Dragon Ball Super is Sabotaging Its Own Success

Dragon Ball Super leaped some pretty challenging hurdles in order to become the success story it is today. The series managed to go from being a fillery remix of some pivotal Dragon Ball Z movies (Battle of the Gods, Resurrection F), to breaking out and standing on its own two feet as arguably the most globally popular Dragon Ball series, thusfar. However, with Dragon Ball Super's anime on indefinite hiatus for over a year now, and no new plans officially announced following the high-grossing Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie, it's safe to say that at this point, Dragon Ball Super is sabotaging its own success.

It seems strange to consider now, but the Dragon Ball franchise wasn't exactly red-hot in 2015 (thanks to the lackluster Dragon Ball GT), when Dragon Ball Super started in both anime and manga forms . In fact, during Super's first few arcs, the animation style and overall quality of the series came under intense scrutiny from the fandom; but despite those drawbacks, Dragon Ball Super managed to gain big attention when it finally cleared the retelling obligations of Battle of the Gods and Resurrection F. The "Future Trunks Saga" re-introduced a popular elements of Dragon Ball Z (Future Trunks and alternate timelines), as well as a now-iconic new villain (Goku Black). However, it was the "Tournament of Destruction" and "Tournament of Power" arcs that really saw Dragon Ball Super find its stride as a showcase of the larger Dragon Ball multiverse, streamlined into the series' most tried and true storytelling format: big martial arts tournaments. Indeed, The Tournament of Power arc made a massive mainstream splash, with much-hyped milestones like Goku's Ultra Instinct power-up, and new characters like Jiren the Grey.

With the successful culmination of Dragon Ball Super's Tournament of Power run, the series has been poised to do more than it ever has been capable of, before. Since the anime wrapped its Japanese run in 2018, and its American run in 2019, Dragon Ball fans have been clamoring for any number of ways to either debut a second installment of DBS, and/or premiere any number of spinoff series, for characters like Goku, Vegeta, of the other Z-Fighters that were largely left by the wayside in Super. Meanwhile, Dragon Ball Super: Broly and the DBS manga have set the stage for all sorts of exciting new things, like an official canonized version of Super Saiyan 4; a re-invented Broly character and Saiyan origin story; and new villains (Moro), allies (The Galactic Patrol) and major expansions and/or retcons to the mythos - almost all of which fans have been supportive of. In fact, that's what makes the situation even more frustrating: Since the anime's hiatus, Dragon Ball Super has worked hard to set the stage for the next phase of the franchise, only to have the anime side of the series do nothing with it!

To be clear: Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, Bandai Namco, and the other powers behind the Dragon Ball franchise aren't currently feeling any pressure to move forward before they are ready. Dragon Ball has not at all faded from the limelight of mainstream exposure - as clearly evidenced by the recent release of the Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot video game. Kakarot's deep dive into Dragon Ball Z lore proves that fans are still eager for, and supportive of, any opportunity to jump deeper into the world and mythos of Dragon Ball. So, as an overall brand, the series is doing just fine.

That said, it's hard not to feel that significant momentum is being lost, here. While Dragon Ball has stagnated on the anime front, other long-running Shonen series (One-Piece, Naruto) have stepped in to deliver some exciting new arcs that snagged major attention; new-age breakout hits like My Hero Academia or Attack on Titan have both hit their best strides and delivered milestone seasons; and now a new class of shonen anime like The Promised Neverland or 2019's undisputed anime winner, Demon Slayer, have started to turn fan attention towards what's shiny and new.

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Sure, one can argue that Dragon Ball is always just one new power-up, transformation, or character reveal away from re-establishing its clout in the anime genre. But in this day and age, where awareness of anime is much greater, and the standards for its greatness much stricter, the gimmick of character transformation and hyped battles (at the end of long, fluff-filled arcs) seems more like an exhausted relic than a promising future. Dragon Ball Super's next installment could be the first step toward big evolution for the series (stylistically, narratively, and thematically). That is, if the powers behind it ever deliver.

The Japanese-language and English dub releases of Dragon Ball Super are now complete and available to stream with FunimationNOW and Crunchyroll. Viz Media is releasing new chapters of the manga at a monthly rate that can be read entirely for free through the Shonen Jump digital library, and Dragon Ball Super's big movie, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.