Dragon Ball Super – Just Saiyan it’s Good!
*Joe, stop it with these titles seriously.* Anyway, in preparation for the upcoming Dragon Ball Heroes spin-off anime, I’ve elected to review the show that launched Dragon Ball back into the mainstream, after Battle of Gods and Resurrection F already did. Dragon Ball Super is the sequel series to Dragon Ball Z, taking GT’s place as the continuation of the series lore. Super was met with a very mixed reception and as you read through this review, you’ll understand why. My personal thoughts on super are… incredibly middle of the road. But why is that? I hear to asking, well here’s why.
For this section I’m going to provide little paragraphs for each of the individual arcs, since that’s the structure of the show.
- Battle of Gods/Resurrection F arcs – I’m bunching these two together because they both exist for the same purpose. They aim to pad out the previous stories from the movies released before. These are what started of Super, and why it has such a mixed reception. From horrible animation moments, unnessary padding of the story, a generally predictable plotline (because we already know what will happen) and debatable pacing, these arcs were met with much backlash from fans. I’m with these fans in thinking these arcs are bad, but mainly because they’re so unnecessary, they don’t need to exist. I barely made it through the Battle of Gods Arc and skipped the last few episodes of the Resurrection F arc, watching summaries on YouTube. If you’re going to watch Super, watch the two movies these arcs are based on and then skip to episode 28, where the next arc begins. (Favorite Episodes – none)
- Universe 6 arc – Compared to the previous arcs, this is defiantly an upgrade. It flows much better and the animation is improved. This arc introduces new characters, which is always nice, but only a few are really memorable (wait till my character analysis further down to hear my full verdict). There are a lot of cool character moments in this arc, particularly between Vegeta and the new Saiyan Cabba. I also like the SSB (Super Saiyan Blue) mixed with Kaio Ken, it radiates power and looks amazing. The fights were also pretty good, so overall this arc was solid. (Favorite Episode – 36)
- Jelly Vegeta arc – A silly filler arc to usher us into the Goku Black arc, this arc is nothing special and shouldn’t even be mentioned. Not many like it because it’s so pointless, and I tend to agree. However I did personally enjoy the idea of a body mimicking slime and it has one of the funniest Vegeta moments period. (Favorite Episode – none)
- Goku Black arc – So after a collection of generally low stakes arcs, this one comes out with vicious ferocity. This arc was initially believed to be a dumb idea, after all it has ‘Evil Goku’, an idea many fanfics have included, but never a mainstream show. This arc however is believed to be one of the better ones from the show by many, but it’s still flawed. Goku Black is a menacing villain, killing Bulma in his first appearance, DAMN! The arc sees the return of Future Trunks as well, and that’s a definite plus for the arc. The arc is unique, and exceptionally grim, something I enjoyed, but had a few pacing problems. It was also way too long, becoming a chore to sit through, and has perhaps the most frustrating McGuffin ending I’ve seen in an anime so far. Overall it’s a great arc, but does still have some pretty big flaws particular in it’s pacing. (Favorite episode – Episode 61)
- ‘Filler episode arc’ – These are just the bunch of episodes that took place between the Goku Black and Universe Survival arc. They’re just small development episodes with a generally lax nature. Aside from the small collection of episodes titled the Goku Assassination arc, the rest are pretty fun and light hearted. (Favorite Episode – 70)
- Universe Survival arc – The final arc, the thrilling conclusion to the series, and it’s the one I’m most divided on. This arc teased the appearance of a new form for Goku, and this new form is definitely the highlight of the arc, even though nothing else is really that impressive. The arc was so long and padded I skipped a good chunk of it and watched the summaries after to keep up to date, I think I made a good call because this went on for weeks upon weeks. I will give it credit for having some really cool fights, creative foes and some great animation, especially towards the end, but apart from that its sheer length and mishandled characters ultimately left it as an average experience for me until the end. However the Goku vs Jiren fight is one of the best anime fight’s I’ve seen. (Favorite Episodes – 130)
So overall, Dragon Ball Super had some very good ideas put into it, and I will admit that all the arc (except the first two) all have something original and memorable about them. However the execution of these ideas occasionally fell short. That said the parts I did enjoy I enjoyed immensely.
I’m going to bullet point these too, starting with the main cast and then the new character introduced in each arcs.
- Main cast – The main cast is honestly serviceable, but the issue is that about 90% of the cast is pushed to side character status because Goku and Vegeta take up 90% of the actual series. Goku is the same, tenacious and simple guy he’s always been, his love for fighting being both frustrating and endearing. Vegeta is the stronger personality, still remaining the same but having more likable qualities and shows much more heroic determination. The other prominent characters in this show include Bulma (RIP Hiromi Tsuru), who gets some sizable screen time throughout the show and her bubbly yet commanding nature is one that is fun to watch and leads to some great character interactions.
- Battle of Gods – This arc introduces Beerus and Whis into the story, and the two of them do add some new life into the main cast. Beerus himself commands a lot of authority and his flips from serious to childish are a great contrast and a funny addition to his character. Despite, his involvement in the show is more or less to exposit things relevant to the arc and to give encouragement to Goku and Vegeta. However, his interactions with Bulma are some of the best in the series, the way this God of Destruction, is at the mercy of this woman is a fabulous relationship. Whis is easily one of my favorite characters, an omnipotent force with the personality of any typical person is an idea I love with Whis. His campy nature is also hilarious to watch and the way he both works for Beerus and beside him is a great master and pupil relationship. So overall these two area great addition to the main cast, but I wish the other members of the cast cam to the forefront more often.
- Resurrection F arc – The Resurrection arc only reintroduces Frieza into the story. It does introduce new characters like Tagoma and Sorbet, but they’re removed just as quickly as they are introduced. At the very least these two don’t make enough of an impact to be determined worthy of elaboration. Also Jaco the Galactic Patrolman is here, he’s fine despite being a pretentious know-it-all.
- Universe 6 arc – This arc introduces 8 new characters into the story, despite only 3 being particularly memorable. Frost is wasted potential, instead of making a good Frieza, which would have been a great contrast to the despicable emperor, he’s just a more sniveling version with a dishonest nature. Mageta and Botamo are both unique in their designs and abilities, but neither of them have any real personality. Cabba is the biggest waste of potential the series has had yet, with the potential to meet the reformed Saiyans in Universe 6 all but dashed with the series ending. Not to mention Cabba is a bit of a coward and doesn’t show much growth other than fangirling over Vegeta, but who doesn’t? Hit is a really cool character, from his design to his ability to the way he holds himself, he just oozes cool. But once again, while his calm demeanor is captivating, his past is something that could have been explored but ultimately wasn’t. Champa and Vados are just Beerus and Whis with slight changes. Finally Monaka, the supposed being who beat Beerus, he’s just a comic relief character who has only one personality trait, scared. Although his job as a galactic deliveryman is one that is pretty funny. Overall these characters are solid to a degree but lack real staying power in my opinion.
- Goku Black arc – I’ll just say it outright, I love the villains in this arc. Both Goku Black and Zamasu are effective villains and are delightfully sinister. Goku Blacks suave attitude and gluttonous desire to grow stronger is a fierce combination that both parallels and contrasts Goku’s attitude. Zamasu, while he could have had a bit more development, maybe even introduce him in an earlier arc, was still a good secondary antagonist. His condescending nature and god complex really made for a detestable character, but his pathos is one that many believe is a righteous one. The final boss of Merged Zamasu has a great look to him and his now godly power really makes up for his god complex, and he truly feels like an imposing foe. Trunks is also a great character to watch and the introduction of an adult Mai is a nice surprise that actually works. You feel her emotion and pain especially towards the end when she fires at Zamasu in a devastated rage. So overall these characters are probably the best yet, cool designs, great personality and some really memorable scenes.
- Universe Survival arc – *inhales* I don’t like most of the characters in this arc. The only exception to this is Toppo, who is easily one of my favorite. Of all the characters introduced, lets go over the main ones. First, the Saiyan girls. Caulifla is fine, but the fact she was made as a last minute addition to the cast really shows. Her tomboy nature is kinda fun to watch, but her control of Super Saiyan right from the start makes her uninteresting and even her relationship with Kale is one that lacks substance. Kale herself is a timid coward and while her berserk form is cool, it’s there by virtue of being like the popular character Broly, so on her own Kale just doesn’t stand out. However in the Manga, Kale is way more independent and brave, a definite upgrade over the anime. Other characters I can’t remember or don’t care to mention were generally just fodder for the main cast. Speaking of, the Universe 7 team got shafted in this arc, the promise of them having a big impact was just a fantasy. With the exception of Goku, Vegeta, Frieza and Android 17 (who is the real MVP of this tournament), the other members were pointless. Sure they eliminated contestants but there’s no real stand out moments among them, they just do one or two things before being kicked out, it’s a real let down. Then there’s Jiren, who I personally find to be the most boring adversary for Goku since that Tiger monster from the first ever episode of Dragon Ball. His design is weak, his personality is nonexistent until it’s ham-fisted in at the last minute and his origin is more cliché that Batman, Superman and Spider-Man etc. all rolled into one. I would have very much preferred Toppo to take his place as Goku’s main opponent since Toppo contrasts Goku so much more and has real reason to hate him and want to beat him. To end on a positive however, Toppo was a treat, his charismatic nature was both hilarious and enthralling, his design was unique and his God of Destruction power was something to behold for the time it was in the tournament.
So overall, I find Super’s list of characters to be very mismatched. Some new characters are entertaining, while the rest are either cliché, there for marketing only or just not that interesting. I do still like some of them, but I think the newer characters aren’t ear defining like the older ones were.
I talked a lot about characters there so I’ll try to keep this short so as to not make this too long a review.
- Animation – The animation was so mixed that it honestly makes the good stuff seem great and the bad stuff seem horrendous. When the animation isn’t trying, it looks really lame, not faithful to the designs and very cheap. However when the animation is good, it looks stunning, with dynamic movement and fabulous expression. For examples on both these sides of the spectrum watch episodes 4 (bad) and 130 (great). The fight, when done right, were also amazing, fast paced and with explosive action.
- Voice Acting – The voice acting was solid in this. Masako Nozawa had her hands full voicing not only Goku but also Gohan, Goten/Gotenks and Goku Black. Ryo Howikawa as Vegeta is also good and the rest of the voices are solid.
- Music – I must praise the show for it’s music, I liked a lot of the character themes and some of the openings were really good. My favorite themes were Zamasu’s, Goku Black’s and the Ultra Instinct Theme.
- Story: 3/5 – The arcs all suffered from questionable pacing and some story choices were questionable, but each arc did have a collection of unique moments and original premises
- Characters: 3/5 – The character we all know and remember are back and many are represented faithfully, albeit with the majority being forced out of the picture. The newer characters are weak and either lack personality of investment.
- Animation: 3/5 – The animation varied from horrible to excellent. This 3 is for the stunning moment we got, if there weren’t as many noticeable flaws this would have been a 4.
- Voice Acting: 4/5 – The voices are very good in this show, a lot of expression and emotion can be felt in the words and I really must praise Masako Nozawa for her sterling job playing so many characters.
- Music: 4/5 – The character themes were great, many of the opening and ending songs working well with the arcs they were included with.
Final Grade: 3/5 – I really want to love Dragon Ball Super, but the glaring faults just mean I like it. But it’s still enjoyable if those quirks are overlooked and the show is rife with awesome moments. Here’s hoping the Dragon Ball Heroes spin off is just as good.