I’ve watched Dragonball Super ever since it started airing, 100 episodes to be exact. I don’t usually give an anime nearly as much time to get me hooked (formerly, the highest was Gintama with 50 episodes and while I enjoyed the series itself, I didn’t think the humor was funny and yes, I did understand the jokes, it’s just not my cup of comedy) but I always had hope that Dragonball Super could get better and be a good pre-sequel as it’s set in-between the end of the Buu-saga and the last scenes of Z. Call it nostalgia but I kept hoping and yes, the series did improve in some aspects but why won’t I continue watching it anymore?
Because everything about this anime is below mediocrity, though there are some exceptions in the series but that’s a given for a series that goes on for 100+ episodes.
I’m sure anyone who has tried to watch Dragonball Super has already seen some significant problems in some form or another, and I’m not talking about the overblown rage of the community on the crappy animation of episode 5 which has been improved in the Blu-Ray release. The series isn’t over yet, but I can assure you that if a series is incapable of doing anything really significant in over 100 episodes, then it will most likely stay that way but let me go into more detail why I think that.
Let’s start with the writing. The carefully fleshed out cast of Dragonball and Dragonball Z are useless, Vegeta continues to be nothing but an appetizer for Goku’s enemies and has recently thrown a lot of his character development out of the window for no reason, Goku is on Homer Simpson level of dumb (more recent seasons of Simpsons to be clear) and is generally a danger to everyone with his idiotic ideas and everything feels like a really bad cash-grab. No matter if it’s major ass-pulls to defeat an enemy that didn’t have any justification to be on screen for that long, destroying the already loose consistency of the original series and Z or many new characters of which most aren’t interesting except for the powers they have, all of it screams forced merchandising… or an attempt to ruin a series.
I’m not saying I’m against the idea of continuing the story of Dragonball, it’s a story that could go on forever in theory and I wouldn’t mind that but I’m against the idea of producing a series that doesn’t seem to have anyone producing it really caring for it. Examples? The forced in humor of Super is bad, like slapstick comedy so bad that it’s not funny under ANY circumstances. The Japanese voice acting sometimes leaves something to be desired as well (due to spoilers, I won’t go into detail here).
Still, the entire story feels like bad filler fan-fiction to Dragonball Z which is… worrying. Akira Toriyama himself writes the story (which explains the lack of any really good humor) but he doesn’t seem to be able to recreate the tension and the fights he was once known for. We got something with good signs in the Future Trunks arc but that was after many unnecessary filler episodes which don’t even come close to the filler episodes of Z, which is saying something. But to be fair, there was one really good fight before the Future Trunks arc.
Let me be clear: Dragonball Super is not a series that deserves 100 episodes because the only three arcs worth mentioning up until this point are the tournament with Universe 6, Future Trunks arc and the most recent Universal Survival arc. However, the tournament with Universe 6 had questionable execution written all over it with only one memorable fight that looses its entertainment later on thanks to bad power scaling, Future Trunks suffers from tons of plot holes though it finally brings consistently amusing battles and the current arc already needed a much quicker pace and it still fails to bring in any kind of humor or even really amusing fights up until this point. Okay there was one but that was only because we got one of the most beloved characters from the still not-doing-anything cast actually kicking butt, within a mountain of filler episodes of course.
However, when you can quickly summarize the best moments of a series that goes on for 100+ episodes (keep in mind just how much would be possible for other series’ if they had 100 episodes) then a series has failed to compete with others in its genre in the aspect of quality. Everything about the writing and the execution screams merchandising and cash-grab, and when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really feel like anyone behind the scenes actually enjoys to work on it.
The problem is: Those problems I named are just with the writing. While the animation certainly improved, it’s still mediocre compared to other series’ that have set the bar a bit higher, like My Hero Academia or One Punch Man. Even other series’ that couldn’t have such high quality managed to even it out with other elements like emotions or at least be entertaining all the way through. In this regard specifically, Dragonball Super seems mediocre at best even in its good moments, though it does manage to surpass mediocrity in its best moments of which I can honestly only remember a few, in a series that goes on for over 100 episodes.
Of course, it is unavoidable to compare Super with Z, but Z was more entertaining even when it was on Namek. Not only that, but the battles actually had meaning behind them. However, Super’s mistake was to take place before the ending of Z. Why should we even begin to care about the danger of the situation if we know that everyone is going to pull through anyway? Super has written itself into a very, very narrow corner from the start. The movies knew that and they were there for the value of entertainment while throwing the viewers some bones of what could be possible in the future. Super should have used these movies as a basis and then should have, like GT, continued after Z. You know something is off when the most hated spin-off of Dragonball understood that better than Super. The only time in Super where I was actually interested to see what happens next was in the Future Trunks arc, because we didn’t know what will happen and Future Trunks has grown on us during the Cell-saga. That arc however had to deal with plot holes that took away from fully enjoying it and it really needed to end 1 or 2 episodes earlier.
Listen, I realize all of this seems like I’m just complaining but Dragonball Super just isn’t up to modern standards and still suffers from severe plot holes or bad writing in general. The music is good but some tracks are overused, for each good moment in the series you have at least four bad ones and while the animation can be pretty good at times, it always looks too clean and you never get the feeling that anybody ever gets really hurt, even with attacks that previously had life-threatening properties, with the only exception being the Future Trunks arc.
If you had to summarize Super in a short way then it’s this: Dragonball Super is an anime with the clear intention of milking the franchise, which doesn’t care about competing with others in its genre due to its recognizable franchise and falls flat by doing so. Yes, there are good moments but the series has written itself into a corner very early on and, with the exception of one arc, still doesn’t understand how to work around this issue. You can’t feel any kind of investment if you’ve watched the final episode of Dragonball Z and while the already annoyingly uneven power-levels were an issue in that series too, it’s even more frustrating here as the writers frankly don’t give a shit anymore as long as it seems makes money. The conclusion is: Dragonball Super is money. With slight moments of giving you hope that it will all get better, but that moment never really came, though it got very close once.
To make this clear: The series has potential, but I gave it a very long time to prove me wrong and it failed to do so.