Exploring the wild ride and swirling emotions ahead of the arc's end
Dragon Ball Super has been a roller-coaster ride since the beginning. The return of Great Saiyaman, battle-ready magical girls, the fates of universes at stake... and that's just a few things that happened in 2017! With the end of the current story arc on the horizon, there's a whirlwind of emotions for Dragon Ball fans right now--and long-time fans like myself are really feeling it, too.
And not just for the last few months' worth of episodes. When Dragon Ball Super finally started airing here for us English-speaking fans, I noticed some friends (those who had mostly stopped keeping up with anime) celebrating it right along with me. Many were eager to start watching it with their kids. Dragon Ball fans have grown up, but the love they had for Goku and the Z Fighters never went away. In fact, the absence of any new Dragon Ball TV series might have made the heart grow fonder! The recent movies had obviously shown us that Akira Toriyama and the staff at Toei still had some fun & exciting stories to tell us about these characters we love. And the fact that scores of people who showed up in theaters to see them proved that, without a doubt, we were hungry for more.
It had been so long since we'd had a proper Dragon Ball TV anime. Sure, there have been some things here and there; new video games, the manga getting reprinted, and even Dragon Ball Z Kai brought some older fans out of hiding for a while to relive their fandom heydays. But eventually, that hype would fade and fans were once again left with little to look forward to. Dragon Ball coming back in full force with not only a new TV series to look forward to once nearly every week, but most of the original principal cast's voice actors returning to their iconic roles was huge. Fans came back to Dragon Ball immediately with open arms. And while for us it felt like almost a lifetime had passed since the end of Dragon Ball Z, we all have no problem recognizing all the characters we loved. It was like hanging out with a friend you hadn't seen since high school... because for some fans, that's exactly what it was.
“I can't believe how much Vegeta has changed”, a friend of mine mused when I brought up Super. “I mean, he's still the same old Vegeta. But you can tell he's grown up a little, too.”
But as I said earlier, it's a roller-coaster of emotions. “I forgot how some of the fights dragged on and on forever...,” another friend bemoaned. “It's like when we were watching them as teenagers, except I can't just skip to the VHS tape with the final battle on it! But I still watch it because I gotta see what happens at the end.”
Dragon Ball has always had it's ups and downs, for sure. Many have known this for decades, but it's become something most fans can still find humor in. It reminds me of the years when we didn't have the knowledge we do on the internet now, or before the manga was translated here in English—that brief period of Dragon Ball fandom where we didn't know how the stories would end. Every new VHS tape, every new episode that aired on Toonami would be something to celebrate. Would this end on yet another cliffhanger? Or would this be the one where Goku finally saved the day, once and for all?
As the end of the Universe Survival Saga draws closer, those feelings of nostalgia are hitting me harder. This storyline has surpassed what I thought we'd get out of Dragon Ball Super. With characters dropping out left and right, and the recent loss of Hiromi Tsuru, the most recent episode where we hear her speak as Bulma for the last time really brought out so many emotions in me--and I expect that many other viewers felt the same. The outpouring of love fans have shown not just for Bulma, but for all of Dragon Ball, really speaks volumes. No matter what happens, we know that this is not the end. This is only the beginning of a new chapter in Dragon Ball.... and I can't wait to see where it goes.