Dragon Ball Super: A Look Back

Two days ago the final episode of the Universe Survival saga marked the end of Dragon Ball Super (for now). It’s hard to believe that the Dragon Ball Z follow-up has been on the air for nearly three years, and in that time the show has certainly had its ups and downs. So was the latest Dragon Ball offering really ‘Super”? Well, let’s talk about it.

Dragon Ball Super spoilers ahead obviously…

The early animation was far from super!
Back in 2015 Dragon Ball Super didn’t exactly make the best first impression. Early episodes were plagued with dodgy animation, and the internet did not take kindly to it. Tight scheduling and budgetary constraints often lead to dips in quality in a show, and often they can be ignored/glossed over, but there was no escaping this.

It wasn’t a great way to start the series, especially when you consider that Dragon Ball Z’s previous sequel Dragon Ball GT (despite what you make think of the show) did a better job animating our heroes’ continuing adventures 20 years ago with the arguably inferior tech at their disposal. Thankfully most of these lesser moments come from the Beerus and Golden Frieza sagas, so we can always stick with Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’.

When it was good, it was really good
Having literally just watched the finale I can confirm the same complaints from above definitely do not apply there. In fact, that episode might just have some of the best animation seen in Dragon Ball so far. When the animators turn it on, the fight scenes in this show are spectacular. Episode 131 is liquid smooth, the direction and fight choreography were outstanding. It is clear that throughout the show’s run they are saving the money for the larger moments, and when watching showdowns like the last, or the beauty of SS Blue Vegito taking on a deteriorating fused Zamasu, you can almost forgive the disastrous scenes from some of the preceding arcs.

Too much Goku?
I know, I know, the show is about Goku, has been since 1986 (1984 – manga), but just once I’d like to see someone else take home the win. Back in the Cell Games, when Gohan surpassed the original Super Saiyan form and took down Perfect Cell, that was a landmark moment. Gohan showed the true potential that had been bubbling since the start of Z, and sealed his fate as my favourite character. But since then he has failed to live up to my lofty expectations, and maybe that’s my own fault, but I had really hoped that Super was a chance at redemption for him, to show us what he can do. Alas, it was not. Strength aside, even potential character development, such as his internal conflict with taking innocent lives in the final tournament while initially promising was ultimately glossed over. We also came painstakingly close to Vegeta defeating Frieza in the Golden Frieza arc only for him to have that chance ripped away from under him and Goku ultimately getting the W. Like I said, maybe this gripe is a little silly given that Goku is the main character, but in a show with such a robust cast, it would be nice to see someone else really shine.

More Gokus, please!
Okay, so I literally just moaned there was too much Goku, and yet for me, the high point of the show was when they added a second one. The Future Trunks arc was not just my favourite arc in Super, but one of the best sagas in Dragon Ball if you ask me. Goku Black/Zamasu was a great villain, the mystery and intrigue around Black’s origins were enthralling and Zamasu’s motivations were not only believable but thankfully more than just “I want to be the strongest” or “I want to rule the universe. The darker tone and feel of those episodes really set it apart from a lot of what we’ve seen in the show before and I hope when it returns we get more stories of a similar ilk.

Two tournament arcs, really?
On the subject of sagas, however, as the subheading says, really? Two? I love a tournament arc as much as the next Shonen fan, but the “fight of the week” format gets a little stale after a while, particularly in the second tournament, where weeks could go by without the plot feeling like it’s progressing at all. Also similar to my issue with Gohan’s inner turmoil not being fully explored, I feel like not enough was made of the fact that Goku put everyone in that position, he was responsible for the destruction of 7 universes, countless lives were erased because of his bone-headedness, this would have been an interesting thread to pull, but what we get is just fight, eliminate, rinse, repeat.

Great new characters and world building
One thing Super has done consistently well is expanding the universe(s) of Dragon Ball. Beerus is a very welcome regular, one of my favourite characters, and while the tournament arcs weren’t my favourite part, the introduction of multiple universes has left the door open for a wide variety of adventures in the future. There are now endless potential threats from untold directions. I also love some of the character design, the different gods, the angels, the various combatants from each universe all carried that distinctive Toriyama style but still felt fresh. Not all of them are winners (I’m looking at you, Winnie the P… I mean, Botamo), but for the most part the new cast look great, and while I’m not a huge fan of the aesthetic of Super Saiyan Blue, I thought both Super Saiyan God and Ultra Instinct looked amazing.

Power scaling in this show is well and truly broken
I won’t dwell on this too much because it’s Dragon Ball, but the power scaling in this show makes little to no sense. Characters strength seems to go up and down like the stock exchange, and I won’t even get started on the sheer amount of characters we’ve witnessed in the last 3 years go from the brink of death to the edge of glory in seconds with nary a Senzu bean in sight. But as I said, it kinda gets a pass because it’s Dragon Ball which brings me to my final point…

It made me feel like a kid again
For all its flaws, Dragon Ball Super took me back. I, like most of you, grew up on Toonami. Dragon Ball Z was a staple in my childhood diet and Super put me right back there, cross-legged, 6 inches from the TV, shaking with excitement. The show is far from perfect, but the same could be said of Dragon Ball series past. This is ultimately a franchise about people punching each other during screaming contests, and Super delivers on that promise. There is a balance of action with humour, and even more heartfelt scenes. To be honest, there are very few shows these days that I would make the commitment to watching 131 episodes of, but when Super returns I’ll be right there in position ready to see what asspull is gonna get Goku and his crew through this week. It’s not an anime I’d recommend to everyone, particularly those with no experience of DB, but if you watched Z and you haven’t watched Super, that’s something you need to change before the new movie comes out in December, because while we only have a short teaser for that, it’s looking like it’s gonna be a good one!

So what did you think of Super? Let us know in the comments below or on social media.