REVIEW: Dragon Ball Super: Superhero (2022)

A Film

This past weekend I had a chance to see the newest Dragon Ball movie, since it had a wide release, under the pretense that I was going because my son wanted to see it, but we all know what the real reason was (lol). It’s honestly crazy to me that anime movies like this are coming out via wide release in American theaters considering in the past I had to see movies such as Ghost in the Shell 2 and Akira in specialized arthouse theaters on special nights that cost more money than normal. It’s a tip of the hat to FUNimation, or I guess Sony now since they are owned by them, for finally getting with the times. The somewhat stupidly named new film, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, Is the newest bit of Dragon Ball animation to be released since the show went on a hiatus a few years ago. This is not a standalone movie (or non-canon), it directly follows the exploits that happen in the show most recently, and most likely will be adapted into the show itself like the other movies have been. In the past, anime companies would always create movies after a show had been out for a while as a compilation, but Toei Animation does the exact opposite of it which seems interesting. So how was Dragon Ball super: Super Hero?

“The Red Ribbon Army was once destroyed by Son Goku. Individuals who carry on its spirit have created the ultimate androids — Gamma 1 and Gamma 2. However, these two androids call themselves superheroes and start attacking Piccolo and Gohan.”

First, I wanted to talk about the animation in this film. While the TV show looks great and all, you really can’t experience something like this on a TV budget, as one of the highlights of these last four Dragon Ball movies have been the animation quality. It uses CGI, which is a controversial topic in terms of Japanese animation production at the moment, but I feel like it was utilized well here. Japan, for some ungodly reason, uses CGI in a completely unusual way than what we do here in the West. They have a tendency to make things with an insanely low frame rate, claiming that it is in some way to replicate how cel animation looks, however anyone with two eyes can see that it is vastly inferior to that. Thankfully, this film stays away from that sort of nonsense and actually runs at a fairly brisk frame rate with battle scenes being especially gorgeous. Ever since Dragon Ball: Resurrection F, one of the big draws has been the amount of crazy stuff going on the screen at the same time, and while we don’t have millions of Frieza’s troops on screen, there are still some pretty dynamic shots in the feature.

it is perhaps a controversial opinion, but I have always been a bigger fan of the original Dragon Ball show than Dragon Ball Z mostly because it was a perfect mix of lightheartedness and action that I appreciate. Dragon Ball Z kind of got a little too over the top with trying to continuously push the envelope in terms of fighting, abandoned a bunch of old characters, and honestly painted itself into a bit of a corner in terms of what the show could be which led to the utter abomination that was Dragon Ball GT. if I can say anything about Dragon Ball: Super, it’s that it feels way more like the original show in tone. That’s why a movie like this just feels right, in that the central plot of the film revolves around the resurrection of one of Goku’s oldest villains – The Red Ribbon Army. Remnants of this clandestine group have popped up from time to time in the show’s history including the near successful destruction of the earth by the character Cell, who was considered the “perfect” Android created by one of red ribbons last scientists. This time a whole new generation of leadership Helms Red Ribbon, and they once again have their heart set on trying to control the world via cybernetic enhancements. I absolutely loved all the callbacks to previous shows found in this movie, it really gives everything a profound sense of continuity and polls over 30 years of plot lines together for once.

I won’t go too far into spoilers here, mostly because this is a brand-new movie and the entire final act has some pretty astonishing stuff in it for a long-time fans, but I feel that I can talk about one of my favorite parts of this movie. For the longest time anybody involved in the production of the manga or anime for this property has done the character of Gohan dirty. At one point you could clearly tell that Akira Toriyama was planning to have Gohan take over the reins of the show from his father and become the main character. Then, all of the sudden, he became a background character despite being literally the strongest character on earth just prior. It was hand waved away that his mother wanted him to concentrate on his studies and not fight like his father, but I honestly assumed that the decision was made due to marketing. I mean you literally have guys right now that rate everything based on “but can he beat Goku?,” so I’m not surprised that they have stood behind Goku this entire time. One can basically sum up the plot of this movie as “let’s make Gohan a worthwhile character again!,” and for the most part they were successful.

The relationship between Piccolo and Gohan is continued here in such a way that longtime fans will really appreciate it. For the most part piccolo is Gohan’s dad, as Goku is often too busy training to protect the earth to honestly care about his family life in any way. I mean, he doesn’t hate his family or anything, but there are more pressing matters to him. This relationship continues to hilarious degrees when at one point Pan, Gohan’s daughter, is talking about “grandpa”, To which Piccolo initially acts nearly indignant, then realizes she’s talking about Goku and basically says “oh yeah, you mean Goku…” Piccolo is definitely the MVP character of the show here, highlights include the antics involving an unwanted collection of cat plushies that everyone keeps giving him, a matching cell phone case that looks hilarious in his hands, the fact that he basically is the reason that the world doesn’t end, and even his new transformation that puts him right back up towards the top of the power levels. And don’t let me forget about Gohan, without spoiling anything too much it looks like he’s not going to be left in the background any longer.

You will notice in my review that I have largely not been talking about mainline characters such as Vegeta, Goku, Broly, Majin Buu etc. These are all characters that are really strong and could probably take out most villains that might pop up, but due to plotline reasons they are all predisposed at the moment and could not be there on earth when stuff got real. this gives the characters that are highlighted quite a bit of time to prove why they are still important characters in the show and take a little bit of the luster away from your typical main characters. I honestly would love if the show started to veer away from some of the typical plot lines we’ve seen for the better part of three decades, but time will tell if this movie is an aberration or a new trend moving forward.

This is not a perfect movie by any means, but I absolutely loved it nonetheless. I enjoyed the dynamic between Piccolo and Gohan, and loved the fact that the two could get more screen time than they have been relegated to in the past. I absolutely adored the callbacks to the original show, and loved the fact that it built on three decades of continuity for a plot that can be appreciated by all, with longtime fans having just that much more extra to cling to. Every character is given something meaningful to do, and all of the new characters that are introduced are pretty good. Just like with any post-Dragonball Z show, there is quite a bit of humor here, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome like in some Shonen anime. Yeah, there was one joke towards the end involving Goten and Trunks that honestly went on a bit too long, but was basically fanservice for older fans, and something small children could laugh at. I’ll give it a pass. My son was completely engrossed the entire time, which is a good thing for any sort of movie we see in the movie theater. overall, this was not the best Dragon Ball Super movie, but it’s probably one of the most fun experiences I’ve had watching this franchise largely due to being able to see it in the theater and sharing it with my son. And because of that this movie will always have a special place in my heart.

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