The official sequel to the Dragon Ball series, Dragon Ball Super can be a little confusing when figuring out how to experience it.
With an anime spanning 131 episodes, a still-running manga, and three related movies that two of which are covered in the anime…it’s my hope that this article will help make sense of it for those that need it.
And just as a small refresher to the already familiar and to qualm expected questions for those new fans, I’ll briefly go over the series that came before it.
BUT before that, to avoid spoiling people, I’ll let you know where you can read and/or watch the series online.
Reading the Manga
Your best bet here is to peruse what Viz has to offer. They have links to retailers carrying all their paperback releases of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Super, as well as digital versions to own when available. They also allow you to read the manga chapters of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z (the second part of the Dragon Ball story), and Dragon Ball Super online if you have a membership.
Streaming the Anime
For the anime, you can find almost all you need with Funimation or Hulu.
- Dragon Ball: The entire show is available on Hulu with the Japanese dub only, and on Funimation with both the Japanese and English dubs, with the latter requiring a subscription. They also have the movies, which require a subscription for either dub.
- Dragon Ball Z: Available on Funimation with both the Japanese and English dubs of the series as well as 7 of the movies. Only the first ten episodes of the show are free to stream, however, and you’ll need to be a subscriber to watch the rest.
- Dragon Ball Z Kai: A remastering of Dragon Ball Z without filler content that currently is only available to partially stream on Amazon Prime with the first three seasons available in the English dub. Funimation doesn’t have it available to stream but does have the physical copies on their shop.
- Dragon Ball GT: The anime-only sequel to Dragon Ball Z is available on Hulu with the Japanese dub only. It’s also available on Funimation with the Japanese and English dubs, but only for subscribers.
- Dragon Ball Super: Available on Crunchyroll with the Japanese dub only, while Funimation has the Japanese and English dubs, with the latter requiring a subscription.
And with that taken out of the way, let’s go over these series and how they’re related to Super.
Dragon Ball, Z, and GT
Dragon Ball is a manga series by Akira Toriyama that ran from 1984 to 1995. The initial characters and plot are loosely inspired by the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, but the remainder of the first third or so of the manga takes more influence from martial arts films.
As popularity dropped and Toriyama realized that readers appreciated the fights most of all, the manga dropped most of its comedic overtones in favor of action. Goku and friends’ adventures to find the Dragon Balls turned into fights at tournaments and stopping the Demon King Piccolo from taking over the planet.
This change was made even more apparent after a five-year time skip in the story, which introduces Goku’s son, Gohan, and reveals Goku to be from an alien race known as the Saiyans. The stakes only rise from here as Goku discovers the legendary power of his Saiyan lineage and battles against the survivors of his own race, space tyrants, bioengineered monsters, and a magic demon that a space wizard is trying to control.
The anime production of the story was also titled Dragon Ball and ran concurrently with the manga. In order to differentiate the change in tone that the manga was experiencing, the Dragon Ball anime ended before the time skip and a sequel anime series named Dragon Ball Z picked up where its predecessor left off. Some releases of the manga later adopted the name change to fit with the series, but the manga as a whole is most commonly treated as Dragon Ball.
Dragon Ball Z quickly caught up with the running manga, which resulted in filler scenes and episodes being added. It’s popularity also led to 13 movies that while not canon to the series, proved popular enough from its fans thanks to memorable villains and their designs which Toriyama did help design a lot of.
It’s not uncommon for a fan’s favorite character to be a non-canon villain like Cooler or Broly, the latter of which we’ll get to later. Toriyama’s decision to focus more on the action is the most important decision he made with the series.
It was this change that elevated the series to brand new heights as the manga and Dragon Ball Z surged in popularity. Even though the international releases of Dragon Ball Z wouldn’t occur until the initial run in Japan finished in 1996, these releases solidified its status as a staple in anime and media as it gained fans all over the world. The manga and its anime adaptations are now considered classics in their mediums.
After the initial run of Dragon Ball Z, the story continued in the sequel series Dragon Ball GT. This series was not based on the manga, but instead was a wholly original story by Toei Animation. Toriyama came up with the name and designed the main characters, but his otherwise lack of involvement is a major reason why a lot of fans don’t accept it as canon (among other things).
With GT finishing in 1997, the series went quiet for a bit. There were always video games aplenty and fans clamoring for more, but there wasn’t anything new until the short film Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!! in 2008. And after that it was another few years of silence…
In 2012, a new movie was announced with Toriyama himself very involved. The movie was going to take place during the time skip near the end of Dragon Ball Z and it was going to be canon to the series! This would be the first movie related to Dragon Ball: Super, although the series wouldn’t come to be for another three years.
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods released in 2013. The villain of the movie is Beerus, the God of Destruction, who awakens to discover that the all-powerful Frieza was defeated by a Saiyan named Goku.
Beerus embarks to find Goku after speculating that Goku could be the prophesied “Super Saiyan God”. The two meet and engage in one of the quickest fights in the series. Unable to defeat Beerus, Goku learns the ritual necessary to reach the Super Saiyan God form and fights Beerus again.
The movie was a success and praised for its animation, Dragon Ball-esque humor, and for ending with the villain beating Goku.
The following year it was announced that another canon film was being made, which would debut in 2015 as Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’.
The story dealt with the resurrection of Frieza by the remaining members of his army. Motivated by revenge and the tales he hears of how strong Goku has become, Freiza begins training. The movie culminates with Frieza in his new “Golden Frieza” form fighting against Goku who has Super Saiyan powered-up his Super Saiyan God form, culminating in a new form appropriately titled “Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan” (SSGSS or Super Saiyan Blue for short, because the actual name is atrociously long).
Just a couple weeks after the movie came out, it was announced that a new tv series, Dragon Ball Super, would be coming out within two months! Riding off the hype of two recent movies and a 19-year gap since the end of Dragon Ball Z, there was a high bar set for this new series.
The Rocky Start for Dragon Ball Super
The first two sagas/arcs (the God of Destruction Beerus and Golden Frieza Sagas) of the new series serve as a retelling of the previous two films, including additional scenes and content, bringing these Dragon Ball Z branded films into the Dragon Ball Super continuity. Fans weren’t thrilled about this new anime starting off by repeating the movies in a likely lesser quality, but the hype was undeniable.
Initial reactions to the first two sagas would, unfortunately, end up being poor. Many fans felt that the additional scenes added to lengthen the movies’ content into entire sagas didn’t add much and just acted as unnecessary padding. The art quality in these first two sagas, with a few episodes especially in question, were highly criticized. For many, the preference was to watch the previous two films, read up on the differences online, and then to begin watching the series after the first two sagas.
The Blu-ray releases would fix the lapses in quality and the following sagas would be praised for having better art and animation, but the overwhelming fan response to the quality of these first episodes would create a blemish that would follow the series until it finished.
Gaining its Footing
Previous blemishes or not, responses to the series improved as it entered its first original work: The Universe 6 Saga. Although the idea of “other universes” was mentioned in the Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods movie, this was when the idea was better introduced. The crux of the saga is a tournament between teams of five from Universe 7 and its twin Universe 6 respectively at the behest of Beerus and his twin brother Champa, who is God of Destruction for Universe 6.
The following saga is the much-beloved “Future” Trunks Saga. Bringing back the fan-favorite titular character (who now has blue hair for reasons that could take up a whole section for debating) and introducing an evil version of Goku as the antagonist makes this saga possibly the most fanfic-like in the entire series.
However, with multiple fights ending in despair for the heroes, the most interesting villain in the series, and the nostalgia of seeing the return of certain characters, it’s an enjoyable watch from start to finish.
The final saga of Dragon Ball Super is the Universal Survival Saga. An all-out battle between the best 10 members from 8 different universes, the saga ran for over a year as Goku and friends fought to survive. It’s here that Goku attains his newest form, Ultra Instinct.
The (Official) Introduction to Broly
Announced near the end of 2017 was that another movie was being made with Toriyama helping again, this time under the Dragon Ball Super branding. Dragon Ball Super: The Movie was going to be a direct sequel to the Dragon Ball Super anime series and explore the history of the Saiyan race. In July of 2018, the final title of the movie was revealed as Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
If you know anything about Dragon Ball Z and its movies, then you’ll probably know who Broly is.
Arguably the most popular villain from the Dragon Ball Z movies, Broly is a uniquely powerful Saiyan with a special form worthy of the title “Legendary Super Saiyan”. The character’s design, ability to single-handedly thrash the Z-fighters in his first movie, along with his sadistic attitude made him a fan favorite for many. He even returned for two more movies, albeit neither as well-received as his first appearance.
The character wasn’t without his criticisms though. Although there are legitimate reasons provided for his unstable mind, (being stabbed and then having to survive an exploding planet all as an infant, dealing with the amount of power he had growing up, etc.) the most relevant one seems to be that Broly hated Goku because they were in the same infirmary as babies and Goku cried a lot.
He holds a forgotten grudge against Goku for this and loses his cool whenever he’s around him. By the second movie, he’s mostly just screaming “Kakarot!” repeatedly.
For Broly’s canon introduction to the series, Toriyama decided to change the character and his backstory, while still preserving what the fans liked about the character. The result is a movie where Broly is the powerhouse he always was, with a deeper origin. Dragon Ball Super: Broly was met with critical acclaim from the fans and initial critics thanks to the movie’s different art style, revised Broly character, and fight pieces.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the Dragon Ball Super manga. Like Boruto, the anime and manga for Dragon Ball Super started around the same time. The manga covers the God of Destruction Beerus saga but skips Golden Frieza and instead jumps to the Universe 6 Saga. The events of the latter are a bit different in regard to the fights, but otherwise, it’s the same.
It’s the following two sagas that especially stand out from the anime. The Future Trunks saga has many different fights with characters using attacks and forms never present in the anime. The Universal Survival Saga ends nearly the same but also features a much different take with entirely different fights and even some character changes. Up to this point, the manga had positive reception but was criticized for its pacing and consistency for the Universal Survival Saga.
What’s interesting to note is that the manga has continued past where the anime ended. It skipped covering the events of Dragon Ball Super: Broly and is currently running what is known as the Galactic Patrol Prisoner Saga. This brand-new saga has been met with a very positive reception thanks to its villain, the usage of other Z-fighters, and the character development of Vegeta.
With a successful anime series, and Dragon Ball Super: Broly becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films in history, it only makes sense that there would be a continuation.
There has been no news on a sequel series for the anime, although it is reported that there will be another film sequel. There are many plot threads that fans would like to see picked up, and as is the events of the series don’t fit cleanly with the ending chapters of Dragon Ball. Although simple retcons can always fix problems like that if need be.
Dragon Ball is as popular as it ever has been, and it has Dragon Ball Super to thank for that. For now, the series continues in its manga format until we have something new to watch.