If you're new to the blog, then you probably won't know about my "A Dragon Ball Fanboy vs. Akira Toriyama and Toei" posts, of which I have many. You can find them with a simple google search. Those posts are usually directed at Dragon Ball Super's many missteps and missed opportunities. But lately, I've found myself enjoying Super more and more, but why is that? Well that's just what I'm here to explain.
It started with the Future Trunks/Goku Black arc. The darker tonal shift to the series was awesome starting from Trunks' very first appearance. Black was a formidible and epic villain that I loved to hate with the most complex motivations of any DB villain to date, and it was nice to get another hero character other than Goku and Vegeta who was reasonably useful in combat. That's all it took for me to stop skipping episodes and entire arcs of the show (Golden Frieza and Pontefidoodoo arcs). Now the Goku Black arc did still have plenty of plot holes and face palm moments mostly to do with Trunks' new Gary-Stu tendencies, some time travel spamming, and those last three or so episodes of the arc, but overall I must say that I enjoyed myself immensely.
I've always thought that Super's slice-of-life episodes were the best thing going for it since the beginning and so I enjoyed those 9 weeks of "filler", but what surprises me is that the run up to the Tournament of Power is just as good and there seems to be a consensus that Super is hype as hell right now and why is that? It's the sub-characters stupid! I imagined I was saying that to Toriyama san (respectfully of course) and Toei's staff.
First off the new characters are still pretty cool. I think Toriyama san has always had a way of introducing new characters that get you invested just from their appearance alone. The Trio of Terrors was a very interesting addition with some cool abilities. Then there are the many many new gods introduced and characters like Toppo and Jiren, but again Toriyama is good at hyping new characters up. Just look at the Supreme Kai and Kibito when they were introduced. But what really shocked me was their treatment of Buu and Gohan in those skirmish matches, which was much better than Piccolo's treatment in the U6 tournament arc. The fights were amazing to see and gave me much hope for the Tournament of Power until I heard they only had 48 hours to prepare.
But then we get some great episodes of Goku recruiting his 10 man team. He starts with his best friend Krillin and Krillin's powerful wife, #18. We are also taught the rules of the tournament, which will involve more strategic thinking and cooperation over brute force. This gives weaker though more experienced characters like Krillin a chance to actually contribute in the upcoming tournament and not only that but Krillin is shown to have powered up significantly as well as developed powerful new techniques. Where the hell was this development all along? I love it! They even put a nice bow on Krillin's overall arc. His weakness was all in his mind. His PTSD from getting killed by the likes of Tambourine, Frieza, and Majin Buu placed mental blocks on him and diminished his fighting spirit which limited his power all these years. It was great to see him break those limits and stand toe to toe with Goku. There's some controversy with him clashing beams with Super Saiyan Blue Goku but it's well documented that Goku was holding back in this fight. Krillin's strong as hell, but he's not at that level ... yet.
The next big surprise we get comes from Buu who in two hours has transformed and gotten a lot stronger. This was kinda silly and reminded me that the 48 hour limit was pretty dumb. I like that the characters are getting stronger but feel they could've done this a lot more organically, like having them train before big events like this comes up, you know, so that they can reasonably keep up. It's not like the Earth is at a loss for planet destroying bad guys. You'd think they'd all prepare more.
Buu aside, we got another HUGE surprise in the form of Android 17 who's debut in Super was by far the most hype debut in the show since Future Trunks showed up and bodied Mecha Frieza. #17, now stoic and pessimistic, is a nature lover. A cool fan interpretation of this is that he became this way due to 16's influence. Anyways, 17 bodies a bunch of heavily armed poachers and we see that he can pull his punches well due to those poachers not exploding into a fine red mist. Goku recruits him, #17 isn't interested and then they fight. To my and millions of other people's utter surprise #17 bodies Super Saiyan Goku. He Smash Brothers punches him all the way above the clouds where a hurt Goku powers up to SSB and they continue their fight. Goku uses Kamehameha, #17 uses that broken Barrier of his and effortlessly blocks the beam.
The blast explodes and #17 flies out the smoke to clash with Goku and we learn that both have been holding back their full power. Just like that, #17 is a power player in the series again. Amazing! There's a lot of questions with the scaling at the moment, but I don't even care. We have useful characters in the show, other than Goku and Vegeta and I freaking love it! It can't get any better than that right? I'm sure that my hype must go downhill from here, this is usually where they mess things up.
Two words: Episode 88. Great episode. This episode was good for so many reasons. #1, it was a well written training episode between Piccolo and Gohan that gave a big spotlight to both characters, developed them, and set them up to be useful in the future. #2, it fixed many of the issues the hardcore fans had with power scaling because now we know just how strong both Piccolo and Gohan are when before they were utter enigmas due to inconsistencies in previous arcs and movies. #3, it has moments for other characters like Krillin, #18, Marron, Vegeta, Bulma, Trunks, Goten, Beerus, Whis, Cabba, and two new characters.
So right off the bat the episode began with training and to my surprise my favorite character, Piccolo, who's been treated like such trash lately is actually giving Gohan a hard time and Piccolo STILL HAS HIS WEIGHTS ON. We cut to #18 vs Krillin and get some confirmation that Krillin is still below her, which probably means that he is below Super Saiyan tier, unless #18 got a lot stronger. We get back to Piccolo and Gohan and see that Piccolo has greatly improved in strength sense the last few times we saw him fight. He's trashing normal Super Saiyan Gohan and putting up a stellar fight against Super Saiyan level 2, but here we also get some really good development of Gohan. Piccolo, wise mentor that he is, gives Gohan some advice that was really in-depth and insightful. This showed me that Toriyama or possibly the writers at Toei really do know these characters, their flaws, and their weaknesses. The show felt more real then than it has in a really long time.
Piccolo's advice pushes Gohan to evoke his inner warrior and Gohan unleashes his power in one large burst that parts the clouds and sends Twilight glitter all over.
Gohan has his hair bang back and his hair is black and guess what? He's stronger than he's ever been. He and Piccolo go all out and this ultimate version of Gohan casually chops off Piccolo's arm. Piccolo, clever fighter that he is, takes the opportunity to trick Gohan into letting his guard down and blasts him in the back with his severed arm, an ability we have never seen from him.
It truly is a great day to be a Dragon Ball fan! Then Piccolo tells this ultimate Gohan that his power can rise even higher and they agree to train some more and develop some team attacks. Just WOW!
This is what's been missing this entire time since the Androids saga, maybe even before. I think this is the best that the sub-characters have been treated, for some of them since Dragon Ball. Next episode looks to do more of the same and with the recently released spoilers of Super Episode 90, it looks like Super shows no signs of stopping this amazing streak of sub-character development. If there is one thing that makes Dragon Ball what it is, it's the characters, and when time and care is put into developing the majority of the fan favorites, it makes for a much more enjoyable show for all. Now we all have something to look forward to every week and I love it. Til next time Dragon Ball fans.