My personal favorite of all the Dragonball Z movies, and certainly one of the best in the series, “Tree of Might” is bitter-sweet in a way. Sweet, in that the movie is so good, but bitter in that it marks the end of an era for Dragonball Z. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
In “Tree of Might”, the evil space-faring Saiyan trouble-maker, Turles, has brought his gang of thugs to Earth. Their intention is to use the Earth and all its life-force to grow the Tree of Might. The Tree of Might is a colossal shrub which, once full-grown, reaches high up into the stratosphere. The tree bears fruit which concentrates all the life-force and energy of the whole planet. By eating the fruit, one becomes nearly invincible. Well, Goku and his friends aren’t particularly happy about their planet being left a withered husk, and quickly have a showdown with Turles.
“Tree of Might” marks the end of a few eras in the Dragonball Z saga. Firstly, this is the last of the movies dubbed by the phenomenal Ocean Group. This also happens to be some of their best work. Second, this is the last movie before the introduction of the Super Saiyan concept, which much to my dismay, would go on to become 99% of Dragonball Z’s focus. Finally, and this is one of the reasons I like the movie so much, it’s a great “farewell” for the non-Saiyan heroes of the series that we’d come to know ever since the original Dragonball.
After “Tree of Might” (or, if you go by the TV series, the Garlic Jr. saga) all these original supporting characters would be gradually shoved into the background to the point of becoming completely obsolete, or being reduced to painful comic relief, all for the sake of introducing more Super Saiyans.
This movie gives Yamcha, Chao-Tzu, Tien, Piccolo and Krillen one last chance to shine as effective, powerful warriors. Sure, Goku saves the day in the end, but that’s to be expected. Never-the-less, each character gets at least one or two scenes to really show off their clever special moves. Yamcha’s “Power Shot” was always one of my favorites, if only for its visual flare, and we get to see it one last time. True, Piccolo and Krillen do manage to hang on as cast members for most of the Dragonball Z series, but in Krillen’s case, he becomes so weak in comparison to the Saiyans that he is reduced to being nothing more than a joke (“Brolly’s Second Coming” is particularly terrible). Piccolo manages to stick around as a fighter, but nothing particularly effective when compared to the other Saiyans.
It’s also great that all these classic Dragonball characters got to show up in the Ocean Group’s last movie, as it gives us one last chance to hear all the characters’ voices. Yamcha always had a voice that was ten times more badass than the actual character, while Tien wound-up with a humorously stereotypical kung fu movie-voice. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here, I really wish Ocean Group had managed to hang in there through at least movie 6. Brian Drummond’s completely psychotic voice for Vegita was one of the most impressive parts of the Ocean Group’s dub of the TV series, and it’s a crying shame they didn’t make it to any of the movies featuring that character. I’d really liked to have heard loco-Vegita without the embarrassing restraints of television censorship.
As far as the plot goes, it isn’t as inspired as “The World’s Strongest”, but its creative-enough for one to look past the tired “Alien shows up to fight Goku for some reason” story. Regardless, it gave us a chance to see Gohan transform into his freaky giant ape form and wreck Goku’s s***. Toei’s animation for this movie is particularly dark, and Ape-Gohan looks magnificently evil.
Although “The World’s Strongest” is the best movie in the series, “Tree of Might” is my personal favorite as it’s a nice finale to the “classic” days of Dragonball. It gets a B+, as far as Dragonball Z movies are concerned.