Dragon Ball Super: SUPER HERO is the answer to all the fans throughout the years who have been asking for more focus on characters other than Goku and Vegeta. The movie’s main character this time around is Piccolo, who is tasked with bringing out Gohan’s full potential in order to defeat the threat of a revived Red Ribbon Army.
There’s lots of fan service for long time followers of the franchise. The movie is full of references to parts of Dragon Ball lore that don’t get much attention, such as Piccolo’s fusion with Kami, previous World Martial Arts Tournaments and special moves that don’t get used anymore.
The heavy Piccolo focus in SUPER HERO is a real treat. This is the most significant role he’s played in the story in decades. We get to see his interactions with Pan and Gohan that show he’s truly part of their family. And although Gohan’s arc in this movie—Gohan has neglected his training, and realizes he needs to fulfill his potential to protect the Earth—feels like it’s been done over and over again with no progress, the ending of the movie makes it seem like this time, it will finally stick. Goku and Vegeta do appear in the movie, but only in a couple of scenes.
The best part of the new Dragon Ball movies has consistently been the new characters, and this movie attempts to continue that tradition. Broly, Cheelai and Lemo return and have some great scenes with Beerus and Whis. Brand new to the series are androids Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, along with their creator Dr. Hedo, grandson of Dr. Gero. These characters are lively additions to the Dragon Ball universe, and make for great antagonists. However, I did feel that their characters weren’t given enough attention, especially compared to how much Broly and friends got in the previous movie. If this movie is adapted into TV episode form like Battle of Gods and Resurrection F were, it would be nice to see these characters fleshed out more.
The most notable aspect of this movie is the brand new animation style. 3D animation has been used sparingly in the last couple of Dragon Ball movies, but this is the first one to be done completely in 3D. While this may be a downgrade from what we saw in Dragon Ball Super: Broly (which I think is the best Dragon Ball has ever looked), the 3D animation has come a long way since we saw it used during crowd scenes in Resurrection F. Now the style is more in line with the art in the Dragon Ball FighterZ video game. In stills, it looks almost indistinguishable from 2D. The movement is smooth, and the film takes advantage of the 3D environments to create camera movements that may be much more difficult to achieve in 2D. However, the movie overall couldn’t quite cross the line into looking like a theatrical film rather than a video game cutscene. SUPER HERO is an interesting experiment in 3D anime filmmaking, but I hope future Dragon Ball movies goes back to being primarily 2D.
SUPER HERO is concerned not only with its own standalone narrative, but setting up the next stage of the Dragon Ball story. New transformations, a new training method for Vegeta, Pan being trained by Piccolo, and Goten and Trunks finally having their growth spurt all create new leads for where the story will go next. While Dragon Ball is definitely not finished with Goku and Vegeta, we may be seeing it living up to the baton pass that was set up but abandoned in Dragon Ball Z’s Buu Saga. Dragon Ball is full of exciting characters besides the two main Saiyans, I think this would be a welcome direction for the series to go in.
Dragon Ball Super: SUPER HERO is another solid addition to the Dragon Ball film franchise. The visuals don’t quite live up to the heights of the previous movie, but it’s still one of the better looking 3D anime out there. Some fans may roll their eyes at even more brand new transformations and have minor nitpicks about lore and retcons, but there’s plenty of good fan service to balance it out. The new characters aren’t the deepest, but they’re fun and have room to grow. If you’re a die hard Dragon Ball fan, you’ll enjoy this movie.
Dragon Ball Super: SUPER HERO will be released theatrically in the US on August 19.