Created by: Akira Toriyama
Runtime: 20 min p/ episode
Dragon Ball Super is the official (or canon, whatever you prefer) follow-up to Dragon Ball Z (yes, Dragon Ball GT does not "exist") and it continues right after the Majin Buu arc. Goku goes on action-packed adventures, finding new worlds, strong warriors and limit-breaking powers, which will unfold through five arcs. This will still be a spoiler-free review, but you should know at least the synopsis of each arc.
We will have memorable characters return to the screen, like Trunks or Freeza, as well as new powerful enemies who our warriors will have to defeat in order to protect everyone they love.
I am a huge fan of Dragon Ball! I didn't exactly grow up while it was live, but the show kept being transmitted on TV for years without end. I love everything about it, from the awesome fight scenes to the well-developed storylines that always delivered the final punch. So, when I heard that Dragon Ball Super was going to be Akira Toriyama's next official series, I was incredibly excited! Two movies were released before the anime: Battle of Gods and Resurrection 'F'. Both of these films are amazing. While the first is overall better due to its captivating story, the latter is packed with action and it surely appeals more to fans that care more about the fights (even more when we bring the most popular villain ever, Freeza, back to life).
I will approach this review by discussing the pros and cons of each arc. I will keep everything spoiler-free, mentioning only the premise of each arc and eventually some new characters, so don't worry. First of all, I want to be clear: Dragon Ball Z is a masterpiece! It’s a series that completely changed the future of anime and its influence is undeniable. Consequently, Z created its own cliches and typical cheesy moments. If you are a hardcore Dragon Ball fan like myself, these aspects never bothered you.
Obviously, Super has the same cliches and some of them don't really work nowadays. However, this is Dragon Ball! It is not trying to be a contender for a writing award, it just wants to convey the same emotions Z did. I think a lot of people complained about Super while forgetting that Z also had the same plot points. Different times, different perspectives, I guess. That said, let me get to it!
Battle of Gods Arc / Resurrection 'F' Arc
Battle of Gods: C
Resurrection 'F': D+
This is the tough bit ... These arcs are awfully bad. The animation is horrible, especially in the second arc, which at the time was a major cause for concern because no improvement was being made. While Beerus x Goku has its good moments, Goku x Freeza is one of the biggest letdowns in the entire Dragon Ball history. Besides that, these arcs basically repeat the movies, so these are almost 30 episodes which we already know what is going to happen.
However, I encourage NOT to entirely skip these episodes. While I agree that watching the films is a much better way to go through these arcs (the movies' animation is beautiful), the series does a good job of fixing some of the films' minor issues. The characters receive the backstory they need to justify some of the movies' plot points which feel "out of nowhere". Overall, these are definitely the worst arcs of Super, but it is possible to avoid the suffering by watching the films instead, while also watching some of the setup episodes of each arc, in order to understand the movies' plots.
Universe 6 Arc
This is the arc that every fan was waiting for. The Universes 6 and 7 will fight for the Super Dragon Balls in a tournament with the same rules of the fan-favorite World Martial Arts Tournament. The series' first original story introduces phenomenal new characters, like Cabba, Frost, Champa and the standout, Hit. The animation improved a lot and the very first epic moment of the saga happens when Goku fights Hit. It’s the first time where the soundtrack elevates the moment and makes everything way more awesome .. and it won’t be the last.
The new characters are captivating and have great backstories to develop in future episodes, with a couple of exceptions. The interactions between them and the originals are the main source of entertainment and character development. It’s a major improvement on the previous arcs and it’s the first sign that Super might actually become a great show. However, the animation still has its bad moments here and there, some characters' designs are unimaginative and the beginning of the tournament is not that great. All in all, it’s a step in the right direction ...
Future Trunks Arc
If the last arc is a sign that Super is getting better, this one confirms it. Not only it delivers the return of another fan-favorite character, Trunks, it provides the best premise in the anime's history! Goku Black is destroying Trunks' world so, just like in the Cell Saga, Vegeta's son goes back in time to ask for help. I never thought that plot twists and mystery will be features of a Dragon Ball arc ... I was wrong. This is by far the best story in the entire anime. The mystery surrounding the identity of Goku Black keeps the viewers enthralled even when the episodes lack action. Filler episodes don't really exist because every episode gives us another hint and keeps the plot moving forward, so the entertainment levels are always extremely high. The animation reaches its highest level since the beginning with wonderfully drawn action sequences and beautiful new transformations.
Trunks is connected to some of the arc's most badass moments, even though the power levels feel a bit exaggerated. Goku and especially Vegeta have a lot of jaw-dropping fights and the soundtrack once again is on point. Undoubtedly, the best arc of Super so far. It delivers a mysteriously twistful story, filled with incredible animation and amazingly choreographed fights. It only loses some of its logic when it comes to power levels and how the supposedly weaker characters can overpower the strong ones.
Tournament of Power Arc
Most. Epic. Arc. Ever.
8 Universes, each with a team of 10 fighters, battle for their survival in a tournament similar to the one in the Universe 6 Arc. This is the one that floors me. The amount of emotions I went through is not healthy. My jaw hurts due to so many awesome moments to witness. This tournament goes on for a year and I can't throw away any episode. Honestly, anything that I will write here is not nearly enough to describe how memorable this arc is. I cried at the end of it all. I had chills all over my body for an episode's entire runtime. There are so many new characters that I will never forget and so many new transformations (including the one I think tops the first ever Super Saiyan Goku). The animation is at a level that I never thought it was even possible to achieve. The soundtrack is the main source of chills because once it starts ... Oh, it STARTS!
Obviously, Jiren is the main character that Goku and his team have to defeat, but there are so many other warriors that deliver colossal epic fights against the remaining characters. I guess the only flaw this arc has and the reason why it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s the overall story. Most characters don't really have a personality or a backstory, so this is purely an action-packed arc. The ending is predictable once we reach the final episodes, but I repeat what I said at the beginning of this review ... This is Dragon Ball, not an award-winning show for Best Screenplay.
I love everything about this arc and I honestly don't know what else to write to describe its epicness. Even with its minor issues, this is an A+. For what it intends to be, it’s far more than that and not a single flaw can overcome this achievement. I am going to read the manga version of it since it just started and wait for the next movie in December. Believe me when I say that this is not the end of the anime. It will continue in 2019/2020. At the end of it all, no one wants it to stop. It’s probably one of the few TV shows that rarely skipped a week (the animators’ schedule was one of the issues with the first couple of arcs) and that is something worth praising.
All in all, Dragon Ball Z might be better due to its impeccable balance between story and action. However, Dragon Ball Super will always be the saga that I will never forget. The epicness surrounding the characters, the beautifully choreographed fight scenes, the jaw-dropping animation quality and the chills induced by the amazing score ... It‘s so freaking awesome! It’s a fact that it took a while to get to the level the show presented in the last arc. The first couple of “seasons” are really painful, but the cinematic alternatives are a great way to partially skip the first 30 episodes or so. From the third arc on, it’s an adventure that I will cherish for a long, long time. Super's fillers rarely feel like such and the series' attempts at comedy are actually pretty funny.
Truthfully, I love this show. If I was only reviewing the last two arcs, the whole series would get an A+, but I have to be fair. If I had to go through the first arcs again knowing that I would get this outstanding payoff in the end, I would do it. Dragon Ball Super will live in my memory for eternity. Thank you to all of the animators for their exceptional work. Thank you for making me wish for Sunday to arrive every week, as quick as possible. Time to go through the "my life is pointless" phase ...
Until next time!