Dragon Ball Super Vol. 1

Time travel! Multiple universes! Dragon Ball Super takes the beloved series in a bold new direction! 

By Urian Brown May 23, 2017

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I wouldn’t go as far as to say Dragon Ball Super is a “surprise hit,” but I would say it’s managed to exceed expectations and fans across the board have accepted it. It’s hard to make a sequel to a hit property like Dragon Ball. The insane popularity of the original series does not guarantee its sequel will also be a hit, especially so many years after the original. But Dragon Ball Super isn’t an inferior retread of the original story, it’s a bonafide sequel—and a really crazy one. But crazy in the best possible way.

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Dragon Ball is one of the few global hits in the manga industry that has penetrated mainstream markets--meaning people who don't care about anime or manga love it. Goku is one of the most recognizable characters in the world. Although the original Dragon Ball manga ended in 1995, it never really stopped being popular. And with the theatrical success of the last two movies, love for the series was rekindled for many and it got hot again. In other words, it was the perfect time to launch a new anime and manga.

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I’ll admit, as a fan I was a little skeptical of a new series when it was announced. It’s hard not to be in this world of endless inferior remakes and sequels. But it didn’t take long before the manga won me over. It has all the elements that made the first manga a hit, but the story is decidedly more cosmic, weaving in heady sci-fi concepts like time travel and parallel universes. To put it in sensational Hollywood soundbite terms—it’s like Dragon Ball meets Doctor Who!

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The manga works as a condensed companion to the anime. While the anime takes detours into the wacky goings-ons of the characters’ lives, the manga is more plot driven. And although it's drawn by manga artist Toyotarou Sensei, his art is so spot on that it’s easy to forget it’s not Toriyama Sensei. However, Toriyama Sensei's still at the helm creatively and his presence can be felt, especially in the humor and entertaining character designs.

Volume one of Dragon Ball Super covers both Battle of the Gods and Resurrection F moviesin the first third of the book, but branches out into new territory in the latter part. I absolutely love the way the movies are handled in the manga. Instead of a shot-by-shot retelling, they’re boiled down to the basic points and sometimes entire chunks of the movies are described on a single page. It’s a genius way of letting readers know what happened in the movies, without making them go through it all again.

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After refreshing our memories on the movies, we’re introduced to Beerus’s brother, Champa. These two have a sibling rivalry that’s so intense, planets have literally been destroyed because of it! Champa is from a parallel universe, one of twelve in fact. These planets are similar to each other and have characters that reflect ones that we know in the original series, but are slightly different. Which is a lot of fun! Especially seeing thoroughly evil characters we know so well as kind-hearted goofballs in the mirror universe. This also sets up the main story arc, which gets really complicated when time travel is thrown into the mix.

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But for volume one, it’s all about sibling rivalry of Beerus and Champa and their bickering over whose universe is better.
Clearly, there is only one way to settle that—a tournament! It’s not Dragon Ball without a good old fashioned tournament. And this one is a lot of fun. We only get through the first couple of rounds of the tournament in volume one, but if you’ve read Dragon Ball you know what that means—the wacky fights! In the classic DB style, funny fights first!

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You can read the entire Dragon Ball Super story for free in the free manga section on viz.com/shonenjump. But if you’re a print person, only volume one is available for now. It’s a nice book, though! The beautiful design has a white cover with continuous spine art that harkens back to the original Dragon Ball Z manga editions. As far as extras, there are humorous one-page cartoons throughout the book in between chapters, an interview with Toriyama Sensei and Toyotarou Sensei, and a funny mini-chapter in the back.

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Creating a sequel for a manga where its characters got so powerful they could literally blow up planets is tough, but Dragon Ball Super pulls it off. Plus, it takes the story in a new, fun direction that makes it feel both familiar and fresh at the same time. It’s full of fan service for old-timers but isn’t overly dependent on in-jokes. And the art is superb. Toyotarou Sensei rises to the occasion and does Toriyama Sensei justice. I fell for this series faster than I thought I would and I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. I recommend it!

You can delve into this wild, wondrous take on Dragon Ball by picking up the manga available here

by Urian Brown