“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” premiered last opening weekend to great success. “Super Hero,”based on the manga and anime series “Dragon Ball,” is an animated action-comedy featuring the beloved classic characters Piccolo and Gohan as they fight against new superpowered foes and the return of the Red Ribbon Army from the series past.
The fourth “Dragon Ball” film to release in America theatrically, and the latest entry in the decade-spanning franchise, featuring all the explosive martial art fights and charming humor that fans have come to love, but might seem intimidating to approach for newcomers.
“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero”is currently the #1 grossing film in America, which should come as no surprise following the record-breaking success of 2020’s “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train.” Anime films are proving to be a consistent force at the box office. However, “Super Hero” is also seeing great success in Latin American box offices, making nearly $4 million over the weekend.
For nearly 40 years, “Dragon Ball” has been celebrated worldwide and is one of the most popular manga and anime of all time. After the success of his previous manga, sci-fi comedy “Dr. Slump,” creator Akira Toriyama first published “Dragon Ball” in 1984, and what started as a martial arts adventure about a young boy named Son Goku on a quest to gather the eponymous wish-granting Dragon Balls, over the next 11 years developed into stories of intergalactic invaders and one-on-one fights to determine the fate of the universe.
A simple summary of “Dragon Ball” does not do the series justice. “Dragon Ball” is a rare example of a piece of media so influential and culturally ingrained, that what remains of the uninitiated may not understand what makes it great. Somewhere in the synthesis between martial arts and creature features, eastern fantasy with science fiction, a piece of art that transcends borders was created.
“Dragon Ball”had a somewhat difficult start coming toNorth America, after a few failed attempts to adapt the original series, the sequel anime series “Dragon Ball Z” aired in syndication in 1996, dubbed into English and rather heavily censored for television. Although the show was a success, it was canceled after two seasons.
Still, despite the majority of the franchise being inaccessible in America, the show grew in popularity through reruns and broadcast on the Cartoon Network, with the remainder of the series eventually being dubbed into English.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, Spanish-dubbed anime had already found success on TV, with series like “Candy Candy” and “Los Caballeros Del Zodiaco”proving extremely popular in their own right. In 1996, the original “Dragon Ball,”dubbed into Spanish, was broadcast on Mexico’s Canal 5, a public network widely available throughout Latin America. Suddenly, the youth of Latin America were able to experience the entire series, every episode start-to-finish, just like the children of Japan did ten years ago.
“Dragon Ball”exploded in popularity throughout Latin America, continuing directly into “Dragon Ball Z” in 1997.The Latin American dub of the anime became a driving force for the series, with certain countries producing their own dubs or making adjustments for censorship purposes. When “Dragon Ball Z” was mired by reruns and cancellations for years in the United States, Mexico had already aired the original “Dragon Ball”in its entirety and was well-into “Z.”
This had the benefit of allowing anyone in the US with a means to watch Mexican television access to what was then the great unknown, provided they could speak Spanish, or at least make Spanish-speaking friends. Funimation, the company that took over dubbing “Dragon Ball Z” stateside, even reached out to Intertrack — the studio producing the Latin American Dub — to obtain audio masters for their own dub, and based their script off of the Spanish translation.
This close relation between Latin America and the US versions of the series and their mutual popularity, as well as the growing prevalence of the Internet, helped fuel the excitement surrounding the series in the United States. Now, the children of immigrant families have something they can relate to their peers with, and they’re the ones that hold all the secrets of the coolest cartoon on TV.
Since then, “Dragon Ball” has become embedded in the culture of the Americas, embedding itself in animation, comic, rap culture, street fashion and almost all artistic scenes in some form or another.
After something of a hiatus with no major brand-new animated productions after the end of the last television series, the 2013 film “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods” began a new era of “Dragon Ball.” It was a great success, both in Japan and overseas, with Latin America making the most of their overseas profit.
The Latin American dub of the movie reunited the majority of the original dub cast, to the relief of the people of Mexico who were recently up in arms about their recasting in “Dragon Ball Kai” —the updated rerelease of “Z.”Latin America’s love of “Dragon Ball” was just as strong as ever, with the finale of the 2015 animated series “Dragon Ball Super” drawing massive crowds at public screening events across Mexico.
And now, some years, one animated series and two films later, we are back at “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.”
Taking place sometime after the previous film, “Dragon Ball Super: Broly,” which in turn took place after the finale of “Dragon Ball Super,” the film has a demanding backlog in order to be completely up to speed, one that would be foolish to attempt to convey in a single article.
Does the film speak to its base? As an eternal fan, I can say the movie was good and it was great to see Piccolo in the spotlight, and that is enough to sell most fans. But does it live up to its legacy? Does it represent everything the series means in one neat package?
Obviously not. Something like that is impossible. “Super Hero” isn’t the definitive “Dragon Ball” movie, and hopefully no one was under the assumption it was, but it’s a solid “Dragon Ball”movie and a fun movie-going experience. If you’re not one for animation, and don’t care much for action, there’s obviously not much else to be had, but the open-minded may discover their starting point for a mystical adventure.
Simply put, the cast of “Dragon Ball” are icons, and every moment and each character can mean so much from one person to another, the only way to know yourself is to experience it. Is this the best way for a neophyte to get into Dragon Ball? Probably not, but who is to say? Many conflicts — domestic, civil and international — have broken out over the “correct” way to enjoy “Dragon Ball,” and I dare not fan the flames of war. But right now, fans old and new, people who haven’t seen the series since it first aired and people who haven’t missed a moment are enjoying the latest adventure all at once.
From the games, the manga and the anime, there are countless ways to enjoy and experience “Dragon Ball,” whether you watched it subbed or dubbed, for the hundredth or the very first time, in its original language, your own language, a language you’re trying to learn or a language you’ve never heard before, whether you’re alone or in good company, through “Dragon Ball,” you can connect with people all over the world.