The era of the 90s and early 00s brought to us a wonderful world of Son Goku and his super Saiyan friends and family pop on our screens. If you have been a fan or ever come across the coloured characters it’s possible that you might be familiar with the characters from Akira Toriyama Universe, with some overdone tropes from the world of anime. And for the past 30 years and more it hasn’t lost its popularity. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is well a part of its legacy and even today uses its mileage as an advantage.
There have been many films in Dragon Ball history but now after four years with a brand new film Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is all set to arrive and revive those old days. Rather than continuing with the same old 2-D art style that anime is best known for, this time Super Hero opted for a stylized CG/3D look reminiscent of the Dragon Ball fighting games. The look suits the franchise quite well.
Be it Piccolo (Toshio Furukawa in Japanese and Christopher Sabat in English) who is trying to whip Gohan (Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert) back into Saiyan Shape or the lively newcomer Gamma 2 (Mamoru Miyano/ Zeno Robinson) having comic book sound effects and punctuating heroic poses and attacks, Super Hero has a charming effect and mesmerising personality throughout its run time.
It’s all about the action sequences which shine through. Boasting the involvement of “Dragon Ball” creator Akira Toriyama for its original story, screenplay, and character design. Directed by Tetsuro Kodama, “Super Hero” revolves around heroes and villains who are all navigating the legacies and ambitions of their (absent) fathers and grandfathers. It’s a heavy introduction to the film but is best understood by those familiar with the concept of ‘The Dragon Ball’ franchise which was launched with Toriyama’s manga series in 1984.
“Dragon Ball” primarily follows the story of Goku, an orphan invader turned refugee of a powerful alien warrior race who grew up on Earth and his urge to grow stronger as he faces off against the humans, other aliens, androids, and different levels of gods. In between the powerful battles, Goku has made new friends and enemies, got married, and has a couple of kids who unlike their father have interests outside of becoming powerful warriors and ever living.
“Super Hero” brings the spotlight on “Dragon Balls” popular underutilized characters: Goku’s eldest son, Gohan (Masako Nozawa/Kyle Hebert), and Gohan’s mentor Piccolo (Toshio Furukawa in Japanese and Christopher Sabat in English) who shine throughout as the heart of the film. The focus of the film is to nurture the relationship between Gohan and Piccolo rather than the usual parental bond between Gohan and his own father.
“Super Hero” has a variety of setpieces. Be it Saiyans and Androids (and Krillin) beating each other up, often leaving an absurd amount of destruction in their wake isn’t stopping it from being cool. A midway fight between Goku(Nozawa/Sean Schemmel) and Vegeta (Ryo Horikawa /Sabat) which does not have any business feels worth the price of admission. The film just turns out to be as bombastic as it possibly can.
Piccolo definitely proves his mark as a fan favourite. With his constant humour throughout the film, watching him break his aloof demeanour as he reacts to everything around him is always amusing. However, when the film is not delivering any superpowered fight it turns out to be silly. Particularly towards the end when the film starts to ramp up it starts to feel a bit out of space. The film brings so much to the table visually that it can’t do so narratively.
With the establishment of the Red Ribbon Army from the original “Dragon Ball” being rebuilt to take revenge against Goku and other Z Warriors, “Super Hero” spends most of its time on not letting the villains have a comeback which they feel is in their grasp. With Piccolo trying to learn more about what the Red Ribbon is doing and get Gohan in proper shape and action, the villains Magenta and Dr Hedo on the other hand don’t have much to do but wait till the climax to pull out their guns.
The Gammas have a fun rapport and look like dynamites in the fight sequences. But this isn’t just about the character standalone, the film raises a question on what makes a hero, and to what levels one will go to protect those they love, fall flat.
This is the 21st Dragon Ball film though it suffers from the ‘First Movie’ syndrome. At 99 minutes duration, it feels like the film either needs to be more structured or time. The entire film takes place over the course of a single day, it can be easy to spot that the film is just biding its time to blow the minds of the audiences with its third-act mega brawl.
“Super Hero” is a fresh start to “Dragon Ball Super” and on its own merits is a solid one with its gorgeous animation style and infectious energy that makes it hard for anyone to dislike.