This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 23
“How nice. That scream was so full of despair. This is exactly what I was hoping for.”
Dragon Ball Super begins this week with some incredibly high stakes going on for the hopelessly underpowered fighters that are up against Frieza. Gohan and company are not only mentally intimidated by Frieza’s aggressive intimidation, but they’re now also reeling from the heroic death of one of their own. The situation is as bleak as possible, and then Dragon Ball Super juxtaposes this tragedy with goddamn pizza. It’s a borderline sadistic move that plays with its audience, but weirdly enough it acts as the connective tissue that manages to enlighten Goku and Vegeta to what’s going on back home and how much they’re needed.
Beerus’ appetite for pizza inevitably sees Whis talking to their resident food contact, Bulma. At this point Bulma knows exactly how to manipulate Beerus and Whis who are continually led by their stomach. She baits her trap with the decadent promise of extravagant strawberry ice cream parfaits, but whether or not she actually has the dessert is irrelevant. What matters is that she’s gotten Whis’ ear for a second and she doesn’t waste the opportunity to let everyone on Beerus’ planet know that Frieza is back and that if they could lend a hand between engorging themselves on deep dish that it’d be super appreciated.
The material on Beerus’ planet definitely taps into the more humorous side of this installment, which surprisingly has a number of solid comedic beats in it even though it’s also swimming in death. Jaco’s blank face amidst everyone else’s grieving ones probably wasn’t meant to be as funny as I thought it was, but the guy really makes me laugh. He’s got a number of strong moments which undercut the grim finality of what Earth is facing.
Goku might be all too eager to return to Earth and save the day, but the hero gets caught up in frustrating red tape in the process. Whis explains that it’s going to take quite some time to reach Earth from Beerus’ planet. Thankfully Goku (with some help from Beerus) remembers he has his handy Instant Transmission ability, but even that results in Goku getting held back in the fine print of his superpowers. Much to the episode’s credit, it builds a great sense of urgency during all of this. Distance once more proves to be an issue as Goku needs to be able to lock into a power level sizable enough to teleport to where he wants to go. Fortunately, the gang aren’t stuck waiting too long due to the tragic events on Earth causing Gohan to power up to his maximum power. Suddenly Goku’s got a recognizable energy source to connect with and at long last Goku and Vegeta are back on Earth to save the day—and more specifically, Gohan’s life which is literally seconds away from being extinguished.
As much as everyone on Earth is infinitely relieved to have Goku back home, it feels like the audience might be more relieved to have Vegeta back on the scene because he’s all sorts of awesome in this episode. To begin with, the moment where he instantly kills Ginyu-Tagoma is just plain bad-ass, but it also plays exactly like the scene on Namek when he initially confronts the Ginyu Force and immediately disposes of Recoom. It’s a refreshing callback to Vegeta’s strong character and point of view. This guy does not mess around. Furthermore, in a series where people’s lives seem to be getting spared more and more, it’s almost straight up surprising to see Vegeta so quickly kill off a character. It’s an appreciated reminder that yes, characters can die on this show.
On the topic of character death, someone much more important than Tagoma also passes away this week. Piccolo’s death isn’t exactly surprising after how the previous episode ended, but it’s still a little jarring to actually see the episode pull the trigger on the decision. Dragon Ball Super’s Battle of Gods saga might have been light on the lasting casualties, but if this episode is any indication, this new arc seems to be set on proving to the audience that lives are going to be lost here. Now that Goku and Vegeta have arrived, it’s time to throw away those Senzu beans and get serious. All of this works in a rather satisfying manner, but I wouldn’t have argued the decision to use Piccolo’s death as the catalyst for Gohan to achieve Super Saiyan 3 status or re-access his Mystic Gohan abilities. It’d have been an acceptable way to involve someone else in this final showdown, but then it would mean that Gohan’s not allowed to be a wasted, mopey punching bag any longer.
It might take some time to arrive at Goku and Vegeta’s confrontation of Frieza, but the final moments of the episode are full of wonderful demonstrations of power. Also, while I’m sure no one was expecting Frieza’s 1000-man army to provide him back-up during his fight, the fact that Frieza simply powering up to his final form generates enough energy to kill all of them is as surprising as it is awesome. Clearly these past four months have been productive for Frieza. With the past few episodes deliciously teasing the audience by not depicting any true progress during Goku and Vegeta’s training, it’s now the exciting time to see how much they’ve grown.
They’ve probably improved so much that when they power up they could probably kill 2000 people. Maybe even the population of a small country if they stretch beforehand.
Next week’s Attack on Titan marathon means Dragon Ball Super is a repeat next week, but we’ll see you back on July 8th for more Frieza goodness!