Dragon Ball Super by Akira Toriyama: Deju Vu All Over Again

Dragon Ball Super takes the franchise to a whole new level. Just as the scope of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe increased with the addition of cosmic properties like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange, so too does the world of Dragon Ball grow exponentially larger. Taking place years after Goku’s victory against Kid Buu (or “Boo” as it is written here), Earth has settled in for well deserved peace and quiet. Goku, forced by Chi-Chi to get a job, suffers boredom and uses his son Goten to do the work while he eats and trains, calling his parenting skills into serious question. The hard won peace is shattered by the appearance of Beerus, the god of destruction, who has arrived on Earth following a vision of battling a Super Saiyan God.

Dragon Ball Super opens with truncated retellings of the two recent Dragon Ball films, Resurrection F and Battle of Gods. The manga makes the assumption the reader has seen these films, as the manga skims through the story (even going as far as to tell the reader to watch the movie) faster than Goku’s Instant Transmission. Goku’s confrontation with Beerus is featured in the first four chapters of the manga while the events of Resurrection F are reduced to a single panel highlighting Goku and Vegeta’s ascension to the newest Saiyan form, Super Saiyan God. After playing catch up, the story blows wide open with the introduction of a multiverse.

Through Beerus, the Z fighters discover that there are twleve universes in existence, each having their own deities of life, death, and everything in between. Goku and his friends, along with Cell, Freeza, and the events that shaped Earth and Namek, all exist in Universe 7. Champa is the god of destruction in Universe 6, which is a mirror version of the other universes. In Champa’s world, the Saiyans are alive and operate as mercenaries to battle evildoers. Freeza also exists in Universe 6, but where his Universe 7 counterpart was an evil, unforgiving mass murderer, this version is polite and exhibits good sportsmanship. The Z warriors are drawn into a battle with the mightiest warriors in Universe 6 as a result of a sibling rivalry between Champa and Beerus over Cup Noodle. Because Champa’s Earth was destroyed by war, the delectable quick food doesn’t exist in his universe, thus he holds a tournament to decide whether he will usurp control of Universe 7 from Beerus.

I’m really intrigued by the incorporation of a multiverse concept for Dragon Ball. It feels a little trite at first but then again, where else could the series possibly go? Kid Buu represented the most powerful villain Goku has ever faced and the journey to his defeat was arduous and fraught with death and peril. So…where do you go from there? Gods, naturally! Being introduced to Dragon Ball Super’s new cast of deities feels like mastering a difficult section of a video game only to reach a whole new area filled with new, more unforgiving enemies. With Goku and Vegeta reaching new heights by ascending to Super Saiyan Blue (aka Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan), the challenges they face–or challengers in this case–have to be exponentially more powerful. Sadly, this new plateau is initially wasted on yet another fighting tournament, a format we’ve seen so many times throughout the Dragon Ball series. Furthermore, the fights depicted in the volume really don’t give a sense of Goku’s power. Their change is mostly a visual one making it hard to discern how much better Super Saiyan Blue is than any other form. The fighting tournament does provide an opportunity to introduce colorful new characters, however the contest serves to rehash Goku’s fight with Freeza and his famous forms.

Time will only tell where Dragon Ball decides to go. I’m really interested in seeing what new trials await our heroes now that universes host opposite or altered versions of their reality. Personal complaints aside, Dragon Ball Super features everything a fan of the series could ever want: pages and pages full of martial arts action punctuated by a silly sense of juvenile humor. Fists fly and energy blasts scorch panels as Goku and Vegeta fight their way through a myriad of larger than life characters. The action is bolstered by Akira Toriyama’s gorgeous artwork, painstaking recreated by Super’s artist, Toyotarou. I did some reading about the illustrator and to my surprise, he has been acting as Akira Toriyama’s successor, having worked on the previous Dragon Ball manga, Dragon Ball Heroes: Victory Mission. Toyotarou does a fantastic job capturing Toriyama’s distinct, expressive, and loveable style. The layouts are drawn in loving detail and the battle scenes are stylish, visually complex, and easy enough to follow.

Dragon Ball Super is a bold new direction for the franchise, one that offers lots of story potential. It’s been 18 years since Dragon Ball GT and speaking as a fan of the Z series, it’s good to see it return. Though it is referred to in some circles as a soap opera for boys, Dragon Ball Z holds a special place because it got me through my first year of college, which was a jarring and almost scary life transition. Speaking as someone who still gets chills thinking about the time Goku reached Super Saiyan for the first time, seeing the gang back together again warms the heart, even if the story they find themselves in is a bit rushed and clunky.

Title: Dragonball Super volume 1
Author: Akira Toriyama, Toyotaru
Publisher: Viz Media
Media: Physical
Genre: Action, Martial Arts
Pages: 192
Release Date: 05/02/2017
Purchased Or Received For Review? Purchased
Where to buy: Amazon, Rightstuf, Viz

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