I wrote just a few weeks ago about how Kale’s sudden ability to control her Berserker Super Saiyan form was symptomatic of DBS’ main problem, that transformations and power have become untethered from any grounding in the reality of the show’s universe. Power just happens, and the relationships between characters and their relative strength is absurd. Episode 109 continues that problem, as illustrated by the screencap above. Even though we’ve known about this transformation for weeks, it still managed to feel like it came out of thin air, because in the context of the show, it did. No one has any concrete explanation for how Goku achieved Ultra Instinct, what it means or even how it happened.
I think I was wrong though. The power level complaint still feels incomplete for why I’m so consistently dissatisfied with DBS. And in the end, I’m willing to accept deus ex machina and alot of narrative nonsense in anime if I’m enjoying it (*looks at Attack on Titan*). I’ve been wracking my brain for weeks trying to understand exactly what the problem with DBS is, and I think Ifinally have the answer. I feel silly because the issue has literally been in front of my face the entire time. Dragon Ball Super has very poor production quality, and that negatively affects my enjoyment of it.
Believe me, I take no pleasure in writing that. I understand that anime production is hard, and often limited by cost and the difficulty of animation generally. But Dragon Ball is not some unknown anime from a small production house which needs to make a shoestring budget work. It is one of the premiere media franchises in the entire world, stretching across dozens of movies and specials, hundreds of episodes, thousands of pages of manga and millions of dollars in merchandise. Given that pedigree, it’s reasonable to expect not only competent animation, but a level of quality which rivals the best the industry has to offer. When measured up against the other great anime of this era though, Dragon Ball Super falls glaringly short. Take a look at some of the fight scenes from other popular anime in the last couple of years:
My Hero Academia (Midoriya vs. Stain)
One Punch Man (Saitama vs. Boros)
Attack on Titan (Mikasa vs. the Female Titan)
And then, the fight we’ve been waiting for, that’s been hyped since the Universe Survival Arc began: Jiren vs. Goku
I’m not an artist, composer or a director, so I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the differences in quality between DBS and the other anime. Yet I can see it with my eyes; I can hear it with my ears. Those other anime frame their action with more dynamic camera angles. The animation is more fluid. The audio design captures the sounds of combat better. The voice acting and scripts convey emotion more clearly. The music compliments the drama. In essentially every production regard, the other scenes I’ve included here are better than DBS.
Again, animation is hard and expensive. All of the anime listed above have been criticized at one point or another for dips in animation quality. But when the time comes, they’ve delivered the visual and audio spectacle we expect from them. I didn’t expect for Goku vs. Ribrianne to wow me, but I DID expect it from Goku vs. Jiren. The result was underwhelming to look at and listen to, and visually indistinguishable from the other fights we’ve seen in DBS so far.
When we’re talking about anime, the one element that matters the most is what it looks like. Still, cult classics like FLCL have managed to rise above the limitations of their animation by giving us quirky worlds, fun characters and stories that challenge us. DBS has none of these elements, but then again I don’t watch Dragon Ball for any of those other elements (although it has certainly had them in the past, and is depressingly close to having another one in Caulifla [if they would just explore her more!]). I watch it for the visual excitement, and sadly, that’s the element it disappoints the most in.