This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 39
“I am still improving.”
There’s something with you all if you didn’t get chills when Goku yells out, “Kaio-Ken Attack.”
In spite of how Goku’s fancy “new” move is all sorts of wonderful and there’s some exciting stuff that happens here, this episode really feels like it bides its time and is just here to help set up the concluding installment. The episode’s big moments all happen towards the end of the entry and while the stage may be properly set to push Goku and Hit’s battle to its conclusion, this middle chapter inevitably meanders. Fortunately, Hit provides plenty of satisfying moments that still keep this episode afloat.
Dragon Ball Super has made it clear by this point that Hit’s greatest asset is his speed. Vegeta couldn’t rise above this challenge, but Goku manages to figure out how to stay ahead of this. That is, until he doesn’t. Initially, when Goku powers up to Super Saiyan Blue it appears to give him the necessary speed increase to keep up with Hit and cause his opponent to move onto the defensive. Goku even gets in a number of good blows on Hit as he taunts the guy to use his signature “Time Skip” ability so he can further deconstruct and disable it. It’s pretty satisfying here to see Goku bring out his aggressive side and belittle Hit until he begins to take him seriously. Furthermore, it’s also cathartic to see Hit wince from Goku’s attacks and bellow in pain after the Universe 6 warrior did such swift work against Vegeta last episode.
Dragon Ball Super has recently spent a lot of time helping Vegeta get back in his merciless groove, but “Here Comes Goku’s New Move!” is wise to remind the audience of how calculated and precise Goku can be in battle, too. I defy anyone to watch this episode and not crack a smile when Goku flawlessly counters Hit’s “Time Skip” move and sends the guy flying. The moment becomes even stronger when it’s clear how much Vegeta is seething over this. He’s officially back in jealousy mode.
Goku and Hit’s battle may be more suspenseful and powerful than Hit’s previous bout with Vegeta, but that former fight also contains the more beautiful animation of the two. The choreography and look of this new fight is just fine, but when the last battle was a stunning example of what the show is capable of doing with its animation, it’s easy to feel a little let down here. The quality never dips too low in this entry, but it’s still something worth addressing here. It’s also likely a measure to ensure that the end of this tournament looks as polished as possible.
These complaints aside, the final scene that’s full of explosive blues and reds is a delight to take in. Plus, the art style that’s used when Hit implements his “Time Skip” attack is really beautiful stuff. The whole color palette morphs into this muted, simplistic design that’s a creative way to convey Hit’s extreme power. It’s a touch that certainly isn’t necessary, but the visual of glass shattering and the world breaking as fighters find themselves frozen in time makes the powerful move even more impressive.
The highlight of “Developed ‘Time Skip’ Counterstrike?!” is clearly Goku’s return to the move from his glory days, the Kaio-Ken Attack. There’s an explanation given for why it’s not possible for Goku to use the Kaio-Ken in conjunction with his Super Saiyan power-up, but the ways in which Super Saiyan Blue controls and distributes power has made it once again viable. Goku curiously notes that he’s secretly been experimenting with this technique and preparing it as a last ditch effort against Beerus, if necessary. However, Super Saiyan Blue is already a tremendous stress on the human body and a severe sap of strength. Kaio-Ken does the same thing and because of this Goku reveals that the gambit has a 10% chance of working and a 90% chance of killing him. Yep. That’s the level that this fight is at.
There’s some definite nostalgia here that harkens back to those early episodes of Dragon Ball Z where Goku first uses the Kaio-Ken Attack against Vegeta in their introductory battle. Vegeta even gets twitchy when Goku utters the same words that led to his defeat all those years back. It’s a nice touch. Back when Goku first used this move he tries to extend its capabilities and go further with it. The same sort of baggage and stakes are present in this fight with Hit, so calling back to it is even more appropriate. This angle where Dragon Ball Super plays into fan service slowly becomes more prevalent through the show, but it’s certainly welcome (you won’t believe some of the old characters that return down the road…).
Outside of the action there’s also some wry humor in this episode that works in its favor. “That was surprising! You scream while powering up, too?” surely isn’t meant to be such a meta dissection of Dragon Ball. Intentional or not though, it’s hard not to laugh at Goku and Hit share a bond over their loud, anime-friendly method of raising their energy. It’s also pretty cute when Krillin marvels at Hit’s ability to improve himself and better his strategy while in battle, insisting that that’s Goku’s tactic. What? I’m pretty sure that paying attention and the ability to adapt while in a fight is everyone’s main strategy. It’s hardly a trademark technique. That’s like saying someone owns the monopoly on punches.
As Goku and Hit continue to push each other to the limit, one of the better scenes from the episode is where Hit reveals that he’s never improved or tried to better his abilities simply because he’s never needed to before. It’s an admission that certainly feels familiar. Not too long ago Frieza revealed that he’s never needed to train before, but putting in the effort is how he achieves his Golden form. Regardless of whether Hit’s backstory steps on Frieza’s toes, it still makes for more fascinating fodder for this interesting assassin.
When Hit finally does try to improve his abilities, he’s able to do so at an alarming rate. Just as Goku gets comfortable to the 0.1 second delay of the “Time Skip” technique, Hit already increases its capabilities to 0.2 seconds of distortion. Then without demonstrating much effort at all, it’s up to 0.5 seconds. Hit’s kind of unbelievable. It almost makes me wish that Hit would join up with the Universe 7 crew and become apart of their team once this tournament is over. He’s someone that could seriously give Goku and Vegeta a run for their money if he was consistently under the spotlight. Put that guy in the Room of Spirit and Time for an hour and he’ll come out stronger than all the Gods of Destruction combined.
The episode’s final minutes deliver some promising action to go out on. It’s great to see Goku understand how limited his time is once he puts Kaio-Ken Blue into action. As a result, he doesn’t hold back and Goku throws everything he’s got at Hit. It seems like if this tactic doesn’t work then Goku’s completely out of luck—that is if the move doesn’t cause his body to explode from sheer stress. Obviously the “Next Time” segment indicates that there are still untapped reservoirs of power between these two, but after Goku’s big nostalgic showpiece, maybe Monaka will have to step up to the plate after all.