Well, the end is nigh for Dragon Ball Super. According to Todd Blankenship, a favorite fan subber, DB Super lost its time slot. The show will be ending after approximately episode 131, and will be replaced with Gegege no Kitaro. Here’s tweet below:
According to this newspaper, the new Gegege no Kitaro series will indeed take Super’s 9 AM Sunday timeslot starting April 1st, with Super ending in March. Fuji TV says that while there are no set plans for the broadcast of a new DB show, “it’s not like the series is over”. pic.twitter.com/VRHEYvBRQk
— Todd Blankenship (@Herms98) January 18, 2018
This feels like a very mixed bag of emotions. While Super has been very successful in revitalizing the Dragon Ball brand, the problem is a very substandard path of decision making making me believe that the creative leads at Toei need a refresh on how this series has rolled out.
Too much stock has been put into the long form Shonen anime. There has been a lot of instances, where shows start out on fire, like Naruto, Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, presumably Bleach (I’m not going to lie, I fucking hated Bleach, but it proves my point), and even Yu-Gi-Oh!.
Naruto had the rare two-fold problem. From the anime standpoint, there were 134 episodes of a solid, great story, culminating in Sasuke leaving the village and going to the villain of the first series, Orochimaru. Then, we got roughly 86 episodes of filler. Once that got wrapped up, and the manga got out ahead, we get into Naruto Shippuuden, and we start out on fire again. The status quo changed. People died. Things were going to ramp into the ninja war, and it felt like it was going to be one of the best stories ever.
In the span of the arc, the enemies went from the Akatsuki, to Tobi, to Madara (Tobi), to Obito (who was Tobi), to real Madara, to Kaguya, and ends with a pseudo turn from Sasuke. It was a prolonged ending that just served to jam a shit ton of fan service, bringing in the first four Hokage, the best 7 Swordsmen of the Mist (including Zabuza!), and just about every possible person that any fan could want to see finally animated into the series.
Dragon Ball had a peculiar history. Dragon Ball proper had a great tale of exploration, culminating in a final fight between Piccolo Jr., and Goku. Back then, Dragon Ball had a full on emphasis on story and character development. Goku went from naive boy, to strengthened fighter. Then, Dragon Ball Z happened, and blew the lid off of everything: other planets, alternate futures, and magical beings.
Let’s start out at the beginning. Each arc lasted multiple seasons, and told a more grandiose story, in a “story light, action heavy,” way. However, the stories were complete. I was not left wanting more during each arc.
“Invasion of the Saiyans”: DBZ started off with an arc that told a complete story, leaving open a return of a fan favorite in Vegeta.
“Frieza”: This arc told an otherworldly story of space travel, and intergalactic empires. This was probably the best arc of Dragon Ball Z
“Androids and Cell”: This was the most complete arc. We had great fights, and a deep story.It had finality with Goku dying, and passing the torch to his more powerful, but very bland, son.
“Buu”: It was a story, and it…did a thing. It flubbed Gohan, only to have Goku come back, and save the day. The Buu Saga fell flat towards the end, embodying the “new villain means new superpower” problem that frequents Shonen manga and anime.
And that’s just with Dragon Ball Z. I could go into detail with Dragon Ball GT, but I don’t think that GT even exists in canon anymore.
Ultimately, that brings us to today. There is a lot to like with Dragon Ball Super, but ultimately, the fact that it took roughly 80 episodes for the show to gain some traction is almost appalling. I get that the franchise has been dormant since 1997, but there has to have been someone from the old staff that knew how to write. I think that there are some things that can happen in lieu of this stoppage to help make Dragon Ball Super, or whatever the possible return could be called, to make the series flow better.
After that, we get the most world building that we’ve had since the Frieza arc with the introduction of Universe 6, but it was condensed to 19 episodes. We got Champa, who was the God of Destruction of Universe 6. In all, there are 12, but some of them have no bearing on the story as of yet. We get to see Saiyans who didn’t die, because Frost didn’t blow up their home planet. It was really cool to see Vegeta finally get to mentor someone, even though it really showcases how distant he is from his son…the current one, not the grown up version of the current one. Ultimately, this serves as a preamble to the Universal Tournament, the current, and possibly final arc of Dragon Ball Super.
The best “pre-tournament” arc was Future Trunks, but that was only 20 episodes. At least that had a bad ass couple of villains, and a scary look into what Goku would be like if he were evil. If Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 is any indicator, I’m actually very excited to hear Sean Schemmel get down right evil with this character. But then, the arc completely unraveled, because the ending came so abruptly. I’d have paid good money to see more of Future Trunks. While doing research, I saw that the manga diverges from the anime, so I have to check it out.
I am not opposed to lengthening the arcs, but I am also not opposed to a hiatus between arcs. Think about it. The Gundam sagas are broken up into two season arcs. I think if Dragon Ball were to emulate a model like this for their storytelling this would give a more concise direction for the plot, and give time for the writers to plan out future arcs.
On top of that, thinking ahead would have been awesome. Think about this for a second. How awesome would it be if Goku Black wasn’t wished away from Lord Omni King (that petulant fucking child), but had a sprawling story, telling how he came to be, an extended story of how Zamasu defeated Goku to the point to take him over? Let’s see Goku Black’s arrival, and the shock that Future Trunks had when he saw “Goku” obliterate a town. There was so many opportunities that were just dropped due to the short time we had for the arc.
Now, with the increased time between arcs, it gives the animators time to relax a little. You can see during the latter seasons of Dragon Ball Super. that there must be at least two or three different animating teams. There’s the A+ team, who generally handle the important segments, and huge fights. This is normal for Shonen series, just look at the Naruto and Pein fight from Naruto Shippuuden.
The first arc was okay, nothing to write home about. You can tell that the budget was a fraction of what Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ had. As we got further along, especially during the Goku Black fight, and Goku’s first battle with Jiren, a different team took over, and the fights looked absolutely freaking beautiful. You can tell the A+ team is about to take over, because Vegeta’s animation looks phenomenal.
Ultimately, a lot of long run animes can benefit from this type of elongated South Park or Gundam scheduling. Everyone can kind of reset, and wait for a new season to begin production. Hell, it’s what American television does, and it seems to work. We even get new terms like winter finale and spring premieres. Granted, these terms are a whole other rant that has possible ramifications for storytelling. Time will tell, though.
Having gone for roughly 124 (as of now) straight weeks, there are strains. The manga precedes the television show, so the writers are kind of thinking of things somewhat on the fly. Most anime have the manga as a base, and that gives a great blueprint for the anime. Shows like Attack on Titan have low episode counts, but tell a concise story within a 27 episode season. I didn’t see the second season of Attack on Titan, but it seems like the show took a shorter season, so that it could come out sooner, as in July 2018.
I honestly don’t think that there is a problem with taking a break. There’s a saying about absence and hearts, you know it. I don’t think that this means the end of the series either, since there’s an obvious set up for either Goku or Vegeta to become the new God of Destruction. That said, we’ll probably see new episodes of Dragon Ball in some form or another before the new movie in 2018.