For several years now, no one’s really tuned into the Dragon Ball franchise for the story. From the height of the Frieza saga all the way to the end of Dragon Ball Z all those years ago, the franchise has been more comfort viewing for cool fights than anything. The latest anime film, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero successfully mixes up the formula. The film offers an actual story with satisfying character growth despite the initially off-putting visuals. Originally delayed because of the Toei Animation hack, this film is worth the wait.
The ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ story gives attention to oft-ignored characters
The basic premise of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is that the Red Ribbon Army is back to get revenge on the Z Fighters (namely Goku) and assert world dominance. The descendent of Commander Red from the original series (Magenta) seeks the services of Dr. Gero’s grandson, Dr. Hedo, to build a pair of super androids who can keep up with the non-Son Goku and Vegeta division of our protagonists.
Without diving too much into spoilers, this is very much a movie that reminds you that characters besides Goku and Vegeta exist. The trailers and promotional materials push this film to be a Gohan-centric story, but this is every bit of a story for Piccolo as it is for Gohan. As the threats in the series continued growing in scale over the course of Z and Dragon Ball Super, Piccolo’s role as one of the planet’s mightiest warriors decreased significantly. This film is a return to form for him.
Audiences actually get to spend time with Piccolo and other characters, learning things about them that make them better developed and well-rounded personalities. Instead of jumping from fight to fight or sitting through gorgeously animated 20-minute-long fight sequences as we saw in Dragon Ball Super: Broly, we finally find out how Piccolo holds his phone when Face-Timing Bulma.
And you know what? That’s actually refreshing to watch.
Another exciting development – Goten and Trunks have actually grown up. The movie even offers an in-universe reason as to why they looked like toddlers for the longest before suddenly becoming teenagers now.
No ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’ review would be complete without a comment on the visuals
While the story is more of a focus in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, the visuals aren’t lacking. They’re just . . . different.
Frankly put, it takes a while to get used to the 3D computer-generated character models and environments in the film. It’s a shame because almost everything else in this film is pretty fun, but the visuals certainly distract. The movie opens with a stunning montage of Goku’s exploits in the original run of Dragon Ball reanimated in modern 2D animation. In fact, all of the flashback scenes are traditionally animated. It really makes you wonder, “why couldn’t the whole film look like this?”
Fans may be disappointed with the art direction in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, but overall, it doesn’t detract too much from the experience.
That being said, the change in art and animation style does come with a positive – fight animation is more fluid and explosive without animators having to hand-draw frames. The fight choreography doesn’t quite hit as hard as the best parts of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, but it does a very good job of providing gorgeous and engaging action throughout.
After a long exposition dump at the beginning of the film, your eyes will quickly adjust to the updated visuals. This makes it a minor complaint.
The voice acting and scripting return to a winning formula
At its core, Dragon Ball originally started as an action comedy before world-destroying aliens jumped onto the scene. The latter element is still there, but comedy hasn’t been a huge focus for the franchise in many years. Particularly, the scripting of the original Dragon Ball Z English dub stands out as being a lot more humorous than recent Kai and Super scripts. If you’re a sub viewer who prefers the Japanese cast, you’ll find the usual excellence from series veterans like Masako Nozawa, Toshio Furukawa, and Mayumi Tanaka, according to IMDb.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’s English scripting and the performances are extremely reminiscent of the good old days. There are some moments that genuinely elicit laughs, which adds to this film being a good time.
Adding to the experience is the stellar soundtrack. The main theme of the film surges and thrives during fight scenes, evoking memories of some of the best and most hopeful themes of superhero films from the last decade. The superhero motif is prevalent in the themes of the film, and the soundtrack does a fantastic job of highlighting it.
Expect a good time out of ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’
This is not a Dragon Ball movie that will redefine storytelling, but it is a lot of fun. The fights are cool, the characters develop, there are a ton of one-liners and nods that would make the most hardcore fanservice lovers blush, and there are even some extremely self-referential jokes that’ll make you chuckle at the very least.
All types of characters get to experience growth and, dare I say, exhibit character traits beyond just wanting to fight. We learn a decent amount about people like Broly, Beerus, Pan, Dende, Lemo, and more. Even Krillin gets something to do! At its core, though, this is a film for Piccolo and Gohan.
If you’re a longtime Piccolo or Gohan fan, start looking for Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero showtimes near you. It’s already performed well at the box office in Japan, and it’ll likely do numbers in the U.S. It releases in theaters on August 19th in both sub and dub. One Piece Film Red has a lot of competition to overcome as the top anime film of the year.