Dragon Ball Super – Future Trunks Arc (Episodes 47 – 67)
Studio: Toei Animation
Produced: Fuji Tv, Toei Animation, Yomiko Advertising Inc.
Release Date: June 12th, 2016 – November 20th, 2016
The Future Trunks arc of Dragon Ball Super seemed to come and go in a flash. From the very minute the above poster image leaked in a low quality scan from Jump magazine, the hype was instant. Fan favourite Future Trunks was returning with a new hair colour and he was bringing an adult Mai along with him. Not only that, but we had an evil looking Goku dressed in black wearing a potara earring. Needless to say back then the internet was abuzz with speculation, just as it was abuzz with criticism when it ended. Now that the Future Trunks arc is officially over and I’ve been able to re-watch it legally thanks to the recent deals with online streaming websites, I can finally pass judgement on this arc just like Zamasu passing down judgement on all mortals. Please note, I felt it was near impossible to discuss this arc properly without going into major spoilers so this will be a spoiler heavy review.
The short stringer shown at the very end of episode 46 (which was part of the completely forgettable Potaufeu mini arc) instantly set the tone for the Future Trunks arc. The future is in disarray despite Trunks bringing peace to it with the defeat of Cell and the Androids. A new threat is upon him and once again, it seems like he is powerless to stop it as his city is destroyed, his clothes are torn and he seems to be exhausted from running. This whole arc carries a much darker tone than Super has been known for and that is just what Super needed at the time after the lightheartedness of the Universe 6 arc and the movie adaptations.
It isn’t too long until we get our first look at Black and what a villain he is. Just look at this guy! From his design to his personality and Masoka Nozawa’s incredibly sinister yet calm and controlling performance, Goku Black was a pleasure to have on screen at all times. An Evil Goku could have been done in such a cliche way but I really like how it was done here. Black gave us great dialogue, fun character development, surprising actions and a mysterious origin which kept everyone intrigued for the first half of the arc and was really fun to slowly uncover. Goku Black is now in my top 3 villains of the franchise (Cell and King Piccolo being the other two if you were wondering).
However we also have another villain here who is somehow not as interesting despite having the same soul as Goku Black, Zamasu. I really enjoyed Zamasu’s gradual descent into villainy as he starts to indulge his own ideas of the human race. Unfortunately as this hatred develops he becomes a lot more one dimensional, almost to the point where he seems like a Woody doll with 5 pre-programmed phrases. Having a villain with this sort of motivation is different for Dragon Ball, even if the idea has been adapted in countless other works beforehand, but I feel it still worked here even with the dialogue issues. This does lead to an amazing payoff though when Vegito calls him out for crying over his ideals. Overall Zamasu will be remembered but Black is the star here.
Being negative is always easier so I’ll start with my three big problems with this arc. Seeing Trunks achieve Super Saiyan 2 (and a very powerful one at that) was amazing, as was seeing the flashbacks to how he defeated Dabura and Babidi. People have wondered how that would have played out in the series for a long time and to see that answered was awesome in a similar vein as to Goku explaining why it’s been so long since he used the Kaioken in the Universe 6 arc. Likewise seeing Trunks perform the Masenko, Galick Gun and Final Flash in tributes to his mentor Gohan and Vegeta were all fantastic, believable moments.
Now seeing Trunks achieve a new form that never even got a name let alone an explanation, learn the Mafuba in a matter of minutes from a video and then use a Spirit Bomb Sword to destroy the fused Zamasu in what is the biggest out of nowhere moment in the entire franchise (yes, I would argue even including the movies) is a little less great. Transformations and techniques are almost always earned in this series and to see Trunks just be handed everything to keep him relevant was a huge problem in this arc, especially as the last mentioned technique is responsible for defeating the main villain. On a similar note, if you’re a power level fan have fun with all the headaches this arc brings. At this point you just have to accept that the strongest warriors are whoever the story needs it to be at any particular point.
My second main issue is pacing, particularly the rushed ending. The arc lasts 20 episodes and the climax is squeezed almost entirely into one episode. Fused Zamasu is only around for two episodes. Vegito lacks any real impact to his entry and is on screen for just over 8 minutes. Trunks final assault happens in that very same episode within the last 5 minutes and does in the villain with ease. In comparison there are a few episodes that could almost be cut entirely with little consequence, especially anything involving the Mafuba/Evil Containment Wave which amounted to nothing outside of a few laughs from Piccolo’s make shift YouTube tutorial video.
My final issue is how this arc insists on making changes to established lore from the past instead of building upon it. This not only leads to a lot of confusion between viewers but also somewhat cheapens Super as a legitimate follow up to Z. The first major one is Trunks hair which is of course strictly a design choice but one that is questionable. This especially looks ridiculous in flashbacks where his old hair colour is shown, forcing Toei to use filters to hide that fact in most episodes or straight up reanimate scenes we have already seen just to give Trunks blue hair at that point in time as if he has always had it. The big potara retcon that limits the fusion to one hour unless a Supreme Kai is involved is likely to annoy some fans, but as it doesn’t raise any inconsistencies outside of the fandom’s own ideology so I have to give it a pass. I will say on a personal note I’m not a fan of the idea as them being permanent left them with such a major consequence that unfortunately no longer exist.
Goku’s character is called into question a few times throughout the arc as well. He is fine most of the time but there are some moments where he just seems to turn into a completely brainless child, doing random things like crawling over the time machine in wonder, forgetting the very important senzu beans in the bathroom or just annoying Beerus with a bunch of pointless questions. Considering this is set after the Buu arc and we have seen a much more mature Goku it is weird to see him revert so irrationally and the writers were clearly struggling to find ways to show Goku’s silly and innocent side in the right fashion. At least most of these moments resulted in a good laugh, this arc had some surprisingly good humour considering the darker tone.
The largest change I strongly disagree with is the changed concept of time travel. Time travel is never simple to explain in any work of fiction but I feel like the Cell arc actually did a really good job of it, treating each timeline more like an alternate world and establishing clear rules such as no matter what you do in the past it won’t affect the future you come from but coming back can alter the future of the world you visit. Dragon Ball Super decides to break this rule, introducing (from my understanding of the official material) a time-loop that happens when Beerus destroys Zamasu. This later leads to a lot of hard to understand over-explanation that is still difficult to follow and even forced Toei to release an info-graphic explaining how everything works. I am honestly still confused by the concept of two Zamasu existing from one timeline.
You probably think I really hated this arc now but truth be told I still thoroughly enjoyed despite my criticisms. Trunks coming back opened up a lot of doors for interesting character interactions and they delivered on a lot of them including him re-meeting Android 18 and the new fatherhood Gohan. The arc delivered big time on nostalgia as well. We got Trunks himself, Cell’s time machine, Vegito, the Mafuba, Trunk’s use of attacks, the father son Galick Gun, Mai, Yajirobe and I’m sure I’m missing some more. These were all awesome call backs that really paid off for hardcore fans of the series and I couldn’t help but smile each time a reference to a past event or character was made.
This arc also took us further into expanding the God hierarchy of Dragon Ball. We learned that Whis and Vados are both angels assigned to their own God of Destruction and above them sits a Grand Priest who happens to be their father. The link between the Supreme Kai of each Universe and each God of Destruction was established and played a relevant role in the arc. Finally, we got to travel to the home of Zen-Oh, the King of All, who is always fun to see in short bursts as he could do anything at any moment due to his power, plus seeing all the other gods freak out is awesome. These are all fantastic additions to the already expansive Dragon World and more, non-contradictory material is always welcome in my eyes.
The Future Trunks arc delivered some great new techniques (Black’s exploding sword technique would have to be my favourite), fantastically intense fights and a lot of the good types of ‘what the’ moments. Things like Goku Black becoming Super Saiyan Rose, Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta being taken out with one stab from Black and the story of how Zamasu attained Goku’s body and then killed Chi Chi and Goten in cold blood. Moments such as these, the fights and the nostalgia calls are why I would eagerly tune in every Sunday to see the revelation of what would happen next.
The ending was also something very new for Dragon Ball. There is no real happy ending here. Future Trunks entire Universe is now nothing but empty space thanks to the actions of Zamasu and Zen-Oh, meaning yes, everyone and everything Trunks fought to protect is gone, ultimately he failed. Zamasu may be dead but he had the last laugh here, giving us a villain that basically accomplished his goal and a very melancholy ending for Trunks and Mai, who are now forced to live out the rest of their lives in a similar yet different universe alongside their counterparts from that timeline. Props to Toriyama for such a unique ending that defied many’s expectations.
Like with all of Super the presentation was a bit of a mixed bag here but a step up overall from previous arcs. No doubt there are still moments that have you thinking ‘how did someone draw that so poorly’ like with the above image of Vegeta, but on the whole I definitely noticed better, more consistent art and animation across the arc. That average is raised higher with some key fight scenes that arguably had the best animation we have seen in the franchise with fantastic choreography and attacks. The sound design also improved immensely, with some really emotional music pieces and character themes, particularly the two themes associated with Black and Zamasu. I especially mentioned Nozawa’s performance earlier but everyone else’s acting is on point here as well. I grew up on the dub so I don’t have that old connection to Trunks voice actor or anyone else, but from what I’ve gathered by watching Super in Japanese each performance holds up to the standard that came in earlier works.
In conclusion, the Future Trunks arc showed promise but unfortunately is let down by a rushed ending, a few inconsistencies with past lore and some slow paced meaningless content. It is not without its moments though as some great nostalgia driven call backs, amazingly animated sections and two memorable villains save the arc from being a disaster, earning itself a deserved spot alongside other classic arcs in the series history even if it may not be entirely for the right reasons. If you’re a fan make sure to check it out on AnimeLab, Crunchyroll or Daisuke where it is 100% free to watch for everyone.