Dragon Ball Super #34
By Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou
Dragon Ball Super’s anime and manga counterparts each have their unique strengths and weaknesses when compared to one another. Toei’s anime provides ample room for character interactions and entertaining detours, whereas Toyotarou’s manga moves at a quicker pace and is more tightly plotted. Chapter 34 is an exemplary case of Toyotarou’s different interests, sacrificing character moments for fan-favorites in service of tighter narrative cohesion. The result is simultaneously effective and disappointing, a perplexing dichotomy that Dragon Ball fans should know all too well.
Kuririn and Tenshinhan fans will be particularly crestfallen in how quickly they’re eliminated. The anime gave both characters their own spotlight episodes to show off their skills before ringing them out, but Kuririn doesn’t even get that. Frost kicks him out in the first three pages of the chapter, before he even gets a chance to throw an attack or help eliminate someone else. Tenshinhan’s “Chi Kung Pao” also does jack squat to Frost, and his elimination feels mean-spirited on Toyotarou’s part. The image of Frost punching Tenshinhan in the gut is remarkably similar to a moment during Gohan and Tenshinhan’s fight in Dragon Ball Super episode 90. Recently fans on Twitter have drawn attention to how Toyotarou had liked a tweet screen-capping that scene to complain about Tenshinhan’s rough treatment in the anime. It might be a coincidence, but the evidence that suggests Toyotarou had Tenshinhan eliminated in such a humiliating way to intentionally troll fans is a really sour note. One of the most exciting parts about the anime’s version was how it allowed underutilized characters another chance, however brief, to once again shine in battle. While they were eliminated relatively early on in the anime, Kuririn and Tenshinhan nonetheless succeeded in eliminating several foes, and Tenshinhan in particular eliminated an enemy that was a formidable threat to the Universe 7 team. I speculated in my Chapter 33 review that Prum’s elimination would mean Tenshinhan’s role could be expanded upon in the manga, and I’m saddened to see that Toyotarou has instead given him even less.
That said, it’s hard to be harsh on how Toyotarou utilizes these characters when it’s in service of the bigger picture. Their elimination gives the alliance between Freeza and Frost an actual purpose, and consequences that make sense in the context of where the story is going. Freeza uses Frost to eliminate expendable teammates that would only get in his way alongside an entire universe before he betrays him, a strategy that befits his manipulative nature and has a point beyond the ineffectual drama of the anime’s set-up. Having Freeza actually betray his own teammates yet be an integral part in eliminating an enemy universe creates an interesting dynamic between him and the rest of Universe 7. Even though they know they can’t trust him, they have no choice to work alongside him so long as his actions aid their survival in the long-term. It’s an interesting dilemma the anime didn’t have since Freeza never actually did anything to undermine the group effort there. The changes Toyotarou’s made to the context surrounding his involvement here should influence his role in the later stages of the tournament in interesting ways.
The chapter really excels in its art and paneling, with dynamic compositions that communicate the chaotic action of the tournament really well. Toyotarou slightly shifts the perspective between panels to maneuver to other areas of the ring and seamlessly transition into other fights. He creates a great sense of continuity through this method that helps make his page layouts easy to read, and can switch into fight scenes between two different characters without it feeling jarring. My favorite example is a panel wherein he transitions from Piccolo’s fight with Universe 9 to Tenshinhan’s fight with Frost, showing Tenshinhan moving back in the foreground while Piccolo and his opponent are in mid-motion in the background. Panels like this really communicate a sense that these fights are all happening simultaneously; there’s always movement and action at every moment. This sells the tournament as a battle royale more strongly than the anime, which treated each of its fights as if they were the only big event that was happening in that particular moment. In addition, while I might not like how he was treated, the expressions Tenshinhan makes as Frost punches him is convincingly painful. Toyotarou really exaggerates the poses and guestures of the characters in dynamic ways that help the action in the chapter feel impactful and brutal. This combined with kinetic pacing and interesting layouts makes the chapter an engaging read for how the artwork compliments both the action and the narrative.
While Toyotarou’s treatment of Kuririn and Tenshinan remains disappointing, it’s offset by how well-executed this chapter was in almost every other respect. It features some of Toyotarou’s most interesting action and impactful paneling, really showing off his artistry at its best. The narrative remains focused, and every action made by the characters is purposeful and meaningful to the bigger picture, especially in regards to Freeza’s role in this story. The dialogue is also pretty on point, though Viz’s translation has some oddities this month. Tenshinhan’s Kikoho on page 10 is instead referred to as “Chi Kung Pao,” a Chinese translation for the attack’s name that is incongruous with how Viz has referred to the technique in previous translations. Additionally, the Supreme Kai’s dialogue on the bottom right panel of page 34 appears to be missing, and while it likely wasn’t an integral piece of speech, it’s still an omission that should be remedied when this chapter is re-edited for the graphic novels. Otherwise, this was a solid translation from Viz for a very solid chapter of the manga. Now that the Dragon Ball Super anime has concluded, the manga will be the only ongoing narrative for fans to follow until the movie drops in December. Whether it’ll end up being the preferable version of the series remains to be seen, but if nothing else, this chapter reinforces that’ll it’ll continue to be an entertaining experience nonetheless.