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Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero Review

August 17, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Dragon Ball Super Super Hero Image Credit: Bird Studio/Shueisha, Dragon Ball Super Film Partners
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Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero Review  

Directed By: Tetsuro Kodama
Written By: Akira Toriyama
Runtime: 99 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some action/violence and smoking.

Christopher Sabat – Piccolo / Vegeta / Korin / Shenron
Kyle Hebert – Son Gohan
Zach Aguilar – Dr. Hedo
Charles Martinet – Magenta
Aleks Le – Gamma 1
Zeno Robinson – Gamma 2
Jason Marnocha – Carmine
Jeannie Tirado – Pan
Sean Schemmel – Son Goku
Jason Douglas – Lord Beerus
Ian Sinclair – Whis
Monica Rial – Bulma
Justin Cook – Dende
Kara Edwards – Videl
Johnny Yong Bosch – Broly
Erica Lindbeck – Cheelai
Bruce Carey – Lumo
Sonny Strait – Krillin
Meredith McCoy – Android 18
Eric Vale – Trunks
Robert McCollum – Son Goten

The latest installment of the Dragon Ball saga hits theaters for a massive theatrical release later this weekend. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is the next chapter in the epic saga created by Akira Toriyama, who also serves as the screenwriter for the story. Continuing not long after the events of 2019’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly, the Dragon Ball Heroes are forced to contend with the return of the Red Ribbon army, now led by the son of General Red, Magenta (Martinet).

With the vast resources of his pharmaceutical company used as a front for his newly rebuilt Red Ribbon Army, Magenta seeks to build new, deadly androids to finally fulfill his father’s dreams of world domination. Magenta and his narcissistic henchman Carmine (Marnocha) seek to recruit the brilliant scientist, Dr. Hedo (Aguilar), who happens to be the grandson of the Red Ribbon Army’s late robotics scientist, Dr. Gero, the creator of Android 17, Android 18, and Cell. Magenta convinces Dr. Hedo that the Capsule Corp. is a criminal organization that wants to enslave the human race using alien fighters. He manipulates Hedo to work for Red Ribbon to create new android units to defeat the aliens (Goku and his friends). Dr. Hedo agrees to the deal, but he is also a superhero fanboy, so he creates his androids Gamma 1 (Le) and Gamma 2 (Robinson) in the image of cool, strong, virtuous heroes.

Piccolo (Sabat) eventually gets wind of Red Ribbon’s scheme, but Vegeta and Goku (Schemmel) are not around to help. So, it’s up to Piccolo and Gohan (Hebert) to step up to protect Earth from this new threat. However, Gohan has settled down, putting the life of fighting and martial arts long behind him. However, Gohan’s latent powers may be the only thing that can protect the Earth once again.

Super Hero is the story of the bond between Piccolo and Gohan. It serves as a reminder that for Piccolo, Gohan is his son — not by blood, but by choice. When Goku died in the fight with Raditz, it was Piccolo who took on the role of being not only Gohan’s mentor and protector, but he also became Gohan’s surrogate father. Gohan eventually began to idolize his master and love him like a father, and Piccolo became fond of Gohan like a son.

There is a tremendous scene where Piccolo observes Gohan absorbed in his biology work, unconcerned about potential threats, and more than willing to leave things to Goku and Vegeta. The scene is a fascinating exploration of the Piccolo and Gohan relationship that pays off even better later on. Piccolo truly is a second father to Gohan, and as a father, he is disappointed in his son’s lackadaisical behavior.

Another refreshing aspect of Super Hero is that the Goku and Vegeta Show gets to take a rest for a while. Piccolo takes center stage as the protagonist, driving most of the story’s action. Since Goku and Vegeta are taking a backseat for Super Hero, it allows other characters who have been long-neglected to get the chance to develop and shine in the series. It appears Akira Toriyama suddenly remembered he once wrote Gohan to eventually surpass his father Goku and become one of the most powerful fighters in the universe.

Goku and Vegeta are present in a minor subplot. This is merely a way to check in with them and continue threads that started in Broly, along with explaining their absences on Earth. It also nicely sets up future adventures and stories without bogging down the central narrative on Piccolo and Gohan fighting the Red Ribbon Army.

Cohesive and character-based writing has truly benefitted the new era of Dragon Ball animation. That continues to hold true with Super Hero. The big fights are there, but sufficient time is taken to set them up. The breaks in-between those fights are actually when some of the best character development and building moments occur. Gohan is frequently labeled a “scholar” as an adult, but what the hell does he do for work? Where does Piccolo live? Super Hero finally addresses those aspects and even looks to answer other burning questions of Dragon Ball lore. It demonstrates that over 35 years after Dragon Ball first debuted, Akira Toriyama as the franchise creator is unwilling to rest on his laurels. Even at 67 years of age, Toriyama continues to evolve as a storyteller.

The superior character building gives a better sense of who Piccolo and Gohan are as people, making them more compelling and well-rounded. Piccolo has his own comfy, little cottage out in the sticks. He owns a smartphone, and he is building quite a collection of plushie animals. Even the way Piccolo holds his smartphone is a humorous reminder that he is of an extraterrestrial species not originally from Earth.

Besides servicing the classic characters, Super Hero introduces exciting, new ones as well. Dr. Hedo, Gamma 1, and Gamma 2 are all great additions to the cast, and they all have their own unique personalities and quirks. Gamma 1 and 2 are unique to the Dragon Ball mythos since Dr. Hedo is a comic book superhero fanboy, which inspired his cybernetic creations. Dr. Hedo created Gamma 1 and 2 with heroic aspects of virtue and justice in his head. Gamma 1 is a stern, stoic, and self-serious type of hero, while Gamma 2 is more of a goofy, wisecracking type with a flair for dramatic poses. He also likes to generate comic book-like sound effect holograms, something that Piccolo amusingly notices. Hedo and the Gammas exist as something more than just one-note bad guys who are there to give the heroes a tough fight.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero uses a new type of animation for the franchise, wherein the characters are rendered with CG models. The characters are still animated and rendered with their familiar models and designs from past animation, but now they are presented using computer animation. The CG animation allows for some impressive kinetic camera work. When the action ramps up, the camera moves more freely and captures the intensity of the fight scenes.

The drawback to the animation style is that sometimes the outlines of the character models look rough. There are also certain scenes when the character movement looks a bit choppy and lacks a certain smoothness. The new animation takes some time to get used to, the new animation, but it does start to become more immersive as the story progresses. Interestingly, the flashback scenes in the film are depicted in a more traditional, hand-drawn animation style. Those short snippets look even better than the new CG animation. This is not a terrible use of CG animation for Dragon Ball, but it could certainly use some refinement for later installments.

Animation issues aside, director Tetsuro Kodama takes full advantage of Super Hero in the theatrical format. The cinematography, environments, and backgrounds have a large, cinematic scope and an epic scale. The large-scale battle scenes take up the entire screen. This is truly an animated event that can only be fully realized on the big screen, along with IMAX. The idea of a Dragon Ball animated movie being released in IMAX is surreal in itself.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is another positive step in the evolution of the Dragon Ball franchise, with stronger character-based stories that expand the mythology and still offer something new. Piccolo and Gohan’s expression of their close bond is incredibly heartwarming. Akira Toriyama and Toei Animation have made the new Dragon Ball animated movies into major moviegoing events that are best seen in theaters.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is a compelling exploration of the father and son bond between Gohan and Piccolo, who take center stage for once to give the Goku and Vegeta show a rest. There are some great new characters and fights, and writer and creator Akira Toriyama wisely takes time to develop the cast and build them as characters outside of the epic fight sequences. Viewers who are coming for some knockdown, drag-out, super-powered brawls will not be disappointed. Longtime fans will want to see this on the big screen as Super Hero takes full advantage of the theatrical format. Fans are also advised to stay through the closing credits.