Movies & TV / Columns

SDCC 2022: Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero Panel Recap

July 23, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Dragon Ball Super Super Hero Image Credit: Bird Studio/Shueisha, Dragon Ball Super Film Partners

Author’s Note: Be forewarned, this column contains discussion and recap regarding the first 20 minutes of the upcoming Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero film.

Crunchyroll is going all out for the upcoming release of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, which is the next installment of the blockbuster anime franchise. A new panel for the film was held on Friday, July 22 during Day 2 of the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con. 411mania was on hand for this week’s panel, which featured an early look at the first 20 minutes of the film and some special guests.

The panel featured special guest of honor, Toshio Furukawa, the Japanese voice actor for Piccolo, along with longtime English voice actor for Piccolo, Christopher R. Sabat. They were also joined by the film’s producer Norihiro Hayashida. Also, Masako Nozawa, the Japanese voice of Goku and Gohan, provided an amazing recorded video for the panel, complete with the delivery of her own Kamehameha attack.

It was great seeing the Piccolo voice actors interact, including Furukawa sharing stories about his own plushie collection, much like Piccolo in the film. Hayashida spoke about getting to return to Comic-Con for a Hall H panel following the Dragon Ball Super: Broly panel that was featured at SDCC 2018.

The panel featured the first 20 minutes for the upcoming film, which features the return of the Red Ribbon Army. The Red Ribbon Army previously appeared as villains in the Dragon Ball anime. Their lead scientist, Dr. Gero, was the one who constructed the androids and Cell in Dragon Ball Z. The film’s prologue provides a nice refresher of the Red Ribbon Army and how they survived after Commander Red’s defeat. That is thanks to one of the film’s new antagonists, Magenta, the son of Commander Red.

Magenta seeks to form an alliance with the grandson of Dr. Gero, Dr. Hedo. Hedo is at first reluctant to work with Red, but he tricks Hedo into believing that the ones who defeated Dr. Gero, his androids, and Cell are actually evil aliens who want to take over the world. Dr. Hedo is obsessed with superheroes, so he agrees to utilize Red’s wealth and resources to create new androids to challenge the Dragon Team.

Dragon Ball Super Super Hero - Still 2

Image Credit: Bird Studio, Shueisha, Dragon Ball Super Film Partners

The story then transitions to Piccolo, who is now training three-year-old Pan. Piccolo has bonded with her quite well, and she’s clearly growing in skill, speed, and strength. From here, the film starts the crux of the story. For years, Piccolo and Gohan have taken a backseat to the likes of Goku and Vegeta. Dragon Ball basically became the Goku and Vegeta show, and other characters became largely irrelevant. This is despite how a significant chunk of the original story was about Gohan becoming stronger than Goku and being able to surpass them.

It’s nice that Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball who also wrote the story for this film, acknowledges how Gohan has basically become a side character in recent years. Pan even asks Piccolo about Gohan being stronger than her grandfather. Gohan has become so absorbed in his work as a scholar, he’s gotten soft. Piccolo puts his weighted outfit on Gohan, and he can barely stand up. For a Dragon Ball story this is great, fascinating character-based development. It creates an interesting story arc for both Piccolo and Gohan. Piccolo for a time was the teacher, mentor, guardian, and surrogate father to Gohan.

It’s fun to see this dynamic play out where Piccolo tries to challenge Gohan on how far he’s fallen behind his father and Vegeta, when it was supposed to be Gohan to surpass him. Gohan even nonchalantly remarks if another threat arises on Earth that Goku and Vegeta can be the ones to take care of it.

The new footage definitely got me more excited for the film, especially with the premise involving Gohan and Piccolo. The way the film revives the Red Ribbon Army is interesting. Both Magenta and Dr. Hedo are uniquely quirky characters. Dr. Hedo is a mad genius who seems to adore strong, cool superheroes, but he also has a bit of sadistic and sociopathic streak. Magenta appears to have a Napoleon Complex, much like his father.

Ever since this new era of Dragon Ball anime started with the new movies, the writing and storytelling massively improved. The writing came off as more natural, organic, and less clunky. All the main characters became more fleshed out and well-rounded. One example of that in this film is seeing where Piccolo lives. He’s got his own house, a cell phone, and he’s also started a collection of cute cat plushies. Piccolo always proclaims he has no interest in them, and yet he somehow has a whole shelf of cat plushies in his home, and a similar cat-themed case for his smartphone. It’s also nice to see that after all these years, Piccolo still has faith and belief in Gohan’s strength, hence his disappointment in Gohan refusing to focus on his training.

Now, the new animation style for the film does take a bit getting used to. The film uses CG animation that’s still drawn and shaded similar to the character models in the show. The style is a bit jarring at first, and it does take a bit of getting used to. Also, some of the exterior CG and vehicle models looked a bit antiquated in this style. That said, the cinematography looked wildly dynamic, and the animation allowed for for some fairly dynamic camera work and angles that aren’t always present in anime.

Dragon Ball Super Super Hero - Still 3

Image Credit: Bird Studio, Shueisha, Dragon Ball Super Film Partners

That said, the flashbacks looked to be animated in a more traditional two-dimensional style without the CG models, and I think those sequences actually looked better. The footage reel ended with the start of Piccolo’s fight with Gamma 2.

The footage was then followed by a newly unveiled trailer for the film, which is now available online. You can check it out below.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero hits theaters in North America on August 19 in both subbed and dubbed version. It will arrive in more than 2500 theaters, including select US-based IMAX theaters.