It’s hard to describe what Dragon Ball Super is. There are so many facets and points of debate over what is a simple Shonen anime. Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s no denying the impact of Dragon Ball on anime, especially outside of Japan. Dragon Ball Super is a celebration of this huge achievement. Yet, it fails to add anything worthwhile to the legacy.
The first issue is how the show handles the first two arcs. Redoing two movies as a “director’s cut” was a terrible idea. To make matters worse, the animation was awful. The main problem seems to be missing frames. There are also instances of low-quality drawings that somehow got through quality control. Toei Animation should feel shame for the low-quality product they threw out the door. There’s no respect for the craft. No respect for long-time fans, who have shown support during the past 2 decades.
Let’s talk story and writing. You can argue that no one watches Dragon Ball for interesting themes and characters. It is true to a certain extent that the action is the forefront of the show. This is not an excuse for poor, inconsistent writing with no clear direction in the story. In other words, the heart of Dragon Ball Super’s problems.
Most of the characters are the same as they’ve always been. There is no real development for them other than the odd power boost. There are a few standouts, such as Vegeta. This guy has grown so much over the course of the show. Vegeta continues to develop as a prideful man who trains to protect his family. There is actual depth to his character that should have been the standard for the show, not the exception.
Dragon Ball Super deserves some credit for the “slice-of-life” episodes. In the past, we didn’t get many episodes about the daily lives of our favourite characters. Here we get to see how these super-humans behave in regular environments. It changes the pace of the show and is refreshing to see between the major arcs. The only downside is these fillers can drag on for a long time.
The biggest offence of Dragon Ball Super (in the story) is the lack of a good villain. No enemy in this show can claim to have been engaging. Either the villain would become good (Beerus) or they would be terrible at their job (Zamasu). Dragon Ball Z had three excellent villains, Vegeta, Frieza and Cell. Majin Buu wasn’t as good but is still better than anyone from Dragon Ball Super. They brought intriguing ideas to the table and did nothing with them. A special shout out to Zamasu for being the worst villain in Dragon Ball history. Congratulations.
Even with lacklustre story and writing, Dragon Ball Super had a chance to redeem itself. Awesome animation and fight sequences could have brought this show to life. They did an okay job in this regard. The terrible animation for the first two arcs ruins almost every fight. They had to come out swinging, but it was more of a drunken sway.
The animation quality and fighting scenes improve as the show progresses. The final arc of the show has some excellent moments and battles. It starts to feel more like a Dragon Ball show by the end, even though it was too late. Why would someone sit through 100 mediocre episodes to enjoy 31 good ones? Especially when there are more enjoyable shows to watch.
Toei should have taken their time with this show to ensure high-quality animation. This is one of the biggest multimedia franchises with a loyal and passionate fanbase. There was plenty of excitement, with cases of streaming sites crashing. What we got was a disappointing effort and some of the worst animation in modern times.
If there’s something to salvage from this shipwreck, it would be the soundtrack. The background music is exciting, energetic and emotional when it needs to be. The vocal songs are great as well, especially “Ultimate Battle” and some of the opening themes. Where the animators were below par, the composers were able to save face.
The English sub versus dub debate is puzzling. Everyone should watch whichever one they feel comfortable watching. The English dub can be poor at times, but the Japanese voices also have their downsides. In Dragon Ball Super, the Japanese voice acting is full of personality and soul. The major point of contention is Goku’s voice which has a high pitch and sounds silly at times. It’s a little jarring at times but nothing offensive.
There’s no doubt that meeting fan expectation is a tall task. Reviving an old series has its own challenges and comparisons to the past are inevitable. Instead of rising to the occasion, Dragon Ball Super falls flat in its attempt to ignite the flames of a classic. Nothing aside from disappointment awaits both fans and newcomers.