilla film, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, takes the comparison one step further, with a plot that feels like a kaiju-sized version of a Dragon Ball story.

The meatiest bit of connective tissue here is in the title: Godzilla and King Kong team up to take down a greater villain, even though neither of them necessarily wants to. This is far from the first time Godzilla has assembled a tag team with a former rival: Mothra, Rodan, and Anguirus are all giant critters that Godzilla initially attempted to beat to death, then later joined forces with.

On the same note, characters like Yamcha, Piccolo, and most famously Vegeta all entered the Dragon Ball mythos seeking Goku’s head, and got trounced in a way that made them decide Goku is actually pretty cool. In the Dragon Ball franchise, if someone gives you enough concussions, you start to respect them.

Image: Toei Animation/Crunchyroll

Did Vegeta ever fully see eye to eye with Goku? No, he’s far too murdery for that. But when it comes time for Godzilla and Kong to take down the Skar King, an ape that makes Kong look cuddly, and Shimo, an ice-breathing reptilian, they know things will be easier if they pal around. And when guys like Frieza, Cell, or Broly threaten Earth, Goku and Vegeta understand what’s at stake. If the world ends, they won’t be able to pound each other to a pulp anymore. Oh, and some people they love might die, maybe. There’s that as well.

Speaking of Skar King, Kong facing a monster that’s basically him, except meaner, is pure Dragon Ball. At the beginning of the Dragon Ball anime sequel, Dragon Ball Z, Goku has to face Raditz, the brother he never knew he had — a guy who looks like Goku, but taller, buffer, and with a more questionable haircut.

It’s satisfying to see Kong finally get another doppelganger — he hasn’t faced one of those since fighting Mechani-Kong in 1967’s King Kong Escapes, while Godzilla has gotten to tackle a Space Godzilla and at least five different incarnations of Mechagodzilla over the same time period. Godzilla has his own matching antagonist in New Empire as well: Shimo’s ice powers seem like a cool counter to Godzilla’s atomic fire. A big villain having lackeys whose attributes perfectly match the good guys’ attributes? That also is very much a Dragon Ball trope — and a feature of many other battle-anime stories.

The New Empire heroes have their requisite anime-style power-ups, too. Godzilla has gotten a pink-infused upgrade of sorts, while Kong, along with his cool ax, sports a robot hand. This, in battle-anime logic, obviously makes him punch way harder. Those kinds of power-ups are a big part of Dragon Ball Z as well: “Going Super Saiyan” has entered the wider cultural lexicon, and it typically involves a change in hair color, a widening of the biceps, and an increase in power. The series Dragon Ball Super even introduced a “Super Saiyan Rose” form with pink hair. Is the new Godzilla coloration a direct reference? We can hope.

Godzilla, now with pink spikes on his back, roars as King Kong, now with a robot hand, roars up behind him as they stand in a cavern together in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Finally, New Empire reveals a whole race of Kongs in the Hollow Earth, a monster-filled dimension at the center of the world. Seemingly unique heroes discovering that they aren’t alone is a staple of the Dragon Ball franchise, too. Goku spends all of the original Dragon Ball anime thinking he’s the only hero with a monkey tail and a penchant for fisticuffs. Then, at the beginning of the Dragon Ball Z series, he finds out he isn’t the final Saiyan in the universe when Raditz and Vegeta arrive on Earth to tear the place apart. Goku doesn’t take kindly to this. Neither does Kong, when he learns that Skar King is a jerk.

And in Dragon Ball Z’s next story arc, Piccolo travels to the Planet Namek and meets other Namekians like himself. Only time will tell whether we’re going to get that kind of plot in a Godzilla movie eventually — but fingers crossed that if Godzilla encounters another member of his species in the MonsterVerse, they make him a doughy little pipsqueak again. After all, Kong gets his own little ape buddy in The New Empire, and Goku’s best friend was Krillin, a guy who only comes up to Goku’s waist. Everybody needs a tiny friend to cheer them on.

Though both Goku and Godzilla have had plenty of human supporters over the decades, humanity in the Godzilla movies isn’t as thrilled as Goku’s pals when Godzilla begins to reach his glowing “final form.” And though Kong has been beaten down only to rise up again, he’s yet to go through the kind of lengthy training arc that makes up most of Goku’s schedule. But still, the spot in the middle of the Venn diagram between the two worlds is crammed full. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is far removed from Godzilla’s nuclear nightmare beginnings, but it’s perfect for fans of kaiju throwdowns and the enlightened folk who believe that Toonami is the pinnacle of humankind.

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