Dragon Ball Super – Volume 1 Review

The manga version of Dragon Ball Super has hit the UK, after having been streamable for some time. Unlike conventional manga / anime situations, Dragon Ball Super is actually two separate entities working simultaneously. Original Dragon Ball author Akira Toriyama writes out a brief of what will happen in a story arc, designs the characters (well, the important ones, anyway) and then sends the information to both the Toei Animation team and Toyotarou, the manga artist. They then both adapt Toriyama’s story arc, filling any gaps and solving vague issues however they see fit (within reason, obviously!), meaning you get two versions of the same story, they have the same beginning and end, but often vary in the middle.

This volume shows Goku gaining the power of a “Super Saiyan God” and challenging Beerus, the God of Destruction, to a showdown in order to save Earth, and ending up impressing the deity and his trainer Whis. It then moves on to the start of a tournament between Universe 7 (“our” universe) against Universe 6 due to Beerus’s twin brother and God of Destruction of Universe 6 Champa getting into a shouting match with Beerus which ends up creating a 5 on 5 tournament. It’s fun, especially a scene with U6 Saiyan Cabba talks to Vegeta and we end up getting some extra backstory on the Saiyan race. It ends in the middle of the battle between Goku and Universe 6 Frieza knock-off Frost.

The biggest different you’ll notice is that the manga just doesn’t bother with most of the first two arcs, which are adaptations of Toriyama’s two revival anime films, Battle of Gods and Resurrection F. Battle of Gods is reduced to four chapters, complete with all the funny Bulma birthday party scenes cut (with a “see the Battle of Gods movie for what happens at the party!” note in the middle of a page…) and the fights between Goku and Vegeta against Beerus last a few panels each, even the big final showdown! Chapter 4 then ends with a teaser for the Resurrection F storyline, but then Chapter 5 starts the Champa Arc, skipping Resurrection F entirely. It is very briefly summed up in a couple of square dialogue boxes during the chapter, and that’s it. There is also a series of scenes with the Supreme Kai and the Elder Kai finding out about Champa gathering the Super Dragon Balls and mistaking what they were saying for the Namek Dragon Balls. When they realise their mistake Supreme Kai wishes on the Balls to be separated back into himself and Kibito rather than remain fused (as happened in the Buu arc of Z). Which is good, because in the anime they just appeared in the Champa arc as two people without any explanation…

Chapter 5 onwards is pretty much in line with the anime’s version of Super’s Champa arc, obviously there is little filler here, and it’s soon straight to the tournament. The only other key difference here is that Majin Buu is off the Universe 7 team because he fails the written test, where as in the anime he just falls asleep during the test instead, not waking up until the tournament is over.

There is a bizarre mistranslation issue during a gag panel between Chapters 5 and 6, where Sorbet, a character from the now missing Resurrection F arc, is seen in hell with Frieza and another skipped character, on his knees and shouting “I was skipped!” but somehow the Viz translator didn’t pick up on the joke and instead the panel reads “I was flown down here!”. Makes no real sense, and certainly stops it from being the amusing joke sketch it was intended to be! Otherwise the translation is solid, it follows Viz’s translation of Z pretty well, which means we get Hercule instead of Mr. Satan, but otherwise get some “Son Goku” instead of just Goku, “Freeza” instead of Frieza and “Boo” instead of Buu. Plus Supreme Kai is just referred to as the Lord of Lords (and is on the Planet of the Lord of Lords) while King Kai is called the Lord of Worlds (and is on the Planet of the Lord of Worlds). Goten does say that Goku can go to “Kaio-sama’s place” at one point though, so it seems like it’s still in line with Viz’s Buu arc translation in that they’ll be occasionally referred to as Kaio-shin and Kaio-sama instead, but mostly by their absurdly long titles…

The artwork is great, the fighting is fluid and everything is well drawn and in proportion, something Toyotarou should be proud of given Toriyama’s unique and instantly recognisable art style. Then again he’s been doing it since the early 2000s, including a Dragon Ball AF fan-manga (or Dojinshi) based on the famous drawings that those of us in the early Dragon Ball online community thought were real. The volume has a few extras as well, a single page “preview guide” to the Champa arc from a TV guide in Japan, a two-page special chapter showing how King Kai (or Lord of Worlds, I guess) got his planet back after the Buu arc (in other words, covering up from a classic case of Toriyama forgetfulness) from an official guide book, and finally a two page interview with Toriyama and Toyotarou, which is a rather pleasant read (Toriyama is very happy with his successor!)

Overall the first half feels like someone in the corner of your eye is doing the “hurry it up” hand motion, but once we get to the Champa arc things start to get to a reasonable pace, with well drawn action and some fun light hearted scenes. This arc is more heavy on the Dragon Ball comedy than the Z fighting, which is good because it flips the other way in the following arc. It’s a fun read for fans of the show, and it gets even more fun when the two adaptations of Toriyama’s work begin to really split from each other down the line…

DRAGON BALL SUPER © 2015 by BIRD STUDIO, Toyotarou/SHUEISHA Inc.
8 / 10

Cold Cobra

Having watched anime since it was airing late night on the Sci-Fi channel in the late 90s, I consider myself… someone who’s watched a lot of anime, and then got hired to write reviews about them. Hooray!

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