Dragon Ball Super Episode 19 Review: Despair Redux! The Return of the Evil Emperor, Frieza!

The eternal thorn in the universe’s side, Frieza, somehow weasels his way back into being the show’s Big Bad

This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.

Dragon Ball Super Episode 19

“By my own two hands, Frieza will be revived.”

He’s baaaaaaack.

Frieza is a trigger for a lot of Dragon Ball fans. Not only was the villain given a lengthy tenure as Big Bad back during Dragon Ball Z’s infancy, but the character has already returned a number of times through the Dragon Ball mythos. It’s not hard to understand why Frieza has been embraced so much through the series—he’s a ruthless tyrant that was depicted as one of the most evil presences in the universe. The character has returned enough times at this point, although he’s definitely hit a point of diminishing returns. So, while in theory the return of Frieza should qualify as a big deal for Dragon Ball fans, it’s hard not to imagine how subbing in someone like Cell in his place wouldn’t be more effective. Hell, even somehow bringing back a character like Raditz or Dabura would have been more interesting!

Dragon Ball Super enters its next big arc in this episode, however the show’s upcoming direction might be frustrating for some. Dragon Ball Super has had its fun by adapting the Battle of Gods feature film over its first batch of episodes. Now the series is about to spend another dozen installments re-enacting the following canonical feature, Resurrection ‘F’. This might seem like torture for die-hard fans who consumed these films as soon as they were released, but there’s still some fun to be had with how Dragon Ball Super expands and deviates from its source material. For instance, the brief appearance of the Captain Ginyu frog (!!) is certainly not a one-off Easter egg and becomes quite the problem down the road. That being said, it still feels a little insulting to spend approximately 25 episodes of the series just going over old material, and stretching it out at that. Then again, there are surely people who have never seen Resurrection ‘F’ before or also happen to be huge Frieza fans. This episode will at least go over well with them.  

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Picking up from the cliffhanger that ended last week’s episode, it appears that the surviving remnants of the Frieza Force have fallen on harsh times and have decided to revive the deceased tyrant for support. Sorbet, the ersatz leader of the Frieza Force (along with his second-in-command, Tagoma) has a plan that’s set to take their army right to Earth and to seize the Dragon Balls. “Despair Redux!” is an episode that spends a lot of time setting things in place for the ensuing fallout next episode. In that sense, the offering is a little underwhelming, but it still deserves points for just how much new material it brings to the table.

Sorbet’s plans for the Dragon Balls end up having him collide with Pilaf and company, who have just finished painstakingly collecting the seven orbs. I’m definitely on board with the running joke that the series keeps playing on Pilaf where his Dragon Ball wishes are always being stolen away from him at the last minute. It even nicely calls back to the character’s fate in the original Dragon Ball. At this point it seems pretty obvious that the only reason Pilaf, Shu, and Mai have been brought back into the Dragon Ball fold is so that they can be the universe’s perpetual punching bags. In spite of this, the team manages to have a rather uplifting ending. Mai and Shu still sneak in wishes for premium ice cream (complete with an ice pack to keep it cool—Shenron’s a sweetie) and one million zeni, with this all culminating in a celebration of friendship between the underdogs. It’d a good thing that they have no idea that they’ve helped bring back a genocidal megalomaniac.

Also, would it be the worst if Goten and Trunks took Shu and Mai into the Hyperbolic Time Chamber for a few days and actually tried to turn them into fighters or something more practical? Maybe I’m just getting too caught up in the prospect of what a Fusion Dance-d hybrid of Shu and Mai (Shumai?) would look like.

On the topic of the Dragon Balls, Dragon Ball Super has made some interesting adjustments to Shenron by giving him touches of personality in the smallest ways. Earlier we saw that he’s legitimately intimidated by Beerus and here he actually weighs in regarding the worthlessness of trying to revive Frieza. It’s some appreciated attention to detail that the series remembers the state that Frieza’s body was left in last it was seen. Shenron didn’t anticipate these guys having a regeneration chamber though.

Frieza’s resurrection is reserved for the final minutes of the episode, with the rest of the runtime comfortably coasting on the dread and tension that it tries to cultivate. A few opportunities take advantage of using humor to cut through all of this. Piccolo on babysitting duty is a strange little scene, but one that I’m grateful is in here. The depiction of the Hell that Frieza is stuck in is also really wonderful and creative. It’s also a much more interesting depiction of the purgatory dimension than what Dragon Ball GT provides, too. This seems like a Hell that’s specifically catered to driving Frieza insane.

This plan involving bringing Frieza back to life also conveniently (or inconveniently, depending who you side with) happens to take place while Goku and Vegeta are away from Earth. More glimpses of the two Saiyans rigorous training with Whis take place this episode, but now it can’t help but feel that their time away from home might be more trouble than it’s worth. There have been numerous occasions where the Z Fighters have had to stall time while they wait for a pivotal warrior to show up. It seems like an out-of-practice Frieza would be no match for a Super Saiyan God level Goku. Hopefully weaker fighters like Krillin, Tien, Piccolo, and the gang are able to hold down the fort until the distress signal makes it way over to Beerus’ planet. Thousands of Frieza’s forces are on their way to invade Earth and the planet’s two strongest warriors are nowhere to be found.

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But hey, at least Goku and Vegeta must be pros at making Beerus’ bed by now! Maybe the key to taking down Frieza will lie in sheet folding!


2.5 out of 5