Review: Dragon Ball Super
Dragon Ball Super has just today reached its climactic ending with the unpredictable finale of the trans-universal Tournament of Power. What did the series accomplish within these near-two years and 131 episodes? What were the high points? What were the lows? Did the series base itself on the nostalgia factor alone for its success or did it manage to introduce new elements as well? There are many questions regarding this new chapter in Goku and his friends’ adventure, so let’s go ahead and check it out.
First of all, and just so we can get it out of the way, a common complaint a lot of people seemed to have about Dragon Ball Super, especially its opening episodes, were its horrendous animations. These were so bad that they even made Dragon Ball Z, a series that was animated back in the early 90’s, look much better in comparison. The studio behind DBS (Toei Animation) explained that they were bringing in a lot of fresh faces to the animation industry and they were still getting used the tropes. But that is inexcusable. You cannot treat one of your most important franchises and sources of income in such an unprofessional manner. Eventually, this problem was taken care of and animations reached a proper level, but the damage had already been done. People were constantly complaining on a weekly basis about “re-used animations”, a common trick used by most studios in order to save time and money, especially when delivering episodes on a weekly basis. The fans had turned harsh and unforgiving on DBS.
Yet another recurring theme was the story and poor plot elements. Before DBS officially aired, two movies had been released as a prologue of sorts. The first was titled “Battle Of Gods” and the second “Resurrection F”. When Super began, what it did was re-tell the story of the movies, just in worse animation. So practically there was nothing new plot-wise for 28 entire episodes, or if you prefer, from July 5th 2015 till January 24th 2016! Almost half a year is way too long for a show to get off its feet and if it was any other than Dragon Ball, fans would’ve given up on it a long time ago.
However, there were some great elements to it as well. Personal opinion here, the show’s best run was during the “Goku Black” saga. Not only by bringing back a beloved character in the form of Future Trunks, but also by capitalizing in the questions that Dragon Ball Z’s Cell saga had left unanswered, these episodes revitalized that feeling of anticipation for the next episode. Why was a Goku look-alike attacking the future? Who was Zamasu? How were Goku Black and Zamasu connected? Why did they appear in Trunks’ timeline? There were so many questions popping up every single Sunday that it just made it even harder to wait for the next episode. And that’s what you want from a show. The anticipation and the mystery.
Another great element was the return of some older characters that just didn’t have enough time to shine during Dragon Ball Z’s original air date. Especially Android 17 and Frieza. 17 was a character that barely showed up in DBZ (he had a fight with Piccolo and was then swallowed up by Cell) and Frieza’s just been a generally terrible person. But it was 17’s endurance and strategic thinking and Frieza’s cunning, self-confidence and defiance that ended up winning the Tournament of Power for Universe 7.
Some of the older characters that were at one time or another relevant reappeared in Super as well. The Turtle Hermit was one of them. His display of a different battle style that isn’t based on raw power but rather on techniques that can catch enemies off-guard was interesting, and his (near) sacrifice and speech towards his students Goku and Krillin was very emotional. Some Piccolo and Gohan moments brought back a lot of memories of the Z days as well, but a lot of people have complained that this series didn’t do Gohan justice. He can become stronger and the series’ creators need to find a way to do that.
Of course, Goku and Vegeta got the lion’s share of the cake when it comes to screen time. Goku got his Super Saiyan God and Ultra Instinct, but he felt kinda stale up until the end. And at certain points, even stupid. Like he lives just to fight and eat and that’s it. And the show went out of its way to make that point. He seemed a lot smarter in Z. When it comes to the Saiyan Prince Vegeta, his development felt natural and seemed to pick up from where he left off in DBZ, having acknowledged Goku as his superior in strength but doing everything he can to surpass him. Vegeta seems to soften up as the series progresses and is no longer under turmoil for his feelings regarding his family. During DBZ’s Majin Buu saga, Vegeta had to be persuaded by Goku to fight for them. He hadn’t admitted to himself that he has feelings for his family as he saw it as a point of weakness. Yet now, in Super, Vegeta can be seen getting furious as Future Trunks mentions that Goku Black murdered Future Bulma and even fights way beyond his limits against Jiren during the Tournament of Power, not only for himself or his Saiyan pride, but also for his universe and those he loves. Kudos to the creators for the handling of Vegeta! Truly a complete 180 from the power-hungry, blood-thirsty Saiyan that first landed on Earth.
Dragon Ball Super introduced a lot of new characters. So many, in fact, that at some point, it seemed to not know what to do with them! The 5 warriors and the Gods of Universe 6 were fine, as were Universe 10’s Gowasu and Zamasu for their respective arcs. But with the Tournament of Power, things got a little out of control. Opponents coming out of nowhere, warriors with skills that didn’t seem to make the tiniest bit of sense and a final battle with a monstrous entity that just didn’t understand the meaning of the word “tap out”. And while it is exciting to have new fighters and new challenges introduced to our heroes (it’d be boring if they could just knock them all out with a single punch or just by powering up a little), the fact that we know next to nothing about Hit or Jiren or Ribrianne makes it hard to get invested. Like, okay, they’re fighting for their universe but… who are they? There was too much time spent on unimportant battles (we never got to find out Dr. Rota’s ability!) and not enough for the really important ones. To give more time to the 3 doggies of universe 9 than they did to Cabba for example, is kind of a strange decision. Also there weren’t enough battles between universes other than 7. It seemed like everything was too focused on them.
Regarding the entire multi-universal theme however, I believed that it was handled nicely. It was based on an already existing character (the Supreme Kai) and moved on from there to introduce the God of Destruction and his attendant (Angel). Also, it made sense that there wouldn’t be just one universe in the entire cosmos, but there would be some sort of overseer of all universes. But not for a single second do I believe that Zeno is the one in charge. In fact, the Grand Priest seems to be such a smooth talker that he can manipulate the child-like creature in any way he sees fit. That, along with the fact that Whis said to Goku that the Grand Priest is the 5th strongest of all beings, leaves me to think that we have not seen the last of him.
All in all, I believe it was a very good run, with its ups and downs. I enjoyed the Goku Black saga the most, however the Tournament of Power was a strong second, with warriors like Hit, Jiren, Toppo, Dyspo, Kale, Caulifla, Ribrianne, etc making it for a very interesting watch! I can’t wait for the movie this December which will focus more on the Saiyans, something I believe Dragon Ball could talk more about. And by then hopefully we’ll even have news about the next series too!