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WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the movie.
Dragon Ball is one of the biggest franchises in the history of entertainment and of course in anime. If you think about what anime is, one of your first thoughts is probably Dragon Ball. Akira Toriyama’s creation has become a cultural icon and it has reached people all over the world, so it’s not surprising to see it having a renaissance of sorts since the release of the movie Battle of Gods many years ago, the comeback with the Dragon Ball Super manga and anime, and recent movies such as Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which was a massive success for the brand.
The newest addition to the franchise, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, is a very interesting case, though. For the first time since the Bardock and Future Trunks TV specials back in the early 90s, the franchise is getting a story where Goku is not the main character and this time around we have the likes of Piccolo and Gohan as the main protagonist, which is something that fans all over the world have wanted for years.
But has it lived up to our expectations? Let’s find out.
What is Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero?
This story takes place after the events of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, with Goku, Vegeta, and the aforementioned Broly training with Whis on Beerus’ planet, which is why they are not part of the main plot. The remnants of the Red Ribbon Army have decided to take vengeance on Goku and his friends, which is why they reached out to Dr. Hedo, the grandson of Dr. Gero, the creator of the Androids and Cell, to create warriors that can take down these “threats”, and basically deceiving him in the process.
As things unfold, Hedo’s creations, two Android warriors that go by the name of Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, start by attacking Piccolo, who manages to escape and infiltrate their headquarters. But eventually, they come up with a plan to kidnap Pan, Gohan’s daughter, and get the latter’s attention in order to take him down. This is the basic plot of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.
How Was It?
The movie is entertaining, you’ll have a good time and it has a nice message about family and heroism, which fits quite well with the overall themes of the Dragon Ball franchise, but if you observe the story using a more critical eye… Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero starts to get a bit frustrating.
I personally love the idea of a movie starring other characters not named Goku and Vegeta. Dragon Ball has a lot of great characters and many of them deserve their moment in the spotlight, so creating a film centered around the likes of Gohan, Piccolo and Pan was a very good decision, especially considering the number of fans the first two characters have. But the execution sometimes feels a bit lacking in terms of storytelling.
The Lack Of Gohan
Considering that this is the first time in a long time that Gohan has been the main character, I wish we could have seen more of him. For all intents and purposes, Piccolo is the main character, driving the plot forward and being both proactive and reactive to a lot of situations, such as the attack of one of the Gammas, infiltrating their headquarters. Piccolo is the one trying to come up with a solution for the problem. This is great, Piccolo deserves that kind of role… but if you are promoting this as a Gohan-centric film, then I think we should have seen more of him.
Gohan shows up a bit at the beginning, and once again he’s slacking in his training and focusing on work (when is he going to realize that he needs to train? Counting Z and Super, this is the third time he is receiving this lesson), but we don’t see him until the third act, where he discovers that Pan was kidnapped and he then lashes out in classic Gohan style, which was fine, but feels unearned and lacking the necessary momentum. You don’t even see him sharing moments with Videl and Pan, which makes the whole thing a lot duller in that perspective.
I mention all of this because it makes the Gohan Beast scene a lot less interesting. In the end, Gohan lashed out and got a new powerful transformation, which is typical Dragon Ball, but since there isn’t any prior build it feels like a cheap way of giving him a power-up. In the end, Gohan doesn’t become stronger by training but rather through emotions, which, in a way, only enables him to continue with his lack of preparation for times of crisis. I don’t feel that the film hammers home the notion that Gohan’s laziness as a fighter can put people at risk if Goku and Vegeta are not around.
I did like the role of the Gammas quite a lot. They remind me a bit of the type of characters Toriyama would have created in early Dragon Ball and I enjoyed the moral conflict they had in the third act, with one of them sacrificing themselves in heroic fashion and the other changing for the better. They were not really bad guys, but rather misguided and I enjoyed that. Hopefully, we get a bit more of the Gamma that survived in future releases.
The Cell Max Thing
Man, they were obviously trying to rehash the Cell vs. Gohan fight, but I don’t think it was necessary. You could have made this Cell another kind of Kaiju monster and had him fight with the rest of the characters. It felt like cheap fanservice and in my view, doesn’t move the franchise forward.
Having said that, the fight was really enjoyable and well done. I enjoyed seeing the likes of Android 18, Krillin, and poorly fused Gotenks having a moment in the spotlight and I have to admit that Gohan doing the Makankosappo was a really moving scene, which actually caught me a bit off-guard because I assumed they were going to do the Kamehameha once again like in the Cell saga. It’s fitting that Gohan could and should use Piccolo’s techniques, so it was an excellent touch.
I think Piccolo getting a boost in power was duly deserved and I like the fact that it was a callback to the Namek saga, which is another aspect that I thought the movie did well: it had a lot of references from the franchise’s canon, making the whole thing feel a bit more organic and fitting with the world Toriyama has created.
The interactions between Piccolo and Pan were definitely some of the best moments of the movie and I enjoy that element of family that we have between these characters at this point in the franchise. All of that makes the resolution so much better.
What About The Animation?
Animation has been one of the most debated topics when it comes to this movie. Sure, it has the classic Dragon Ball style in terms of art, but it’s animated in a more 3D approach and I have read people saying that it ruined the whole experience for them. I wouldn’t go that far because I had a good time watching it, but I can understand the reasoning behind that because it feels more in line with the video games than the actual series.
Having said all that, I personally think that the animation style grows on you as the story progresses and I think by the third act, when they are battling Cell Max, it looks amazing. Especially how Cell Max was depicted and how it contrasts with the rest of the characters. It’s different, but I appreciate the fact that the people in charge are trying to do some experimentation, which is always healthy for the franchise.
I liked it, but I can fully understand if it’s divisive for some people.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a nice change of pace from the usual direction that the franchise has. Instead of trying to up the likes of Broly and Jiren with an even stronger opponent, they scaled down a bit and allowed other characters to shine. This is all well and good and is something that fans have been asking for, so I think it was a good decision.
I’m not a huge fan of the Gohan and Piccolo power-ups, hopefully, we see more if they are explored in future storylines. Piccolo’s power up, while necessary to get his character back in the spotlight, deserves to be explored because he even got a new logo in the process. Gohan’s transformation had no backstory and came out due to a burst of rage, so I think it needs to be developed in future releases so we can contextualize this a bit more.
In terms of story structure, there are a couple of things that I would have done differently, but I think it was an enjoyable installment to the franchise and it injected a bit more life into characters that definitely needed it.
Thank you for reading our review of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. Have you seen this film or are you planning to see it soon? If so, feel free to leave a comment below this post sharing your thoughts.