Dragon Ball Fan Film ‘Light of Hope’ Is a FAN-tastic Adaptation

Lucas DeRuyter
Movies Anime
Movies Anime

Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope is the first part of a new fan project from the online creative team, Robot Underdog. The fan-made live-action film adapts the wildly popular anime TV special, Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks, and re-imagines the origin story of Future Trunks, bringing to life a staple of ’90s childhood.

Why You Should Watch

Dragon Ball Z Light of Hope
Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia.

Future Trunks has been a fan favorite since his first appearance in Dragon Ball Z when he cut Freeza in half. The original anime TV special, History of Trunks, told the character’s origin story and was one of the darkest and most heart-wrenching stories in the franchise. Light of Hope takes these moments and adds a gritty level of realism to the already harrowing tale.

This fan film stands on more than just the novelty of a live-action Dragon Ball adaptation, however. Light of Hope almost perfectly depicts the characters and relationship between Future Androids 17 and 18. Their borderline apathetic violence and playful dynamic are some of the best moments in the film. It’s also refreshing to see Asian American actors playing Future Gohan and Trunks; especially after the whitewashing of Dragon Ball Evolution and many other live-action anime adaptations.

Practical Constraints

Dragon Ball Z Light of Hope vs History of Trunks
'Light of Hope' definitely has the resources of a fan production.

Even though Robot Underdog is a top-tier creator for the massive YouTube network Machinima, the film clearly shows some rough edges. The CGI is jarring during fight scenes, actors are less than convincing in more dramatic moments, and there are some unusual direction choices.

The main problems with Light of Hope primarily come from the fact that this is an adaptation of one of the most popular animated specials of all time. A piece of animation is never going to translate perfectly into a live-action project without a few hiccups along the way.

It’s easy to overlook these issues, though, as the passion that the creators have for the source material is apparent in every scene. Rather than creating a direct adaptation of History of Trunks, Robot Underdog rightfully attempted to capture the tone and spirit of the special instead. Not to mention how great the fight choreography is when characters aren’t shooting laser beams at each other.

Moments for the Fans

Plenty of small touches for fans to appreciate.

Being a fan film, Light of Hope has quite a few subtle nods, references, and Easter eggs that only longtime viewers of the series will notice and appreciate. One fun reference comes in the form of a medical machine that heals Trunks after his first encounter with the Androids. Fans will know that this is the same device that healed Goku after his encounter with the Ginyu Force.

Another more hidden Easter egg involves the 8-bit version of the Japanese Dragon Ball Z theme playing when Gohan speaks with Future Bulma in her lab.

These moments make the movie a treat to watch and remind fans that the people behind it are just as into DBZ as we are. Sure, Light of Hope has its problems, but it’s pretty respectable as far as anime adaptations go. From the most dramatic moments to the subtlest of winks, the movie succeeds in evoking the emotions DBZ fans felt as kids when we first watched the History of Trunks special.

What to Watch Next?

Plenty of 'DBZ' goodness to satiate your appetite.

If Light of Hope instilled in you a desire to watch more anime-inspired videos, there is a wealth of similar content on Robot Underdog’s YouTube channel. At the very least, fans of this film should keep an eye on their channel for Light of Hope part two. If the film made you crave more Dragon Ball content, Team Four Star has an excellent and extensive abridged version of DBZ that is a delight to watch.

With Dragon Ball being such a monumental franchise that has influenced everyone from rappers to the Arrowverse, it’s only a matter of time before fans can enjoy even more content inspired by this childhood cornerstone.

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Lucas DeRuyter
University of Wisconsin Madison graduate with a deep interest in media, writing, and storytelling.