This Dragon Ball Super Review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 16
“Is this the best that I’m capable of? I’ll surpass Kakarot and show them all!”
If this episode of Dragon Ball Super teaches us anything, it’s the magical, unexplainable power of instant ramen. God bless the succulent, quick and ready noodles. Without them our universe would be mere dust by now. Never forget.
In a lot of ways “Vegeta Becomes a Student?!” is designed to reflect the two extremes of Vegeta—his unquenchable desire to become stronger and his ability to become the perfect jester given the right change in circumstances. The top of the episode tries its best to remind everyone just how bad ass and dedicated Vegeta is to his trade, knowing that the Saiyan Prince is going to have to endure the most humbling of trials by the time the episode’s over. In that sense, this episode might not be the most crucial of the series, but the show is still very comfortable in this “filler buffer” following Beerus’ defeat. Plus, this episode is just a lot of fun, with about half of it being devoted to Vegeta’s struggle to grow stronger and the rest looking at Goku’s similar difficulties with finding the time to train.
There’s some legitimate humor that comes out of the idea of Vegeta needing to procure Earth’s tastiest dish so he’s able to train with Whis. The episode cleverly takes something that Vegeta has next to no interest in (cuisine) and requires him to become super invested in it in order to become a better fighter. It’s a nonsensical nightmare that’s enough to drive Vegeta insane. This comedic detour also goes down a lot easier knowing that a good deal of fighting is on the horizon for Vegeta. Let them have their fun now.
It’s somewhat interesting that Dragon Ball Super has had more episodes devoted to driving Vegeta crazy and nearly pushing him to a mental breakdown than the entirety of Dragon Ball Z. It’s always been clear that Vegeta can be a great tool for comedy when used properly, but with Dragon Ball Super it’s almost felt like the mandate has been to see how far the Saiyan Prince can be pushed. This series once more gets to show off its comedic chops this week.
Vegeta is very funny in this one and if some three-minute gag anime web series was made that was Cooking Time Super with Vegeta I’d be the first to watch it. There’s something so simple, yet genius about Vegeta trying to do a task as delicate as cracking an egg and failing spectacularly at it. His mannerisms are so exaggerated and his behavior so over the top that you’d think he mixed up his Senzu Bean supply with a bunch of Adderall. This is an episode where Old Kai gets to perv on two rhinoceros beetles that are half way across the universe, so clearly something is in the water this week. It’s also a very brief sequence, but Goku sleeping on the tractor and nearly running himself off a cliff, completely oblivious to how close he gets to killing himself is a real piece of art. Between this moment and Goku’s impromptu escape from Chi-Chi last episode, Goku and Tractor are becoming a veritable Laurel and Hardy of the Dragon Ball universe.
By the end of all of these shenanigans, Vegeta does eventually find satisfaction. An idea is brought up by Whis, which is only hinted at, but Vegeta actually training to become a new God of Destruction would be pretty awesome. He has the perfect motivations to do such a thing. Regardless of how the episode is using Vegeta, it’s nice to get to return to him and his insatiable work ethic, especially when pairing him up with Whis.
While on that note, this episode is also the biggest showcase of Whis to date, with the character becoming increasingly interesting with each new detail we learn about him (also how good of a team are him and Bulma together? And how brilliant is her plan to get closer to him in order to keep their family safe provided Beerus gets a little destruction-happy again?). With such an emphasis being placed on Beerus, Whis has effectively been able to skirt by in the shadows. The mysteriousness regarding his true purpose and strength makes him all the more fascinating. There seems to be the implication that he’s even more powerful than Beerus if he’s the one that trained him in the first place. And yet, the series—almost intentionally—seems to shy away from Whis showing off any of his strength. It creates a level of anxiety in the audience that’s not dissimilar to what Vegeta is feeling. If Whis is someone that’s training Gods of Destruction, clearly he could do wonders with Vegeta and get him up to Goku’s level; especially with the tight leash that Chi-Chi has had Goku on after his fight with Beerus. There’s never been a better time to catch up.
And speaking of catching up, this episode is also interested in restoring Krillin’s fighting spirit. It’s a nice touch, as well as some welcome juxtaposition to the “quiet” life that some Dragon Ball Z characters have ended up adopting post-world peace. I touched on Gohan’s dwindling fighting power in this series, but the series’ use of Krillin here is the right way to explore such a story. It even holds greater impact because I think a lot of Dragon Ball’s audience have written Krillin off at this point. Sure, he’s not going to exit the series, but I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be the saving grace in the fight against Beerus. Having Krillin address those expectations head on and be aware of how much his abilities have dropped off leads to some poignant storytelling.
The piping hot dose of nostalgia in the form of the flashback going all the way back to the days of Dragon Ball is also a very classy touch. It effectively highlights just how far Goku and Krillin have come from their days of training with Master Roshi. It might not exactly pay off this week, but it’s encouraging to know that when Krillin isn’t onscreen, he’s now likely off training and trying to get stronger.
All of this also culminates in the sublime moment of Krillin asking Goku to punch him as hard as he can in the face, and Goku actually complying. I’m surprised that Android 18 wasn’t literally cleaning bone fragments out of boulders after their “demonstration” of power. The unrestrained moment also does a good job at reflecting the episode’s lighter side. During Krillin’s crash landing through nature, he flies right through some strangers’ home as they share a pleasant meal together. Nearly every comedic beat of this episode manages to be heightened in some satisfying way.
This episode is fun, even if it is ultimately a little pointless. It perfectly sets up the next few episodes of the series, which is good news, but in the grander scheme of the series this episode is really just meant to connect dots. That being said, it does a damn funny job of this and Vegeta gets some new armor courtesy of Bulma, to boot (hellooo variant “Whis Training Vegeta” action figure; it’ll sell great with “Farmer Goku”). Next week get ready for more than just strength training though. There’s also a new half-Saiyan that joins the Goku tribe (Hint: She weighs under ten pounds and has zero teeth).