Dragon Ball is undoubtedly one of the definitive works of anime and manga. However, criticisms of it (especially the series Dragon Ball Z) have been mostly fair. Historically, the television series have featured an absurd amount of filler (mostly in the form of characters powering up), fights that drag out for what seems like an eternity, and extremely sparse characterization and character development. What makes Dragon Ball Super special is that it basically tosses all of that out the window, resulting in a surprisingly well-paced product—something that is typically not associated with Dragon Ball.
Great Taste, Less Filler
The most notable thing about Dragon Ball Super is that the notoriously excessive, time-eating powering up scenes are now relics of the past. Characters will sometimes take minutes to charge their energy, but only for as long as it takes to get the proper dramatic effect. Similarly, other examples of improved pacing abound. Individual episodes, even those where fighting isn’t the focus, are entertaining and informative about characters’ motivations. Entire story arcs take half the time they did in Dragon Ball Z.
One drawback is that sometimes the animation quality suffers greatly. That being said, while the show doesn’t always look good, it never feels like it’s stalling for time the same way “five minutes before Namek explodes” did.
Power Levels: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Another strong feature of Dragon Ball Super is that it takes the piss out of the classic obsession with power levels. Dragon Ball is a fighting series, but the particulars of how much stronger Frieza was supposed to be compared to Cell didn’t really matter. Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball, stopped caring about power levels himself. When he wrote the screenplay for the film Dragon Ball: Battle of Gods, Toriyama created a character called “Beerus, the God of Destruction,” who so outclasses Goku and even his strongest opponents that it made the question of “how powerful is Goku?” almost trivial.
Goku’s merit isn’t in his being better than everyone else, but rather that he’s just a goofy guy who loves to fight (who also has the power to challenge deities). This de-emphasis on power levels is further driven home when Dragon Ball Super introduces the character “Zen-Oh,” literally the king of everything, who can make and unmake entire universes with a mere thought.
Because Dragon Ball Super goes to great lengths to not get bogged down by the ki-blasting and grunting stereotypes it spawned, it gives the opportunity to explore the characters themselves more. For example, in the “Goku Black” arc, the character Future Trunks has two sparring sessions across two different episodes: one with Goku, and one with his father, Vegeta. Goku, as he’s testing out Trunks, powers up one Super Saiyan level at a time, ramping it up to push Trunks little by little. Goku does this because he loves the thrill of the fight, and will willingly prolong it if it means a more satisfying bout.
Vegeta, on the other hand, instantly powers up to Super Saiyan Blue, the strongest form currently available to him, and lays Trunks flat. Vegeta loves to fight, but he loves actually defeating his opponents even more, and he isn’t going to show mercy to anyone, not even his son. In fact, this is how Vegeta shows his love for his family.
While there are moments somewhat similar to what I’ve described above in Dragon Ball Z, they always felt secondary to the grand battles. Just by having these training scenes communicate the characters’ different personalities and approaches to battle, and having them be important elements of their respective episodes, Dragon Ball Super is able to define its characters beyond what kinds of attacks they have, or indeed, what their power levels are.
Watch Dragon Ball Super
Dragon Ball Super s strong enough to bring in not only diehard fans, but also those who would normally be skeptical of Dragon Ball as a whole. It’s silly like Dragon Ball, dramatic like Dragon Ball Z, and is just much more refined and tightly plotted compared to its predecessors. Most importantly, it’s just a whole lot of fun. Check it out!
Image Sources: Crunchyroll