The reference to how Krillin and Gohan got stronger in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero highlights one of the series’ biggest problems.
Warning: SPOILERS for Dragon Ball Super: Super HeroThe creative decision for the Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero film to reference an incredible moment from the Dragon Ball Z anime actually ruined what could have been a promising call-out. The main culprits behind why this failed, however, are the eponymous Dragon Balls themselves.
The Dragon Balls have always been a problem for the franchise. They might have originally provided a sense of mysticism and wonder that completely shaped the original Dragon Ball series while serving as the central conflict for the first few arcs of Dragon Ball Z, but their ability to grant a healthy number of life-altering wishes also serves as a source of ineffective storytelling that the series has unfortunately repeated to no end. Undoubtedly problem to arise is Dragon Ball’s many wishes to revive fallen heroes, trivializing death and eliminating the potential stakes of huge battles.
And now Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero introduces another problem with the Dragon Balls. When facing a potential new threat without Goku and Vegeta there to help them, Piccolo tries to identify a way to quickly gain more power and eventually remembers how the Grand Elder Guru unlocked Gohan and Krillin’s potential on Namek in Dragon Ball Z. Since he never had the same procedure performed on him, Piccolo asks Dende if he could try the same on him. Dende reveals he’s too young but upgrades the Dragon Balls so Piccolo can wish for it – and does.
What Wish Piccolo Should Have Made Instead
What’s so odd about this moment is that the film’s creators went out of their way to incorporate a scene from a series that fans are nostalgic about and that many had probably forgotten only for it not to work, forcing its heroes to once again rely on the Dragon Balls. While the Dragon Balls require an upgrade to handle such a request and are even asked to emulate this mythical process, having Piccolo resort to them cheapens the awakening technique. Piccolo might as well have asked Dende to upgrade the Dragon Balls so Shenron could just make him stronger. Of course, choosing to exclude the Dragon Balls can be problematic when they are the series’ namesake. If incorporating the Dragon Balls was mandatory, Piccolo should have wished for Dende to grow older, which would have allowed Dende to perform the technique while changing his character forever along with Piccolo (in this continuity at least).
At least the writers of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero realized the potential loophole for bringing the dragon balls into the story that Piccolo could just wish for Goku and Vegeta to come back to Earth, thus eliminating the need for Gohan and Piccolo. The film’s solution was to just make Piccolo forget, which added more of Dragon Ball Z‘s characteristic humor to the whole scenario, mostly with Bulma’s absurd wishes.