Dragon Ball is arguably one of the most well known anime series to ever come out of Japan. Truly, the story of Goku; the Saiyan boy who landed on earth and progressed to become one of the strongest warriors in the universe is one that has captured the imagination of millions of fans. Now, however and with regret, fans are beginning to see the cracks where this beloved series is starting to struggle. The reason? Dragon Ball has become too popular for its own good.
With a legion of fans of the original series, there was always going to be a wealth of scrutiny. And of course the first point people will no doubt criticise is the animation. Toei Animation Studios, have really dropped the ball here. There is no doubt about that. When you compare frames of the 80s/90s series they stack up far better than today's modern equivalent and they were being churned out on a weekly basis with far less technological aid.
So clearly there is a problem with quality control, but honestly I think the issues with Dragon Ball Super actually go further than just the animation. The reasons for Dragon Ball's recent woes, at least ones that are most apparent to me is that the characters have become too powerful while lacking the means to showcase it. This is an issue which is often portrayed by DC comics hero, Superman. What do you do, when your characters have abilities far beyond the scope of mortality? How do you regulate and show their weaknesses to audiences? How do you make it engaging?
The progression of Goku's abilities and the constant desire to become stronger to face the forces of evil that threaten the world has been the predominant story line throughout the Dragon Ball sagas. Up to a point this has worked very well, since each new level of power Goku or other characters attained was visible to audiences. The battles became faster and faster, with more and more at stake each time. Even then, with each new level, there was always a foe stronger than Goku which propelled the story line forwards. But then, there comes a stage when showcasing a battle that takes place at hundreds of fractions of a second becomes a feat perhaps a little too difficult.
Goku and Vegeta are now Super Saiyan Gods with planet destroying abilities. Lord Beerus can obliterate galaxies with little more than a thought and an energy blast. With unbelievable power like this at these character's disposal, how do you up the ante visually? Put simply. With great difficulty. The fights between Goku and Lord Beerus or Freeza in the recent film Resurrection of F now, despite having power levels leagues above those from years ago, don't really showcase the increase in strength any longer. Things have to be muted in order to capture what is going on. In order to contain the fight scenes, they remain planet side, where the amount of destruction is still at levels we are used to seeing back when Goku first achieved Super Saiyan status. Characters in the background must constantly remark on the levels of power they are witnessing.
Secondly, in order to regulate these god like powers, the writers have had to resort to cheap cliches. The writers are obviously aware that in order for characters to remain engaging, they need vulnerabilities, but the way in which they have created them, doesn't quite hold up to audience's scrutiny. This is well showcased by the point in the Resurrection of F movie, when one of Freeza's grunts takes Goku down with a simple laser blast. The argument being that because Goku constantly lets his guard down he is able to be taken advantage of. But then, physically this doesn't make sense. Goku was still in his Super Saiyain God form. This is a character that has taken blasts capable of destroying half the planet, but for the sake of him being too strong, he has to be taken out with a cheap shot. This angered fans of the series everywhere, because when you deal with god like characters, you have to be aware of what that means for the story.
Of course these issues aren't to say that the Dragon Ball Super series can't work. The writers just need to recognise and establish the new level of power the characters have attained, in ways that visually make sense while also tethering to the plot devices they are using to ground the series. Furthermore there needs to be more development of secondary characters. Everyone has taken a back seat to Goku again, and Vegeta once more is being used as a punching bag to showcase Goku's superiority. The series then has a lot of potential, but when you have a fan base as extensive as Dragon Balls, the quality needs to be just as high.
Thanks for reading and let me know your own thoughts in the comments!