By Juan Calvillo
The “Dragon Ball” franchise’s latest movie outing, “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero,” is a love letter to fans of one of their greatest story arcs. Focusing on the relationship between Gohan, voiced by Kyle Herbert, and Piccolo, voiced by Christopher Sabat, the movie further delves into the importance of their relationship.
In 1984 the manga “Dragon Ball” started with the series’ main character Goku, a boy with what seemed like superhuman powers, going on adventures and learning martial arts. Over almost four decades the franchise has introduced multiple villains and new heroes. The growing group of heroes are referred to by many names, but more often than not they are called the “Z-Warriors.”
As the series introduced multiple characters and story arcs, it spawned a variety of anime series and mangas, along with collectible figures, role playing games and multiple films. All of these avenues of entertainment had one thing in common: Goku, his family and friends were the good guys. One of the interesting parts of the movie is how this constant is tinkered with.
In “Super Hero,” heroes including Gohan and Piccolo are targeted by a villainous group known as the Red Ribbon Army. In order to conquer the world, the Red Ribbon Army hires the grandson of the one-time Red Ribbon Army android creator, Doctor Gero. Gero’s grandson, Doctor Hedo, voiced by Zach Aguilar, uses his scientific know-how to create a set of powerful androids.
Carmine, the leader of the RR Army and voiced by Jason Marnocha, convinces Hedo that the RR Army are the good guys and that they can save the world with Hedo’s help. Choosing to help, Hedo makes sure to instill in the androids he creates the heroic ideals so the good guys will win the day.
Epic battles and hilarious moments make up the rest of the movie’s 100-minute run time. The bond between Piccolo and Gohan is tested throughout the movie. This is mostly due to the difference of opinion the pair have when it comes to combat training.
With so many villains in the “Dragon Ball” universe, the “Z-Warriors” have to be prepared to protect the earth, this means training. One believes it’s crucial while the other only trains if needed. It’s this back and forth, coupled with the idea that heroes do what needs to be done to protect people, that make up the film.
The entire cast of voice actors did a stellar job for “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.” The iconic English voice cast was on hand for the movie. Sabat, Herbert and Sean Schemmel, the voice of the series protagonist Goku, all turned in perfect voice acting. Despite the anime being an action-adventure series, “Super Hero” also has plenty of hilarious one-offs in its dialogue. The writing is crisp and each character has at least one funny line. Some of the funnier quips come from Piccolo.
The character of Piccolo is from the green alien race known as Namekians. He is a powerful character in the series, but is relied upon more as a teacher of martial arts. For the run of the series he is shown to be the calm, centered and stoic rock of the Z-warriors. This serious attitude is often used to contrast the hilarious observations he makes about his comrades in arms.
In “Super Hero” Piccolo gets a lot more of the spotlight as his character co-headines with Gohan. Piccolo shows his true combat perception and tactics throughout the movie, discovering information about the Z-Warriors enemies. He also provides a good portion of the comic relief, albeit due to his misunderstanding of humans in general. Piccolo’s serious attitude is usually softened by Gohan and Gohan’s daughter Pan. Piccolo helped raise and train Gohan from an early age and in “Super Hero” the trailer shows him training alongside Pan. These are the only two characters that get to see Piccolo’s softer, caregiver side.
Gohan is a half-human half-Saiyan hybrid. His mother is from earth and his father is Goku. Gohan is one of the strongest heroes among the Z-warriors, but his obsession with school and studying has often led him to slack on his combat training. Piccolo has always held the belief that Gohan will one day be the strongest fighter among the heroes, even surpassing the series main character Goku. Gohan has become a bit of a punch-line for many fans of the “Dragon Ball” franchise. Many overlook Gohan as a powerful character because the stories very rarely focus on him.
Being one of the two leads for “Super Hero” gives the character of Gohan the chance to show a little more about his personality. His protective instinct of his daughter and friends shines through during the battles he has with the RR Army and its android “heroes.” The movie has a very fan service moment in the movie involving Piccolo and Gohan that really touches on not only the bond they share as friends and partners, but also as adoptive family.
The characters and battles in “Super Hero” have great direction, dialogue and beautiful art. The art style for this movie is a departure from previous films that used anime style drawn animation. The movie animation is made with cell shaded computer generated images. Every hero and villain is beautifully created with vibrant colors and crispness.
When an energy blast explodes or a character is punched or kicked, the animation shows the impact and power behind the moment. This coupled with the perfected sound effects and musical score make the movie look cleaner than any “Dragon Ball” movie in the franchise. It’s surprising to see Toei Animation take a chance with a new art style, it’s even better to see how well it pays off in the movie.
A new animation style, a focus on characters that are not Goku and a fun story about family bonds makes “Super Hero” a compelling addition to the “Dragon Ball” franchise. “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” is out now in select theaters. It is rated PG-13 for some action, violence and smoking.