Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero follows 2019’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly but lacks the same level of potential crossover appeal as its predecessor. Whereas the prior entry spent half its time explaining large chunks of the Saiyan mythology (and re-introducing heroes Goku and Vegeta) before becoming an all-out brawl, Super Hero assumes familiarity with the expansive cast of characters and continuity found within the multi-generational franchise.
The film doesn’t do much to explain the histories of central heroes Piccolo, Gohan and Pan, and audiences not already invested in their adventures will find it much harder to sit back and just enjoy the story as it unfolds. It’s not necessarily worse than Broly, but it’s certainly more niche and built for fans without the potential crossover appeal. As a casual fan with enough working knowledge of Dragon Ball mythology, I liked it quite a bit. This just isn’t one I’d rave about to someone who doesn’t have prior interest.
This time around, Vegeta and Goku are off-planet training with Beerus (God of Destruction) while helping Broly learn to control his destructive temper. On Earth, Piccolo teaches Goku’s granddaughter, Pan, to harness the power of her Saiyan abilities. He stumbles upon a sinister plot to resurrect the Red Ribbon Army, an old foe from the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z era. The RRA were responsible for the creation of many villains, particularly the iconic bio-android Cell. With their strongest warriors off-planet, it’s up to Piccolo, Gohan (Goku’s son, who helped defeat Cell originally) and a few friends old and new to save the Earth.
It’s basically an extended episode of the series — or a shortened Saga, if you’d rather look at it within the structure of Dragon Ball storytelling. Everything culminates in new forms for two major characters who didn’t have much to do in Broly, which will excite their fans. The final battle is a bit of a letdown given the identity of the big boss, but it’s still fun and entertaining enough on its own merits. The big comic gimmick this time around is the satire about American superheroes, which allows a few artistic flourishes but amounts to nothing more than a friendly ribbing.
Fans of the show have been concerned about the new all-CGI animation technique used, which breaks from the show’s aesthetic tradition. They can probably write much longer essays about why this change is either good or awful. As a casual viewer, it looked good, OK? I don’t know what else to say about it. It was pretty.
Perhaps my only real complaint about Super Hero is that the soundtrack pales in comparison to the work by Norihito Sumitomo on the previous film. Then again, that was a fight film, complete with a ripping score with characters’ names chanted as they exchanged blows. Nothing would call for that in this movie, but I still missed that added emotional boost.