Dragon Ball always had a habit of reinventing itself, forgoing the status quo in favor of bolder storytelling decisions. As of late, however, the franchise has been resting on its laurels, nudging along rather slowly without shaking things up too much. Or so it seems.
While Dragon Ball Super does very little for narrative progression and character development, it does a lot for lore. It’s easily Super’s biggest contribution to the franchise for better or worse. The world of Dragon Ball has never been as fleshed out as it is now. Through constant retcons, Dragon Ball Super is changing the series’ canon one step at a time.
10 Goku’s Origin Story
This change actually predates Super by a bit, but it’s also intimately linked with Dragon Ball Super’s heavy focus on the Saiyan race. Bookending Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, Dragon Ball Minus was a one-off chapter that retconned most of Goku’s origin story, taking a unique Superman spin and turning it into… just the Superman origin story.
Goku is sent to Earth by his loving parents so he can survive and maybe one day avenge his people. It’s a shallow change that undermines the Bardock TV special which, while never exactly canon, was referenced in the manga twice, suggesting that the events of the special did more or less play out as depicted.
9 Bardock’s Characterization & Design
Speaking of poor Bardock, Dragon Ball Super: Broly really did a number on him for no good reason. Adapting Dragon Ball Minus in its near entirety, the prologue to the film does manage to at least showcase that Bardock is more in-line with his TV special self personality-wise, but… his arc is still bad.
Rather than dying in a vain attempt to save his race, Bardock ships his son off and fights Freeza’s army off-screen. There’s no emotional build-up, there’s no payoff, and there’s no structured arc. Bardock goes from a three-dimensional anti-hero into a generic father figure.
8 Goku’s Mother, Gine
Goku’s parents do not matter. Or at least, that’s the message the original series tried to push. When it comes down to it, Goku was a Saiyan from Earth. He rejected his history but accepted his heritage. He knows he’s a Saiyan, but he doesn’t let that consume him. There’s no need to meet his mother.
With the reveal of Gine, a layer isn’t added to Goku—one is removed. That said, she is a likable enough character, but she’s marred by her very non-Saiyan-like behavior. As a result, the theme of nature versus nurture that clouds over Goku and Vegeta in the Saiyan arc is undermined as well. That’s not worth having a likable mother figure in the series.
7 “Earth’”s Hell
In the original series, Hell is just that: Hell. There’s no indication that different planets have different Hells. After all, why would they? As far as the series depicts it, the afterlife is one plane of existence managed by Enma-Daio. Come Resurrection F, however, and it’s revealed that Freeza was sent to “Earth’”s Hell.
This being Dragon Ball Super, said information isn’t really expanded on and it’s left at that, but it’s an important distinction to note. Interestingly, the afterlife in general isn’t really fleshed out after the Saiyan arc in the manga, making this one of the few times in the franchise where Toriyama expands the land of the dead.
6 The Fundamentals Of Time Travel
Akira Toriyama doesn’t go into time travel all too much in the original series, and for good reason: it’s a convoluted concept to explain. At most, he explains that Trunks needs fuel to make time travel work and he’s not so much traveling down a linear plane as he is creating a new timeline altogether.
Super changes things so that anytime Trunks time travels to a new time, he creates a new timeline. This creates a plot hole, as this would mean that the Trunks who visits Earth a second time is not the first Trunks characters were introduced to since only nine months passed in his timeline, meaning he had to change the date of the time machine. It’s a mess.
5 Freeza’s Fear Of The Super Saiyan God
In the original series, Freeza’s genocide is driven by a fear of the legendary Super Saiyan. In killing off the Saiyans, Freeza creates the very thing he feared would ultimately defeat him. It’s a poetic, classically tragic turn for Dragon Ball. Come Dragon Ball Super, though, and it’s revealed that Freeza feared the Super Saiyan God too.
This is important as it not only recontextualizes Freeza’s fears, but it also makes it so Goku is “special.” He’s not just the first Super Saiyan in a thousand years, but the Super Saiyan God. Not just that, but Freeza is now defeated by only one of his fears. It just doesn’t ring as right.
4 Trunks’ Dye Job
Fans of Dragon Ball know that Trunks’ hair is blue/purple. Well, it depends on the medium, really. Akira Toriyama has always colored Trunks’ hair the color of his mother’s. Bulma and Trunks share a hair color—it’s part of their design. The thing is, the anime didn’t adhere to this, as they made Bulma’s hair blue and Trunks’ hair purple (whereas they’re both purple-headed in the manga).
For Super, Toriyama colored Bulma with blue hair, meaning that Future Trunks would have blue hair as well. Bizarrely, kid Trunks stayed with his purple hair (matching their DBZ coloring), so Future Trunks stood out even worse. Like with time travel, Trunks’ hair change is a complete mess.
3 The Multiverse
One of the first biggest changes Super made to the canon was bringing in a multiverse. Previously, Dragon Ball’s universe was defined by timelines. Now, it’s defined by twelve universes with their own timelines within. One throwaway line in the movies led to a world of lore.
It’s just unfortunate that Toriyama didn’t stick with the concept of twin universes after the Universe 6 Tournament arc. That alone added fairly intimate lore to the world building while keeping things simple. Plus, Super never made good use of the multiverse, as it barely even used it as window dressing. The Universe Survival arc featured most universes fighting at the Tournament of Power, but that in itself lacked depth.
2 God Ki
Super Saiyan Blue aside, God Ki is actually pretty good (and Blue does look good with the RoF outfits, granted). Dragon Ball has always handled its divine elements well and God Ki is no exception. More importantly, it offers a non-linear progression of growth. It isn’t the next step in a logical sense—it’s just another path for Goku to travel.
What’s especially cool is that God Ki more or less puts Goku back at the beginning of his martial arts journey. He’s finally getting a taste of the divine. It’s genuinely one of the most interesting details to come out of Dragon Ball Super.
1 The Geography Of The Dragon World
Dragon Ball’s geography has always been different from Earth’s. In fact, the whole globe was once depicted in Budokai 3 and it was very much its own planet. This gives Dragon Ball quite a bit of charm as a livable place. Unfortunately, Dragon Ball Super plays around with the animation a bit too much.
Whenever the Earth appears, it’s structured like the real Earth, seven continents and all. This doesn’t mean areas in Dragon Ball no longer exist, but it’s a pointless change that removes a bit of Dragon Ball’s identity. Worse yet, it’s a revival series changing a minor detail from the original for no real rhyme or reason.