A Super Review! A Beloved Series Reborn!?

Growing up with the Funimation dub of Dragonball Z on Cartoon Network, I had always wanted to see the series continue past the end of Z. Having watched both Dragonball: Battle of Gods and Dragonball: Resurrection F in movie theaters, I got what I wanted but I wanted more. Rumors were circulating about Dragonball’s return to television in the form of a new series, so I checked religiously for such news until Dragonball Super was finally announced.

Even though it may have been off to a rocky start with questionable animation and two story arcs that just covered the recent films, I would make it a Sunday tradition to watch the subtitled version shortly after each episode aired in Japan. This was before official subs were made available through Crunchyroll and not exactly legal, but I couldn’t wait for the dubbed version to arrive. Now that the series is over, for now at least, I’d like to reflect on what I loved and hated about the show.

This article may contain spoilers, so please proceed with caution!

Animation varies from episode to episode with a huge variety of artists working on the show at any given time. In addition, the demanding schedule led to a lot of rushed and reused frames. To be fair, Dragonball Super is not alone in such issues but I would have preferred something much more consistent. It’s certainly hard to miss abysmal frames like this:

That said, there are some incredible moments to be found throughout the series. An example comes in the fight between Corrupted Zamasu and Vegito. Though it is rather short, it is one of my favorite fights in Super.

Eye-catching and adrenaline-pumping with a good use of lighting to emphasize the impact of these two powers clashing, I end up re-watching specifically this scene from time to time. I just honestly wish that they would have broken Super up into seasons and had a more sustainable schedule so that the animation was more consistent overall.

The Dragonball series may really be the Goku show, but Super’s greatest strength is the development on some key side characters and introductions to some lovable and interesting new ones. Vegeta and his family are given way more time in the spotlight and are developed through slice of life filler episodes that are charming and fun in their own right as well as the more serious moments. Vegeta himself, however, sees the most development out of any other character and I think it’s great that he’s not as obsessed with defeating Goku.

Beerus and Whis are welcome additions to the cast, but I worry that they are being played out very quickly with how much they are relied on to fix problem situations. I love them when they are in the background, enjoying Earth’s food and interacting with the cast. I don’t love when they’re abused to settle plot threads like “will Goku resurrect Frieza as promised” in the Universe Survival arc. Spoiler: Whis resurrects him out of nowhere with the power of his staff.

That’s another thing that bugs me: Frieza won’t stay dead. He’s just not an interesting character to me, just an egotistical prick trying to take over the universe. Even less interesting is his obsession with getting revenge on Goku when Goku didn’t even deliver the final blow that took him out way back in Z in the first place. Though it may be an interesting twist to some, seeing the Z-Fighters and Frieza work together in the Universe Survival arc felt wrong after all he had done, and I was rooting more often for someone to throw him out.

Goku is written way more like a complete airhead who literally only thinks about fighting and training in Super, and it really grates on my nerves just how much more unlikable he is here than in Z. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of him in Z either and was always more interested in the supporting cast. So the fact that he’s even more annoying in this series is not great for me. That being said, at least he doesn’t always get the win on his own!

Perhaps the most infuriating thing, however, is the inconsistency in Gohan’s development. He is useless against Beerus and Frieza, promising to train more to be more capable of protecting his loved ones both times and then again after hearing about Trunks’ future. We even get a tease that he had actually been training with Piccolo when he arrives winded to say farewell to Trunks. However, it’s not until the Universe Survival arc that he is relevant again and the way he regains his power is just rushed bullshit. They tease that he’s trying to obtain a new form, but the tease goes nowhere. Gohan is just so darn inconsistent and disappointing, I wish they would handle him better.

Some honorable mentions on good character shit: Krillin and Master Roshi both have great character development and are made relevant in great ways in the Universe Survival arc, especially Master Roshi. What a badass! Trunks interacting with his future self really added some emotional weight to some scenes and, in general, is a lot more useful than Goten.

There’s a lot of interesting characters in other universes that I hope they explore if Super continues, but we’ll have to wait and see what they’re going to do with them if anything.

Growing up with Bruce Falconer’s soundtrack in Z, it’s a bit of an adjustment to go from the rock soundtrack to something a little more subdued. After watching the whole series, however, I find myself preferring a soundtrack like this to the guitar spam of Z. A number of tracks stand out from the Goku Black theme to the Limit Break x Survivor opening from the Universe Survival arc (which has become my favorite Dragonball opening of all time).

A little too choir heavy on the various god themes I feel, though.

Supposedly, Super takes place in the ten year time skip between the death of Kid Buu and the tournament where Goku meets his reincarnation for the first time. However, I have to question how they are going to handle that considering several characters have obtained new power and have interacted with other universes. How do you just go back to peace on Earth with Goku settling down to become Uub’s sensei after all that’s happened? This is not something that is answered at the end of the current run of the show.

Many of the scenarios presented in the show feel more like fan service than great storytelling. There’s some cool ideas, but rarely are they executed well. In particular, the mystery of Goku Black stood out for me with it building over the course of several weeks but the actual explanation was a huge turnoff. Couple that with the convoluted time travel mechanics and you get a serious disappointment.

The tone is all over the place as well, with hilarious slice of life and dumb Goku moments outnumbering the serious moments. Picture a scene where Future Trunks is trying to revive his love interest, Future Mai, and the intense emotion is undercut with a moment where Goku just blurts out his confusion about why you’d put your mouth on a girl’s mouth. It just doesn’t work, but then maybe Dragonball isn’t meant to be serious? I’ve heard mixed takes on this, so I honestly don’t know.

Perhaps the longest and most interesting story in Super is the Universe Survival arc, a Multiversal Tournament in which the losing universes are instantly erased until one remains with the Super Dragonballs as the prize. The Tournament is a battle royale setup featuring 8 universes with 10 fighters each, giving opportunity to see some crazy stuff but it never pays off. You really only see the fights involving our Z-Fighters’ universe while many fighters are knocked out off-screen.

Outside of some great character moments with Master Roshi, who pushes himself to near-death in sacrifice for his younger companions, many of the fights are one-punch wonders and don’t really stand out. More obvious are the disappointments such as Tien being reduced to Yamcha-level and Piccolo, a seasoned Tournament veteran, losing pathetically to an easy trick to figure out. Then you have Android 17 coming out of nowhere with all this bullshit power and eventually becoming the most important character in the arc.

Worse yet is the incredibly bland antagonist, Jiren of Universe 11. Void of any emotion or any meaningful backstory beyond “bad guy kill family, so I learn not to need anyone and only care about getting stronger”, this is the worst antagonist in Dragonball history. He is also the most bullshit character in terms of power, supposedly stronger than a God of Destruction but we never actually see his “full power”.

Fast forward to the stakes didn’t actually matter because the Omni Kings intended for the Super Dragonballs to be used to revive the universes. This made me feel like the entire arc was a waste of time, but then again the Dragonballs were always used to undo any consequences so I shouldn’t be surprised. The most exciting thing about this story is that it makes the Dragonball world much larger, with eleven other universes to explore. Only time will tell if we do get to explore them more in the future iterations of the series, though.

The cliffhanger ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered such as how Super will connect to the end of Z? Will Goku and Beerus have their long-teased rematch? What becomes of the universes after they’ve been revived? What will happen now that Frieza has been fully resurrected and has reassembled his Frieza Force? Will Goku learn how to control Ultra Instinct outside of desperate situations? So many questions, and so few answers. If they don’t continue the series outside of the Super movie coming up this December, I’m probably going to be pissed.

Although the writing isn’t the greatest and the story isn’t executed well, it’s still a lot of fun to watch if you are a Dragonball fan like me.

Voice Acting
Super was my first exposure to the Japanese cast, having only seen the show dubbed in English previously. The hardest voices to get used to were Goku’s and Gohan’s, both voiced by Nozawa. Talented as she may be, it was jarring to listen to a more feminine voice for the pair. Her sinister portrayal of Goku Black would be what ultimately warmed me up to her, and I personally prefer Nozawa’s Black to Schemmel’s at the end of the day. Personal preferences aside, the cast is wonderful and puts a lot of passion into their performances.

A particular favorite is Shinichiro Miki’s portrayal of Zamasu and this spine-tingling moment where I felt like I could feel his rage coming through!

Although I ended up warming up to James Marster’s portrayal of Zamasu in the english dub, I definitely prefer Miki’s take and can understand why others may prefer subbed over dubbed. Rest in peace, Hiromi Tsuru, the voice of Bulma. 🙁

Final Thoughts
As a continuation to the story, Super is a mixed bag that I feel can only appeal to people who already Dragonball fans. There’s a lot of fan service here that would be lost on someone who’s never seen the show, so it’s hard to recommend.

If you’re a fan and can deal with inconsistent animation, childish/dumb Goku and often poor storytelling, then I recommend it. Otherwise, just stick to reruns of Z or Kai, whichever you prefer.

Posted by Pedigree

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