The Dragon Ball Super anime, movies, and manga have almost entirely focused on Goku and Vegeta, to the point where they’ve completely left the other characters behind in terms of plot and power level. But now, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero turns the focus to other characters, primarily Gohan and Piccolo, letting us catch up with them as they catch up with the new power levels.
With that in mind, how was the latest Dragon Ball Super movie? Let’s take a look and see, without major spoilers…
Story and Themes
One key thing about Super Hero is how the story builds on older Dragon Ball storylines and brings them back for a new generation. The Red Ribbon Army and Dr. Gero’s androids played a huge role in both the original Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, all of which comes back around for Super Hero.
As such, it brings in new characters carrying on the legacy of past villains – primarily Magenta, son of Commander Red (the Red Ribbon Army’s leader) and Dr. Hedo, grandson of Dr. Gero. (And if you pay attention to Dr. Hedo’s family tree, you’ll also see an appearance of Vomi, who appeared in some Dragon Ball Z video games as the model for Android 21.) With them comes the introduction of the androids Gamma 1 and Gamma 2.
At the same time, it also focuses on the legacy of our heroes. That’s primarily shown through Piccolo, who gets more than a few callbacks to the time he spent as a villain in Dragon Ball, but also as he helps train Pan, the daughter of Gohan and Videl.
In fact, the entire movie is filled with callbacks to earlier moments in the series, including events that took place on Namek, battles against old foes, and even Piccolo not having his driver’s license. It’s a great treat for longtime fans without causing any confusion for newer viewers.
So, what about the story itself? Well, the plot is pretty basic: Magenta, heir to the Red Ribbon Army, wants to bring his father’s group back to power. He hires Dr. Hedo to build new androids, and takes the fight to the characters on Earth – starting with Piccolo and Gohan.
Meanwhile, after the events of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, Goku and Vegeta are off training with Broly on Beerus’ planet, keeping them safely out of the plot so that other characters can get a chance to shine. At the same time, it’s nice to check in on the characters from the last movie, as it makes it clear that they’ll remain in-continuity for future movies.
It’s not the most complex plot, but it still works nicely. This is made possible thanks to the characters and each of their arcs within the narrative, which brings us to…
The Dragon Ball series has some iconic characters, but that goes without saying. Everyone who knows anything about the series knows Goku and Vegeta, but characters like Gohan, Piccolo, and Bulma are also well-known.
Because it puts Goku and Vegeta on the sidelines, Super Hero allows us to catch up with the rest of the cast. We see the role Piccolo plays in the lives of his closest friends, especially as he takes on a caretaker role for Pan. (Yes, once again, Piccolo proves that he is the best dad for all of Goku’s descendants.)
At the same time, we see where Gohan is at this point in his life. Throughout the series, it was indicated that he has the potential to be even strong than Goku, but he doesn’t care about training and fighting as much as the others do, so he lets himself fall behind on training as he focuses on his research. So in many ways, this is also a story of how Gohan got his groove back, so to speak.
Both of them get good arcs and development as we go through the film, even if it’s just a matter of getting new power-ups. But hey, that’s Dragon Ball for you.
(Admittedly, there is one moment where Piccolo does what can be considered a dick move to help motivate Gohan, but that did turn out to be a necessary evil.)Continued below
But there are also new characters to get to know, and plenty of them. Pan is now three years old, so we’re getting to know her as she grows up (putting aside the version from Dragon Ball GT that probably isn’t canon anymore). And of course, there are the new antagonists.
Magenta himself is a decent villain, relying on money and technological power over sheer strength like most villains do. He pays and manipulates people to get his way, all with a level of confidence and smugness that makes him a good foil to the heroes. His right-hand man, Carmine, is also an enjoyable character for his little quirks, like adding studio credits to his informative videos.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hedo is an interesting character. While he is the grandson of the villainous Dr. Gero, it’s his love of super heroes that drives him to design his androids. Yet his own sense of morality is less than heroic, as he has no problem killing people and knowingly working with the Red Ribbon Army as long as it helps him with his research.
Yet that heroic spirit also goes into his two androids. While it would be easy to just write more “evil androids who fight our heroes” plots, as the series has done before, Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 are designed with heroic aspirations, as misguided as they are. We even see their good natures come through in many instances. Plus, it’s just fun to see them in action as they strike poses, showing off their designs that nicely blend more western superhero designs and visual aspects of Japanese “tokusatsu” heroes.
And of course, given what we’ve come to expect from the Dragon Ball franchise, it comes as no surprise that we get plenty of fight scenes with them.
The Fights and Animation
Naturally, anything with Dragon Ball is going to have plenty of flashy fight scenes, and Super Hero is no exception. And with the new animation style used by the movie, they look dang good.
Super Hero uses less traditional animation, and more of a cell-shaded CGI approach. While this is a noticeable change from the anime and previous films, the style still visually matches Dragon Ball, even down to its coloration. After a while, you stop even noticing the difference.
But this animation also lends itself to the movie by making everything so much smoother. We get tracking shots, shifting angles, and fluid motion that previous movies didn’t dare to try, which comes through whether characters are walking and talking or in the middle of a massive brawl. It’s incredibly smooth and fast without compromising clarity, making it a visual treat.
Plus, the animation allows for a lot more background action and motion that previous entries. Often times we’ll have the focus on a character in the foreground, while others in the background are still carrying on with their conversations or action (even if it’s just Gamma 2 striking another pose). This adds more dynamic energy to every scene, whether or not there’s a fight taking place, and allows us to focus on the entire screen – that’s especially useful when a character is doing something important in the background.
All this leads up to some absolutely intense action scenes. The energy blasts are bigger, the punches hit harder, and the power-ups hit new levels. (After all, this is the movie designed to bring the rest of the cast up to the new power levels Goku and Vegeta have been hitting, and it couldn’t do that without plenty of new transformations to go around.)
Let’s face it: fight scenes and power-ups are a major aspect of the Dragon Ball franchise, so a Dragon Ball Super movie would feel woefully incomplete without one. Fortunately, this movie has all that in spades.
The Voice Acting
Anime voice actors are some of the most dedicated, passionate individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and that comes through in this movie. In the English dub, we have returning actors like Kyle Hebert as Gohan, Christopher Sabat as Piccolo and Vegeta, Sean Schemmel as Goku, and Monica Rial as Bulma. They’re familiar voices to fans of the series, and they know the characters so well by now that everything sounds natural to them.Continued below
At the same time, we have new characters making their debut, bringing in new members to the Dragon Ball cast. Charles Martinet (best known as the voice of Mario) takes on the role of the antagonistic Magenta (you can almost hear some Wario in his delivery, but Magenta’s voice is still distinct and very fitting), while Zach Aguilar voices Dr. Hedo, with Aleks Le and Zeno Robinson as Gammas 1 and 2, respectively.
Each actor feels like a natural addition to the series, matching the energy of the rest of the cast in everything from the delivery of their lines to the yelling used for power-up scenes. New and old characters alike are voiced with plenty of personality and expressiveness, making it all the more enjoyable.
When you watch anything from the Dragon Ball series, you go in expecting a few things: lots of fighting, lots of yelling, characters unlocking new and even more powerful forms, and so on. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero delivers all of that and more (sorry, no spoilers on what the “and more” is), while being filled with callbacks and continuity for longtime fans to enjoy.
It wisely turns the focus to characters outside of Goku and Vegeta, while still letting us catch up with them for a fight scene or two, so we can see what other fan-favorite characters have been up to. At the same time, it brings back old plot points and introduces new characters who are welcome additions to the Dragon Ball universe, making everything feel connected and growing. That also adds more heart to the movie, since we’re catching up with characters who have aspirations outside of “getting stronger.” (No disrespect to Goku and Vegeta, of course.)
The new animation style looks better than expected, allowing for fast and fluid movement. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s action-packed – it’s everything you want from a Dragon Ball Super movie.