This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 22
“Be ready to pay for everything you did on Namek!”
Captain Ginyu represents a classic period from out of Dragon Ball Z’s early history. He was the leader of an eclectic, eccentric group of warriors that made for strong obstacles and even stronger markers to show how far Vegeta and Goku’s strength had come along.
Ginyu and his misfit team came from a time when Dragon Ball hadn’t run crazy with lengthy stretches of filler or painfully long battles that tested the patience of its audience. Accordingly, bringing Ginyu back into the fold is a very exciting move that’s a definite deep cut meant for hardcore fans of the series (this frog was last seen hundreds of episodes ago). At the same time, due to what Ginyu represents and the golden era of the series that he comes from, it’s a move that should be handled with the respect that it deserves, lest it run the risk of tainting those original memories of the character in the first place. Without a doubt, “Change! An Unexpected Return!” sticks the landing as elegantly as a member of the Ginyu Force completing a dance move.
Once more, it’s extremely surprising to see the Ginyu Frog returning to Dragon Ball’s story. In spite of brief minor appearances of the Ginyu Frog cropping up during the Cell Games and Buu Saga, this is the series’ first real return to him. It’s probably the most excited and surprised I’ve been with Dragon Ball Super in its entire run. This is a great move on their part and a way to use the series’ history in fun ways rather than it just feeling like fan service. It’s in the same sense that Frieza continues to be overused to death within the series, but integrating someone like Raditz back (in a way that made sense) would wield a lot more weight behind it. So even though it might have taken forever to happen, Ginyu is back, and boy does he not waste a moment! As soon as the tiny guy senses an opportunity to pull off his handy “Change Now!” technique, he’s moving his frog body about in the dirt, setting up a trap for any unsuspecting victim that’s willing to read his crude message.
Dragon Ball Super does some clever work by having the return of Ginyu dovetail with the power struggle that’s been going on between Tagoma and Sorbet within the Frieza Force. This friction amongst Frieza’s men makes for the perfect opportunity for Ginyu Frog to take advantage and finally find himself outside of the reptilian body that’s housed him for decades. Once Ginyu is cozily within Tagoma, the rest of this entry is basically the guy going nuts with this new power, trying to make as much of the world burn as possible. Oh, and to make sure that he’s still the most limber, spry fighter on the planet (Goten and Trunks might have something to say on the matter).
Ginyu’s return would be enough to keep this episode busy, but the installment throws a few more awesome set pieces to its audience. To begin with, Goten and Trunks finally arrive at the scene. Not only do they show up, but they realize the direness of what’s going on and turn into Gotenks to properly cover their asses. It’s been a minute since the wild card of Gotenks has been drawn, so his reappearance here is a lot of fun, even if the transformation does wear off at a comically inopportune moment. Frieza recognizing the Saiyan that sliced him in half in the form of young Trunks is also some appreciated attention to continuity. Not a lot comes from the meeting between the two of them, but just singling out their unusual relationship goes far.
A number of characters find out that they’re not as strong as they think they are this week, and in that sense the devaluation of Gohan also continues. Thankfully however, Gohan resorting to Super Saiyan is more than enough to make swift work of Ginyu-Tagoma. What happens next though is rather tragic, but something that will surely function as a lesson that the kind-hearted Gohan won’t forget anytime soon. Gohan shows leniency on Ginyu-Tagoma, more inclined to give the guy a second chance than blowing him into oblivion. The weathered warrior might be relieved to see Gohan have this change of heart, however the act of kindness pushes Frieza over the edge. The evil emperor is completely disgusted by Gohan showing mercy on his opponent — something that reminds Frieza far too much of Goku’s state of mind — so he decides that the best way to teach the Saiyan a lesson is to send a few dozen energy blasts through his body. The out-of-practice Gohan is facing certain death. That is, until a comfortingly familiar scene plays out.
The conclusion of this acts as another reason to get excited about this episode. “Change! An Unexpected Return!” returns to the evergreen bond between Gohan and Piccolo that has been a frequent backbone to the series ever since the early days of Dragon Ball Z. Even if Gohan’s biological father wasn’t currently on another planet, I’m still convinced that this moment would have played out the same. In a lot of ways Piccolo has been more of a guardian to Gohan than Goku has and to see the series returning to that idea is very satisfying. The Namek getting his arm ripped off as he tries to defend his protégé is also just an awesome character moment. Furthermore, Goku is going to be all the more devastated when he returns home and learns not only that Piccolo is out of the picture, but that it happened while Piccolo was protecting his own son. Some viewers might find this moment repetitive for the series, but it reads more like the show looking into its own history and figuring out how to use it to its best potential. With an old villain being the current threat, there’s no better time for the show to be looking into its past.
While all of this chaos is going down and lives hang in the balance, Bulma and Jaco briefly try and touch base with Whis. They’re desperate that their plan to trick Whis with a fresh buffet will somehow also get the attention of Goku and Vegeta and bring them back to Earth. Goku and Vegeta’s help has never been needed more, but it’s still going to be a little longer until Bulma’s message is received. In their defense, Beerus did just learn about pizza and Vegeta and Goku are tied up in Rainbow Clouds of Pain Land.
Finally, the health and safety of Piccolo is a prime concern, but wouldn’t it be fun if next week was just devoted to Frog Tagoma trying to acclimate to his new fly diet? Inquiring minds and all that.
Dragon Ball Super’s dub continues to air on Saturdays at 8pm on Adult Swim, and 11:30pm in their Toonami block