It’s easy to see why readers love Dragon Ball so much. The fights are amazing. The characters are unique and memorable. The art is distinctive. Even the setting is a character in its own right—an “Earth” that featured dinosaurs roaming the fields, capsules that hold everything from houses to magazines, and (of course) the titular wish-granting Dragon Balls. But I think what really sealed the deal for so many readers was the omnipresent sense of good, clean (mostly), timeless FUN.
And this has carried over into the sequel, Dragon Ball Super. Volume 1 ended with the obligatory silly fight of Beerus and Champa’s tournament that (of course) Goku won, so now we get to meet the rest of Champa’s team on the battlefield. The fighting roster includes Frost (a Freeza lookalike), Cabba (a Saiyan warrior), Otta Magetta (a living robot man) and Hit (a trench coat-wearing assassin) and there’s fun to be had with each and every battle. Not only are the fights themselves entertaining, they also serve as a window into how things happened differently in the various universes. For instance, in Unoverse 6, Frost isn’t a genocidal sociopath like Freeza, while Cabba’s version of the Saiyans never became galactic conquerors. The fights with the alternate characters are fun, but it’s not until Hit’s round that we return to the truly epic battles that help make Dragon Ball the go-to action manga that it is today.
Of course, we can’t stay in happy tournament land forever. Remember the alternate “Future” timeline from the Android/Cell Saga? Yeah, it’s coming back into the story, and once again some terrible calamity has befallen the Z-Fighter-less world. This time it’s an unstoppable alien warrior hunting down humanity, and—frighteningly enough—calling it “justice." And here’s the twist: this unnamed warrior that looks like someone very familiar.
As with its last volume, Dragon Ball Super continues to distill the anime’s storyline down and the results are great. There's a tight focus here on the story so the plot moves at a breakneck pace. Less time for goofing around, and more time for the important stuff—like the battles! (Although, it's still Dragon Ball, so you can expect some goofing around.)
Although it's not drawn by Toriyama Sensei, Dragon Ball Super has his fingerprints all over it. From his distinctive style of panel layout to his minimal use of screen tones in favor of pen-and-ink drawings. The only time I noticed anything seriously different was Toyotarou Sensei’s usage of more complex screen tone techniques.
Dragon Ball can be serious without giving everyone a horrific backstory, and it can be funny without relying on slapstick and perverts. (Not that it doesn’t also have some of both those things.) The comedy is always built into the story and the drama never derails the overall tone, so there’s always a place for both. This volume of Dragon Ball Super is a fun reminder both that this franchise started as an action comedy, and that it grew into something much, much more.
Dragon Ball Super Vol. 2, story by Akira Toriyama and drawn by Toyotarou, is available here.
by Chris Turner
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