“I made it…to the past.”
When a series starts a new arc, the first few episodes are usually about setting the table and getting characters in position for what’s to come. “A Message From the Future” still fits into that category, but it also marks the end of it. By the episode’s conclusion all of these big players are in the same place and it’s finally time for things to get crazy.
Future Trunks may have reunited with Dragon Ball’s heroes in the last episode, but he spends the majority of that homecoming unconscious. Now that Future Trunks is actually cognizant, he’s able to properly warn everyone of the danger that’s approaching them. There’s very much a sense of déjà vu here since Future Trunks plays the exact same card during the arrival of Cell. This similarity isn’t lost on the show and it brings these many parallels to light on purpose.
The show also indulges in fun areas, like what Future Trunks’ life has looked like since he returned home post-Cell. There’s an interesting little piece of alternate history where Dragon Ball Super details Future Trunks adventures after he departs the series. Apparently Trunks did quite well against Dabura and Babidi when they showed up in his timeline.
He spares his universe from the torment of Majin Buu by defeating them before they’re able to summon enough energy to revive their leader. Even though Future Trunks was capable of preventing this epidemic, a new enemy eventually comes to decimate the planet. Enter Goku Black.
Future Trunks discusses that he’s been at odds with Goku Black for over a year and that in that time the evil double has swiftly made the human race extinct. Goku Black may be the moniker that Dragon Ball’s heroes give this new threat, but the villain actually just calls himself Goku. That detail is significant in the fact that this tyrant wants to take over Goku’s mantle and tarnish his reputation. He wants more than Goku’s powers, he wants his name (Crucible fans know how important this is).
A lot of this episode is about warning our heroes about what’s to come, but there are still a lot of other things to love here. It’s not a big deal, but the episode features some really gorgeous cinematography and scene composition. Moments like the one where Beerus and Whis are inside a gazebo and watch Goku and Vegeta bicker in the distance are really beautiful, complex ways to illustrate all of this.
This is a particular asset in an episode like this that largely entails Goku and company talking with their time travelling visitor around his time machine. There’s a lot of exposition and characters simply keeping each other up to date with what’s going on. With admittedly less action in this episode, the fact that “Hope!!” can still make all of this visually interesting and not feel boring is a real relief.
With a show that has as many episodes as Dragon Ball it’s totally not unusual for entire installments to be devoted to conversation, hashing out a plan, or most notoriously—powering up. These episodes are never going to rank among the series’ finest, but “Hope!!” reminds the audience that they can still be effectively done. Besides, the shock factor of Future Trunks’ return and the addition an Evil Goku still hasn’t worn off yet. This episode is almost like a necessary breather so viewers can continue to acclimate themselves to all of these big changes.
Even though the bulk of this episode is consumed with dialogue and setup, it still does boast an amazing fight between Super Saiyan 3 Goku and Super Saiyan 2 Future Trunks. The whole thing is meant to be an excessive demonstration of power so Goku Black will detect them and draw themselves out, but every second of the friendly spar is satisfying. SS3 Goku fends off Trunks’ sword with his finger and it’s just as awesome as it sounds.
It’s also a little ironic that the beginning of the episode is all about trying to calm down Future Trunks so he doesn’t want to attack Goku. When Future Trunks finally complies and understands (it’s amazing what a slap from Bulma can achieve), Goku rewards this behavior with the request to fight against him. It’s a message that’s a little confusing if you think about it too much, but it still leads to this satisfying battle.
Part of the joy of Future Trunks’ presence this time around is watching the character operate in juxtaposition of young, current Trunks. This dimension wasn’t present before and it’s frankly the deepest story that current Trunks’ has seen to date. Suddenly he’s face to face with a grown up version of himself and he doesn’t know if he’s stuck on a set path, whether he has any free will in life, and what sort of person he wants to be in life.
The addition of another version of yourself would be a lot for any character to take on, but Trunks’ slow journey down that path is an unexpected highlight of the episode. I don’t expect this direction to lead to Trunks completely reinventing himself, but any level of introspection on Dragon Ball is definitely appreciated. More of these two together (as well as more of Future Trunks and young Mai) should continue to be a joy throughout the rest of this arc.
It’s also a pleasure to get to see Future Trunks have a mother again with Bulma, even if it’s not exactly the same thing as his original mom. There are all sorts of emotions that course through this episode and Future Trunks even briefly bonds with Vegeta. This character has gone on for so many years as a loner with no one to depend on or protect and now he not only has his family back, but a huge support net too.
Everyone wants to see Future Trunks slice up some bad guys, but it means a lot that the show allows Future Trunks this catharsis. His return is pretty seismic stuff and so it’s nice to not see all its baggage get swept under the carpet.
On that note, Whis also explains the severe repercussions of time travel and how it’s a huge plenty between the Galactic Patrol and Gods alike. The Angel doesn’t want to be a buzzkill on the gang’s returned ally, but he talks about how behavior like this comes with a huge penalty attached. Whis is not about to haul Future Trunks away to some space-time jail, but it’s appreciated that the show does impose some sort of rules and consequences to all of this unlimited power.
It might not be a huge factor at this point, but surely this clause will become important down the road (especially if Goku Black can shift between timelines at will). It’s a good thing to know that such severe time-bending laws can be ignored if you’ve got enough fish sausage.
“The Incursion of Goku Black!” might be primarily setup for what’s to come, but it excels at this and truly makes Goku Black seem like an intimidating new enemy, especially when taking his demonstration from the previous episode into consideration.
As previously assumed, Goku Black does have time travel abilities (or rather, he possesses a Time Ring), so even without taking his physical power into consideration he’s still an incredible opponent. He shows up in the final moments of the entry, so those that found this episode to be too slow will certainly have something to look forward to next week. Get ready to see double as this villainous doppelganger begins to show off what he can do.
PS: How great is it that through most of these exciting developments Piccolo is still stuck on Goku and Chi-Chi’s farm doing chores? That’s the real horror here.