Super or Pooper?
A fans view of the future of the franchise
My earliest memory of Dragonball Z (other than a later realization that I'd seen a close up scouter equipped Vegeta advertising a local club night) was when I was at college, some time around 1999. I was in a Computing A-Level class when my interest was peaked by a couple of classmates referring has to how someone had just "leveled up". The Namek Saga was airing for the first time in the UK on Toonami (or Cartoon Network?) and they were referring to Krillin's meeting with Guru somewhere in the Namek Saga.
Now having weeded out those that care I'll continue. In honesty this article is only going to benefit those who have enjoyed Z or Super itself.
On this occasion I wanted to put down some of my own thoughts about Super as a series and touch on the things I think do work and those that don't. Now, I'm conscious that this will shine a lot of negativity on the series but I'd just like to say going in that this isn't a rant and I'll justify what i feel is both good and bad about the show throughout the piece.
Format for this piece will be to run through each of the major arcs (I can only imagine 15 episodes doesn't constitute a "Saga") which have aired up until this point and then to go into detail about what I felt worked, did not work and what I would have liked to see (if applicable). In the opening arc we are reintroduced to how everyone has been doing the last 6 months. The arc is an extended, drawn out version of the Battle of Gods movie which gives a bit more welcome (and unwelcome) insight into that story.
The series begins with a couple of "slice of life" episodes. Most of the reviews I've read spoke (wrote) highly that this was a great way to begin the series and I am inclined to agree.
More on this later but the series follows formula true to Dragonball Z in as much that Goku is indisposed initially before coming to the rescue later on. I've always been a fan of the build up towards the final confrontation where the plot has room to develop without being one big brawl to the death and with Goku hiding in the rafters until needed we at least got to see how everyone had been doing for the last 6 months.
Comedy value in the first 10 episodes largely comes from Dragonball originals Emperor Pilaf and his henchmen. Starting on a plus, I for one am pleased that Toriyama chose to reintroduce these characters in such a way which saves them from being a simple cameo and turns them into series staples.
What doesn't work?
Also attempting comedy is Vegeta and his attempts to appease Lord Beerus. Thankfully Vegeta has been used effectively since as making such a mockery of the Prince of all Saiyans to this degree so early on nearly turned me off the series entirely. In fact it was thanks to the Battle of Gods movie I knew it was only a temporary measure.
Otherwise the series soon becomes the Goku show, and like most I was eager to get past this first chapter onto tales I hadn't already seen in the cinema!
In similar fashion the Resurrection F arc was something I'd seen on the big screen. I was excited this time to see in which ways Toriyama was going to expand on the story as I felt there was a big part of the tale which wasn't told, mainly (and obviously) how Goku and Vegeta obtained their new SSJ Blue forms.
What it got right;
It was good to see the supporting cast get themselves back in action and to divert the story from Goku (and dare I say Vegeta) for a while against some foes which weren't there to completely outmatch them.
Frieza is rightly considered the greatest villain in the whole Dragonball franchise so it is great to see him back in his full on condescending tone.
Call it fan service but the return of Ginyu in a justifiably stronger body was a neat twist from the movie plot.
what it got wrong;
The final showdown with Frieza is too generic. We don't seen any attacks or techniques which haven't been shown before and the final explanation as to why Frieza fails could also be said of SSJ-Blue for all we know.
Poor Piccolo didn't get time to be grieved or even to be shown being wished back (more on this later)!
Plus I'm on board with the "I've never trained" argument being pretty lame.
SSJ Blue appears from nowhere. I can understand the movie having this as a surprise twist but when the show has ample time to fill in the gaps it leaves out a vitally important explanation as to how this came to be.
What I would have added (and how I'd of told it);
With the above in mind I'd like to have a crack as to how they could have introduced SSJ Blue whilst still keeping some element of tension in the story. Shaking things up a bit I would have seen Beerus awaken during Whis' training and intervene to say that he only has room for one of them to train and to then test Vegeta's progress in a bout (this being prior to any SSJ-Blue shenanigans). This would be another opportunity to display Beerus' absolute dominance. Following the sparring match he would declare that Vegeta still isn't as strong as Goku and banish him from his world so they can focus the training on Goku who is more worthy of their (Whis') time. Cue some Prince of Saiyan's internal monologue which results in tears of anger and ultimately the transformation into SSJ Blue, prior to Goku. This would then be interrupted by the events going on on Earth. Having already felled Picolo we would then be given more time for Frieza to monologue (as he does so well), declaring that the only one's who he hasn't killed from their previous battle on Namek is Gohan and Bulma. With Gohan already seriously injured already Frieza would direct a blast in his direction, prompting Goku to have the famous Krillin flashback and cuing his own transformation (and defecting the blast naturally). Most the transformations in the show come from loss or anger and it's notable that Goku has not witnessed the death of either of his sons in the whole series so I believe the threat of this would be a fair catalyst as to this level up.
It's important to remember that the transformations in the show are some of the most memorable parts of Z. Even if they were to do this in the form of a flashback (like Vegeta's original SSJ transformation), I think far too much time has now passed to warrant the bother.
Next we look to the Universe 6 tournament which had some ups and downs. Having an array of new opponents (rather than enemies) was good viewing (...possible exception of Pooh bear). It was nice for the plot to finally stretch into the unknown territory of the movies.
What I'm digging:
We got to see further expansion into the different gods that exist in the series. Let's face it, Super has decided for it's direct to be into the various celestial realms that exist beyond that of Z. It's a design choice which has caused it to make some character sacrifices but it's good to finally get a bit more payoff.
It's almost overwhelming to think of the size of the stage which Toriyama has now set. Showing an additional whole galaxy of races which include some which are apparently present in our own and we've even yet to discover. The scope of the series really jumped and it's exciting to think that this will hopefully be investigated in more detail.
Having a strange mirror world where Saiyans and Frieza are heroes (or are they!) and seeing Vegeta show some pride in helping Cabba transform.
What I'm not:
Piccolo and Buu being wasted - again more on this below.
Pooh bear and the lamest round of the whole tournament.
Strange (apparently untranslatable) rules being added to the SSJ-Blue form which make it weak over time or something? Wreaks of being made up on the fly to suit the situation.
The super-ultra-amazing wish, which could be anything, being something which can kinda be done by Shenron... We've seen planet's restored in Z (Earth for one!), I understand why this was the wish chosen but so far we've not seen the Super Dragonballs do anything which the regular ones can't!
Ignoring filler we then get to the new Future (Future-Future?) Trunks arc which at least showcased some very dynamic animations in the short blasts (pun totally intended) of action scenes it contained.
I'll have more of;
The internet was full of shock, pleasure and disdain when Trunks demonstrated that he was able to power up to seeming the level of a god using his temper alone. I actually disagree with a lot of the theorist out there and I believe that his "super rage boost" makes some sense. The last time we actually saw Goku get angry he went super saiyan for the first time and the last time we saw Vegeta do it he exchanged blows with Beerus himself. I'd also like to throw in that contrary to internet belief Trunks mainly fought Zamasu (rather than Black himself) who everyone needs to realize isn't actually that strong, merely immortal. He basically blindsided Black in their brief encounter. That's how he kept up with everyone else.
The strange ending here which introduces a second Omni-king is an unforeseen twist which can hopefully go places.
and you can take back;
There were some strange, unbalanced battles where we see Blue Vegito seemingly outmatched by God Zamasu when he frankly should be more powerful than Beerus.
Potara isn't permanent if you're not a god? But Supreme Kai didn't know that..really?
This brings us up to date with the series thus far (some 75 episodes in at time of writing). To finish up I'd like to generalise the main overarcing points of the series which extend beyond individual arcs or episodes.
One absolute failing came from the recent episodes where the climax comes from the fact that Goku...might die. It's unclear whether this classes as filler as the story and characters do tie into a previous arc and a future one, but the idea of anyone being shocked at the death of another character at this point of Dragon Ball is frankly a nonsense. In Z Goku spends majority of at least 2 Sagas dead. Death in Dragonaball is only a permanence if you are killed again when you're already dead as I understand...and I don't think that has even happened, so Toriyama can probably write his way out of that too (convincingly is another matter). Suffice to say this is possible the low point of the series for me. There's tears from the children and everything (#facepalm).
My other main disappointment is the fact that some characters are largely forgotten about (even save for Launch) or appear to be too awkward to include in the new world which has been created. Majin Buu being an obvious example (there are some rough translations which surmise that he's sleeping a lot but surely just putting him into some sort of hibernation would make more sense...). At least it would save me asking where he is and possibly save him to return later on, possibly stronger. Personally I don't believe the character should have even survived DBZ, possibly going out in some sort of self sacrifice against Kid Buu in the end.
Goten and Trunks (the child that is) are also wasting away in the background of the show. Both characters are supposed to be at a point in their lives where they are growing whilst also having a power which not even Gohan was capable of at their age. Instead they seem to stuck like Bart Simpson in an age of permanent pre-pubescence whilst the world around them evolves. All we seem to get romance from one and ... nothing from the other. Sadly they appear to be absent from the promo art for the next big arc too.
Finally Piccolo has been downgraded to babysitter. Sure he clocks up an unappreciated death by the hands of Frieza, but in the shows haste we don't even get to see him come back. His brief appearance in the Universe 6 Tournament was the final nail (geddit?) in the coffin. There is some hope here however as he does have a spot in the next arc's announcement poster.
Latest news at this point is that the Universal Survival Arc has been announced. Similar to the Resurrection F Arc this does look to hopefully turn things around and give some much needed air time to the B Team. We're shown that Krillin, Tien, 18 and even 17 are taking part in a new tournament along with one assumes 11 other teams of 10 all of whom have their own gods etc for us to see. How they will explain that all of the universe 7 team all currently live on 1 planet remains to be seen (I love the old perv but gotta be better than Roshi out there somewhere!). It's a tall order for anyone to come up with over 100 new remarkable and memorable characters, and we'll probably not see half of that in reality. But if it's done right the arc could finally be as deep and varied (and for the love of god, consistent!) as we all hope. I'm actually (sincerely) quite excited for it.
So in summary - I don't think it's a disaster. Some nice stuff is shown, the hierarchy of the Gods and a seemingly unlimited supply of new foes and opponents. Hopefully it will exceed the 100 episodes which Toriyama referred to at its inception (which google says is likely due to the success of the series) and we can have at least one full arc which gets us back to the Z way of thinking (get rid of Goku and Vegeta if you have to and let the rest of the squad protect the earth from something they can ultimately manage?).
For better or worse as I see it Z was largely self aware that Goku was the trump card in the deck. Each saga goes to its own lengths to make excuses as to why he's not able to join any battles until the final stages. Usually as he's near to, or actually dead.
Whilst clearly the hero of the piece, in Z he could be absent for tens of episodes at a time (Android Saga for example). Indeed Sean Schemmel (Goku's voice actor) has quoted that in the early days he used to have to borrow money from his dad because "Goku is still in the pod" and he wasn't getting any work out of the character! This is where I think most the issues for me come from in Super. Goku is alive and well for the whole series thus far. On top of this he has also obtained power which so out-greatly surpasses any of the other heroes save for Vegeta, no one else really matters and my favorite characters (save the big V himself) are criminally underused.
If you've never watched either show and you've made it here, well done! Hopefully save for the spoilers this has given you at least a small amount of insight into the rich world on offer. Give it a go, maybe start with DBZ Kai and go from there (then you'll get what all the fuss around the Abridged series is all about).
Till the next time, may the road rise to meet you. Just, not Snake Way...