Did you ever think Piccolo becoming the main character would be able to carry an amazing story to a wild success? There were doubts, but this exceeded all expectations! By the end, there will be tears dripping from your childhood eyes..
A True New Epic Era of Dragon Ball!
If there was one word that describes this movie, then it would be “refreshing.” Refreshing in the way you viewed Dragon Ball when it was at it’s absolute peak! For you youngins’ maybe it’s Demon Slayer, My Hero Academia, Jujutsu Kaisen or some other shonen in the past 5 years. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero brings all the elements we love about Dragon Ball in a new realized form.
All the elements were there with a brand new story, new characters, characters in new situations, new character developments, new designs and of course, the overarching learning lesson from the entire movie! This movie somehow recreated the best moments that Dragon Ball has ever created for its characters. Before, it was Gohan’s own father that the Dragon Ball fandom has always criticized as being a somewhat bad father. However, Goku is the one that helped propel Gohan into becoming Super Saiyan 2 & eventually defeating Cell in the classic “Father & Son Kamehameha” scene. In this movie, Piccolo as Gohan’s first mentor and father-like figure takes on that role Goku did in the Cell Saga, getting Gohan to realize the errors in the way he was living his life.
When was the last time Dragon Ball was touted for it’s amazingly well done storyline? Cell Saga? It’s no surprise that this movie’s premise links Gohan when everyone deemed Gohan to be in his prime. By using Piccolo to teach Gohan a lesson, there are multiple life lessons that the audience can derive from from this incredible movie. Removing the usual stars in Goku & Vegeta from the being story’s main lead, it sets up Gohan to eventually make his new transformation all the while being enamored with this new CG animated Dragon Ball world.
Piccolo Takes the Mantle of Being the Main Character
As Goku & Vegeta are off training and dealing with other worldly cosmic issues, that leaves Earth to rely on a character with probably the most wisdom to impart on Earth’s youth. That is the often forgotten powerful and cunning green Namekian in Piccolo!
Without Piccolo in this movie, it’s just another “I’m just stronger than you movie.” It’s very important that good stories comes with great learning lessons and Piccolo is clearly the catalyst.
After the introduction of Magenta and Dr. Hedo, the story picks up with Piccolo training Pan. From here on out, we get to see a little bit of Piccolo’s daily activities. He’s basically relegated to being Gohan & Videl’s main caretaker for Pan. Here, we get many newly visualized scenes that includes with Piccolo’s plushies. I found the injection of humor to be well placed and chuckle worthy.
That takes us to Piccolo having issues with Gohan. Why the heck does he have to always be the responsible “Daddy?” It’s a pretty funny meme, nevertheless Piccolo seeks out Gohan to ask him what the deal is and of course, Gohan is so into his work, it would take him away from his “in-the-zone” fascination of his studies to pick up Pan. Gohan is insistent on Piccolo picking her up because he usually does. Then, Piccolo tells Gohan that “he needs to keep up with his training!”
With the scene between Piccolo & Gohan, it basically sets up the audience with the 2 main issues that Dragon Ball fans have always had with with Gohan. Next, let’s discuss these 2 issues as it’s the main character-driven plot that basically carries the movie to the end.
Isssues w/ Gohan
Problem 1: Gohan is taking a similar path to Goku in being obsessed with his passion. The amount of effort Gohan puts into his studies, his brain is probably Ultra Instinct level. With that amount of effort into his work, the story is slightly alluding to Gohan neglecting his own child. Videl and Gohan constantly ask Piccolo to essentially be caretaker for his daughter Pan.
The movies starts off in a funny way for Piccolo as he is teaching Pan how to control her powers and be able to fly. It’s actually very important for the movie to start off with Piccolo teaching Pan something because he is the sensei we’re all going to be learning a valuable lesson from. Piccolo’s probably thinking “I guess I have to be the responsible grandfather now too.”
Problem 2: While problem 1 isn’t necessarily presented as a really huge issue, but is slightly concerning burden on Piccolo—problem 2 is probably the fandom and Piccolo’s biggest concern. Gohan has the most innate talent, strength and ability to surpass Goku & Vegeta. It’s a quintessential Dragon Ball motif that has been referenced since the beginning of Gohan’s first appearance in Dragon Ball Z. Not only does Gohan neglect his powers and abilities, his personality strays away from the use of violence and would rather use his brains for his bookwormy interests. Piccolo tells Gohan that “he can’t rely on Goku & Vegeta to protect the world when he can.”
From this, we can determine a few things in what Piccolo is trying to teach Gohan. You cannot rely on others, when you have the ability yourself. Like with Pan, you cannot “neglect” what your natural God-given ability has given to you.
This might be a terrible reference, but it’s like working out. People might hate it like I do, but the long-term benefits far outreach the pain of doing so. So in this sense, Piccolo is reminding Gohan to constantly stay sharp in fighting because there are long-term benefits like being able to save the world..
With all of that in mind and Piccolo taking center stage in this movie, this takes us to the movie’s plot surrounding the resurgence of the Red Ribbon Army.
Recap & Reaction
Dr. Hedo, Dr. Gero’s grandson is another genius just like his grandfather. However, he has some other qualities that’s not “weight” related that makes him more of a hero rather than like his insidious grandfather. Under surreptitious means, Magenta of “Red Pharmaceuticals,” convinces Dr. Hedo to join him in saving the world from an evil organization spear headed by the world’s richest family head, Bulma, who is the ring leader in the takeover of the world. Red Pharmaceuticals is just really a company front for the Red Ribbon Army’s plot to takeover the world.
The beginning of the movie started off a little bit slow with the introduction of Magenta’s plans of convincing Dr. Hedo to join him. I can kind of see why the story’s creators decided to use something the audience has a familiarity with since it’s very difficult to create something from scratch without tons of character development eating up movie time. In spite of the lengthy character introductions, it was still welcoming to watch Magenta and Dr. Hedo talk like they were in a mob boss scene. These scenes are one of the more subtle “refreshing” ways Dragon Ball’s story was told.
Having the plot twist that Magenta created in the false pretense of convincing Dr. Hedo was another example of a “refreshing” plot element. It’s another added layer that isn’t just about being the world’s strongest like in every Dragon Ball arc. Also, the fact that Dr. Hedo was designed to be this little fat puff ball of a character was a hilariously fun edition to the Dragon Ball cast. His sense of justice was another kind of twist that many were probably not expecting out of Dr. Gero’s bloodline.
Dr. Hedo ends up constructing 2 more androids: Gamma 1 & Gamma 2. There was also another “Cell-like'” android they called “Cell Max,” that was waiting in the wings if Gamma 1 and 2 failed in foiling Bulma’s evil plot. Unlike the construction of Android 17 & 18 meant for worldwide chaos and the death of Goku, these two Androids were conceived for the means to stop this “evil Bulma organization” and that all started with the surprise attack on “King Piccolo’s” meditation.
Gamma 2 versus Piccolo was our first taste of how the fighting looks with the new CG animation. Gamma 2 fights like a Ginyu force member with its wrestling poses. The creators added in the comicbook-like word blocks to describe the fighting as each attack lands. This was a risky move by the animators that wasn’t really used in the later fights. Although, it was fun to see for this fight. The way the action was presented was definitely refreshing and new. Piccolo shooting ki blasts and the choreography of the fighting were presented a bit differently than what Dragon Ball fans would come to expect. These fresh new panels of animation and visuals had a positively profound effect of how I thought of this movie up to this point. I was pretty pumped up for the rest of the movie.
After Gamma 2 arrives and surprise attacks Piccolo, they duke it out with Piccolo narrowly escaping. Gamma 2 thinking that he blew up Piccolo, returns back to the Red Ribbon Army’s secret base as Piccolo secretly follows him back to his lair. Piccolo goes undercover as one of the soldiers and is revealed all of Magenta & Dr. Hedo’s plans.
This reminded me a lot of when Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin, Gohan and Tien follow Dr. Gero back to his lab.
Piccolo realizes that he is no match for Gamma 1 & 2 and that this “Cell Max” was way beyond his powers. He requests Bulma to contact Goku & Vegeta, but Whis never responded. In a secondary plan, he requests the use of Bulma’s Dragon Balls to relay his own wishes. In an early scene with Piccolo & Dende, Dende upgrades the power of Shenron once again. Then, Piccolo asks Shenron for his “hidden powers” be unleashed like what Guru and the “Elder Kai” did for Gohan.
This is where a lot of Dragon Ball stories can feel trivial. Any issue can be washed away with wishes granted by the Dragon Balls, losing the meaning of consequence. By using the Dragon Balls the way Piccolo and Bulma did, the story can now take on more tension and create more impactful dilemma for later on in the story. This also gives Piccolo a really nice boost that makes him power-wise relevant again for future arcs.
Eventually, Piccolo arrives back to the Red Ribbon Army base in undercover uniform. Magenta comes up with a plan to kidnap Pan, in order to get Gohan to show up for Gamma 1 to defeat him. Piccolo offers himself to help commit the act. Piccolo and another Red Ribbon Army soldier arrives on an aircraft to pick Pan up from school. Pan knocks out the soldier and then notices Piccolo’s ki right away. Piccolo fills in young 3 year old Pan on the situation and gets Pan to play along. In order for Piccolo and Earth’s fighters to have a chance, Piccolo’s plan now is to leverage young Pan to get Gohan riled up to awaken his fighting spirit.
Piccolo and Pan arrives at the Red Ribbon Army base and they shoot a video of Pan showing that she has been kidnapped. An undercover Piccolo and a Red Ribbon Army soldier arrive at Gohan’s place to convince Gohan to come fight them. It’s not until they show a video of a kidnapped Pan, that he becomes enraged and gets on the plane with them to fight. Once again, Piccolo is disappointed by Gohan’s lack of sense of his ki unlike Pan, where she noticed the undercover Piccolo right away.
As Piccolo, the Red Ribbon Army soldier and Gohan arrive onto the scene, Gohan immediately jumps out of the aircraft to confront these people and why they kidnapped Pan. The Gammas confront Gohan about their secret evil organization and of course confused, gets into a physical confrontation with Gamma 1. Piccolo using Pan as bait to get Gohan to use his real strength gets Pan to act like she’s being harmed, eventually getting Gohan to go beyond his Super Saiyan limits.
At this point of the movie, it seemed a lot more Piccolo was using Pan to teach Gohan a lesson and make him realize he needs to focus on his family and his training a lot more. Still, Piccolo acknowledged that he wouldn’t be strong enough to defeat the Gammas himself.
With Ultimate Gohan having an equal or slight advantage over Gamma 1, Gamma 2 is ordered to help take Gohan down. That is when Piccolo reveals himself and takes on Gamma 2. After quickly being defeated by Gamma 2, Piccolo’s hidden powers becomes unleashed and we are recognizing this new form as “Orange Piccolo.” During both of their fights, Piccolo questions them over who the “real” bad guys are.
C’mon! What good guy kidnaps little kids?!
After slowly convincing the Gammas that Piccolo and Gohan aren’t the bad guys, the Gammas’ will to fight them start to shift to a truce. That’s when Magenta runs off to go try to awaken Cell Max. Dr. Hedo tracks him down and they get into scuffle themselves. Dr. Hedo ends up defeating Magenta easily with his robot insect bee device that poisons Magenta, but not before Max Cell becomes awakened. That takes us to the last act of the movie as Bulma, Android 18, Krillin, Goten & Trunks arrive to help fight.
When the movie got to this point, the story has been unfolding the way most people would have thought it would unfold. Dr. Hedo and the Gammas start to realize that they’ve been duped by Magenta. Magenta reveals himself to be the bad guy he is. We got to see Gohan fight in his Ultimate Form. Piccolo’s new form gets revealed and we got to see him beat down Gamma 2 in it. This is where the make it or break moment happens in the movie as they build up this last act for Gohan.
With the arrival of Bulma and the others, they are now tasked with taking down this Cell Max android that has the face and skin of the 2nd form Cell. The Gammas reveal that Dr. Hedo realized that something like this would occur, so he built in a natural weak spot on Max Cell’s head. After everyone fights Max Cell to no avail, Gamma 2 sacrifices himself to try to deliver the death blow to Max Cell, but it survives.
Throughout the fighting we got to see everyone shine and do something useful. Goten & Trunks bring back Gotenks, but in his fat form. My disdain for what Akira Toriyama did to Krillin in Dragon Ball Super slightly subsided when he actually joined the battle to pull off a couple of classic Krillin techniques like “Solar Flare” or “Taiyōken and Destructo Disc or “Kienzan,” to save Android 18. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the fighting animation throughout this whole fight sequence.
In a last ditch effort, Piccolo concocts a plan to hold Cell Max in place, while Gohan focuses all of his ki to blast Cell Max’s head away. Piccolo gives his last Sensu Bean to Gohan and while he powers up, Orange Piccolo uses his “Giant Form” to clash with Cell Max. In a long winded showdown that gradually pointed to further and further looking like Piccolo was going to die, Gohan focuses all of his energy and drawing out that epic “Cell stomping on Android 16’s head” energy and vibes, Gohan ascends to a new form called “Son Gohan Beast.” Being in this new form, Gohan surprises everyone once again by using Piccolo’s signature attack “Special Bean Cannnon” or “Makankōsappō,” easily disposing of Cell Max.
This was legitimately the exact moment I felt really emotional. The movie did such a great job to this point, recreating everything that is great about Dragon Ball. Characters seemingly dying, relaying to the audience the sense of powerlessness up to the climatic moment of Gohan ascending once again, when everyone needs him most. Executing the lead up for this moment was crucial and it was perfect!
This is where if you explain to another Dragon Ball fan what happens in the movie, it’s something that has happened already, so it loses its luster. However, that’s where watching it for yourself totally changes how you would view this moment. What made this moment different is the collection of the whole movie and who was helping carry them to victory. It was actually Piccolo being the one to sacrifice himself and give that emotional link, pushing Gohan to reach his potential. After years of fans clamoring for Gohan’s ascension in Dragon Ball Super, it finally happened.
The movie’s new style visuals, the characters’ relationship and the execution of the scenes was a top-tier defining moment for Dragon Ball and anime in general. That child-like happiness from within felt realized again in these moments. I had real tears of joy!
The movie ends with Dr. Hedo coming to terms with how he was manipulated and tries to turn himself in. Piccolo says that the Gammas were actual superheroes and Bulmas tells Dr. Hedo that he can work for her at Capsule Corp instead. Gohan tells Piccolo that “Goku & Vegeta would have struggled against Cell Max” and Piccolo reaffirms his lesson to Gohan that he needs to keep up with his training because of these exact scenarios.
Reliving the Reaction
Wow! An actual plot and story told in a way that’s never been done before by the Dragon Ball franchise. It’s the first time since maybe the Cell Saga that I truly felt the characters’ developments mattered more than the fighting. The execution and emotions that it took to execute the scene with Gohan reaching to his new heights, really brought tears to my eyes. The mix of emotion from a 31 year old me, genuinely enjoying myself like I was 12 again—seeing Gohan watch helplessly while his loved ones and mentor Piccolo being wasted by this “Cell Max,” brought back memories of joy & sadness of Gohan’s entire character arc.
An Upgrade in Storytelling!
When was the last time Dragon Ball fans really marveled at Dragon Ball’s amazing storytelling? The Zamasu Arc with Future Trunks? What about any of the previous Dragon Ball related movies? To be entirely honest, none of them really matches up to the creativeness of how this story was told. In the end, it was a classic Dragon Ball story that has already been done, but the execution and the stunning new visuals carried this movie into becoming something entertainingly different in its own right with the CG.
Every movie before Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero consisted of the same heroes playing their usual roles. What makes this movie incredibly fresh is that we get to see characters in situation we’ve never seen them in before. We have an undercover Piccolo figuring out the Red Ribbon Army’s underhanded plot of Magenta. Vegeta stepping away from his usual angry prideful self and training by means of meditation. Beerus being a simp. Broly trying to control his anger. We finally get to see older versions of Trunks & Goten. We get to see Piccolo’s relationship dynamic between Gohan & Videl in a slice-of-life kind of way.
Dragon Ball is notorious for having bad guys that is just “stronger than the main characters.” It was nice to get some plot twists come from the very jump. Having good guys be duped into doing bad guy things isn’t new, but it has surprisingly never been done before in Dragon Ball. These new wrinkles with the characters with this new CG world, felt like something the general audience would embrace for future movies.
No scene was wasted and every part of this movie felt naturally paced. It can’t be a good Dragon Ball movie without good fight scenes right? After each battle, there was a proper amount of dialogue and down time in-between to advance the story. We got the full arc of Gohan in this movie through the perspective of Piccolo. Piccolo tells Gohan to stop being irresponsible in the first act. By the 2nd act of the movie, Gohan becomes angry dad Gohan. In the end, Gohan becomes what every Dragon Ball fan has been clamoring for him to be. There were hints and moments teased in the Dragon Ball Super anime of Gohan having his true potential unleashed. This movie was a perfect beginning for “Son Gohan Beast!”
Fun Plot Twists
A great plot that seemed doomed if you explained it on paper. Usually, when you explain plots and details about characters, it’s pretty easy to gather characteristics to create a compelling story and characters. However, when you put together many old elements to previous stories that we already know about, it can seem dull and just outright lame. That was the case as I was very put off by the idea of the Red Ribbon Army and androids making their way back to be the bad guy again.
Instead of a hick sounding Android 13 like in Movie 7, what other lame sounding Android would we get again? That was where my mindset was at when I heard about this movie. That’s where the twist comes into play. Keeping the details away from the public, it helped create something excitingly new from the beginning of the movie that just felt and look completely different than any other Dragon Ball experience.
It’s like when comedians tell a joke that you’ve heard for the first time. Comedians and viewers shouldn’t want these jokes, especially unfinished ones being broadcasted across the interwebs. Spoiling people is robbing people of a unique experience that you can never have back. I am very glad I did not seek out spoilers!
Taking in Piccolo’s Lessons
Piccolo’s role as mentor is all about bringing in some old fandom qualms with Gohan to light. He never trains and stays up-to-date with his fighting talents because “Goku & Vegeta would take care of it.”
The learning lesson as I referenced earlier in this post is to stay sharp on important things you’re neglecting and be a good parent like Piccolo! It’s funny how Gohan is taking a similar path to his father, Goku. One guy is obsessed with being a meathead and the other is obsessed with being a nerd-d-d-d!
*Team Four Star reference*
There are many logical reasons to Gohan’s character, so let’s discuss the quandary over why people felt so down on Adult Gohan after all these years.
Gohan’s Character Development Explained
What makes Gohan special as a character is because he’s like Goku, but for the books. Gohan having to train and do something he doesn’t necessarily love, nevertheless it’s essential for him to do so in order to keep the world safe, keeping his family safe.
Gohan has particular qualities that are counterintuitive to wanting to cause violence. It’s always been like this and it’s hard to argue that he was ever like Goku, when it comes to fighting. It has always taken him to the very brink to draw out all of his powers. This goes back to the Raditz Saga, Piccolo training him for the arrival of Nappa & Vegeta, Gohan taking down Frieza 2nd Form, and of course the Cell Saga Super Saiyan 2 transformation that is peak Gohan to most fans. Think about all of those times that Gohan had to search deeper than most to draw out his innate strength that is STRONGER than Vegeta & Goku. In Dragon Ball Z Movie 9: Bojack Unbound, it took Goku from the dead to remind Gohan to push himself one step further into tapping into his Super Saiyan 2 powers. He has to constantly tap into something deeper within that he doesn’t ever want to do.
It always surprises me at how much hate Gohan gets for not wanting to train. Peace, quiet and family, isn’t that what all normal people want? When people see someone with a glowing talent, it always boggles our mind that that talent isn’t fully honed and realized. That is the human conundrum that gets projected onto this make-believe character in Gohan. In the end, the biggest takeaway is essentially that Gohan has to be the one to protect Earth, in return protecting his family. As a member of any family and as a man, you have to be the one to protect your family! So, neglecting your responsibilities and duties to be ready to protect them is out of the question. That’s pretty much the “Gohan conundrum.”
Goku, Vegeta, Broly & Beerus Character Development
Goku spars yet again with Vegeta. Before the sparring match, it looked like Goku & Broly were sparring for a short period where Goku criticizes Broly for his lack of control of his emotions. Goku comes up to Vegeta to also criticize Vegeta for his lack of physical training as Vegeta meditates. Vegeta, realizing from the past tournament that “Jiren did not waste any energy and was relaxed up to the point until his attack” gets the nod from Whis that that was a keen observation for Goku & Vegeta’s next learning point.
This key realization for Vegeta is another positive growth to his character. Vegeta may finally be getting writer’s nod to surpass Goku, at least in some areas.
Beerus wakes up to the commotion and we get a funny seen where he questions “who the heck all of these random new characters are.” Eventually, he lays his eyes on Cheelai, finding her “kawaii.”
That was quite the funny development for our “God of Destruction.”
After a massive feast where the whole crew gets recharged, Whis commissions Goku and Vegeta to spar once again with Broly tasked with just watching because “he doesn’t understand how to act in control.” At the end credits scene, we get to see Goku & Vegeta maxed out at the end with Vegeta ecstatic that he FINALLY defeats Goku! Lemo and Broly cries as they watched Goku and Vegeta give it their all.
Again, this is an interesting development for Vegeta. Vegeta is a character that is easy to understand and relate to. To build Vegeta up to ever surpass Goku or be the hero would be an Earth shattering moment for Dragon Ball fans. The trickiest thing now would be, what is the next character arc for Goku? I guess I’ll have to continue reading the manga now..
Everyone and even the creators all knew that changing the animation style with the new CG style would be an incredibly big risk! However, I think it was an overall success!
In Dragon Ball Super, some of the fight scenes and choreography seemed to pale in comparison to Dragon Ball Z fight scenes. How can that be with newer technology? Maybe seeing the same old kind of fighting panels over and over again dulled the minds of Dragon Ball fans like myself. In this case of Dragon Ball Super: Super Heroes, along with the new animation style, the fighting, the angles, the perspectives all took a MAJOR leap forward.
It was refreshing to see Piccolo jump off the lookout and really feel like you’re getting to see Piccolo’s angle in like a 3D VR style perspective. Many of the fights and angles because of the 3D, presented a new way in how fans can envision these fight styles be presented. The angles & perspectives of many of the “ordinary” kind of scenes really felt more alive. I was completely wowed by a majority of the animation throughout and I hope this franchise taking more risks.
What I Didn’t like About the Animation
What I didn’t like about the animation mostly stems from some of the visuals in the trailer from when Gohan begins fighting Gamma 1, At some points, he really did look a bit too much like a 3D video game version. When the rain was coming down, it just looked like the 3D made the scene look a little bit too clunky. Another scene I wasn’t quite sold on was when Gohan transformed into “Son Gohan Beast.” Again, it just looked a little bit too much like a video game cutscene. Those were the kind of scenes where I preferred the last Broly Movie style more. Even with these scenes that stuck out in my mind, I still didn’t mind it much, especially in theaters on the big screen.
I have not read any other reviews, looked into this story besides the first trailer and avoided all spoilers like a plague. I did not want to be influenced by people’s opinion on the CG. I was genuinely surprised by just about everything in this movie. I do not know if I am in the majority or minority of how people think of the animation. All I know is that I LOVED this movie and the risks that the creators took with this animation style. The story, the feel, the look and the fighting, it all looked quite a bit different from any previous iterations. That “difference” rekindled my utmost enjoyment in Dragon Ball. This movie felt like a classic. In my honest opinion, I welcome this new wave of CG animation. Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel movies and Demon Slayer has incredible CG animation, so it can be done. Not sure how anyone else feels, but I was completely “Special Beam ‘Cannoned'” away!
This movie was a redefining story of what made these characters who they are. All done in a totally fantastic new style animation, told in a stylistically refreshing way Dragon Ball has never been told before with a perspective from characters we rarely get to see shine, in situations we’ve never seen them in before—this should be the new wave of Dragon Ball!
While there were new refreshing elements to this movie, some elements stayed the same. This movie’s overarching learning lesson was carried by Piccolo, the teacher and mentor for Gohan, and now for Pan. Piccolo, without Goku & Vegeta has to be the hero himself and puts Gohan into a position to teach him a very valuable lesson in being prepared for the worst and just being a responsible parent.
The risk of using a new style animation and having a story centered around characters not named Goku & Vegeta paid off in a big way. I really do hope this marks a new era of next generation Dragon Ball content because I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and it rekindled my childhood love for Dragon Ball. If I had to rate this movie, it would be a 9/10.