The ideas that GT boasted were not dead on arrival by any means. Many of them felt like a natural evolution of what Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z had built. Toriyama’s previous tales had already used androids as enemies, so advancing that concept into a “machine mutant,” a being who is part organic and part synthetic, doesn’t seem too farfetched.
The fact that this adversary—dubbed “Baby” by his creator—was part of an alien race wiped out by the Saiyans was the icing on the cake. It gives him a personal reason to go after the heroes.
The same twisted poetic justice applies to the Shadow Dragons. A common subject of ridicule for fans the abuse of the Dragon Balls. At this point, these magical orbs are so easy to find and collect that it undermines the stakes of any conflict. Whatever damage the villains do or how many people they kill, the heroes can simply undo it with a short Easter Egg hunt and a wish.
Having these malevolent Shadow Dragons stem from past wishes is a wonderfully ironic turn. Not only does it carry a hard-hitting message about the abuse of such great power, but it perverts the series’ source of salvation into one of damnation.
Super’s ideas come off as tame in comparison. It introduces another tier of gods. Apparently, there are twelve universes in total, each with its own God of Destruction. However, we’d already seen several such important figures in the other shows, from the Guardian of Earth to King Kai to the Grand Kai to the Supreme Kai.
When you keep meeting deities and supposed guardians of the universe, the occasion loses its luster. Couple this with the decision to bring back Frieza, and you’ve got a show unwilling to take many risks. What saves it is that the execution is better.
As convoluted as his time travel gimmick is, Zamasu proves an intriguingly operatic foe. He’s a Kai who’s disgusted by the rampant violence and chaos of the universe, and he doesn’t understand why the Kais and other overseers take such a hands-off approach. By remaking the cosmos in his design, he believes he’s exercising his divine duty to fix it.
Following this, the multi-universe Tournament of Power may have played out in standard fashion, but at least the show doesn’t screw it up. It’s meant to entertain the viewers and give many of the characters some time to shine, and it accomplishes those objectives. It also offers an interesting dynamic when Frieza joins the team, as his uneasy and antagonistic alliance with the heroes always keeps you on your toes.
You’ll wish for such enjoyment in GT, which botches many of its good ideas. Baby is a run-of-the-mill, cackling villain, and every one of the Shadow Dragons is either bland or annoying. Neither of these parties feels like a significant or memorable threat, meaning that potentially gripping concepts are wasted.
Dragon Ball GT may have been stronger on paper, but it was not as successful in translating its ideas to the screen. That’s not the only backhanded compliment afforded to this show.