This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 24
“You have no idea what I had to go through to obtain this! Do you know how humiliating it was for me to die?”
After the necessary prologue of the previous episode, this entry hits the ground running with Goku and Frieza immediately about to engage in battle. Everyone was able to get their introductions out of their system and tell enough people “Oh my God, you haven’t changed a bit,” so that this episode can focus purely on Goku and Frieza trying to beat each other into pulp.
The weight behind this showdown is considerably high, but unfortunately this gets held back by the painfully shoddy animation that’s brought to the table this week (it’s particularly evident during Goku and Frieza’s stare down at the start of things). Dragon Ball Super has been on a pretty strong run lately of bringing top quality animation to the series, but this episode acts as a strong reminder of how much the quality can dip when production is rushed. Thankfully this hasn’t been much of an issue lately and if any episode from this arc has to suffer in quality, it might as well be the one where these guys are just getting warmed up.
The episode also decides to cut the tension of its high-pressure battle by once again turning to Jaco for comedic relief. The character is becoming an increasingly reliable presence in that area and getting an episode that’s devoted entirely to Jaco’s intergalactic policing would be more than fine by me (this actually does in fact happen much further down the line…). Jaco’s continued attempts to escape the battlefield are a lot of fun—especially considering he’s an enforcer of the law—but I laughed out loud when the similarities between Freiza and Jaco’s appearances were brought up. It’s wonderful how paranoia has the group so quickly jump to the conclusion that Jaco must be an ally of Frieza’s. In a moment later on where a stray energy blast destroys a photo of Jaco and his father, it should be a depressing scene for him, but I defy you not to laugh during it.
The opening beats of Goku and Frieza’s fight find the two superpowered warriors at equal strength. With the fact that the two of them are on level ground frustrating Frieza even further, he turns to some of his stereotypically wicked tricks to try and gain some sort of advantage. Naturally, Frieza plays the ever-reliable “Death of Loved Ones” card by launching an attack at Bulma and Krillin (who can just not catch a break lately). Goku manages to intercept the ambush in time, but it does end up opening him to a barrage of attacks from Frieza. It also allows the opportunity for the two of them to find out that that their hatred for one another is also just as equal as their fighting levels.
As if sensing the audience’s frustration with this uneventful battle, Vegeta gets in Goku’s face and yells at him what everyone’s thinking. Vegeta chews Goku out for not fighting at his full strength and for throwing out more banter and broody one-liners than punches. As we all witnessed in the last episode with his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it decimation of Tagoma-Ginyu, Vegeta has absolutely no patience for wasting time and drawing out a battle. For a show that can sometimes get lost in the elegance and pageantry of a classic fight, it’s appreciated that Vegeta continues to push the efficient agenda of a bad-ass. If you can kill a bad guy immediately, why waste time with pithy insults and patronizing attacks? That being said, that sequence where Vegeta gives Frieza a prolonged sarcastic applause is very bizarre. It originally feels like he’s maybe going to turn the performance into a covert energy blast or something, but no. He’s just clapping his hands.
Up until the moment where Vegeta tells Goku to “wake up,” “Clash! Frieza vs. Goku!” shows all of the telltale signs of Dragon Ball at its most meandering and insulting to viewers. A lot of this episode expects to coast off of the sheer spectacle of Goku and Frieza finally trading blows after so much time. Admittedly, that might be enough for some viewers, but it’s likely not going to be enough for the bulk of audiences, especially those that have already watched Resurrection ‘F’ (sorry for continually bringing up that film, but it’s sort of a necessary evil here). Furthermore, the idea of Goku and Frieza immersing themselves in an all-out battle understandably causes some Dragon Ball fans to begin twitching due to their first fight being one of the most gratuitous examples of stretching out a fight (that battle on Namek is 18 episodes long, by the way, with eventually five minutes of time being stretched to eight episodes).
It feels like Dragon Ball Super must be aware of its history’s preexisting baggage as it heads into such a storyline, but gloriously, this episode practically acts as a bait and switch for the trajectory of the upcoming battle. Yes, this installment does waste a lot of time and it merely amounts to Goku and Frieza testing each other’s limits with neither of them yet to get serious, but this is not the trend moving forward. This battle is over in three episodes. If the end of this entry is any indication, things get real considerably fast and then don’t bother taking the time to slow down. The fight this week is just the appetizer that’s supposed to whet your appetite for what’s to come—it’s the warm-up before the real work out begins. In that sense, “Clash! Frieza vs. Goku” is a tremendous success because once Goku transforms into Super Saiyan Blue mode, you immediately want to see what’s going to happen next.
Bring it on.