“Death is a blessing for foolish human beings”
This new arc for Dragon Ball Super has a lot of fans anxious for the show to race right into the inevitable showdown between Goku and Goku Black. It’s an impulse that makes a lot of sense, but it’s encouraging to see the series let this tension build. It knows it has something big on its hands and it wants that to grow. This episode marks the start of that.
“Hope!!” takes its time to wallow in Future Trunks’ sorrow rather than choosing to speed things along and have him immediately depart for the present timeline. Any extra time in this shattered dystopia is frankly time well spent, so it’s nice to see the series let this material breathe a little during the first half of the episode. Also, doesn’t all of this just look so freaking gorgeous?
An apocalyptic, doomed timeline has never been so beautiful and it’s hard to believe that this is the same show that turned out some highly regrettable animation over its first two dozen episodes. It’s only appropriate that Dragon Ball Super should come so far along in its animation at the same time its storytelling abilities also so seriously up their game.
During this time Goku Black also faces off against Super Saiyan Future Trunks, which is a nice way to throw the audience a bone. This battle is still merely a tease for what’s to come, but it’s at least some example of the power behind both of these characters. This fight does not disappoint and the rage that Future Trunks experiences turns this into an especially brutal fight.
The whole point of the scene is to illustrate that Trunks is vastly inferior to Goku Black’s tremendous strength. That being said, it would have been nice to see Future Trunks turn Super Saiyan 3 or throw out some sort of new tricks. It’s been a while since we’ve last seen him and such an increase in power wouldn’t be unbelievable.
On the topic of Goku Black, it’s so encouraging to see how much Schemmel has upped his game in regards to his work with this character. Some early glimpses of Schemmel’s interpretation of the villain could be seen with his recent voice work in the freshly released Dragon Ball video game, Dragon Ball FighterZ. There his take on Goku Black leaves a little to be desired and Schemmel gives Goku Black an inexplicable British accent to some degree.
It helps to remember that Schemmel had no context for the character at this point (as well as his work in Xenoverse) other than “evil Goku.” Schemmel’s grasp on the character is now much stronger since he’s actually seen the storyline and read the scripts. The voice actor seems to take this role quite seriously and is determined to make him as intimidating and vindictive as he needs to be. Goku Black is ruthless. He taunts Trunks over the death of everyone he holds dear and Schemmel is able to bring out this side of the character just as well as he can hit the jovial highs and innocence of regular Goku.
The casting of Schemmel here is fine—and frankly it make sense—but it honestly feels like the show has spoiled its audience to some degree with its recent casting of Brian Drummond as Duplicate Vegeta. The use of Peter Kelamis or Kirby Morrow as Goku Black would have been an ambitious, albeit fascinating direction. It’s hard to begrudge the show against not indulging in this sort of “fan fiction” where two Goku voice actors could actually square off against each other, but the show literally did this exact thing a few episodes back.
Future Trunks is able to escape the onslaught from Goku Black and goes back 17 years in time, which evidently is the present timeline of Dragon Ball Super. This maneuver evades Goku Black for the time being, but it doesn’t seem like something as extravagant as time travel is beyond his abilities, which is deeply unnerving.
It’s always seemed like Goku’s Instant Transmission is a technique that can be insanely overpowered and cheap in certain circumstances, but this is like if Goku could do Instant Transmission through time. Suddenly a God of Destruction doesn’t even seem like that big of a threat in comparison.
There are certainly more important matters to discus here, but the questions that the show leaves unanswered regarding Pilaf and his gang continue to amaze and confuse. The whole group is apparently in school with Trunks, but Pilaf is most certainly not a child. They all might be the same size, but the idea that they spend their days in class and do their homework with Trunks and Goten is sort of bonkers. This guy is an Emperor who has tried to take over the world on multiple occasions. He should not have to waste his time on long division and the periodic table.
Pilaf does add some humor to the episode though and he continues to prove that he can be the series’ equivalent to Aladdin’s Genie when he wants to be. Additionally, the continued focus on these characters when other figures like Yamcha or Tien have fallen into obscurity can understandingly be frustrating to some viewers.
While Pilaf and company are usually used to occupy filler, they actually belong here this time. These mischievous “villains” suddenly have a renewed purpose due to Future Trunks’ relationship with Future Mai. An odd, but tender friendship is about to unfold.
Furthermore, the fact that the episode toys with the idea that Future Trunks is an illegitimate child of Vegeta’s and therefore a long-lost brother of Trunks’ is also a lot of fun. The following episodes explore this unique dynamic in much deeper detail, but the reveal that this is not Trunks’ brother but actually himself from the future hits the young guy hard. There’s a lot of danger and gloom through this arc, but young Trunks’ attempts to come to terms with his future self is a touching human dynamic to it all.
During recess, Young Trunks notices the arrival of Future Trunks’ time capsule, which he then quickly passes on to his mother. Bulma’s seen enough extraterrestrial trouble to know to plan ahead in a situation of this nature. She promptly alerts Vegeta and Goku about this and then tells Trunks to power up so Goku and Vegeta can teleport to him and lend a hand in whatever’s going on. This all makes for some swift action and quick thinking on Bulma’s part, and Beerus and Whis tag along for the trip.
Everyone assembles to assess what is going on, but Future Trunks is so damaged from his battle against Goku Black that he’s unconscious and leaves everyone in doubt. Goku doesn’t see any reason to waste time and so he acquires some Senzu beans in order to pull Future Trunks out of this stupor and give them some answers.
Answers are surely on their way, but Future Trunks’ first reaction is to take a swing at Goku. The episode plays this conclusion as some sort of thrilling cliffhanger, but it’s clear that there’s no real danger here. Future Trunks is clearly still shell-shocked from his battle with Goku Black and the sight of Goku is enough to trigger him. Furthermore, Goku is far from the “Kamehameha first, ask questions later” type so it’s doubtful that he’ll just blast Trunks for this burst of aggression.
Even though the ending might be manipulative, “Awaken in the Present, Trunks” is still an enjoyable, exciting episode. Dragon Ball always has such an extra boost of energy when it begins a new arc and none of that magic is lost this time around.
This is still very much the honeymoon period for all of this, but the action connects and every new piece of mythos makes this story more interesting. This is merely the start of something big, but there’s already a considerable weight to these episodes. This is all prologue and it still kicks ass.
Oh, and all of you Yajirobe-Heads get to have your dreams come true this week. The lethargic fighter finally graces Dragon Ball Super with his presence and he’s now a limbo legend. Clearly the letters paid off, guys.