The most recent anime addition to the hugely popular Dragon Ball franchise, Dragon Ball Super, is well over 100 episodes into its production yet it continues to enthral fans. However, even longtime Dragon Ball fans seem to have let the Toyotarō and Akira Toriyama-led Dragon Ball Super manga slip under their radar.
This is a shame, as the manga regularly changes elements of the anime that improves the story. These changes make the fights more satisfying, the events of the series much more climactic, and the characters more nuanced and fleshed out.
Warning: Super spoilers are in store.
The ending of the Future Trunks saga in the Super anime is alright in the most generous terms and kind of a letdown from a more cynical perspective. Even though the arc is a lot of fun — and features a few characters most fans thought would never appear again — the ending is disappointing and nonsensical.
While it’s great that Future Trunks gets to finish off the major villain of the arc, him doing so with a modified Spirit Bomb struck a lot of fans as out of place. Zamasu turning into an evil cloud monster also made the villain feel strange instead of threatening.
The manga, however, takes this fight in a different direction. Instead, the manga turns the battle into a series of stalling tactics to use up Zamasu’s limited amount of fusion time. Vegito still makes an appearance in the manga, although this time he’s much more powerful than Fused Zamasu. And this time around, Zamasu divides into an army of himself rather than a cloud monster before the Omni-King obliterated him; which is a much cooler character moment than the Dragon Ball Super anime ending.
In the anime, before the Tournament of Power, a Zen Exhibition Match is held between Universe 7 and Universe 9 so that the Future Omni-King can experience a martial arts tournament before the battle royal. While these fights were somewhat interesting, the stakes were low and it didn’t contribute much to the larger story. Sure it made all of the other Universes hate Goku and Universe 7, but they already had enough justification in loathing Goku before the mini-tournament began.
In the manga, however, each God of Destruction battles each other to show the Future Omni King what a martial arts tournament is like. Not only does this fight offer much more insight and screen time for the compelling God of Destruction characters, but it also explores why the other gods hate Beerus so much. Turns out that millennia ago he fell asleep during a game of hide-and-seek between the Gods of Destruction and the Omni-King. This ruined the game for the childlike deity and forced the other gods to nearly become eradicated.
Amazing fights aside, this change from the anime to the manga in this event is improved if for nothing else than this adorable and hilarious tidbit of information.
In the anime, Jiren is by far one of the most exciting parts of the tournament of power. He’s a mortal stronger than even the Gods of Destruction and the leader of an elite group of warriors. That’s pretty much all we know about the jacked alien man from the anime, though.
The manga, however, takes the time to define Jiren’s character. His manga version is a staunch believer in justice. He traverses the universe to protect the weak and innocent. In fact, he wants to use the wish awarded to the victor of the tournament to bring never-ending peace to Universe 11. These additions to Jiren’s character do wonders in transforming him from just another challenge for Goku to surpass to a character fans can empathize with and support.
Transformations have been a staple of the franchise for decades. However, Dragon Ball Super has a problem when it comes to characters taking on these forms. Every story arc in the anime has featured a new iteration on the Super Saiyan form or the recently unveiled Ultra Instinct transformation. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does make each new transformation feel underwhelming when we saw a brand new transformation just a few months before and there’s probably a new one not too far away.
The manga addresses this saturation by removing some transformations entirely. In the Dragon Ball Super manga, the Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-ken transformation doesn’t exist, and instead, Goku grows stronger by honing his already existing transformations. To make up for this, Vegeta gains access to the Super Saiyan God transformation which answers the longstanding question of how he was able to use the Super Saiyan Blue form.
In every iteration of the Dragon Ball anime, when Goku sees other people using cool and interesting martial arts techniques and attacks, he steals them for his own use. He took the Kamehameha from Master Roshi, the Solar Flare from Tien Shinhan, and the Spirit Bomb form King Kai.
In the manga, Goku still steals techniques, but it improves this practice by using it to show how much Goku has grown and how much potential for growth he still has.
While he is rarely called out on this, it’s weird that we haven’t seen Goku use an entirely original attack since the first Dragon Ball anime. Goku stole the technique known as ‘Destruction’ from Beerus which was thought to only be usable by Gods of Destruction. Goku then uses Destruction in a last-ditch effort to kill the immortal Fused Zamasu. While the technique ultimately fails — as Destruction cannot be used to kill an immortal — the manga uses this cool moment to foreshadow Goku becoming more powerful than the Gods of Destruction. The theft and ultimate usage of Destruction showed just how much Goku has closed the gap between Beerus and himself.