Since the animation has mostly leveled out, the biggest complaint that I’ve seen about Dragon Ball Super has been the that I’s become the “Goku and Vegeta Show”; that is, the series focuses far too much on just two characters, one of whom is only interesting when he’s firing Kamehamehas. The rest of the Dragon Ball cast is shoved to the side. I’m pretty sure some Z Fights haven’t even received lines (though, Tien was never that talkative).
Sure, there are a million things wrong with the Zamasu arc, and people are still mad about the potara earing retcon, but those are all individual missteps, rather than foundational problems with the way the show has been made. I would even go so far as to say that fixing the “Goku and Vegeta Show” problem would alleviate all the other issues the series has, since a broader cast of relevant characters means stories can change direction more naturally, through character interaction and spotlight shifting, if a particular plotline starts going downhill. Heck, the Buu Saga was basically just that, about five times.
The obvious reason this has happened is the power creep. Gohan dropped off the radar while Goku and Vegeta both became gods. Piccolo just couldn’t keep up, and everyone else was already pretty extraneous when it came to fights. We have Beerus now, but he a) is mostly comedic relief at this point, and b) doesn’t have much stake in the fate of the world so isn’t expected to be get involved in every fight.
That said, I think there are three possible solutions:
1) Fix it the same way Z did. Take Goku (and now Vegeta) out of commission most of the time.
Goku has always put the other Z Fights to shame, and whenever he’s been around there’s been no point in anybody else even showing up. There are a few exceptions (Radits, Perfect Cell though in that case Gohan just filled his dad’s shoes) but for the most part this is nothing new.
The Z Fights always push the Goku button, and wait for Kakarot. Whether he’s in a healing pod, training, or just on his way back from the afterlife, Z gave other characters screen time by making Goku late to the fight. Even when he had instant transmission they came up with the excuse that he couldn’t fight effectively while dead (prima facia, pretty good excuse).
Super could presumably do the same. Hell, it kinda did in Resurrection of F, while Roshi, Gohan, Piccolo and Krillan fought off Freeza’s henchmen. And that was the best part of F!
But I don’t want Super to go this way. It would fix the problem and make it more like Z, but, well, it would make it more like Z. I love Z; it’s my favourite Dragon Ball. But I also love Dragon Ball as a whole, and as a fan of the franchise rather than just any given series, I like how each series is so easily distinguishable.
Dragon Ball is the adventure/comedy, with some genuine whimsy and child-like fun. Z is the action/drama, with high stakes and absurd cinematic timing. GT I consider a bit of a dark fantasy, with shadowy imagery, alien worlds, and the Lovecraftian amalgamation of Super Sayian and Ozaru. I want Super to continue to have its own identity, and I don’t think any “fix” should distance it from, or try to whitewash, what’s already there.
2) Make everyone stronger. I don’t mean just give them a mass Guru Potential Unlock power up. But give the rest of them some heavy power creep for a while, so they can at least contribute to fights.
Hell, Toriyama, if you’re reading this, I’ll even give you a great way to do it, and make a whole arc of it, right now. Have a tournament. The World Martial Arts Tournament. It was the second ever saga of the franchise, and has appeared in every series so far. Tournament sagas are also pretty easy to write, since the reason for fighting is obvious, and you and make whatever match-ups you want.
Basically, every Z Fighter (Including Android 18!) enters the World Tournament, except Goku and Vegeta. They all want to test themselves against each other, so having the Blues around is pointless. Heck, let Chi-Chi in too; she used to be a bit of a fighter, and having two Sayian babies has gotta toughen someone up. In preparation, they all get back into hardcore training mode. The tournament starts, and immediately you have fun character interaction, mixed with good fights.
You can even throw Gotenks in there if you have to; have them reach SSJB just to show that it’s not the big deal we all think it is.
Yamcha’s out in the first round, of course, but even he exceeds expectations and makes Beerus wonder if he even could destroy the Earth anymore. Characters only get stronger as it goes on. The whole thing can be filed with hype moments and nostalgic call backs, just like when Goku used the Kaio Ken in the Universe 6 Tournament.
Chi-Chi will face 18 in the first round. For the first little bit, it will look like Chi-Chi is able to outdo her based on that pure Ox King strength. 18 of course reveals that she’s been holding back, but comments that Chi-Chi is now stronger than 18 was in the Android Saga. This will give the audience perspective on where everyone is now. Chi-Chi is still far weaker than anyone else; too weak to be a Z Fighter. But even she is now stronger than the androids were. Suddenly the gap between SSJB and everyone else wont’ feel so insurmountable.
Everyone is shocked when Krillan actually beats Majan Buu (maybe by cutting him in half with the Distructo Disc, and before Buu can heal, his top half lands out of bounds). This when Vegeta starts getting ticked off; even the human did what he couldn’t before Resurrection of F. Keep in mind that, until recently, Vegeta wasn’t that much stronger than Perfect Cell.
Now, if you have to have a villain, this is where they step in. Having defeated Buu, Krillan starts joking about how he might get to be the one to throw the final match to Mr. Satan. But, in the next his next match Krillan loses to a mysterious new foe; someone who’s gotten some attention up to this point, but not a whole lot; probably the guy who beat Yamcha. This villain is some kind or alien who has mistaken Mr. Satan for Earth’s leader, and plans to kill him in the finals and take over the world. It’s cheesy, but Dragon Ball is cheesy.
Either way, whether it’s Krillan or a villain, Piccolo beats them in the semi-finals. It’s a genuinely great fight, and during it Piccolo ascends to some new amazing Namekian power that allows him to actually rival Goku and Vegeta. Kami’s wisdom, and his hate for attention, convinces him to throw the final match to Mr. Satan. And just like that, everyone is strong enough to fight, without throwing off the statuesque.
I can see the argument that that’s ridiculous. That SSJB is too powerful, and human characters could never be strong enough to compare to it, especially not in a single arc. That may have been true, in Z. But let’s face it, power levels are bullshit, and in Super power continuity is bullshit. Trunks want from SSJ2, to being able to keep up with two SSJBs with no explanation. Mai had a sniper that could make SSJR Black bleed. And Beerus has gone back and forth between almost being rivaled by Goku, and being completely unstoppable.
Like I said, each series has its own identity, and Super’s allows it to get away with something like this.
A better argument is just against the size of fighter pool that big. You can’t have so many character meaningfully contribute to a fight. I don’t totally buy that; I think you can fit enough villains and fights in future arcs to give everyone a shot. But I concede that it would be hard, and might given the whole thing a sense of Namek pacing.
3) Give us more filler. I know, I can’t believe I’m saying it.
Super is much more comedic than Z was, and some of the filler thus far has actually been alright. The fact that they’re largely not about fights, and more about humour, makes it easy for other character to take the spotlight for an episode at a time. Make Super that. Make it not primarily about the fights, but about the characters and comedy.
Don’t take out fights and larger story arcs altogether, but make them shorter and more spaced out. Make them clearly the Goku and Vegeta parts, then focus on other character the rest of the time.
I know this wouldn’t be the most popular option. But it would be the most true to the identity Super has developed thus far. It’s a Dragon Ball series for all the fans. It follows Z well. It’s referenced the original series several times, with the Mafuba and Pilaf. Arale recently was a throwback to both Dragon Ball and Doctor Slump for the real hardcore fans. And for the GT fans we have Pan, and presumably Bra on the way.
Dragon Ball Super’s identity is these lighthearted homages to every bit of the franchise. Should encapsulate (unless Capsule Corp has trademarked that word) everything that is Dragon Ball. Fights are only a small part of that. Comedy, characters, gags and silly personal struggles are a major part of this franchise. Let’s not forget, this is started with a teenage girl trying to summon a mystical wish granting dragon, to give her a boyfriend.
Don’t Lose Your Way