With Its 1st Arc Done Dragon Ball Super is a Disappointment
Dragon Ball Super has been on since early July. It was an exciting time to be a Dragon Ball fan. Super showed promised, hell I even said “The first episode of Dragon Ball Super is fun and fresh.” Unfortunately the fresh start did not last long. After 15 episodes it is safe to say Dragon Ball Super is a disappointment.
What started out as something new has quickly turned into a bad blunted extended director’s cut of Battle of Gods. Released in 2013, Battle of the Gods was the 18th feature film in the Dragon Ball franchise and the first in seventeen years. The film tells the story of Beerus, The God of Destruction, who wakes up from a three decades long sleep and decides to seek out a “Super Saiyan God” to challenge to battle after a premonition told him earlier they would be a worthy challenge. So Beerus and his caretaker Whis head to Earth in search of this opponent which happen to be the same day of Bulma’s 38th birthday party. After some hijinks, the secret of the Super Saiyan God is revealed, allowing Goku to transform into one and take on Beerus in a valiant but losing effort, making a new friend along the way.
Battle of the Gods was a first in a lot of ways for the Dragon Ball series. Having Goku face an unbeatable antagonist and still actually lose is a big novel idea (by Dragon Ball standards) and the film was the first in the series produced with modern animation techniques, making it a thing of beauty to see in motion. When it originally released, the film was a joy for long time fans of the series. More so, Battle of Gods kicked off this new era of Dragon Ball. Without the film being so successful it is hard to see its sequel, Resurrection of F, or Dragon Ball Super getting greenlit and in part make the latter so disappointing.
With the first arc wrapping up, it is clear Super is lacking new ideas. There were hints as early as the second episode but it became clear by the third Super, for the time being, was going to be – for better or worst — retelling the story of Battle of Gods; if only slightly different. Bulma’s party may be on a cruise ship; however, the story points remain the same. Beat by beat, Super keeps grinding along in the most lackluster fashion. Moments that took all of thirty seconds in Battle of the Gods get stretched out into entire segment’s or even episodes. Whereas Dragon Ball Kai represented bringing brevity to the franchise, Super is the opposite. There is no reason why the majority of an episode should feature Oolong playing rock paper scissors with Beerus (a scene that was deleted from the original cut of Battle of Gods) or Goku taking twelve minutes of screen time to transform.
It’s not only the story, the animation is taking short cuts as well. Early in the summer, Dragon Ball Super took some heat for some questionable animation quality. For a big franchise like Dragon Ball, there have been parts of Super that are ugly. At times, it has seemed as if the show was not finished before it was rushed from production to broadcast. Low moments aside, when Super does spot some great animation, it is still in the shadow of Battle of Gods. Goku’s and Beerus’ fight share many beats with the film, this time on a smaller scale and stretched across 5 episodes. There is a lot of dead space — moments when not much is actually happening. Goku and Beerus talk, power up, clash for a bit, stop. Repeat process. The first act of the 13th episode is dedicated to a single clash of Ki between the two. A clash that features very little visible ki on screen. When Goku first battled Vegeta way back in Saiyan saga, Goku‘s Kamehameha and Vegeta’s Galick Gun took up the entire screen and lasted all of two minutes. Compared to what Goku and Beerus are doing here, one cannot help but be disappointed. The stop and go approach of Super removes much of the tension and kinetics of the fight.
Does all this make Dragon Ball Super a bad show? Not necessary, but it does make it a disappointing one. Especially for fans excited about the promise of new adventures only to be rehashed the same story from not too long ago. The real sad part, Battle of the Gods was not a story that needed to be retold and Super’s extensions have not revealed any greater truths about Bearus, Whis or the Dragon Ball universe. Super is at its best when it’s playing with its characters and audience. When it’s using nostalgia to get a laugh or put characters in absurd situations. Goku as a farmer or Mr. Satan imagining himself as a Super Saiyan, When Super wants to it can go to some new and wonderful places, as seen in the first and fifteenth episodes. However, if Dragon Ball Super continues to bite material from the theatrical releases (here’s hoping the next arc isn’t a retelling of Resurrection of F) Dragon Ball’s return to television will continue to be lackluster.