Perhaps I should have waited to do this review until after I became more familiar with the Dragon Ball Z universe. Coming into Bardock: Father of Goku with only a vague familiarity with the characters, I had a difficult time caring about what happened to them or their planet. I blame that on the story, however, which makes little effort introduce these characters to new viewers. Where History of Trunks was accessible, entertaining, and actually increased my curiosity in Dragon Ball Z, Bardock: Father of Goku was downright painful at times to watch.
The title character, Bardock is a low-class Saiyan soldier, seems to care nothing about his son, Kakarot. His son will one day be known as Goku and this movie describes how that happens. Bardock and his crew are resting after a long day of committing genocide on planet, Kanassa, when he's approached by a surviving Kanassan. The Kanassan attacks Bardock gifting Bardock with the ability to see the future.
As a result, Bardock sees the coming destruction of his home planet: Vegeta. After initially refusing to believe that his premonitions would come to pass, he eventually sees the light. It's a race against time as Bardock makes his way back to Vegeta to make a final stand against Freeza who is bent on annihilating the planet. Before partaking in the battle of Vegeta, Bardock hastily sends his baby son Kakarot to Earth with a mission to someday avenge the Saiyans and kill Freeza.
Bardock: Father of Goku is only 48 minutes in length, but as Albert Einstein pointed out, time is relative; this show is a very long 48 minutes. Bardock: Father of Goku is very corny. Some anime shows embrace their corniness and, as a result, can come across as charming. This television special, however, takes itself a too seriously to pull that stunt off. It's the kind of corny that makes you cringe, groan, and beg for it to stop. Despite numerous action sequences, this show commits an unforgiveable sin by being just plain boring.
Goku's origin story, as presented in this movie, is very derivative of Superman's to say the least. Both of their home planets are destroyed, both have fathers that launch them to Earth right before the destruction, and both are found in a field and subsequently adopted. I have no issue with stories paying homage or even borrowing basic ideas. However, Bardock: Father of Goku shamelessly lifts Superman's Kryptonian origin story and brings few original ideas to the table. Baby Goku does have a tail, so I guess there's that.
Sound: I am a dub fan and, as a rule of thumb, prefer them to subtitles. Bardock: Father of Goku is a rare exception. The dub is horrendous. It literally took one scene before I cried, "Mercy!" and switched to the technically inferior mono Japanese track. The DVD case makes special note that the English voice track contains the original Japanese music, which leads me to believe that the producers replaced it with something more "American" in a previous release. I can only imagine the disaster that ensued. The DVD case claims that the English track features 5.1 surround sound, but my Yamaha receiver begged to differ and played the English track in 2.0. The Japanese mono track sounds muddled and lacks clarity. But what it lacks in quality it makes up in content. Trust me on this, pick the subtitles.
Video: This television special first aired in 1990. Considering the age of the source film, the remastered image looks impressive. The colors are vibrant and the picture is about as clear as possible. There is a lot of film grain that is especially noticeable against shades of blue throughout the cartoon and the video is shaky in parts. The video is displayed in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen although this was accomplished by cropping the original 4:3 full-frame master.
Extras: Some trailers for other shows.
Final Thoughts: I feel like I am missing something here because Bardock: Father of Goku was terrible and I don't get it. I also fail to see how knowing the characters will change that opinion. If the story did not borrow heavily from Superman, I may have rated it slightly higher. On the plus side, this show looks fantastic for an anime that is 20 years old and was made for television. The Dragon Ball Z faithful will likely disagree, but this movie is boring, unoriginal, and forgettable. Skip It.