Dragon Ball Super, the return of Dragon Ball to the small screen after the end of Dragon Ball GT which aired it’s final episode in Japan towards the end of 1997. A series that was long thought to be completely over outside of a few T.V. specials and short films, was receiving an entirely new series filled with completely new content and story arcs (sort of). Needless to say the Dragon Ball community was extremely excited to hear the news, including myself being a hardcore fan of the series. This is a review of the initial arc of Dragon Ball Super named the Battle of Gods arc.
The first fifteen episodes of Super revolve mostly around the meeting of Goku and sort of new character Beerus, the God of Destruction. I say sort of new because most people would be aware of the 2013 feature film titled Battle of Gods where Beerus and his attendant Whis were introduced. This first arc of Super is basically an extended retelling of the movie, but also goes a bit further to fill in the unexplored gaps between the defeat of Majin Buu in Dragon Ball Z and Beerus’ arrival while changing up some minor details such as Bulma’s birthday party being on a ship instead of at their house.
To be honest, all the retelling is a little disappointing as most of the fandom was hungry for brand new content. Personally the episodes featuring all new material are among my favourites of the series by far but not just for delivering on that fresh content promise. These ‘in between’ episodes place a large emphasis on character interaction and comedy, and while Dragon Ball Z is best known for its action, the character based humour is far from misplaced here. The Dragon Ball franchise has some of the most iconic and fun characters in any anime series with each bringing something unique to the table. It’s a joy to see these characters come back to life and be utilised in such a fun and interesting way that is also true to how they were depicted in past material. Goku is still care free to a laughable degree, Vegeta still wants to be the best and will even set aside his pride to do so, Gohan is living his (mother’s) dream of being a scholar and Goten and Trunks are always up for some hi-jinx.
One of my favourite thing about Super is the great job it does of expanding the world of Dragon Ball while only minimally contradicting with past series canon (surely Vegeta can handle more than 150G gravity without that much trouble at his current power level). Don’t forget, that all of Super’s events take place before the end of Dragon Ball Z where Goku fights Uub at the martial arts tournament. We get some new characters, new transformations, new techniques and even new details about the Dragon Ball world, some of which will hopefully be further explained in future arcs. There are also some smaller previously off screen detailed explained such as Gohan and Videl getting married and Satan giving Goku the world peace prize so he can go train and doesn’t have to work, much to his relief. All of these are welcome additions to an established universe, expand on character development, further the scope of the world and the story and most importantly, give old fans a reason to get excited again as they can once again speculate on what will happen next.
Where Super feels a little off is in it’s pacing, particularly noticeable in a select few episodes where content from Battle of Gods has been extended to basically fill an entire episode. One example is a scene from Battle of Gods that has Beerus and Oolong play off in a game of rock, paper, scissors. While this scene was omitted in the theatrical cut of Battle of Gods, in Super the scene lasts for half an episode. The fight between Goku and Beerus is also extended to last over several episodes and while most of the action is fun and exciting to watch, there is only so many times you can tolerate Goku using the Kamehameha wave or seeing the exact same animation recycled. The Battle of Gods movie did a fine job of telling this tale and most of these additions would have been better left on the cutting room floor for a more streamlined viewing experience.
Of course it wouldn’t be Dragon Ball without the fights. Those expecting as much action as Dragon Ball Z will be a little dissapointed here as if you compare the first 15 episodes of Super to it’s Z counterpart there is noticeably less fighting involved here. What fighting is here though is fast and furious and mostly well choreographed with a few exceptions, showcasing power levels never seen in the series before and some cool new techniques especially from Beerus which he never used in Battle of Gods.
Speaking of animation this season was a mixed bag which is disappointing considering how new this anime is compared to the last time a Dragon Ball series was in full production. While on average across the season I would say the animation was ‘good’, there were definitely some noticeable highs and unfortunately some very noticeable lows, with episode 5 now infamous for the very poor quality of the drawings and animation used during the first Goku and Beerus fight. That being said I think we got some good ‘evening out’ later in the series with some very well animated fight choreography between Goku and Beerus when they clash again.
The soundtrack has also been dividing the audiences but I have personally enjoyed it and think it has been put to good use. From the remix of Cha La Head Cha La that is used during the opening recap, to the new intro and outro songs and the background music, everything fits in well and flows with the action on screen to give an emotional impact. The voice acting (which is of course in Japanese as surprisingly a dub has still yet to be announced) all sounds like it has been on point to me as have the series sound effects despite a few changes here and there to some of the classic sounds from the Z series.
Overall Dragon Ball Super has been a good start to the series but there is heaps of room for improvement both in production quality and pacing. Does it live up to the nearly impossible level of hype a canon sequel to Dragon Ball Z could ever hope to reach? Not really, but damn is it a joy to see the likes of Goku, Vegeta, Krillin and even Mr. Satan on our screens again getting up to all kind of crazy antics (who doesn’t love Vegeta taking his family to the amusement part?). The first arc of Dragon Ball Super really sets the stage for the rest of the series to truly be something special and I believe it can deliver on that to create a series that will be just as memorable as it’s predecessor.