About 1 year ago, a film was released as a new entry in the Dragon Ball franchise titled Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. (Not to be confused with the web series Super Dragon Ball Heroes.) Recently, a new Dragon Ball anime has been announced, which features animation somewhat similar to this film but adopts Akira Toriyama’s modern art style. Now, why not take a look back at this 2021 film and see how it has turned out?
The Premise of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero
Right at the beginning, we are given a brief history of the Red Ribbon Army and how Goku destroyed it entirely. Only later, a remnant of it resurfaced with new androids capable of manipulating Ki, nearly defeating all the Z-Warriors: Goku and his friends. After Cell’s defeat at the hands of Gohan, there was no further mention of the Red Ribbons. Until now, we see that beyond the main characters’ lives, the world is evolving, and new threats are emerging. It’s not just an empty, hollow world revolving solely around Goku. Several times before, we were astonished by the vastness of the world; starting from the arrival of Raditz, Goku’s brother, who opened the door to a galaxy filled with immensely powerful beings, leading to encounters with Frieza. In the current continuity of Dragon Ball Super, the concept of the multiverse was introduced. We must acknowledge that Earth itself holds mysteries and powerful beings yet to be discovered. Once again, these beings have made themselves known, in the form of androids.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is chock-full of details and Easter eggs. From minor character appearances to inanimate objects, everything holds some level of significance that brings the world to life. The film immerses us in its colorful and vibrant world with dynamic camera panning and superhero themed soundtrack. The characters are portrayed with expressive body movements and facial expressions, and even their designs vividly convey their traits. The film utilizes every resource available to showcase the remarkable progress made in this wonderful world. For instance, Magenta and Carmine, the two antagonists, are named after the colors of the suits they wear. How crazy is that? It’s simple and easy to remember.
The movie is pretty well-directed. It starts off with a laid-back approach when nothing conflicting is happening. This kind of slice-of-life aspect is what Dragon Ball needs. If it’s fighting and chaos all the time, then we are forgetting that this peace is what we fight for in the first place. So it’s a nice, fresh experience for the series after a long time. But there’s no time to take it easy, as disasters can strike at any moment without warning. So, Piccolo, being stoic as usual, insists that Gohan continues training. This time, we even get to see the antagonist’s perspective and their schemes. Piccolo’s skepticism is actually on point, which adds dramatic irony. After all the build-ups, the conflict finally begins.
Now it’s time to witness the full glory of the CG animation in this film. We’ve already seen Dragon Ball in CG in Xenoverse 2, Fighterz, and Kakarot video games. When the CG animation is done right, it looks gorgeous. The 3D environment perfectly showcases the massive scale at which Dragon Ball fights take place. The fights are well-choreographed and a spectacle to watch. The way certain characters fight reflects their personalities. For example, Gamma 1’s fighting style feels calculated and counteractive. He observes the opponent’s movements and responds accordingly, as if he were a real robot. Hack, it even sounds metalic when he gets hit. This contrasts sharply with Gohan’s fighting style, who has been slacking off this entire time and his movement feels sloppy. He doesn’t even notice Piccolo’s Ki and his window scratch whenever he visits. Then the location changes during the fight, from the ground to the sky, on top of a train to the underground hall of columns; it’s as much a visual treat as how these locations are utilized in the fights. Then the use of unique abilities of certain characters, like Piccolo using his telekinesis powers, stretching his arms, and ultimately turning giant, which are mostly forgotten in the modern era of Dragon Ball. We even get to see Krillin’s Solar Flare and Fat Gotenks’ hilarious effectiveness in the battle. It’s a nostalgic trip as well as an expansion in the Dragon Ball universe.
The fight sequences are well-structured with proper pacing. The initial confrontation between Piccolo and Gamma 2 establishes the stakes. Piccolo’s strategic decisions allow the heroes time to prepare a counterattack, shaping Gohan into a more formidable fighter. As the battle escalates, Gohan and Piccolo go against Gamma 1 and 2, which results in setting aside their differences to face the common threat. The true menace emerges in the form of Cell MAX, born from the greed of Magenta. Subduing this evil demands a hefty price and pushes the heroes to surpass their limits, awakening the inner beast. In the end, the essence of a Super Hero is truly revealed.
The Main Theme of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero
It’s evident what the theme is from the title, Super Hero. When the time comes, we have to step up and give our all. Slacking is never an option, especially not to think of counting on others to handle it. Piccolo seizes the opportunity to teach Gohan the true essence of being a warrior. Similarly, Magenta attempts to manipulate Dr. Hedo into doing his bidding, albeit with nefarious intentions. Both sides aim to guide their peers toward greatness, one with the right intention and the other with the wrong. A subtle parallel exists between Gohan and Dr. Hedo – Gohan used to dress up as the hero, The Great Saiyaman, and now similarly dressed heroes emerge as Gamma 1 and 2. Amidst the conflict, the misguided concept of a Super Hero becomes clear. Ultimately, Gamma 2 proves himself as a genuine hero. It’s a tale of learning true meanings through struggle and battle.
While the movie effectively delivers its intricacies, some caveats are found here and there, and I believe the experience could have been further improved. First and foremost, Goku’s character is completely butchered and alienated. He’s not the same as he was in Z, where he had a better understanding of the world around him. Similarly, Gohan, who has been through so much, appears to be slacking. He’s the first one who should be aware of how badly situations can turn. It’s as if all the character development from the past series was forgotten. Akira Toriyama had to reintroduce him with the new Beast transformation to give him a fighting chance. Furthermore, there’s no mention of Gohan’s Great Saiyaman persona or his first special move, Masenko, which would have been great to see make a comeback. Additionally, Bulma’s character has been reduced to a wasteful fanservice element for no apparent reason, although she does play a significant role in the overall plot.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a treat for fans, incorporating beloved elements like nostalgic Easter eggs and character traits while introducing refreshing new content and lores to the Dragon Ball universe. It reaches a satisfying conclusion by meeting the goal set in the beginning and a post-credit scene. The film earned nearly $103M worldwide, ranking 26th among the highest-grossing Japanese films of all time. Whether you’re a Dragon Ball enthusiast or not, I highly recommend watching this movie. Overall, it deserves a solid rating of 7.8 out of 10.