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It’s finally time to do a review on a Dragon Ball film. It’s shocking that I have yet to talk about one of the biggest franchises in the anime industry, one of the most important shonen action shows for Japan, the US, and well, the entire world. Even if you aren’t into anime, you have at least heard of Dragon Ball or one of the individual series that is connected to the franchise. It was hard to escape during the mid-late 90s and the early-mid 2000s. It’s only recently that we have been getting a resurgence of the franchise with two films Battle of the Gods and Ressurection F, alongside Dragon Ball Super, Dragon Ball Super: Broly…happened, and now we have what is right now, as of this writing, the biggest film in the US right now. Let’s just dive right into the biggest movie in the franchise, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.
The film is directed by Tetsuro Kodama, written by Akira Toriyama, and produced by Toei Animation. Instead of following Goku and Vegeta, we instead follow Piccolo, dubbed by Christopher Sabat. He’s training Gohan’s daughter Pan, dubbed by Jeannie Tirado. As the time passes, Piccolo has an issue with feeling like he is being the actual father figure to Pan than her actual dad Gohan, dubbed by Kyle Hebert. While this is going on, the iconic villain organization the Red Ribbon Army, now being led under the radar by Magenta, dubbed by Charles Martinet, obtains a young super scientist named Dr. Hedo, dubbed by Zach Aguilar. They make a deal that Hedo will help Magenta with taking over the world if they can make super androids that are superheroes. That’s how we end up with Piccolo and the Z fighters having to deal with Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, dubbed by Aleks Li and Zeno Robinson. Since they can’t get the help of Goku and Vegeta, can the rest of the gang save the day and stop the Red Ribbon Army from coming back from the pits of the earth to rule the world?
Let’s talk about the animation. Outside of the goofy title of the film, the big uproar about this film was that it was in CGI. It has some 2D moments and bits, but it was for the first time, all CGI. To be honest, this is basically how Studio Orange, the famed studio behind Beastars, would probably make the film. It might use slower frame rates, and sure, sometimes the backgrounds look like typical CGI anime quality backgrounds or very low poly, but unless you are paying attention to that, you really won’t notice. They also had a ton of nice little animation details from how Piccolo holds his phone or flies a plane to how the doctor Hedo and Magenta eat the Oreos when they have a discussion at the beginning of the film. Some of the vast background shoots look a touch clunky, and you can tell when some buildings look too CGI against the much better-looking humans, but the CGI animation is handled well and you never feel like the action is never hampered by the CGI. The designs look on point, and while they do have some moments where they use 2D animation that are noticeable, we have seen what bad CGI looks like from the anime industry, and this ain’t it.
The script itself is very self-aware and comedically driven, which isn’t all that shocking to many people that are aware of Toriyama’s style of writing. It’s filled with dialogue gags, puns, goofy gimmick names, a few raunchy jokes here and there, and as many lines as possible to avoid getting dragged through the ground by smarmy internet personalities that make their living off of pointing out “plot holes”. It can be a bit on the nose with how they try to cover up as many loose ends as possible, but at the end of the day, it works because the story isn’t about Goku and Vegeta taking center stage to defeat the new Red Ribbon Army androids. Yes, they may be overexplained, but with how bad media literacy is these days, overexplaining is better than ignoring the fact there will be knuckleheads on the net that will look for anything to complain about for views.
The overarching story is pretty much focused on Gohan and Piccolo’s relationship and characters as of this point in the franchise’s history. Everyone in the Dragon Ball fandom tends to agree that after the Cell and Buu Saga, Gohan and Piccolo tended to get shafted in terms of how they were represented. Once more powerful and imposing characters were introduced, they got shoved to the sideline. Poor Gohan got turned into a neglectful dad by accident, due to having his dad’s hyper fixation that wrecks everything. It’s to reevaluate the multi-decade-long bond and dynamic that Gohan and Piccolo had, since one of the most memorable story arcs was when Piccolo trained Gohan before the Saiyans arrived in the original show. It’s mostly a reboot/restart to make Piccolo and Gohan bigger players for the next film or TV series, which is nice, since how many times can you stagnate the story by having Goku and Vegeta solve the problem? It’s also a story about how some extremely evil people will take advantage of the ignorance of others, and stoke their anger and rage with misinformation that can lead you down the wrong path to deal with a situation. It’s a very topical story due to what we have been dealing with for the past couple of years. It’s very simple, but the execution of it all works well enough for the story of a Dragon Ball film. You aren’t here to see some big cinematic methodical think-piece film. You aren’t here to see a Makoto Shinkai or a Mamoru Oshii film. You are here to see a strong enough script for a franchise mostly known for action. Luckily, the story is good enough to carry you through the different action set pieces, and the action itself is bombastic, thrilling, and grand in scale. They have definitely learned to move away from how the TV show set up fights, to realizing “hey, we are a movie and can do so much more”! The camera does a good job following along or being right beside the characters so you can feel the most intense impacts of every punch, kick, beat down, and energy blast. The voice cast is also on par with the absurdity, the goofiness, and the serious moments. When you have a stacked cast with talent including Kyle Hebert, Christopher Sabat, Sean Schemmel, Jeannie Tirado, Aleks Le, Zeno Robinson, Zach Aguilar, Charles Martinet, Justin Cook, Jason Marnocha, the always amazing Monica Rial, Sonny Strait, Johnny Yong Bosch is perfect as Broly, Eric Vale, Robert McCollum, Meredith McCoy, Jason Douglas, Ian Sinclair, Erica Lindbeck, Kara Edwards, and Bruce Carney. Naoki Sato is the composer behind the film’s score, and it’s rambunctious, imposing, and thrilling to sit through, and matches the tone of the franchise.
The criticisms of this film are minor and don’t truly hinder the film’s experience. While the film does enough to catch you up on everything going on, it may be more approachable to fans of the long-running franchise, due to the main focus being on the long-running dynamic between Piccolo and Gohan. Sure, you probably won’t see this film unless you are a fan, but you will get more out of it if you know about the connection our two leads have with one another, and how Piccolo was a surrogate father to Gohan early on in Dragon Ball Z. Some other minor critiques include the humor being hit-and-miss, and how some villains’ characters were fairly weak compared to the great android duo of Gamma 1 and 2.
Even with those minor complaints, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is, well, for a lack of a better word, super! It’s another action-packed heroic explosion of thrills and laughs that make for a very satisfying theatrical experience, and yet another fantastic film based on a TV show in 2022. If you can go see this film, even if you already have seen it, you should go see it again. When you see that a Japanese-animated film is playing in theaters, you should absolutely go watch it, because we need to make sure more of these films hit theaters. Now then, next time, we take a look at a limited series for Netflix called Lost Ollie.
Rating: Go See It!