The animated Dragon Ball Super may have been on hiatus for four years, but the license continues to take center stage thanks to manga and films extending the saga. This is how Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero lands on our screens with the promise of… to… sell toys?
We are going to tell you about a time that those under twenty cannot know. A time when Dragon Ball was indisputably the manga king. A reign of 42 volumes and 444 episodes taking into account the Z distinction. Years of walking the world that caused Toei Animation to raise the dead twice. First without original creator Akira Toriyama with Dragon Ball GT, then with Dragon Ball Super, this time with the guy’s supervision. The fourth film in this new saga, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, reminds us, if necessary, that Toriyama has had no passion for his work for a long time.
A word before going further. Many elements of the film are going to be dissected in this review, but nothing that Toei Animation itself hasn’t shared since the release in Japan. If you managed to shield yourself from these revelations, then stop here.
This fourth feature film places us almost three years after The Tournament of Power which closed (for the moment?) the animated series in 2018. While Goku and Vegeta are training at Beerus in the company of Broly (officially a good guy) , Piccolo takes care of Pan, Gohan’s daughter, while the latter thinks only of work, abandoning his training. It’s time for the Red Ribbon Army to rise from the ashes with the help of Dr. Gero’s grandson. They abduct Pan in order to push Gohan to face their two new cyborgs: Gamma 1 and Gamma 2.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero marks a turning point in the franchise: it is the first film made with 3D CGI animation. A novelty that is perplexing at first and which everyone will then appreciate or not the changes it brings to the level of detail, color, appearance of the characters and the rhythm of the animation. On our side, if this style agrees with the lighter sequences, we will find the fights much less energetic. Speaking of the latter, this Super Hero goes the opposite of its predecessor by reducing the festival of pyrotechnics to return to more classic exchanges of blows.
Choices not so trivial since they participate in this feeling of having the original Dragon Ball again before the eyes, from the time when Goku faced the Red Ribbon for the first time. Just in the design of the antagonists, we find this childish side, a bit ridiculous, as if Super Hero was operating a homecoming. A will personified in the characters of Magenta and Dr. Hedo, whose appearance and facial expressions recall Dr Slump, another work by Toriyama. It is enough to see the rest of the feature film to suppose that it is these original characters, including the surprising and excellent Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, that the author, responsible for the script, cherishes the most.
Dragon Ball Super Consumption
How do you tell the difference between selfless nostalgia and capitalist greed in a feature film based on a popular franchise? The facility that has the latter to remind us that his first goal is to sell derivatives.
If Dragon Ball Super has never shone by the subtlety of its intentions, bringing out former adversaries from the closet (Freezer, Broly) while multiplying the transformations as if the work had to be summed up in hair colors, this Super Hero takes corporate cynicism to a fever pitch.
Because if Super fans will find something to get excited about here, it’s hard to think that someone who grew up with the original work could validate such a disdain for the writing of the story and the characters of their childhood. If the ambition to put Piccolo and Gohan back on the front of the stage was pleasant on paper, in the intention, we just have the impression that we are using our hopes to sell us figurines and too bad if that goes against past events or even logic.
No matter if it is clearly specified in the manga that Gohan Ultimate is NOT a transformation, the old Kaio Shin finding them useless, Super decided that it was one. Never mind if Piccolo swears by training, but one wish from Shenron is enough, in the end, to make him (extremely) stronger. Who cares if Goten and Trunks have a sudden growth spurt with an explanation that doesn’t hold up since we’ve already seen Gohan grow up. What does it matter if we bring out Cell – the only significant adversary in the manga who had not yet had his reappearance – to make him, literally, a Bio Broly without words or interest.
Finally, a word about transformations. No offense to some, Dragon Ball has never been a story of transformation. Every time our heroes leveled up, it was always done within a logical progression so that each level up told something. This had a real impact both in the story, but also in the unconscious of the readers. That’s why there have always been only three Super Saiyan forms, or even 2 if we remember that the third was an editorial request. And if Dragon Ball Super has understood nothing by distributing the transformations like candy, this Super Hero pushes the narrative laziness so far that a “Piccolo Orange” or a “Gohan Beast” very similar to Super Saiyan 2 (against a Cell Max? Coincidence surely…) can see the light of day.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a command product to keep the slot afloat without worrying about bringing consistency and emotion. A film written with only one guideline: to give the fans what they want without bothering with the manner or the slightest originality. We come out of it simply sad to imagine that Akira Toriyama seems to have definitively abandoned his work in the hands of eternal profit by being satisfied with the role of simple executor and marketing tool. Height of vice, the film even allows us to bring out many images from the past, as if to remind us that the present was having fun with his corpse to the applause of the crowd.