Dragon Ball Super #33
By Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou
The Dragon Ball Super manga is entering the Tournament of Power arc at an interesting time for the franchise. For some time now, Toyotarou has been drawing the series at his own pace while allowing the anime to get much farther ahead. With chapter 33 he’s begun the final arc of the series right as the anime is set to conclude in a couple weeks. The Tournament of Power is the longest arc in Super, clocking in at 35 episodes, and even more if the pre-tournament recruitment arc is included. Considering Toyotarou spent 13 chapters on the Future Trunks arc, which was only 21 episodes in the anime, it’s a wonder how long his version of this arc will end up being. Is his plan to use the time between the end of Super and the beginning of the inevitable next series to conclude the Super manga and get a head start on its sequel? If nothing else, chapter 33 shows that Toyotarou’s not wasting any time getting the Tournament off to a running start.
Whereas the anime version drags its feet with certain subplots, and lets a lot of lower-tier threats hang around as fodder, the manga is far more merciless. Contenders given a lot of focus in the anime, like Prum, Jimeze, and Katopesla, have already been taken out, ruling out notable plot threads from being repeated in Toyatarou’s version of the story. Most notably, Prum’s early elimination means that Tenshinhan’s role in the arc will go in a completely different direction, and it’ll be interesting to see how Toyotarou uses him. While certain elements of the anime’s version have been carried over, Toyotarou has structured the plot in a more narratively cohesive order of events. There’s a much clearer focus and direction for each of the U7 characters involved in the Tournament and who their rivals will be. 17 is pitted against foes from U10, 18 against foes from U2, Goku is fighting with U11, Vegeta is taking on both U3 and U4, Kuririn, Tenshinhan, and Muten Roshi are being targeted by Frost, and Freeza is taking advantage of every easy opportunity to get rid of people. While Gohan and Piccolo are still lacking roles, there are already several established plot threads for readers to grasp and follow, which is more than what the unfocused early episodes of the anime’s version gave viewers.
In general, Toyotarou begins a lot of storylines and rivalries that developed later in the tournament more expediently. The Pride Troopers immediately go after Goku when the Tournament starts, following up on how they see him as their biggest threat. This puts Goku in an interestingly vulnerable and frustrating position since their consistent interference means he can’t let his guard down. They’re also actively preventing him from engaging Jiren, who is uninterested in fighting him and is busy dealing with other foes, and Goku’s disappointed annoyance over this is more compelling than his cheerful obliviousness over Jiren’s indifference in the anime. Toyotarou’s also gotten a head start on the rivalry between the Androids and Universe 2. 18’s elimination of Prum and Jimeze has caught the attention of Ribrianne, implying their fight might begin much earlier. It’s telling that Ribrianne and her posse are already in their transformed states, another indication that Toyotarou isn’t going to waste time drawing out minor transformations or stall the action with prolonged comedic moments.
Even more interesting is how Toyotarou is handling the alliance of Freeza and Frost. Whereas the anime dropped the ball on this subplot, addressing it only once after a dozen episodes to facilitate a cheap elimination, Freeza actually has a plan here. Freeza’s goal is clearly to be the last man standing so he can make a wish on the Super Dragon Balls, so getting his own teammates eliminated is as much a priority to him as getting rid of the top-tier threats. Ergo, manipulating Frost’s hatred of U7 to trick him into doing his dirty work is a perfectly in-character tactic for him to try. Even then, Freeza is smart enough to know Frost doesn’t have a chance against the Saiyans or Androids, so he tells him to go after the humans, whom he thinks will be easy pickings. Toyotaro successfully fits Freeza’s alliance with Frost into his overall plan in the tournament in an effective way that actually makes sense for his character. It’s a much more satisfying follow-up than Freeza pretending to ally with Frost to pointlessly mess with Gohan, and then getting rid of him without much else accomplished. For all the lip-service the anime gives as to whether U7 can trust Freeza, he never does anything that actively undermines the team. In contrast, the manga has made Freeza’s presence feel genuinely dangerous for the heroes. Seeing him betray his teammates, as opposed to being more of a compliant, if albeit aloof ally, in the anime is a welcome divergence. From a narrative perspective, it’s a smart way to keep Freeza in-character as one of the most despicable villains in the franchise, while justifying his presence in the tournament as an interesting wild card beyond the twists.
Toyotarou really applies a lot of attention into developing the characters. Jiren’s motivations and personality have already been established, making him more intriguing as an antagonist. Considering how the anime developed, or under developed his personality, what he wants to wish for, and his disgust for Goku, more active involvement in the battle feels more appropriate than being just a stoic brick wall like how the anime originally presented him as. Toyotarou also gives some notable attention to Muten Roshi, Kuririn, and Tenshinhan in this chapter. The three are grouped together both when discussing the no-fly rule and the mysterious absence of two of U4’s teammates. In the former bit, Roshi coolly tells the team that they shouldn’t stress out over not being able to fly, telling 17 that a real fighter needs to approach every situation with a cool head. While this leads to an amusing gag where Kuririn and Tenshinhan muse that Roshi couldn’t fly in the first place, it still emphasizes Roshi’s maturity and confidence as a fighter despite arguably being the weakest member of the team. When Tenshinhan senses additional presences on the U4 team, Roshi immediately surmises they might have an invisible member, and Kuririn worries about the prospect. This moment emphasizes Tenshinhan and Roshi’s perceptiveness and references when Roshi and Kuririn helped Yamcha fight an invisible opponent back in the Fortuneteller Baba arc. These two scenes establish the trio of Roshi, Kuririn, and Tenshinhan as a close-knit unit and it’ll be fun to see how their teamwork will factor into their fight with Frost. Moreover, they might end up facing the hidden members of the U4 team in this version, which would be a fitting use of Roshi and Tenshinhan’s unique talents in particular. I particularly appreciate that Roshi’s wisdom is being emphasized, because his role in the tournament is one of my favorite aspects of the arc in the anime, and I’m confident that Toyotarou will do satisfying things with him in the manga too.
While this chapter is intriguing narratively, the art is a bit of a letdown. Toyotarou is an excellent mimic of Toriyama’s artwork, but his habit of cluttering panels with lots of characters and text-dense word balloons can make exposition a drag to read. Toyotarou’s action sequences also feel a bit lacking. They’re really quick and pretty basic when it comes to framing poses and conveying the weight and impact when characters get hit and leave a pretty light impression overall. Instead, Toyotarou excels at drawing really cool standalone compositions. His attention to Jiren’s back muscles really gets across a sense of his power (as does dat booty), and the spreads showing off the U7 team and then the full scope of the battle royale are laid out really well and leave a lot of impact. These images are memorable enough to linger, but ultimately this chapter is carried by Toyotarou’s storytelling over his artwork. Toyotarou has shown himself capable of drawing really interesting action sequences and compositions before, particularly during the climax of the Future Trunks arc, so I’m hoping that when he gets into the more action-heavy parts of this arc we’ll see him at this best.
The manga’s Tournament of Power is going in a very different direction than its anime counterpart and its possibilities are exciting. Even while enjoying the anime’s version of events, Toyotarou’s altered interpretation is surprising in what it chooses to use and what it omits. Even when the anime ends, the manga looks like it’ll fill the void with a version of the story which might end up being superiorly told when all’s said and done. Since Toyotarou isn’t beholden to the anime, he can take the story in any direction he wants to. With so many characters to play with, the combinations of memorable fights and character moments he could come up with are almost limitless. Sure, we know that the final battle will be Goku versus Jiren, but how we’ll get there in the manga is still a mystery. The fact Toyotarou can preserve the mystique and make a story that’s already been told still feel fresh and exciting is a truly remarkable feat.