Dragon Ball Super Volume 2 sees the ending of one story arc and the beginning of another. Universes 6 and 7 finish their martial arts tournament to determine who gets the Super Dragon Balls to have a wish granted by Super Shenlong. Meanwhile, adult Trunks and Mai battle a new villain in the future who looks just like Goku. Running out of options to stop the evil Goku lookalike, he uses his mother Bulma’s time machine to request help from the main storyline’s “present.” Beerus, the God of Destruction, is upset by this development, as time travel is supposed to be illegal—though the galactic assassin Hit was not bothered for his 0.1-second time travel abilities in the tournament and… hold on, are you getting all this?
Dragon Ball Super is a continuation of a franchise that started in 1984, and that means there’s a lot of explaining to do for new fans. Fortunately, the series often employs a lighthearted, “isn’t this ridiculous” approach to its stories and established rules. Master Roshi, watching Goku and Hit attempt to out-predict each other’s moves in a time-skipping battle, shouts, “I can’t even tell what’s going on anymore!” In another gag, Bulma’s dad is out walking the dog and plainly observes, “Aha, so this is the time machine.” Welcome to Dragon Ball, where the rules are made up and the power levels don’t matter.
What keeps this series compelling, then? Is creator Akira Toriyama just spinning his wheels with one god-like martial artist surpassing another for all time? If anything, he’s delivering the ultimate fanservice, marrying his goofy world building with glowing shonen violence. Toyotarou’s artwork is certainly worthy of Dragon Ball action of old, with characters turning into blurs, charging up fireballs, and making split-second reactions to deadly fists and feet. Characters are distinct and easy to tell apart, even the two versions of Goku. Despite being in black and white, the Saiyan characters’ different transformations are visually distinct as well, with their different hair colors assuming different shapes and levels of shading.
Characters generate explosions and knock the wind out of each other so often it’s practically a greeting by now. The wide variety of alien species makes for interesting facial expressions and fight choreography. Take Otta, a lava-spitting metal man who’s so heavy that even the mighty Vegeta cannot lift him. His fight goes well beyond the boundaries of a “normal” fight from the previous Dragon Ball Z series and more closely resembles something out of the more slapstick Dragon Ball. (Spoiler alert: defeating Otta involves attacking something no fist can reach: his self-esteem!)
Where your library is concerned, Dragon Ball Super ought to fly off the shelf: the Dragon Ball Super anime wrapped up its latest season in March, and the manga adaptation is telling the same story, but slower and with minor story changes. This manga offers more to readers than “the anime, but in still frames.” A brief interview in the back offers insights from Toyotarou about himself and the series, and a two-page bonus story fills in a narrative gap between the “present” and “future” timelines. This series is an instant hit with teens and anyone who grew up watching or reading the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z series. Outside its super-powered pugilism, the only content notes are the use of “dammit” and Goku trying to shake hands with an alien who tells him, “That’s not a tentacle.”
As for the frequently-threatened fate of the universe? Readers will quickly learn to take that for granted.
Dragon Ball Super, vol. 2
by Akira Toriyama
Art by Toyotarou
Publisher Age Rating: T