Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero releases this weekend, marking the franchise’s triumphant return to the screen. There’s been no new Dragon Ball animated content released since the release of Dragon Ball Super: Broly in 2018, and Super Hero is a refreshing and wonderful revival. Finally providing a story that evades the focus on Goku and Vegeta, Super Hero was a triumph in both story and animation.
[Warning: Spoilers from Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero are below!]
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero’s story follows the Red Ribbon Army Saga and the Cell Saga of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z respectively. Commander Red has been succeeded by his son, Magenta, who has been toiling away and rebuilding the Red Ribbon Army under the secret guise of Red Pharmaceuticals.
Now, the time has come for the Red Ribbon Army to emerge once again with the help of Dr. Gero’s grandson and the world’s greatest android expert: Dr. Hedo.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero‘s complex conflict
Hedo and Magenta are amazing additions to the cast and bring new levels of complexity to the story. Hedo, although he’s Gero’s grandson, has no villainous intentions. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Hedo is obsessed with the ideas of superheroes and even hopes to someday be one himself. It’s that very ambition that Magenta manipulates, and tricks Hedo into creating androids to execute his villainous plans.
What Magenta doesn’t expect, is that Hedo’s creations are so thorough that they create minds of their own, and Hedo and his creations – superhero androids Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 – eventually ditch the evil deeds of the Red Ribbon Army and join the fight against them in the end. The relationships between these characters and their motivations are incredible and add countless layers to the characters and the story making it so easy to invest in right away.
Super Hero‘s metatextual DNA
The Dragon Ball fandom is vast and long-lived, to say the least. There have been sentiments and ideas thrown around for nearly decades at this point, and seeing them finally executed here is practically therapeutic.
For years people have been wondering if Gohan would ever become the man he was once meant to be. Following the Cell arc, Gohan was poised to become the new focus of the story.
With Goku long dead and the Saiyaman emerging, Gohan could’ve become something incredible. But the backlash to the story led to cold feet from mangaka Akira Toriyama and he course-corrected (which is largely why the Majin Buu arc is regarded as messy and meandering).
Now here we are years later, and fans have been wondering if Gohan will ever get his chance again. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero gives Gohan that chance, and he takes full advantage of that chance. Gohan is not the main character of the story, but that almost gives the character even more liberty as we see it from Piccolo’s perspective.
Taking a step back from Goku and Vegeta
Yes, what I said was true, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a Piccolo story. Super Hero is all about the past coming back with a vengeance, and the perfect character to helm that story is Piccolo, a man with a tattered and complicated past. Half demon King Piccolo and half god Kami, Piccolo has always been a man conflicted within himself.
But as of late, a more and more heart-driven character has emerged. It’s been a long journey, and it’s a journey that’s been forever connected with Piccolo’s relationship with Gohan, tracked all the way back to the two first meeting at the beginning of Dragon Ball Z. That fatherly love has been passed onto his relationship with Gohan’s daughter Pan, and the way he goes out of his way to help and train her.
I’ve been begging for a story that focuses on the non-Goku and Vegeta characters for ages, and really the only logical way to do that is to just inconveniently remove Goku and Vegeta from the equation. Those characters are so incredibly powerful that at this point, it just wouldn’t make sense for them to be just physically incapacitated and have those less powerful characters have to match up to that.
The way this movie sidesteps them is so wonderful and rewarding. It’s just sort of a coincidence that when the Red Ribbon Army arises, Goku and Vegeta are off-world with Broly and Whis. They can’t get ahold of them as much as they try, and the situation is so imminent that they just have to put their heads down and keep pushing forward without them. The way that Piccolo takes charge in their absence is so exciting, and it’s really elevated by the variable that is Goku and Vegeta’s absence.
The beautiful 3D animation
The most questionable aspect of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero before going in was their choice of animation style. Dragon Ball Super: Broly had some of the most beautiful animations I’ve ever seen in my life, and the choice to abandon that was questionable as is. But the additional controversial choice to pivot to 3D animation was a proverbial hat-on hat-off controversy.
But the choice was the correct one, and I feel wrong for even questioning them. Dragon Ball Super: Broly’s art style was more visually pleasing, I’ll stand by that. But that implementation of Super Hero’s third-dimensional plane is really great. It’s admittedly exciting to see the use of cinematography and camera movement with more versatility provided by 3D animation.
The fight scenes in Super: Broly were already done mostly in 3D animation, so the further evolution made sense. And the brilliant use of 3D animation in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse could’ve even influenced their decision as well. While it is a shame to see less and less 2D animation in theaters every year, if all films used 3D animation like this…we’d be blessed.
Dialogue sync in the English dub
There is an odd issue I encountered while experiencing the English dub of the film. It was a conscious choice to attend the screening as opposed to the Japanese sub because I can’t in good conscience deny my ears the glory of Chris Sabat’s brilliant voice. But there were multiple instances of terrible syncing with the English dialogue and scenes on screen.
It’s something I wouldn’t typically even notice, or make note of even if I did, but it was incredibly blatant. There were 2 moments in particular, where the dialogue between two characters would continue even though the film was moving on to other things. There’s even a moment where Piccolo hangs up the phone on Bulma but the two just continue to talk because the English dialogue isn’t finished covering all of the bases.
Now, dialogue overlapping into scenes and sequences of action while they transition into something else isn’t unheard of. And it’s something that might even be intentional upon seeing the Japanese cut of the film. But as it stands, the English dub of the film does the technique very sloppily, if it was even purposeful in the first place.
The return of Cell (sort of)
With characters like Hedo, Gamma 1, and Gamma 2 as the antagonists, poised to make a turn to the good side, there has to be someone for everyone to team up against in the end. Boy does this movie provide. When I say Gohan, Red Ribbon Army, Androids, or Dr. Gero, what might come to mind? That’s right: Cell is back (kind of).
When Magenta employed Dr. Hedo to create the androids to take down the Z Fighters, he specifically requested that Hedo create another rendition of Cell. Aptly named Cell Max, the beast of an android has none of the flashy personality of the original Cell, though he does sport an uncanny resemblance.
Hedo demanded that if they dispatched Cell Max too soon, the beast would destroy the world in a Broly-esque mindless rage. But when Magenta is cornered, he does it anyways (they never learn, do they?).
The way the movie perfectly brings all of these things to a head AND brings Gohan back into the limelight at the same time is excellent. Gohan is forever tied to Cell, and that final confrontation between the two is one of the most iconic moments in the entire franchise. It’s so beautiful and amazing that the story that gives Gohan the opportunity to elevate is also a story that brings it full circle to the beast that gave Gohan his status as a hero in the first place.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero has quickly become one of my favorite movies of the year, and it’s incredibly hard to shake out of my mind. The incredibly fun and complex story and conflict, the beautiful cinematography, and action, and the amazing characters we all know and love; all clashed together into one amazing 100-minute film. Do yourself a favor and go experience it this weekend. It’s more than worth the time.
My Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero review rating:
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is currently in theaters. Have you seen it yet? What did you think of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero? Let us know in the comments or on social media! And if you haven’t already, check out my review on Day Shift, the newest action-adventure film from Netflix, starring Jamie Foxx!