It’s time. I’m a big Dragon Ball fan. I know the franchise inside out, with every official release. And I’ve also been willing to say some things that most fans would have my head for. So, now that Dragon Ball Super seems to be past most of its big hiccups and watching it doesn’t feel like a chore, I want to get into it a bit. So, starting today on The Anime Harvest, This Week On Dragon Ball Super.
Starting with the opening, right from the first shot we see that Super is aimed at Dragon Ball fans, and not just the larger, more ubiquitous DBZ fanbase. This one’s an obvious throwback to the opening shot from Dragon Ball.
We also see Goku, Chi-Chi, and Goten farming radishes, giving us some idea of how they’re peaceful lives have been since the end of the Buu saga. Though this isn’t the first time we see their family radish farm. In Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!!, also taking place after the Buu saga, everyone picks radishes to choose who will fight Abo and Kado. The choice of radishes around Goku’s family may be a reference to Goku’s brother, Raditz.
We move through the character roster quickly, but with actual animation, rather than dull character cards. Tien, Yamcha, Roshi, Puar, Oolong, and Chiaotzu all still exist, telling us that Dragon Ball would never forget even its minor supporting character (*cough* Launch *cough*). We see the Briefs family; Vegeta training Trunks, Bulma sitting nearby completely disinterested, and Jaco standing on the balcony rail with his arms crossed. It’s a nice portrayal of everyone. Vegeta being a father, but sticking to his warrior roots; Bulma being the most prominent character on screen, in keeping with the fact that she is the second longest running character in this franchise; and Jaco basically admitting he just wants to hang out with them, but also keeping his distance. Monaka’s also there, but it’s hard to really say much about him. What I will say is this shot should really end the debate on whether or not he’s really the strongest. He’s being placed alongside Jaco, guys. He’ll be recurring, but not as a serious fighter.
We also get a shot of the Dragon Radar here, reminding us of those things that have become so useless, we summon them just to ask general Saiyan trivia questions.
Videl and Gohan have a cozy looking family home outside the city, where Gohan read’s lotsa books, and Buu and Mr. Satan run around wearing capes. 18, Krillin, and their daughter also drop by sometimes. A nice reminder of the family themes that have been a part of the franchise since Z, and were at the heart of the Cell saga (seriously, the entirety of the Cell saga is a thematic comparison between Goku and Vegita’s parting outlooks; Goku encouraging his own son to surpass him, while Vegita demands his son become strong, but never stronger than himself).
Piccolo being lonely.
Goku and Vegita walk towards a blue light, representing Super Saiyan Blue, and their accent to a new league of fighters where they can finally find worthy opponents again, illustrated by the next shot of the appearance of Beerus, Champa, Whis, and Vados, and later all the universe 6 fighters.
This brings up two questions that have yet to be answered. What is that accent; how did they reach SSJB? And is the colour blue itself significant; will Toriyama be consistently using it to represent the highest form of power? It would explain why Whis and Vados are both blue-skinned.
The actual action shots following this just show off some good animation, and hopefully foreshadow Gohan becoming an actual fighter again.
Then we get this shot, associating Super Saiyan Blue with Shenron. It’s hard to say exactly what this means at this point. It could actually link Shenron to this incredible power (though that would be hard, seeing as we’re told Vegita at least achieved it on his own, so a wish wouldn’t make sense; also the transformation is assumed to have first been reached while training with Whis, far from Earth). The more likely scenario is just that this follows the general dragon symbolism in Dragon Ball. Dragons are symbols of great power, so for Goku transforming to SSJB to be symbolised by a dragon bursting out of the Earth just shows how much more powerful he’s become. The fact the Goku himself actually appears small on the screen shows us that his new power is well beyond what we’ve seen in him.
But that’s all just the animation. Now to rewind, and look at the lyrics of this OP.
“Let’s pick back up
That dream that never ended”
A nice little way of saying, “this isn’t a spin-off. This isn’t GT. This is the continuation of the original series.
“Just join up the stars”
Make a wish on the dragon balls. Of course this accompanies a shot of the dragon radar.
“Drawing a door up in the sky”
Doors are entry way into something new. The sky is boundless. Basically the world is continuing to open up more and more. Also, the sky is blue, so that’s another reference to the possible colour of power.
Drawing is a bit tougher, and it makes me a little frustrated I’m relying on translations. There are a lot of different things that could have translated to “Drawing”, but symbolically not many of them are comparable. I guess it could mean creating, like how Vegita and Goku apparently reached SSJB on their own, rather than the way Goku reached SSJG. It could also be a meta thing; Toriyama and Toei playing at this being a cartoon.
“This is a brand new stage
For challenging the Gods!”
Do I even have to say it?
“Losing will just make you stronger.”
This is something that has always been a part of the Dragon Ball– hell, it’s built into Saiyan biology- but we haven’t really seen it in Super, mostly because the good guys don’t lose much in Super. In the Battle of the Gods arc, Goku’s strength didn’t come from losing, but from having an opponent that pushed him; he would have grown just as strong by winning. In the Golden Freeza arc we see Goku get a bit smarter because he realized a mistake, but he never really lost. And since then, the only loses have been against Frozen, who nobody got stronger from fighting; they just learned he’s kinda a dick.
The rest is just some fun, “Go! Go! Kick ass!” stuff to accompany the action.
Dragon Ball Super’s opening is a great reintroduction to the series for fans, though doesn’t do much to get people initiated into the franchise. It’s lyrics and animation remind us what Dragon Ball is, and promise to keep in line with that, while continuing to expand its vast scale.
It’s underappreciated how clever and well directed this opening actually is, introducing the viewer to subtle visual cues that carry the viewing experience. The shot of Goku’s power being hyped up by the dragon does just as much to hype up the dragon using Goku’s power, since we recognize it as a powerful symbol.
Dragon Ball Super has a lot left to show us. I just hope it all measure up to the first thing it’s showed us.
Don’t Lose Your Way