REVIEW: Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a Super Good Time!

Are you a classic Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z fan? Did you grow up with the series? Do you have a fond nostalgia for the comedy of early Dragon Ball and the fun, wild villains that populated both series? If so, congratulations: Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, the latest movie in the Dragon Ball Super series, was made for you. Even if you’re not steeped in the nostalgia of the series as a whole, if you’re a Dragon Ball/Z/Super fan at all, then Super Hero is just fun.

Super Hero offers a worrying nostalgia based premise – the Red Ribbon Army has returned, spearheaded by Magenta (the son of Commander Red) and Dr. Hedo (the grandson of Dr. Gero), along with Dr. Hedo’s newest creations, androids Gamma One and Gamma Two. It should be a story about pitched globe-shaking battles and thwarting world domination, and it is…but it’s also the story of Piccolo getting really tired of nobody in his life holding up their end of the bargain and doing all the work himself. Piccolo carries this movie, and the light comedic tone serves to underscore his frustration with everyone around him and heighten the comedy of his responses. Nobody else knows about this threat or is reliably there to help? Fine, he’ll do it himself! Never mind that he’s not great at infiltration, and can’t fly a plane – he’s going to get this done and drag his compatriots along to help him whether they like it or not. The trailers made it clear that Super Hero would be about Gohan and Piccolo, and while it’s a good Gohan movie, it’s an excellent Piccolo movie. Super Hero isn’t afraid to dip into franchise history – it makes a point of it, in fact – and as someone who’s been around almost since the beginning, Piccolo works incredibly well for the story the movie is telling.

The tone is both a blessing and a curse for the story; in going back to franchise roots, Super Hero has adopted the action comedy bent of Dragon Ball, going for a lighter and funnier tone than taken in Z and Super. On the one hand, this heightens the comedy, playing up Piccolo’s best Serious Person Out Of His Element reactions, and works especially well for our newer characters, especially Gamma Two’s penchant for providing his own sound effects. On the other hand, when the climax rolls around and it comes time to get serious, the comedy in the tone hobbles the movie’s ability to build dramatic tension, as it frequently undercuts the drama, even in the movie’s climactic battle. Dragon Ball Super likes to release movies theatrically and then expand them and cut them into episodes to place within the series itself; given the tone, Super Hero will probably work better as a series of episodes, when it benefits from the extra time to flesh out new characters and build tone and tension. It is an enjoyable and absolutely hilarious movie to watch; however, fans who prefer drama over comedy may leave a bit frustrated, even though the action is very much up to the franchise’s bombastic standards.

Overall, Super Hero is a delightful time for fans of the Dragon Ball franchise, and is especially fun for those who’ve been following the story for years and are here for throwbacks and deep cuts. Not having an encyclopedic knowledge of the series won’t cause any issues for casual viewers, however; as long as you’re familiar with the franchise in some way, you’ll enjoy what Super Hero has to show you.

Check out our interviews with the cast of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero here!

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero releases in theaters in the US on August 19th. Tickets are available online and at your local theater.

— Katie Cullen

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