Dragon Ball Super #36
By Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou
As an anime viewer, the most fun part of reading Toyotarou’s Tournament of Power is its unpredictability. Since he’s not adapting the anime, but reinterpreting Toriyama’s basic outline, similar things may happen in both versions but the circumstances can be radically different. It also allows Toyotarou to rearrange different plot points to maximize their effectiveness, with chapters containing multiple different battles and storylines as opposed to an anime’s episodic focus on one opponent or event at a time. Chapter 36 covers multiple story beats that were spread across dozens of episodes in the anime, yet flow seamlessly and sensibly within these forty-five pages. More importantly, the story is told quickly without sacrificing character development, a promising sign after the previous chapter’s unsuccessful attempt.
A fun but frustrating element of the anime’s Tournament was how characters would jump in and out of fights with each other. Fans grew weary of Ribrianne in particular because she engaged in multiple different fights with both Vegeta and 17 in several different episodes that had no resolution, only for her to finally to be defeated by 18. Similarly, Vegeta and Toppo had multiple exchanges with each other before their decisive bout. Toyotarou’s version wisely cuts all of the irresolute battles to depict fights that have clear consequences and result in eliminations. He jumps straight to 18 fighting Ribrianne and Vegeta fighting Toppo without leaving room for any distractions or interruptions. To top it off, he has Universe 4’s invisible fighters be more active much earlier on and contribute to more eliminations, and their threat feels dire when you see other fighters getting picked off left and right of our heroes. Every fight depicted in this chapter matters even if every character involved doesn’t. When it comes to non-Universe 7 characters, Toyotarou seems dedicated to developing Universe 11’s strongest fighters– Jiren and Toppo– above everyone else. This shortchanges characters who had subplots and character development in the anime like Ribrianne and even the Universe 6 Saiyans (at least so far), but with the brisker pace of the manga having less new characters to devote time to is economical.
Toytotarou’s liberties in characterizing the other universes’ fighters can make the manga a fun “what-if” alternate reality scenario. He portrays Ribrianne not as a naive hero who believes in love as an ideal, but a narcissistic beauty-obsessed bully who hates the ugly. It’s fun to see him take a baby-faced character who was grating because of her relentlessness and turn her into a heel who is repeatedly made a fool of thanks to 18’s no-nonsense deadpan and her own insecurities. It’s also amusing how Ribrianne’s reaction to 18 and Kuririn being married is different between both versions. Where she was aghast that love between 18 and Kuririn couldn’t be beautiful in the anime because was bald and didn’t have a nose, in the manga she considers Kuririn handsome for the exact same features and regards 18 as the ugly one. Ironically, Kuririn is probably worse off for the praise since it reduces him as the butt of a joke in the manga, whereas in the anime Ribrianne started respecting their love after 18 defeated her with the help of his encouragement, speaking to the strength of their relationship. Regardless, while Ribrianne’s characterization is radically different in the manga, it doesn’t detract from the story in the same way the changes to Hit’s character did. Unlike Hit, whose elimination tried to be impactful but lacked the qualities that the anime version effective, Ribrianne’s role is not as emphasized in the manga so it’s more forgivable for her to be a simpler, more one-dimensional character. Her involvement in the arc doesn’t influence the central conflict of Universe 7 versus Universe 11, so outside of being an enjoyable character in her own right her only impact on the story is giving 18 a fight, which is what happens here. Toyotaro didn’t have time to develop the character in his story and didn’t have an obligation to do anything meaningful with her like with Hit, so turning her into a heel to make fun of for a few gags was a reasonable choice to keep the story focused and entertaining.
Instead of diverting attention to newer characters, Toyotarou utilizes their quirkiness to emphasize the endearing qualities of our U7 characters, putting the focus on their interactions and battle prowess. 17’s fights with Botamo and Damon highlight his badass cleverness in figuring out ways to defeat opponents with tricky abilities. 18’s no-craps-given attitude is humorously contrasted with Ribrianne’s bizarre eccentricities in a fight that substitutes the anime’s spectacle for a gag battle that’s still plenty entertaining. Piccolo’s meditative strategy to locate the invisible Gamisaras contrasts well with the confusion and flailing strikes of Gohan and 17 in the same panel, his calmness emphasizing his maturity as a fighter. Even though he mistakes Damon for also being invisible and is eliminated, the speed in which the exchange occurs doesn’t undersell his skill or accomplishments, building up his opponent’s trickiness without costing his credibility. Even though both 18 and Piccolo are eliminated by the chapter’s end, what we got out of them was entertaining and did right by their characters, making their role in the story feel more satisfying than how Kuririn and Tenshinhan’s.
Many of Universe 7’s eliminations in the anime felt unsatisfying because of off-putting execution. Moments that seemed to undermine a character’s capabilities made viewers unsure of what emotion they should be feeling besides disappointment at another fan-favorite falling off the stage. Toyotarou circumvents this problem through the sheer speed of the fights and the pacing. Toyotarou’s battle royale is truly chaotic and characters have been flying all over the place from the very start. The absence of slower moments where the characters can relax their guard and simply watch battles makes their struggle feel more stressful and mistakes look more forgivable. There are missed opportunities for sure, especially since Piccolo doesn’t even get to fight the Universe 6 Namekians in this version. However, the story benefits by having Universe 7 lose its members more quickly, as it makes them feel vulnerable and like underdogs in the fray, which can be a hard feat considering how overwhelmingly strong Goku and Vegeta are. That Universe 7 only has six members left compared to Universe 11’s full roster really builds up the formidability of the latter team as the most powerful in all the universes. This was undermined really early on in the anime when their ranks were narrowed down to a three-man team before the Tournament was even a third of the way in. Universe 7’s situation is worsened by the fact that seven of the eight universes are still left and the tournament is only a third-over, meaning they can’t afford to lose any more people before the inevitable Universe 7 vs. Universe 11 confrontation. Universe 7’s vulnerability retains tension in the story on top of the unpredictability of when and how Toyotarou will choose to dispatch their numbers.
I’m noticing common patterns in how Toyotarou likes to depict eliminations. His three main methods involve having characters be hit with a ki blast while mid-air and fall of the edge of the ring, getting thrown out of the ring by a powerful and painful sucker-punch to the gut, or getting kicked off from behind. All of these tricks happened multiple times in this chapter, with both the gut punch and ki blast happening four times each. The repetitive nature of these eliminations is worrisome, but for now, they succeed on the strength of Toyotarou’s art. He really knows how to sell a bad hit through big jagged-lined impact blasts and a character’s winded, contorted expression. Even if he’s done it before, Piccolo’s eyes popping and veins bulging while he spits out blood after Damon gets him in the gut look so believably painful it’s still easy to buy into the action. I’m increasingly enjoying reading Toyotarou’s action for its grit. While it’s still relatively bloodless compared to Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, the anime rarely makes the characters look as bruised and battered when they’re beaten like Toyotarou does, and it’s refreshing to see that some of these seemingly invincible characters can actually get hurt and look it.
Toyotarou leaves chapter 36 off with a handy grid showing who is still in the ring from each universe. The remaining competitors are interesting choices that may hint at what might be kept in Toyotarou’s interpretation and what could be altered. His decision to eliminate 18 and Piccolo before Muten Roshi is particularly intriguing, making me wonder if he’ll still fight the remaining members of Universe 4 like in the anime or if there are other plans for him. Obuni being the last man standing from Universe 10 is consistent with the anime, and perhaps more emphasis will be placed on Gohan’s moral quandary in eliminating him and his universe if their fight continues into the next chapter. Beyond that, I’d say the emphasis on the fact that U11 still has all their fighters is foreshadowing that they’ll take center stage in the next chapter, and the resulting fight will finally end up whittling down their ranks. That said, the liberties Toyotarou’s taken with the arc’s structure makes it impossible to predict what he’ll do next. The Super manga succeeds at something most derivative adaptations of stories from another medium rarely do: defying expectations and surprising readers. Anime fans might think they know how this story goes, but in Toyotarou’s hands who’s to say for sure?