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The reason why the Dragon Ball Super anime and manga are different is Toriyama's level of involvement in each

Two groups reading the same notes can come to very different conclusions

Dragon Ball Super Tournament of Power screenshot
Image credit: Toei Animation

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The Dragon Ball Super anime ended back in 2018, but you might be surprised to find out that the manga version of the story not only continued well past the end of the Tournament of Power arc but featured some key changes to how the anime handles the characters and story. This isn’t the case of the anime being a bad adaptation – it was actually developed alongside the manga. The reason the Dragon Ball Super anime and manga are similar yet so different is because of how they interpreted Akira Toriyama’s instructions.

Although he will always be known as the creator and author of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama has had varying levels of involvement in everything other than the original manga. He was largely uninvolved in most of the movies until Battle of Gods and only contributed character designs to the oft-maligned Dragon Ball GT anime. It wouldn't be until the upcoming Dragon Ball Daima that the writer of Dragon Ball actually wrote whole episodes of an anime. When the franchise made its anime and manga comeback with Dragon Ball Super, Toriyama’s main involvement was a plot outline that Toei Animation, the studio behind the anime, and Shueisha, the publisher of the manga, chose to follow in different ways.

Dragon Ball Super manga panel Goku vs. Hit
Image credit: Shueisha

Akira Toriyama would give his main plot points to both the production committee at Toei Animation and Toyotarou, his assistant who is the main force behind the manga. From there, the two groups proceed with relative independence from each other. Neither consults with the other at any point, which is why the end destination of each arc feels the same but the path to get there is so different. Hit, for example, is largely unfazed by seeing Super Saiyan Blue in the anime but is shown to be visibly nervous in the manga. Master Roshi displays a state similar to Ultra Instinct in the manga but doesn’t in the anime. Manga Goku uses Hakai, a technique reserved for Gods of Destruction, while this never happens in the anime.

Master Roshi in Dragon Ball Super Tournament of Power
Image credit: Toei Animation

None of this is to say that one version is better or “more canon” than the other. Because Toriyama was involved in each, both the Dragon Ball Super anime and manga are considered canon. There are bits that the anime does better like the Universe 8 Tournament while the manga handles the Tournament of Power better in our minds. It is worth reading/watching both – just be aware that, despite both heading in the same direction, they are very different ways to experience the story.

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