|Length||1 Hour 40 Minutes|
|Release Date||June 11, 2022 (Japan), August 19, 2022 (US)|
|Starring||Masako Nozawa, Toshio Furukawa, Ryō Horikawa, Yūko Minaguchi, Mayumi Tanaka, Aya Hisakawa, Bin Shimada, Hiroshi Kamiya, Mamoru Miyano, Miyu Irino|
The Dragon Ball resurgence has been a mixed bag. The three films that came out of it — Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F, and Dragon Ball Super: Broly — have all faired pretty well. The Dragon Ball Super anime has not faired as well and needed to be rewritten in manga form to have major story issues ironed out to some degree, to the point where it’s only largely been worth reading in the most recent two story arcs.
Now we have a fourth major film — a side-story that focuses on two of the most underserved characters in the franchise — that manages to stand among the best of the recent stories.
Violence/Scary Images: Some animated blood, relatively non-graphic deaths, and PG-13 action
Language/Crude Humor: Limited to none
Drug/Alcohol References: Cigar smoking
Sexual Content: Some scenes make jokes about women’s curves and physical features
Spiritual Content: None
Other Negative Content: None
Positive Content: Themes of family, growth, and potential
I must admit I don’t particularly like or agree with my old review of Dragon Ball Super Broly from three years ago. It was a hard movie for me to review as both a fan of Dragon Ball and a movie in its own right, feeling somewhat unwieldy and imperfect, but also being filled with so many moments of pure action, comedy, and character development that remains one of the best Dragon Ball stories to date.
I went into the fourth movie with that in mind. I was sure I was going to like it — if only because Toriyama’s original scripts tend to be really good — but with reservations that it would be somewhat underwhelming as a story.
It didn’t help that the promotional campaign made it look somewhat inconsequential. It was being sold as a side story about Gohan, Piccolo, and Pan defending the Earth from the Red Ribbon Army — hardly the most exciting premise in the aftermath of the return of Broly, the resurrection of Frieza, and the introduction of Beerus. The animation style looked cheap and it appeared the film was just an afterthought.
Thankfully, all of those concerns were proven wrong! Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a beautifully made, funny, and enjoyable film that does a great job addressing one of the most commonly made criticisms of the franchise — that its side characters have nothing to do.
The movie is set in the years following the events of the Super Broly movie and just a few months before the Epilogue of Dragon Ball Z. Goku, Vegeta, Broly, and Cheelai are busy training on Beerus’s world when the son of the former commander of the Red Ribbon army appears. Magenta has rebuilt the army and conscripted Dr. Hedo, an android scientist and the grandson of the evil Dr. Gero. He’s created three new Androids powerful enough to defeat the Saiyans, and only Piccolo knows the truth. Now the only hope to protect the Earth is for Piccolo to reawaken Gohan’s hidden potential once again.
My most immediate concern with the film — its animation style — almost immediately proves to be a non-issue. CGI and anime almost never work particularly well together, but here it’s stylized to the point that it never harms the visual storytelling or makes it awkward. A few characters look weird in the style, but none of them are relevant to the plot. I haven’t researched where the style came from, but if I had to guess, I would assume the film is using the same style from Super Broly but without using the CGI as a base to rotoscope 2D animation over. This makes sense because this isn’t a story that the cumbersome animation style of Super Broly justifies.
Thankfully, the film’s best moments are appropriately epic. At its heart, it’s a simple story about a scientist who has been misled to think he’s working for the greater good and the efforts to correct him. Gohan’s character arc, and his relationships with Piccolo and Pan, really end up being the heart of the film. There are, of course, tons of visual and story allusions to the Cell Saga, which gave Gohan many of his best character moments, but the story mostly exists to rehabilitate the boring academic dad version of the character that has no relevance to the overall story.
Again, Toriyama is really good with character writing and fan service, and the film totally delivers on both. We get lots of awkward comedy, insane character transformations, callbacks to Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, and fantastically choreographed fight scenes. Everything you’d expect from the film is here and done with panache and joy that rivals the best the franchise has to offer. Even in a relatively inconsequential side story, everything feels like it’s delivering on characters that defined the franchise, and this feels like either a great coda for them or an opportunity to make them relevant to the main story once again.
I don’t know where the Dragon Ball Super franchise is going from here. Supposedly, the anime is going to come back and the manga is continuing in the near future, but the franchise is rapidly approaching the point where it needs to start exploring past the ending of Z’s Epilogue. I’m hoping Super Hero offers some hints about the future direction of the series. If not, it’s great that we got one more coda for Piccolo and Gohan!
+ Great Action and Colorful Color Grading
+ Solid Voice Acting
+ Fun Continuation of Dragon Ball Story
- Some Awkward Animation Moments
- Somewhat Inconsequential Side Story
The Bottom Line
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero continues the best traditions of the franchise by being funny, character-driven, and full of heart, standing alongside the best of the recent films.