The Series (4/5)
DRAGON BALL SUPER has been one of the most anticipated anime titles of some time to hit the North American market. But not without some reservations. Back in 2013, Toei animation and Dragon Ball author Akira Toriyama released the first big Dragon Ball movie in over a decade and it was met with a huge positive response. The movie in question, DRAGON BALL Z BATTLE OF GODS, was not only a return for the series, but it was a hugely improved character piece, with some of the best writing since the series started in the mid 1980’s. Due to the popularity of BOG and the 2014 movie DRAGON BALL Z REVIVAL OF F, Dragon Ball was back in demand. So naturally Toei Animation announced the release of DRAGON BALL SUPER.
Fans and new audiences alike couldn’t wait until the series came out, myself included. But when plot details came out showed that the series would completely remake the two previous movies, things started to get confusing.
SUPER takes place many years after the end of DRAGON BALL Z (or in some respects KAI), and follows Goku and friends as they move on with their daily lives. Things start to get worrisome, when the great God of Destruction, Beerus wakes up from his long sleep and demands to find his arch rival. A special being known as “Super Saiyan God”.
Funimation has released the first 26 episodes of SUPER in two Blu-ray sets. Parts 1 and 2 respectively. Part 1 covers episodes 1 through 13, and part 2 covers 14 through 26. The series gets to good start with lots of oddball comedy such as Goku working as a radish farmer and some of the silly things the kids, Goten and Trunks gets into. This lays out a nice re-introduction to these characters and how their lives have been since the series ended in 1996. The strong suits of all these episodes is the writing. Many anime fans had a issue with some of the huge gaps of logic and melodramatic fighting in Z. But here in SUPER, we double down on word play, sight gags, and some great bits of narrative bipolar bursts. Jumping from serious drama to silly lowbrow humor.
But the big issue the series has is the remaking of the two films. Here the settings are slightly changed and there are new subplots added. So, some of the episodes fair better then I worried about. But it still suffers from the been there done that vibe. Anyone who watched the two movies will most likely lose interest fast. Luckily the series started to take a turn into more original content after The new Frieza arch. Still the series flowed well and at times I was sucked in completely to the situations. Despite all the reused plot points, there is some great pieces of visual comedy like when Vegeta fails to crack a egg.
SUPER is a stunning series in many respects, and thanks to the solid writing, feels like a return to form. Unlike the ending of Z, SUPER is full of playful energy. And I can’t wait to follow the next arch and see what comes next.
On both sets there are two main audio options. The first listed is the English dubbed 5.1 Dolby True HD mix. The voice acting is alright at best and weak in other spots. The scripting is luckily an improvement on old Dragon Ball Z scripts. The second, and my preferred, track is the 2.0 Japanese Dolby True HD mix. The track has no issues like hiss or pops. The soundtrack sounds wonderful and doesn’t over power the rest of the mix. The fighting ex work is still going strong in true Dragon Ball style. English subtitles are included.
The 1080p HD transfer is a sight to see. The colors and animation pop and look shiny. But more importantly impressive. Despite some animation issues due to budget, the transfer itself is above average with sharp focus and no motion blur. The black levels too are well balanced.
For the Part 1 set, the main feature is two segments called “Catching up on The Dragon Ball Universe”. The first stars American voice actors Sonny Strait and Savannah Ligaluppi. The second is with Christopher and Hero D Sabat. The segments are nice and cover the fandom, but I’m overall indifferent towards it.
The main feature on the part 2 set is “Watching Dragon Ball Super with Jason Douglas and Ian Sinclair”. It’s a similar fluff piece talking about how fun it is to watch the series. Still a cute little segment.
On both sets the extras are rounded out with Textless Opening and closing songs, and a trailer gallery of other Funimation releases.
DRAGON BALL SUPER is a mix bag of a show. With these first 26 episodes, we have gotten lots of the classic comedy of the original series, with fresh new ideas. But on the downside, it’s still sad that the writers and creative team started the series with two arches that boil down to remakes of two hit films. Hopefully the series gets it’s footing right with the next batch of episodes. Still a fun series for fans of the Franchise. Recommended.