Sand Land Movie

Sand Land Film

Finally, some 23 years after its initial release, Toriyama’s well-liked one-shot is presented on a large screen. Since I hadn’t visited the one shot since it was published in Shonen Jump more than ten years ago, I approached the premiere completely uninformed. However, I had very high hopes because I was seated next to a boisterous Friday San Diego Comic-Con crowd. It’s evident that the film aims to establish the beginning of a new, lucrative series when combined with the news of the Sand Land video game.

I was interested to see how the graphical style will alter in a theatrical film after seeing the assets for the next video game. As the convention attendees were the first in the globe to view the film—even before Japan—I was also interested to see how fans, particularly those who were interested in Dragon Ball, would respond. Fortunately, I joined in their joy as the movie wasted no time in introducing the audience to the main characters and the Sand Land setting in the first ten minutes. Director Yokoshima skillfully utilizes the short ninety minutes to combine character development and story growth in his first theatrical production.

Having seen Toriyama’s other series for years, I’ve learned to lower my expectations for a plot with a lot on the line. Nevertheless, Beelzebub, Rao, and Thief’s friendship makes up for the lack of story urgency. An unusual trio—two demons, a war-weary sheriff—but their exchanges of barbs show how their relationship develops. Additionally, as the film progresses, the general mistrust that exists between humans and demons in their interactions deepens. Yokoshima never strays from her unwavering concentration on the characters—both large and small—who are the most important component of the original material. Additionally, he enjoys putting Toriyama’s sense of humor on film, which shows that he respects and comprehends the author’s original intent.

Without a doubt, the movie’s best aspect is the script. Despite discussing the effects of war, global warming, and corporate greed, the narrative never talks down to the audience or overcomplicates its message. Mutsumi Tamura’s amusing portrayal of Beelzebub and Cho’s sharp voice as Thief, directed by Yokoshima, strike the ideal balance between the feisty protagonist and devoted retainer. As Sheriff Rao, Kazuhiro Yamaji’s rugged voice is a perfect fit; his nuanced persona comes through in his smoothed-out vocal chords. Together, their dialogue provides further clues about the historical tension and personal reasons of the plot without resorting to excessive exposition.

It astonished me when, at one point, Rao rather than Beelzebub becomes the focal point for all the loose ends. It’s not often that the deuteragonist shines as brilliantly as Rao in a novel where the main character takes a backseat. He is the sole character who completes the cycle of recovery from his trauma and experiences full development. With their comic delivery, even small characters like the Swimmers become crowd favorites. The fact that Tomokazu Sugita is the voice of the Swimmers’ Papa emphasizes this even more.

Additionally, Mad Max: Fury Road is brought to mind by the synths and guitar riffs that play against the backdrop of the desert wasteland. Yūgo Kanno’s keen sense of powerful leitmotifs demands that the audience recognize the seriousness of the trios’ quest—an exhilarating yet crucial search for a water source. He changes and amplifies the drama of scenes that are extremely lively with his composition. The soundtrack also highlights some of the action scenes’ flaws. There aren’t any long fight sequences, but I was hoping for Beelzebub to do more than just deliver a single punch or kick.

Outside of the mechanical movements of the iconic tank, there weren’t many opportunities for Kamikaze Douga’s fluid animation to stand out. To be honest, the film dragged on too long showcasing the actors’ spinning camera angles throughout pointless dialogue. The one-take 360-degree sequence featuring the major actors simply conversing with one another felt more engaging than the crucial confrontation scenario involving Rao and his former commander.

Sand Land ends with a hopeful perspective after a masterfully crafted, thrilling hunt for water. Even after the credits roll, the characters of the story keep working toward a better future, strengthening their strong friendship in the process. The final, quick scene, “That’s all Folks,” closes the circle on the pent-up energy from the final, raucous fight scene in the third act. The plot’s straightforward black-and-white morality leaves no opportunity for more in-depth character development, but the desert’s vastness makes more stories possible.

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