Review: ‘Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero,’ an animated adventure sequel from Japan

August 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Gohan and Gamma 1 in “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” (Photo courtesy of Crunchyroll)

“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero”

Directed by Tetsuro Kodama

Available in the original Japanese version (with English subtitles) or in a dubbed English-language version.

Culture Representation: This Japanese animated fantasy film takes place primarily in Japan, featuring characters that include humans, robots and monsters.

Culture Clash: Various heroes try to prevent a group of villains from reviving the evil Red Ribbon Army.

Culture Audience: “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” will appeal primarily to fans of the “Dragon Ball” manga and TV series, as well as people who are interested in sci-fi/fantasy anime about heroes versus villains.

Carmine, Magenta, Gamma 2, Gamma 1 and Dr. Hedo in “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” (Photo courtesy of Crunchyroll)

“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” offers a highly entertaining, rollicking story that is one of the best of the “Dragon Ball” anime movie series. Viewers don’t need to be familiar with the “Dragon Ball” franchise to enjoy the film. The movie has a typical “heroes versus villains” story as the basis for the movie’s plot. However, the memorable characters, the movie’s snarky comedy and the dazzling action scenes make “Dragon Bal Super: Super Hero” worth watching.

Directed by Sunghoo Park and written by Akira Toriyama, “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” is based on Toriyama’s “Dragon Ball” manga series, which has spawned anime series and several movies. The basic plot of “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” is very easy to follow for anyone who isn’t familiar with anything in the “Dragon Ball” franchise. That’s because in the very beginning of “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero,” there’s a summary of relevant “Dragon Ball” history and characters to inform viewers why certain things might be happening. Fortunately, “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” is not cluttered with too many characters, which would lead to a lot of confusion.

In the “Dragon Ball” multiverse, Son Goku (the main protagonist in the “Dragon Ball” manga series) was a superhero who destroyed the evil Red Ribbon Army. Goku came from the Planet Vegeta and is of the Saiyan race. He came to Earth and had children with a human woman named Chichi. In “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero,” Goku’s eldest son Gohan could continue his father’s legacy, but he is caught up in his academic studies.

Gohan has a daughter named Pan (who’s about 5 or 6 years old), who is training to be a superhero with Piccolo, a former enemy of Goku who became a friend. Piccolo (who is the reincarnaton of the Great Demon King Piccolo) has a prickly “father figure” relationship with Gohan. A running joke in the movie is that Piccolo gets irritated when Gohan asks Piccolo to act like a babysitte/nanny and pick up Pan from school.

Meanwhile, Red Pharmaceuticals president Magenta is the son of Commander Red, the founder of the Red Ribbon Army. Magenta feels cheated out of his Red Ribbon Army legacy, so he hatches a plan to revive the Red Ribbon Army. In order to achieve his goals, Magenta recruits a 24-year-old eccentric genius scientist named Dr. Hedo, who is obsessed with research that will producer androids with superpowers.

Dr. Hedo was wealthy but blew his entire fortune on this research. Out of desperation, Dr. Hedo stole three bodies from a morgue, converted them into primitive androids, and made them work at a convenience store. Dr. Hedo was sent to prison for these crimes.

The movie shows how Magenta contacted Dr. Hedo shortly after Dr. Hedo’s release from prison. Magenta scoffs to his loyal and saracastic chauffeur Carmine about Hedo’s crimes and imprisonment: “He would’ve made more [money if he had just robbed the place. How stupid can a genius be? No matter. We’re not looking for business sense.”

Dr. Hedo finds it too tempting not to take Magenta’s offer of giving Dr. Hedo whatever funding that Dr. Hedo needs. Dr. Hedo tells Magenta: “I’ve got zero interest in wielding power. Continuing my research is all I care about.”

Dr. Hedo soon reveals what he considers to be his masterpiece inventions: two androids with superpowers named Gamma 1 and Gamma 2. On the outside, the two Gammas look identical (Gamma 1 wears a red cape, Gamma 2 wears a blue cape), but they have noticabely different personalites. Gamma 2 is the more arrogant and more risk-taking of these two androids.

Other characters in “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” include Bulma, a brilliant scientist on the hero team; Vegeta, who is Bulma’s husband and a prince of the Saiyan race; Videl, who is the wife of Gohan and the mother of Pan; Trunks, who is the son of Bulam and Vegeta; and Krillin, a former Goku rival who later became Goku’s friend.

The expected battles ensue between good versus evil. The fight scenes are high-energy and often suspenseful, even if viewers can easily predict a certain final outcome in any movie about superheroes. What makes “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” interesting to watch is that even among the heroes and villains, there are disagreements within each group, and loyalty to each other is not always guaranteed.

The voices of the “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” characters are portrayed by different actors, depending on which version of “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” that you see. The original Japanese version (with English subtitles) has the following Japanese voice actors for the film: Masako Nozawa (who voices the characters of Son Goku, Son Gohan, and Son Goten); Toshio Furukawa as the voice of Piccolo; Miyu Irino as the voice of Dr. Hedo; Hiroshi Kamiya as the voice of Gamma 1; Mamoru Miyano as the voice of Gamma 2; Volcano Ota as the voice of Magenta; Ryota Takeuchi as the voice of Carmine; Yūko Minaguchi as the voices of Pan and Videl; Aya Hisakawa as the voice of Bulma; Ryō Horikawa as the voice of Vegeta; Takeshi Kusao as the voice of Trunks; and Mayumi Tanaka as the voice of Krillin.

The English voice actors include Kyle Hebert as the voice of Son Gohan; Sean Schemmel as the voice of Son Goku; Robert McCollum as the voice of Son Goten; Christopher R. Sabat as the voices of Piccolo and Vegeta; Zach Aguilar as the voice of Dr. Hedo; Aleks Le as the voice of Gamma 1; Zeno Robinson as the voice of Gamma 2; Charles Martinet as the voice of Magenta; Jason Marnocha as the voice of Carmine; Jeannie Tirado as the voice of Pan; Kara Edwards as the voice of Videl; Monica Rial as the voice of Bulma; Sonny Strait as the voice of Krillin; and Eric Vale as the voice of Trunks.

“Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” certainly benefits from Toriyama still being involved in the “Dragon Ball” franchise as a chief creator. It’s hard to imagine the quality of the franchise being quite as good without him. The cinematic versions of these characters do tremendous justice to the manga versions. Expect this “Dragon Ball” saga to continue to delight longtime fans, as well newcomers.

Crunchyroll released “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero” in U.S. cinemas on August 19, 2022. The movie was released in Japan on June 11, 2022.

Review: ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train,’ an anime fantasy adventure from Japan

May 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Tanjiro Kamado in “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no YaibaThe Movie: Mugen Train” (Image by Koyoharu Gotoge/SHUEISHA/Aniplex/Ufotable) 

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train”

Directed by Haruo Sotozaki

Available in the original Japanese version (with English subtitles) or in a dubbed English-language version.

Culture Representation: Taking place in early 1900s Japan, the animation film “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” features Japanese characters involved in adventures in demon slaying.

Culture Clash: During a train ride, a master demon slayer and four of his assistants fight a demon.

Culture Audience: Aside from the obvious target audience of people who are fans of the “Demon Slayer” TV series, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in anime or any animated films that have engaging fantasy adventure stories with graphic fight scenes.

Enmu in “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” (Image by Koyoharu Gotoge/SHUEISHA/Aniplex/Ufotable)

The animated film “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” (based on the popular “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” anime TV series and comic book series) has broken records to become to highest-grossing movie of all time in Japan and the top-grossing movie worldwide of 2020. Since its release in Asia in October 2020, the movie has since become a chart-topping hit. And in 2021, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” became a hit in several places outside of Asia, including the United States, several countries in Europe and in South America.

Is this movie worth all the hype? Mostly yes, but the movie is best enjoyed by people who are inclined to like anime that have more adult-oriented violence than a typical anime film. The movie (directed by Haruo Sotozaki) has some eye-popping visuals that deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible. And the story is an immersive experience should please fans of animated stories that blend fantasy adventures with some horror elements.

Where the movie falls a little short is in how it introduces the characters. If people don’t know anything about these characters before seeing the movie, the backstories might be a little rushed for newcomers to process everything as easily as people who are already familiar with these characters. Anyone going into this movie with no knowledge of the “Demon Slayer” canon might find themselves at times lost and occasionally bored by the film.

However, that doesn’t mean that “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” is difficult to understand. Anime production company Ufotable is credited with writing the screenplay, based on a story by Koyoharu Gotoge. The movie’s plot continues with the central theme of the franchise: Red-haired and courageous teenage boy Tanjirō Kamado (the protagonist) and his two male friends: blonde and fearful Zenitsu Agatsuma and impulsive hothead Inosuke Hashibira (who wears a boar’s head mask to hide his delicate-looking face) have teamed up with a young adult Flame Hashira warrior named Kyōjurō Rengoku to slay demons.

Tanjirō, who is the franchise’s main protagonist, has a tragedy which is feuling his motivations to find and kill demons: His parents and three brothers were slaughtered by demons, while his younger sister Nezuko Kamado was turned into a demon. Tanjirō keeps Nezuko hidden, usually in a knapsack that he has with him. However, Nezuko has not turned into a completely evil demon, because she is known to help Tanjirō and his friends when they need it.

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” begins with Tanjirō, Zenitsu and Hashibira boarding a train. The three pals meet up with Kyōjurō on the train, where he’s having a meal. During the beginning of the movie, there’s a running joke in that Kyōjurō keeps saying, “Tasty!” while he’s eating.

The main demon in the story is Enmu, Lower Rank One of the Twelve Kizuki, who finds four young passengers who have insomnia and orders them to enter the demon slayers’ dreams. The rest of the movie has a fever-dream quality where the demon slayers slip in and out of consciousness to fight Enmu and other demons.

“Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” doesn’t hold back on blood and gore. The movie dosn’t really start to pick up steam until the haflway mark. And from there, it’s an adrenaline-pumping ride as Enmu literally takes over the train in a way that won’t be revealed in this review. The visuals can be stunning, but not anything extraordinary. However, there are some genuinely creepy images in the movie, such as Enmu’s hand, which has a mind of its own.

Most viewers of this movie are watching for the fight scenes. And the movie should meet or surpass expetations. It should come as no surprise that Tanjirō and Enmu have a big showdown (it’s one of the highlights of the film), some of which takes place on top of the train. Kyōjurō also has climactic scene that’s an epic battle.

Because this movie is dubbed in several different languages (and also available in Japanese with subtitles), several voice actors portray the same characters. In the Japanese-language version, the voice actors are Natsuki Hanae asTanjirō Kamado; Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Inosuke Hashibira; Satoshi Hino as Kyōjurō Rengoku; Akari Kitō as Nezuko Kamado; and Daisuke Hirakawa as Enmu/Lower Moon One. In the English-language version, the voice actors are Zach Aguilar asTanjirō Kamado; Bryce Papenbrook as Inosuke Hashibira; Aleks Le as Kyōjurō Rengoku; Abby Trott as Nezuko Kamado; and Landon McDonald as Enmu/Lower Moon One.

The acting and dialogue in “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” are what viewers might expect from an anime film. The biggest appeal that the movie has is how it hooks people into this world (there are flashbacks to give the characters backstories) and gives viewers many reasons to root for the heroic characters. These demon slayers are far from perfect, and that’s why people of all ages can relate them any or all of them in some way.

This movie also doesn’t gloss over the tragedy and trauma of murders. Tanjirō has flashback scenes with his family members when they were alive, and it gives emotional delpth to the tremendous loss that he has suffered. Tanjirō has solidarity and acceptance in his new family of demon slayers, but viewers will also sense that he will be forever haunted by the tragic murders of his biological family members. And just like any good story, “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train” leaves audiences wanting more at the end.

Aniplex of America and Funimation released “Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train” in U.S. cinemas on April 23, 2021. The movie’s digital and VOD release date is June 22, 2021. The movie was released in Japan in 2020.

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