Shitting on DBZ is a rite of passage for anime critics. While many shows have glaring flaws, DBZ has the rare honor of remaining the most well-known and most egregious example of the very flaws it prototyped over two decades ago. It’s an easy target.
Somehow lost in the mix is that DBZ is an enjoyable show. (I’m specifically referring to Dragon Ball Z, not Dragon Ball the prequel, which bored me to tears from what little I’ve seen of it, or Dragon Ball GT, which I’ve never seen.) If you simply go by the number of good arcs, DBZ outperforms several shounen anime often held in higher critical regard, such as Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach, and Yu Yu Hakusho. DBZ had three solid arcs: the Saiyans, Frieza, and Cell. Even the Buu arc started reasonably well, only turning to utter garbage once Buu showed up.
Dragon Ball Super inherited all of DBZ’s flaws and little else. Well, it also inherited some old DB characters nobody ever cared about and gave them way too much screen time, though I suppose even they were better than some of the new characters, such as Monaka, a character defined by weakness, timidity, and huge nipples.
Pretty much the whole series was a lazy, contrived mess. First, Goku and the gang took on the God of Destruction. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, it only happened because the God of Destruction foresaw god-level Saiyan strength in a dream. It’s literally deus ex machina. How did Goku get his god-level power-up? Everyone prayed for it. It makes you wonder why the Saiyans never prayed to be stronger when they were tyrannized by Frieza. How did Frieza get his power-up? He trained for the first time in his life, which for some reason never occurred to him when he was paranoid of a Saiyan uprising. Then the crew moves on to challenging opponents from parallel universes, which I guess is slightly less lazy writing than discovering your next opponent in a dream. The only decently written arc was the new Future Trunks arc. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t go wrong with time travel.
There were a handful of good fights in the whole show. Just watch them on YouTube, preferably in the English dub if available, because Goku’s Japanese voice is probably the single most unfitting major character’s voice in the history of anime. Why did Bulma’s voice actor have to be the one that died?
Some would say Dragon Ball Super should be held to a lower standard as a kids show. I’m ok with giving the original Dragon Ball a free pass for that very reason. But this revival without a doubt banked on its appeal to the previous generation of fans, many of whom have children today. I used to teach a Business English class to middle-aged engineers. On one particular Monday lesson, I asked them what they did over the weekend. A surprising number said they watched the Tokyo marathon. Turns out they only watched because they were expecting Dragon Ball Super to come on. Props to the marketing team for the Tokyo marathon.
Dragon Ball Super should’ve tried harder. Hell, it should’ve tried. It didn’t, and it sucked.