Here it is, the long-awaited follow up to my most viewed post on this blog by an absolute stupid margin. You know, that one time I ranted about why the Majin Buu Arc of Dragon Ball Z sucked. I’m a bit more educated on Akira Toriyama’s writing process since then though, and so I don’t look back on that arc so harshly anymore. Part of that comes from knowing a little more about what was happening behind the scenes, but the rest of it comes from spending the last two and half years watching Dragon Ball Super.
Now that the show is over, I feel like this is a good a time as any to look back and talk about it, considering the last time I spoke about Dragon Ball was back at the beginning of the Universe 6 arc. Back then I was still pretty negative about Super, but I’ve come to accept and enjoy it for what it was over time.
While Super did improve a lot, it was still riddled with problems right up until the end. So, to start off a three part series of me talking about Dragon Ball I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, here is my list of the ten things (in no particular order) that I felt sucked about Dragon Ball Super.
A word of warning, this will go into depth talking about all of Dragon Ball Super, so if you’re only caught up with the dubbed version of the show and want to avoid spoilers, I wouldn’t venture any further in here.
This one always rubbed me the wrong way. After Dragon Ball crashed back into the public consciousness thanks to a fantastic movie and than a pretty good movie in both Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ respectively, learning that the new show that followed would spend the first 27 episodes retelling the events of those movies was pretty galling.
As a fan, my teeth were itching to see some brand new, canon, content that felt like it was progressing the story and not just fan service fluff pieces like that Tarble OVA from a few years back. The movies had left all these little teases about the existence of multiple universes and all of a sudden we felt like anything could happen in Dragon Ball again
But no. Instead we were made to sit through seven months of story we’d already seen, and told to a far lesser quality. I wish I could think of a positive spin to assign to this choice, but I’m struggling to do so. It took what felt like a triumphant return for the series in Battle of Gods and turned it into a poorly animated, poorly paced and dragging addition that served no purpose other than to save the writers having to think of an original story for the first half a year.
Oh! I did think of one good thing that came from the series retelling events; It brought back Captain Ginyu, who has been living on Earth as the world’s oldest alien frog. But even the glorious Captain’s return wasn’t enough for me to actually tell anyone to start watching at the beginning. Do yourselves and favour and jump right to episode 28.
This became less of an issue as the series went on. But it cannot be understated just how dire the animation was in the first three arcs of Dragon Ball Super. Even going back to the Universe 6 Arc, it still looks pretty choppy and off-model compared to the huge jump in quality that we got towards the tail end of the series.
I always found this entire occurrence bizarre, Son Goku is one of the most iconic and recognizable faces in all of the modern culture, let alone anime. Anyone with the misfortune of spending significant time online will have seen a picture or mention of him at least. Taking that into account along with the insane popularity of Dragon Ball as a long-lived intellectual property, how on earth were Toei investing so little money into bringing it back.
Especially when you look at shows like My Hero Academia and One Punch Man, which are of a similar genre and looks worlds apart in terms of quality. Here is where my lack of knowledge of anime production comes into action. I’d guess it has something to do with the fact that unlike those examples, Dragon Ball was an ongoing show, which took few breaks during it’s near three-year run.
But it doesn’t excuse just how bad the show looked for a long time. Even as it’s popularity skyrocketed, and the quality improved, there were still a lot of cut corners and reuse of animation right up until the end of the show. It was nowhere near as bad as it was to begin with, but it makes the early sections of the show a very hard sit now.
The King of All, Grand Zeno, the Omni-King or just Zeno Chan if you’re Goku. The final twist in the tale when it came to the hierarchy of deities in the Dragon Ball Multiverse.
The Omni-King, like most things “Toriyama”, is not what you might expect from the grand ruler of all existence. Zeno is an omnipotent, childlike being who seems very reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone episode; It’s a Good Life, in which a young child can will anything he wants in or out of existence. This comes with the consequence of lacking the context and experience to know any better than to act like a total monster.
Zeno starts out as a pretty funny addition, this little, simple-minded child who the bickering brothers of Beerus and Champa are utterly terrified of. You come to realize that their fear of him isn’t necessarily because he is strong, but because he can erase you from existence on a whim. The point at which I started to dislike Zeno was pretty early on in the Universe Survival Arc.
It felt like he was supposed to be an audience surrogate at times, excitedly reacting to the action in the ring. The thing is, most of the Dragon Ball fandom sucks, I don’t want to see us inserted into the show. Especially when it consists of cutaways from the action to update us on the fact that Zeno can’t count to five or he’s imitating fighters from the tournament. He became an annoying distraction.
And then there’s his disregard for the rules of his own tournament that he forced everyone to particulate in. In most instances, Zeno ultimately ignores the rules when it comes time to enforce them simply because the breaking of rules “seemed cool”. Even by the end, I think everyone gave up on the whole time limit aspect of the tournament to see how it panned out.
What really irritates me though, all throughout his appearances, the Grand Priest tries to claim that there is always some subtle logic to everything the Omni King does. I don’t believe that for a second. I get that you’re his hype man and all, but I really think the Grand Priest is the real brains behind his operation. The Omni King is just the idiot up at the top.
In a certain previous list of similar format, I voiced my frustrations about how Gohan has been handled as a character following his defeat of Cell. Toriyama had always said he intended to make Gohan the scholar by the end. But we had always hoped he would find some kind of balance between his book learning and becoming the amazing fighter that it felt like the entire first two thirds of Dragon Ball Z were trying to set up.
Super treats Gohan so badly. It’s one of the weird issues with Super in general: it gives certain characters, ones you wouldn’t expect, an amazing amount of exposure but leaves other, arguably more popular, characters behind. That’s something I’m going to talk a lot more about down the road though.
The first sign of the problem with Gohan showed its head during the Resurrection ‘F’ section of the story. Gohan had stopped training for, what, maybe a few years? The result was that he apparently loses all ability to fight whatsoever. He struggles to even turn Super Saiyan, which is a huge step down after being stronger than a Super Saiyan 3 at his best.
The saddest part about this was that it didn’t feel like it was for the sake of the story. Had Gohan been at full power and still lost to Frieza, thanks to his dramatic power increase, it would have made the villain seem all the more intimidating while still allowing Gohan to save face if he went down with some dignity. Instead, the series has Piccolo sacrifice himself, again, and Gohan’s main contribution being the call for help so daddy could come and save the day.
It isn’t until the Universe Survival Arc that there is some amount of redemption for Gohan. And while he does get a number of really good, satisfying moments that bring some closure to the character and his relationship with his mentors, the writers seemingly forget them come the next episode and fall on back into well-worn trends of him needing to be saved. It’s frustrating that Gohan’s real high point continues to be his defeat of Cell. All of that potential and nothing to show for it.
If there was one thing I could actually magically go back change about Dragon Ball Super, it would be that the writers actually paid any attention to things they established weeks or months beforehand and actually keep things consistent. Super was riddled with so many logical inconsistencies that more often than not fans would create cool and elaborate solutions for events that, as it turned out, the writers completely forgot about. Or ignored.
In the early days of the Tournament of Power, there is a lot of talk about characters conserving their stamina. With there being so many fighters in action at once and a lot of powerful individuals amongst them, it would be silly for any of the characters to use their full power from the get-go. So how long does it take a character to enter the Super Saiyan Blue state, a form that has been described as very draining previously? A couple of episodes.
For all the talk of stamina and conserving it, on a number of occasions characters seem to wipe themselves out to the point they’re unable to hold themselves up. In terms of time taken within the tournament though, they’re out of action couple minutes before they’re back on their feet and fighting at seemingly full power again. Goku did it on multiple occasions after fighting Jiren, Kefla, Jiren and then Jiren again. And yet he is still standing and enough power to fight competently right until the very end.
Vegeta does it too, using the Final Explosion technique that killed him in the Buu arc and then still has the power to go blue again afterward.
While I’m on the topic of transformations, These were really inconsistent throughout Super too. The original pitch before the series started was that after the god powerup, the old Super Saiyan forms would become irrelevant in favor of this “Saiyan beyond God” form used in the Resurrection ‘F’ movie. Yet that is totally forgotten as characters regularly use the old forms throughout the series and the God/Blue forms become more like the new Super Saiyan 4 and 5 instead of something different entirely.
Then we get Kaio-ken blue, which was originally a technique rather than a transformation. One that multiplies power at the expense of ravaging the body. So when Goku multiplies his power by 10 against Hit, how did he not just knock him out in a single attack? With how powerful Goku is at that point, an actual ten time multiplier would be insane. But eventually Kaio-ken just becomes Goku’s new Super Saiyan 6 equivalent, and the downsides of the technique are forgotten. I could go on…
This is the most “Power Level Nerd” thing about the show I’m going to complain about, and it ultimately doesn’t really matter because to follow these rules would be at the expense of the show’s ability to tell the story they want. But when you consistently contradict yourself based on actual lines spoken earlier in the series, it becomes hard to take anything that’s said seriously going forward.
I don’t hate the Goku Black Arc as a whole. It had a ton of problems sure, but it still gave us a number of cool ideas and moments. Goku Black/Zamasu is actually a good villain and the only genuine villain of the entire series. Although he ends up being a lot better in concept than execution. His monologing and motives are nonsensical to the point of insanity, but by the end, even the show makes it evident that the guy is totally off his rocker.
The Arc starts out pretty strongly too, introducing a mysterious new villain who looks and sounds exactly like Goku, there is a lot of mystery as to his identity and the dark future has a very dismal and moody tone. It also brought fan favorite, Future Trunks back into the mix. It’s as the events of the arc unfold that things start to unravel and it feels like the writers don’t really have a solid plan of where they want to end up.
Goku and Vegeta go to the future with Trunks to fight Black, only to fail and retreat to come up with a plan. Only the plan doesn’t work, so they run away again. So they come up with yet another plan, one which doesn’t work either. The constant back and forth between past and future make the stakes feel low because they could just keep escaping to the future when things got bad. The confrontation with the Zamasu’s feels like it starts too early and every time the characters dodge back to the present, it just feels like an interruption of the main battle.
The nature of Goku Black himself is kind of convoluted when it comes too light; He’s the Zamasu who survived an aborted timeline, who traveled a parallel timeline to steal Goku’s body using the Super Dragon Balls. And the immortal Zamasu is the one from Future Trunks’ timeline. None of this feels clear when watching it though, I had to read a synopsis to wrap my head around it.
Then we get to the finale. While I actually did like that Trunks got the final kill on Zamasu (kind of), it feels like an anticlimax when apparently he can just dissipate into god particles and infect the universe like a divine virus. That Goku has to call the Future Omni-King in to erase the entire line is bittersweet. Made even more so by the decision of Trunks and Mai to simply return to a copy of their original timeline that they don’t really belong in when they could easily have settled down in the present timeline.
The Manga manages to make much more logical sense of events, it’s a shame that an arc with so much promise ended up going so off the rails.
I previously mentioned that I appreciated the fact it was Trunks who got the “kill” on Zamasu at the end of the arc. It felt deserved considering what he’d been through. The writer’s felt like he deserved a lot more though, and through their desire to keep Trunks relevant in the storyline ended up giving him a ton of power and abilities. None of which are given the time to get explained or justified.
There are a lot of examples of characters in Dragon Ball Super getting significant power-ups out of thin air which never really feel justified. For the most part, they don’t bother me because they ultimately don’t matter and just serve to make for a more interesting story. The difference here is that Trunks’ contributions with said powers are vital towards the defeat of the Arc’s major villain.
So let’s give an example: Trunks, at this point in the story, is a very powerful Super Saiyan 2. He’s strong in his own right, but nothing in comparison to the level Goku and Vegeta are at now. So to keep him relevant, the writers decided to give him a new transformation, one completely unique to him.
Dubbed Super Saiyan Rage, Trunks is now able to fight on par with Super Saiyan Blue Goku and Vegeta, and at times surpasses them. No effort is made on the part of the writers to give a reason behind how Trunks received such a dramatic power boost out of nowhere, one that you could argue that he could have attained at any time prior to that point. Nobody really acknowledges it either.
Then there’s his ability to use the Evil Containment Wave on his first attempt with zero training, something that even Goku had to spend some small amount of time practising with Master Roshi before heading back to the future. Trunks just grab a bottle, waves his arms and traps Zamasu in a bottle. How did he even know how to do that? It feels more like magic than a fighting technique… Why not just have Goku use it, he was the one that trained to use it.
Finally, We’ve got Trunks’ Spirit Bomb/Sword attack. While this did make for an incredibly cool visual and moment, it is the most nonsensical thing he does, and part of the reason I dislike the ending to the arc so much. Not only does Trunks subconsciously form a Spirit Bomb (an actual technique developed by a named character in the series), with zero mention of him ever had learned it beforehand, he draws the energy into the shape of a blade on his broken sword and uses it as a hugely powerful weapon.
Seriously, if there had been a few passing lines setting up him having spent time training with King Kai or Master Roshi in his hideout submarine, I’d have been less annoyed. But it just screams bad writing when you’re pulling not one, but three things out of your ass for a character you seem to have a real writer’s crush on.
Goku is a character believe it or not, and throughout the entire Dragon Ball story, he has received some character development, from his sheltered introduction as a child to the revelation of his nature as an alien, to his trust in his son and his taking responsibility for Cell who his actions lead to the creation of. Goku is a very simple character but has still developed despite that.
In Dragon Ball Super, Goku gets no character development at all. In fact, he regresses if anything. His low intelligence is played up for laughs far more in Super than it was during Z. His inability to remember important information like the Evil Containment Wave seal in the Goku Black Arc, or his basic misunderstanding of human etticate like not appearing in someone’s bathroom while they’re taking a shower feel like things he would have done as a child, not something a guy who is in his 40s hasn’t grasped yet.
While so many other characters around him receive astounding character development during Super, Goku seems to stand still, as the constant beacon that everyone gathers around, because his love of fighting is just so damn infectious. He’s just Goku…
It’s because of this that when we get genuinely emotional scenes from him, it was jarring. When he thought Master Roshi had died during the Tournament of Power, he was distraught, and even cried. It felt so out of left field considering Goku has shown little else in terms of emotion at any other point of the series, especially this kind of emotion. I don’t mind Goku being a simple character, but he had literally no arc throughout the entirety of Super while characters around him grew in spades.
Dragon Ball’s cast is pretty huge by this point, there are so many characters that have come and stuck around after being drawn in by Goku’s amazing “charisma”. The problem is, with so many characters rattling around up there, a lot of them are left by the wayside as a consequence. I name a few here where I feel they could have been done better.
Piccolo is a huge fan favorite, he has been since the very start of Z. Everyone loves Piccolo, his relationship with Gohan was one of the best things about early Z, and his battle with Android #17 was one of the best in all of Z. But it already seemed like there was nothing left for him to do by the time the Buu Arc was happening, so Super had even left even less for him to do. If anything it makes him seem weaker than he actually is.
His inclusion in the Universe 6 tournament felt like a slap in the face, with Goku telling him he had no chance against Frost, a guy who wasn’t much stronger than Freeza was before his power up. Piccolo should have been more than powerful to take Frost out, but ultimately he contributes nothing to that tournament and only slightly more to the Tournament of Power. At least he got some cute scenes with Gohan and Pan.
Goten, Trunks, and Gotenks. Characters who have always been a bit contentious amongst the fandom. Super does nothing with them whatsoever, it doesn’t even age them up remotely in the 5/6 years that Super takes place in. Considering how much Z seemed to mention the next generation to defend Earth after Goku, we don’t see any of that in Super. Gotenks is a powerful presence, but it only used for comic relief the couple times he appears. Trunks is the only one who gets a little development, in a cute/creepy relationship with a 40-year-old woman trapped in a young girl’s body.
Then there’s Tien and Majin Buu. People like Tien, but he’s always been a little flat. His inclusion in the roster for the Tournament of Power would have been a nice final hurrah for him. Instead, he goes out pretty easily and unceremoniously, while Master Roshi puts on a fairly impressive show by comparison. Majin Buu is even worse. The show builds him up on several occasions, because untimely, Buu is a very powerful and useful individual to have on your team, but time after time, the show says “surprise, he’s asleep!”
The fit version of Buu who shows up during the Universe Survival Arc gave me some hope that they might turn the character around and make me finally like the useless tub of obnoxious. Nope, Majin Buu still sucks.
Just putting this out there. I like Jiren, I do. I think his design is pretty cool, I like that he isn’t an actual villain, although he is a huge dick, and I felt that his buildup was incredibly effective during the early stages of the Tournament of Power. The anime did an amazing job of giving him levels of both mystique and gravitas. You felt that this guy radiated power. His actions throughout the early tournament, shutting down combatants with minimal effort who others struggled against was simple but effective.
Where they went wrong was that the character peaked too early. His first fight with Goku happens at the midway point of the tournament itself, he established himself as utterly dominant in his fight with Ultra Instinct Goku. Afterward, his mystique started to wear thin, we’d seen him in action and he went back to doing very little at this point. It made me anxious to see what was happening to him. This is where the writing inconsistency becomes an issue again. While he dominated Goku, he went onto fight the likes of Hit, Vegeta and Android #17 and show moments of weakness he never did with Goku.
The fact that Jiren could be hurt and wasn’t perfect felt like it should have been a bigger plot point, but after beating Goku without so much as a scratch, he gets blindsided and pushed by other people pretty soon afterward. It takes away from the hype when everyone else who has a stab at him seems to get a reaction when Goku had to attain a brand new power up to even wobble how unflappable he felt.
His incredible strength is a point of interest too, he is apparently stronger than most, if not all, of the God’s of Destruction present. To the point, Goku gains a huge power up and it still isn’t enough. His origin was hotly debated over the fandom, wanting to the know the exact nature of how he attained such catastrophic strength. Long story short, his friends and family died and he decided to stop making connections with people and did nothing but train alone. That felt a little anticlimactic.
Plus we hit another writing inconsistency. If Jiren is so powerful, and such an uncaring dick. What was stopping him from just eliminating everyone from the tournament right away? Why allow Goku to have more than one shot at him? The manga does such a better job of fleshing out Jiren’s character, giving him a personality complex about losing anyone he deemed an innocent. That internal conflict would have made him a far more interesting character if it had made its way into the anime in any shape or form.