Monday 6 July 2015

First Impressions: Dragon Ball Super

Dragon Ball Super

After 18 long years, Dragon Ball is well and truly back. Sure it's had a few OVA moments in that time, but thanks to the success of recent movies Battle of the Gods and Resurrection F the franchise has finally returned for a brand new series. And with original creator Akira Toriyama back in tow for character design and original story concept, it's a pretty big deal. Like many others my first experiences with anime as I know it today was coming home from school every day and watching Dragon Ball Z on Toonami, so the though of having a new episode to week every is making my inner child scream. Thank you Toei Animation, thank you for the gift that is Dragon Ball Super.

In what is a fairly restrained opening by Dragon Ball standards, Super opens with a rather light-hearted episode that would be considered filler should it happen anywhere else. Goku is hounded by Chi-Chi to get a job and earn some money for once, Goten and Trunks search for an engagement present to give to Videl while Mr Satan continues to be proclaimed as Earth's greatest hero. Meanwhile, Beerus the god of destruction is out visiting planets - and doing exactly what his title suggests.

Episode one of Super is pretty light on plot points for things to come in the future, but damn is it a fun opening. Fans are always quick to remember the muscle-bound powered up fist fights of Dragon Ball Z, but forget that it's had a pretty strong sense of humour that dates all the way back to the original Dragon Ball series. This episode has Akira Toriyama's brand of Dragon Ball style humour written all over it, and it really does make the perfect opener. It's refreshing to see Goku in non-fighting situations, while the side story with Goten and Videl is a chance to casually show off Dragon Ball's sweeter side. The same goes for the little exchange between Goku and Mr Satan at the end, which neatly wraps up the episode nicely and allows it to move onto some different silliness next week.

With "big name" shows like Sailor Moon Crystal actually turning out to be a bit iffy in the animation department, there was a bit of concern about how Super was going to end up looking. But credit where it's due Toei Animation have pulled out the stops when it comes to presentation, offering a similar level of quality that's been seen in the newer OVAs and movies. Arguably they've also improved on it somewhat too, offering the same level of sharpness but dropping the somewhat unnatural shine the character models have had elsewhere.

The one thing that did bother me about this episode (and is kind of bothering me about Dragon Ball Super as a whole) is that it's already beginning to alter events in the lead up to the so-called "Battle of the Gods" arc. Prior to Super's premiere Toriyama stated that he was going to be adapting both Battle of the Gods and Resurrection F into arcs for the series, changing around events somewhat in order to (I assume) make them flow better with his more expansive plans for the show. Episode one already began to show signs of this, with Beerus active and destroying planets rather than being at the tail end of his 30-odd years of slumber he was in the film. While it's true that changing bits up makes it a lot more interesting than just straight up copying the film into the middle of the series, it seems like a bit of a blow to make the film's events a side thing. Arguably Battle of the Gods was one of the main reasons this series is happening in the first place, and the fact it was actually a canonical film with Toriyama's involvement was one of it's big draws. Now it faces the possibility of just being a fun little afterthought. Of course it's still too early to determine this Battle of the Gods retelling is going to go in, but with the Beerus moments (as fun as they were) adding so little to this episode you have to wonder what the point. I'm sure there aren't that many people watching this that haven't seen the movie.

All in all this was an interesting start for Dragon Ball Super. I'm sure many were probably expecting flashy fight sequences right from the get-go, but this episode fully embraced the fun side of the franchise - getting audiences reacquainted with the cast 18 years later and also providing some rather touching moments too. There's plenty of time for action later, and with the next episode promising the hi-jinks of Vegeta's family vacation Dragon Ball showing it's funny bone certainly isn't a bad thing.

No comments: