*This list was original posted on 27/07/2019 and updated on 15/01/2020 to include new information.
I want to start this off by saying that I am a huge fan of Dragon ball, I love the manga, I love the various instalments of the anime from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z and even Dragon Ball GT (which for many is considered to be the black sheep of the franchise, and is no longer considered to be canon), I’m a huge fan of the video games, and you can read more about that here and here. So I think I can speak with some authority and some honesty on the franchise as a whole.
Within the canon timeline of the universe, Dragon Ball Super takes place between the period of peace after the main characters eradicate a powerful enemy called Majin Buu, the events of which rounded off the the previous series in the franchise, Dragon Ball Z (DBZ).
It is the long awaited continuation of the Dragon Ball franchise, and was eagerly anticipated since, as I mentioned, Dragon Ball GT, the series that directly preceded this one was not widely well received, and particularly after this show was released isn’t even considered canon. A fact which was already in debate, mostly due to not being based on any source manga, and because it wasn’t developed with support from the series creator, Akira Toriyama. Additional support for it’s lack of canon comes from Funimation English voice actor and voice director Christopher Sabat who directly said that GT is ‘not even canon anymore’.
Anyway, moving away from GT, I can personally attest to the shock wave of excitement which moved through the Dragon Ball fandom when on April 28th 2015 they announced the then upcoming series, Dragon Ball Super. This was fantastic news, but was received somewhat bittersweetly, because not only would I have to wait for it to be released but because I struggle to enjoy the original Japanese dub of an anime if I first experienced the anime in English (because to me the characters don’t sound like themselves) I had a torturous time until they released the aforementioned English Dub, which finally dropped on January 21st 2017.
Speaking of which, I suppose some people will probably think I’m not a real fan, because I can’t enjoy it in the original Japanese, but I think it’s just a matter of opinion and preference, and I was just glad to finally have new Dragon Ball, in my native language, with the original Funimation voice cast. I was surprised however, especially considering the massive popularity of the franchise in the west, why they didn’t try and air it in multiple languages simultaneously, but we at least got an English Dub, so I suppose I’m happy either way.
Something that, I don’t want to say bothered me, but did influence my enjoyment of the series as a whole was that it takes until the 28th episode of the show to get any new content, until that point we are treated to a rehash of the the movies, Battle of Gods and Resurrection F, but with lower production values and considerably more filler, and it’s not even that I didn’t like the movies, it’s just that if I wanted to see the story, I could just watch the movie, and I’m not against filler, I mean saying you are a fan of Dragon Ball is practically saying you are a fan of filler, but really I felt like it kinda wasted our time, and took the shine off of having a new show by giving up over 20 episodes of content we’ve already seen. However after that point things begin to get a little more exciting, including the return from Dragon Ball Z fan favourite Future Trunks.
I touched on the production values above, and early on in the show’s history, particularly during the first 28 episodes, the animation quality was not at good as it could have been, easily better than DBZ and Dragon Ball but overall, much weaker than the movies they were retelling. I do have to say, it’s never bad enough to be an major problem, and I can handle the choppier animations, but I have to be honest, this was a very noticeable issue.
So, I’m reviewing the series as a whole, and what stuck out most for me was character development, we get to see Trunks, Gohan and most obviously Vegeta either go through or continue to change/develop throughout Super, each having a strong transformative story arc, and in Vegeta’s case I’m not just talking about Super Saiyan Blue. Goku, also managed to grow a little, but fundamentally is the same character he’s always been, which isn’t actually a failure on the part of the writers, but instead them remaining consistent and honest in their portrayal of his character.
I also like that they continued with the threat escalation that has been a consistent part of the franchise since its inception, from battling the Red Ribbon Army, to Saiyans, to Cell and Majin Buu, to finally the strongest fighters in the whole multiverse. It’s impressive that they’ve gotten so much from such a simple concept, we have at its core, a show about a good-hearted man, who just loves the challenge of a fight, and that passion has carried him all the way to nearly being a god in his own right, and to fighting in a universal tournament for his entire reality.
I think that what really caught me the most was that despite them sticking somewhat ridgedly to some patterns, which is not a complaint, as it clearly works really well and writers have been following the same type of patterns for centuries, they managed to make Zamasu/Goku Black be a fresh, and interesting villain, particularly since the steaks for the show have been raised to such incredible levels.
The show also has some of the best fight sequences of the entire franchise, owing particularly to the diverse range of new characters available to them as contestants for the universal tournament, a personal favourite of which being Hit, one of the fighters from the Universe 6, under the command of Champa, the God of Destruction of that particular Universe, as well as being Beerus’s brother, the God of Destruction for Universe 7 (which you can consider the main universe or at least the universe which we are most familiar with).
Overall I think it’s well worth watching, with the Universe 6 Saga being somewhat weak comparatively to the others, especially coming on the heels of the watered down versions of the two movies, with the obvious exception of the fight between Hit and Goku I alluded to above, and a personal highlight would either be the Universal Survival Saga or the Goku Black Saga, both of which were incredibly strong. The Goku Black saga in particular was full of great moments, including Vegeta just kicking Goku Black’s ass, the whole Zamasu fusion thing which was just awesome, and Vegito returning. So yeah despite some issues, which I’ve touched on, and obviously a lot to live up to, particular because for fans, nostalgia for Dragon Ball and DBZ will only make them harder to beat, it is a fantastic addition to the Dragon Ball franchise, and I strongly recommend it to fans of anime, fans of Dragon Ball and for anyone that enjoys an engaging and fun story. I think, having said all that, I will give, the series as a whole a 7/10. Comment, if you’d like to hear my ratings for each saga, and thanks for reading.
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