In the Dragon Ball franchise, most conflicts tend to be resolved by Goku and/or Vegeta punching someone really hard. Occasionally other characters like Gohan or Trunks will be able to carry battles on their own, and the rest of the cast find ways to contribute that are less “saving the world” centric. Still, it’s a little sad that many formerly fierce fighters don’t get much to do these days.
And that’s where this new film comes in. Piccolo, everyone’s favorite green space dad, finally gets to be the main character! Let’s find out how that goes in our review of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero!
It’s been decades since the Red Ribbon Army fell to Goku and friends back in the original Dragon Ball, but someone is still keeping the lights on behind the scenes... It’s Magenta, a corrupt businessman and the son of Commander Red himself! In order to build the army back to its former glory, he manipulates Dr. Gero’s equally brilliant grandson Dr. Hedo into building two new androids to stop the “dangerous aliens” (the Z fighters) who’ve been causing unchecked destruction for years. With Goku and Vegeta off training on Beerus’ planet, it’s up to Piccolo and Gohan to stop this new threat from taking over the world!
Quick note: While this movie is being billed as the sequel to Dragon Ball Super: Broly, you don’t need to have seen that film to understand this one. Broly, Cheelai, and Lemo do show up, but they’re basically just eating snacks in the background the whole time, so don’t worry about being confused if you missed their first appearances.
A Fresh Take on the Franchise
One of the fun things about this film is how it shifts the perspective from “superpowered martial artists fighting aliens for the fate of the universe” to the everyday lives of the people who have to deal with said superpowered martial artists fighting aliens for the fate of the universe. Who are these mysterious gi-wearing weirdos? How can they fly and change their hair color just by screaming? And just think of all of the collateral damage they’ve left in their wake!
This is the angle Magenta takes when he recruits Dr. Hedo into his scheme, and since Dr. Hedo is a young genius with a love for costumed superheroes, he takes the bait so he can act out his dreams of saving the world from evildoers. His androids, Gamma 1 and Gamma 2, are just as over-the-top in their own ways – Gamma 1 approaches the idea of “justice” with the stoic severity of Batman, and Gamma 2 is a flashy dudebro who provides his own sound effect balloons with holograms projected behind him. These characters are villains by definition, but they’re really just doing what they think is right and they’re so earnest that you can’t help but love them.
We also get to see sides of Piccolo that aren’t usually explored. He infiltrates the Red Ribbon Army base and uses all of his intellect and cunning to foil Magenta’s plans from the inside, while at the same time subtly coaxing Gohan to man up and defend the Earth instead of wasting away studying bugs for some silly Ph. D. He even has to contend with his past reputation as the evil King Piccolo and calls upon knowledge from his time as Kami to find a way to power himself up. Yes, he still gets some hilarious moments of being the Z fighters’ resident babysitter, but it’s nice that this film acknowledges Piccolo’s complex past and identity in a way that actually affects the plot.
New Animation and Great Voice Acting
This is the first fully 3D animated entry in the Dragon Ball franchise, going for a cel animated look that carries much the same charm as the original art. It can take some getting used to for sure, but we feel that it doesn’t take away from Akira Toriyama’s signature style at all. The only problem is that it doesn’t really add much, either. There’s nothing here that couldn’t have been done just as effectively with 2D animation. Still, for the more cartoony vibe that this film is going for, it serves its purpose well.
What we’re much more impressed by is the voice acting. We watched the English dub, and you can tell that everyone had so much fun bringing these characters to life! Series veterans like Christopher Sabat (Piccolo, Vegeta) and Kyle Hebert (Gohan) add new dimension to their iconic roles, while newcomers like Zach Aguilar (Dr. Hedo), Aleks Le (Gamma 1), and Zeno Robinson (Gamma 2) bring their own unique vibes that Dragon Ball hasn’t really had before. We’ve even got Charles Martinet, best known for his portrayal of Mario, putting on his best New York mobster accent for Magenta! All in all, it’s tons of fun.
Not Super Substantial
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero doesn’t take itself too seriously, and even though that approach leads to a lot of funny moments, it’s also a detriment at times. As interesting as they are, the new characters and powerups feel... disposable. We know that this is nothing new for questionably canon anime movies, but with only a few exceptions, there’s not much about this film that we’ll remember for very long. Even the climax is a bit lackluster, feeling tacked on just to give the story an excuse to be a movie instead of a short anime arc. If it had cut down on the gags somewhat and made the villains more threatening, Piccolo’s return to main character status would’ve had more gravitas instead of feeling like the writers were just throwing him a bone.
The newest film in the Dragon Ball franchise is a completely unnecessary piece of fluff, but it does give Piccolo some much needed attention and introduces some entertaining new characters (that will probably never do anything important ever again). The comedic writing is also top tier, although it does make the whole plot feel more like a joke than it should. We’d recommend this for Dragon Ball Super superfans as well as anyone who wants a little more Dragon Ball in their life and is willing to take a trip to the wiki to understand some of the finer details. And, of course, for anyone who just wants to see Piccolo dangle a smartphone from his fingertips like he’s Captain Levi holding a teacup. That by itself is well worth the price of admission.
What did you think of our review of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero? Are you planning on seeing it yourself? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!