Dragon Ball Super Episode 04 – “Aim for the Dragon Balls! Pilaf Gang’s Great Strategy”

Following on from the previous episode, this episode is foremost a continuation of the setup for Bulma’s birthday party and the awkwardness over the absence of Goku and Vegeta. Moreover, Pilaf and gang are devising a plan to snatch the Dragon Balls, which are the ultimate prize for a promised bingo tournament. With that said there are a number of points I would like to make in reviewing this episode.

Firstly, compared to the previous three episodes where the pacing was fine based on everything that happened this episode gives the impression that Super is really taking its time to set up certain plot elements. For example, some of the comedy elements are being dragged out more so than what is necessary. In the episode’s source (Battle of Gods) pilaf and gang were introduced briefly before their chance to get the Dragon Balls, whereas in this episode they are shown out at sea where another obstacle phase them before they can even reach that location. Now how far this will continue in the coming episodes remains to be seen, but such elements should only be given in moderation. Comedy is fine in Dragon Ball, as the series started off as a gag manga, but it is important to divide it fairly between all characters who are important at any given time, so depending on how well each character has their say in the coming episodes will determine how well the pacing compliments that.

Additionally this was the first episode to show any sort of shift in the art style, such was the case with the thick black lines drawn around some characters, reminiscent of several 90s American cartoons. Of course this isn’t a massive issue by and large, but for Dragon Ball it is unusual and inconsistent with the animation style that has been established since 1986. Otherwise, as with the previous episodes it’s looking good, it’s very colourful, crisp and clean as a modern animated show should be.

Norihito Sumitomo’s music is also working well with the show thus far. The quiet moments may alienate some of the older Bruce Faulconer fans when the English dub is released, but for a lot of the hardcore fans accustomed to Shunsuke Kikuche it will be easier to sell. In particular the harmonious tones used during the cruise ship scenes were suited for the moment, especially when food is offered to characters and their presence is welcomed. These musical choices also provide a good contrast against the more ominous tones used towards the end of the episode during a conversation between Kaiosama and Goku where the latter is informed of the danger he may be about to face.

Overall, it’s a fine episode but if you’ve seen Battle of Gods you wouldn’t be missing out on a whole lot rather than a more padded form of the same narrative.

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Dragon Ball Super Episode 03 – “Where does the dream go!? Look for Super Saiyan God!”

The humour in this episode is mostly a product of Goku’s usual antics, getting overly excited about the prospect of a new challenger, King Kai’s love hate relationship with his debatable decisions, Roshi’s perverted habits. Conversely the serious elements give balance to this otherwise slice-of-life episode. For example the fear over Beerus’ rampage upon the universe, and his incredible power. There are promises for more of Goten and Trunk’s mini adventures, Majin Buu’s eating habits and Vegeta’s training (which is away from Bulma’s party).

Sumitomo’s music is also taking be used effectively to fit situations within the episode. During moments of the episode where Old Kai’s fear was great the score becomes more intense to illustrate the sense of dread. Additionally the instrumentation was more soothing during the welcoming to Bulma’s birthday party to highlight the sense of peace assumed by the attendants.

In terms of pacing it wasn’t too bad, although some would argue the lack of action in an action-based series or the length of time required to reach it is an issue but I believe the humour and banter between characters was sufficient. Whether this keeps up, and whether or not story elements are dragged out unnecessarily remains to be seen.

To sum up this episode should serve as an introduction to the setting for Goku’s battle with Beerus, and what all the other characters are doing at that time. It gives us a general idea of the similarities and differences that can be expected between this first saga and similar events in Battle of Gods.

Dragon Ball Super Episode 02 – “To the promised vacation! Vegeta goes on a family trip?!”

Toriyama may have a habit of forgetting aspects of his own story, but when he remembers it certainly makes for good new stories. Over 20 years since Vegeta promised to take Trunks to an amusement park Dragon Ball Super has finally given the fans just that. The question, which this episode addresses is will that promise mean anything to Vegeta, and moreover does the idea of a break away from training appeal to the saiyan price at all?

As far as humour goes, there was some of it there but not a whole lot as this episode was quite serious. There were humorous moments for example during the dining scene, but during the concert scene it was more an illustration of how Vegeta is as a person, how he, as a saiyan acts in situations considered normal by those living on Earth. And while some fans might be disappointed because this episode wasn’t as action heavy as you would expect from a series following up from Dragon Ball Z, it is the sort of episode the franchise needs as these slice-of-life episodes can help some fans to identify with characters such as Bulma whose roles would be undermined during the big battles.

The introduction of Beerus also receives it’s welcome expansion. Without giving any spoilers this episode did justice to his “God of Destruction” title, which was the only thing missing from Battle of Gods (as good as it was). If certain aspects of that movie to be expanded upon, as this episode suggests there is much potential to develop the drama and sense of the ominous, which require an antagonist to cause some harm. In this respect the episode, through the use of juxtaposition sets up the coming Battle of Gods segment of the series in interesting ways. Old Kai and Kibitoshin’s disturbed tea break informs the viewer of the onset of opposition, while Beerus’ vision gives the other perspective that a worthy opponent may face him.

So as a whole this episode could be somewhat more important to the series as a whole than previously expected, only the remainder of the season will tell.

Dragon Ball Super – Episode 01 “Who Will the 100 Million Zenny Peace Reward Go To…?”

This first episode was very consistent with the first manga chapter by Toyotaro, albeit a longer, expanded version, so most who have read that segment will know what to expect. Of course there are slight differences, such as reintroducing some of the characters we know and love (Gohan, Videl, Chi-Chi, Majin Buu, amongst others) and the removal of dream sequences.

The graphics were a treat for the eye. All of the characters and backgrounds are clear and sharp, as they should in 2015 animation. The vibrant colours both make the series feel contemporary and add consistency to the comedic and light-hearted tone. For frame elements such as Goku’s tractor and the river which Goten and Trunks used to fetch water the careful combination of 2D and 3D animation give greater clarity and perspective for the images which wouldn’t have been as easy in the past.

The best part of this episode, of course was the humour, it was humane, natural and lively. From Goku’s appetite for both lunch and training, to Majin Buu’s juvenile antics, and Goten and Trunks’ naivety there is something for everyone. And the humour is not just in character dynamics, but also carried by subtle hints, such as Gohan’s book titled “Muzukashii Hon” (which translates to “difficult book”) whilst indulging in his early scholarly pursuits. Nothing felt forced or overdone, everything was true to the characters, and reminiscent of Dragon Ball’s roots.

Keep in mind this series will be written by Toriyama, and as a result there is greater potential for the comedic side of Dragon Ball to return. Since the series is currently taking place during the 10-year gap between Kid Buu’s defeat and the 28th Tenkaichi Budokai there is ample opportunity to explore characters such as Goku and Vegeta and how they act in times of peace (having saiyan blood and thirst for battle). This is seen with Goku due to his training urges, and the brief glimpses of Vegeta in the second episode preview.

The pacing was also well done. Every character, with the exception of Piccolo was given just enough screen time for both new and old viewers to become comfortable with the characters, and what their purpose is in the series. For example Master Roshi was only seen when he heard news that was appealing to him, and viewers learn why, because of who he is it can be for the wrong reasons.

In short, a super (pun intended) comeback episode for the franchise, ending with an intriguing preview for next week’s episode.