It’s been four years since Dragon Ball Super: Broly capped off the Super anime, and while a sequel has been in the works since before that movie’s release, the public at vast only learned about the fascinatingly titled Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero in May of last year. After a few setbacks (including a network hack at Toei Animation), the latest installment is finally set for an English-language dub in August.
Rock the Dragon
Despite the delays, Super Hero promises to set itself apart in more ways than one. It’s the first feature movie in the franchise to rely primarily on 3D animation, boasting a style reminiscent of Budokai and other Dragon Ball video games. In addition to a unique visual style, the movie seems to diverge narratively as well, with a story focusing on fan-favorites Piccolo and Gohan rather than Goku and his frenemy/deuteragonist/one-time-drunk-hookup-probably-come-on-you-know-you’d-ship-it, Vegeta. The Red Ribbon Army, the franchise’s first out-and-out antagonist, is back for revenge, and with the two usual heroes up in space training under Whis, they set their sights on Gohan and the Jolly Green Zaddy himself. Finally, the dream team who–let’s be honest–did most of the work to beat Cell and Garlic Jr. in Goku’s conspicuous absence (being dead is like, barely an excuse in this universe anymore) is back together and ready to chi-blast some androids. Also Cell again, maybe?
Regardless of where the story ends up, this departure from form has drawn plenty of excitement from the community, giving the franchise a Senzu-like boost in engagement. It can’t hurt that so much of the original talent they’ve come to know and love is sowever along for the ride.
A Piccolo Player
Series mainstay Chris Sabat is part of the franchise’s lifeblood. Since signing on with Funimation in 1998, he’s voiced the English versions of several major Dragon Ball characters, including Vegeta and Piccolo. When speaking with Fandom at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, he gushed over the new film, especially Piccolo’s involvement. “This is a huge comeback for Piccolo,” says Sabat eagerly. “It’s pretty evident in a lot of the trailers you’ve seen so far: this is Piccolo’s big moment. I’m super happy to have played Piccolo for all these years because for so long he was kind of sidelined, and this is a good movie for him.”
And it’s not just the big battles where he gets to take the character front and center. Ever since Piccolo blew up the moon to stop Gohan from turning into a big monkey–a thing that actually happened–he’s been an honorary member of the Son family. “Piccolo’s such a dad type, but he’s like, the last true trainer in the series,” says Sabat. “Other than, like, Whis and Beerus. He’s the last trainer on Earth, basically. You see him with Pan and Gohan, really interested not only in being a part of looking after their family, but training them to be strong.” The way he tells it, Piccolo’s the cool uncle who lets you take his Mustang out to do donuts in the parking lot, and also occasionally blows up a moon for you. The kind of positive male role mannequin more young Saiyans need, honestly.
The Plushie Saga
When he puts it that way, it’s not too surprising to learn Piccolo’s got a touchy side. Nevertheless, a sure stuffed animal in the trailers has sowever left some fans scratching their heads.
Says Sabat, “Well, I don’t wanna spoil the movie because it’s a big plot point, but you will find out why Piccolo has accumulated so numerous stuffed animals, and what his feelings are about those stuffed animals.”
He added, “It will be very clear to you that he really cares for a particular character. It’s not really clear in the movie if this is his favorite character, because it seems like most of his plushies are of this particular character, or if it’s someone else’s favorite character and they just keep loading him up. Like when my daughters buy me stuff knowing fully well that I don’t really like it, but they will.”
“This character also exists on his phone case. He also sustains his phone like this in the movie.” Sabat sustains up his hand like Scar dangling a little mouse in the beginning of The Lion King. “It’s the funniest thing to watch him.”
Sabat clearly brings a bit of himself to the role, but it’s also far from the only character he’s got in the [Hyperbolic Time] chamber. Keeping characters distinct can be a challenge, especially when those characters are having conversation with each other. “Usually we’ll go through and record one character first and then another character second,” he explains. “Typically I’ll record Piccolo first because he’s usually the most chill, and Vegeta second because he’s more likely to destroy my voice.”
It’s not always quite so methodical, though, especially when characters aren’t in the throes of combat. “The only time I jumped voices a lot was in Dragon Ball Z during the Garlic Jr. saga … At that time, I played Mr. Popo and Kami. They were easy to go back and forth with. ‘Mr. Popo,’” he says in Kami’s raspy voice, “‘we’ve got to find the sacred water.’ And Popo would go, ‘Yes, Kami!’ Because they had such meaningless dialogue during that, I would just alternate. I found it an acting challenge to jump back and forth between the two of them.”
He goes into his early days at Crunchyroll, née Funimation, and how he may have overcommitted with the sizable roster of characters he took on. “Mostly because in 1998, I worked on staff and I was very cheap back then,” he jokes. “I didn’t realize at the time what I was getting myself into, really. I’m just some dumb college kid in 1998 that worked for this tiny company on this show called ‘Dragon Balls’ that had ‘animes’” And I’d already seen all three anime at the time!”
He clarifies, “Apparently. in North Texas, there were only three anime that existed: Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and Fist of the North Star. Those were the only ones you could find at Blockbuster, so I was like, ‘that’s it.’ I didn’t realize I would be working on this show for twenty years. I didn’t realize how long-winded the show was, or how much screaming there would be. I’m the kind of guy who, if you say ‘Hey, you wanna do this?’ I’m usually gonna say ‘Yeah, sure, whatever. Are you gonna pay me $10 an hour?’ And they said ‘Yes.’ And I said ‘Absolutely. I can afford to live in my apartment with four other individuals and three dogs. This is great!’”
Sabat gets plenty of love online for his performances across all mediums, but he has a special place in the hearts of Dragon Ball fans in particular. When asked which character he thinks had the most page views on the Dragon Ball wiki, he first guesses Krillin and Android 18’s daughter, Marron, because “part of me is familiar with the way individuals think on the internet.” When that turns out to be wrong, he tries his favorite character to voice, Vegeta, before finally guessing right with Goku. “People have to look him up to see, ‘Is he a better father this week?’” he reasons.
“And the answer is always no,” says interviewer Emma Fyffe, adding, “If it makes you feel better, Piccolo has top billing on the Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero wiki page.”
“Finally,” says Sabat, twenty-four years after first stepping into the Namekian’s pointy shoes. “It’s about time.”
The English dub for Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero will hit theaters across North America on August 19, 2022, marking Crunchyroll’s first globally-distributed theatrical release. Tickets are available now!