This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers
Dragon Ball Super Episode 51
“What happened to my future self?”
“Trunks and Mai” may not be the most exciting or pivotal episode of Dragon Ball Super, but it has an odd aura and power to it. I found it to be one of the more enjoyable recent episodes to come along, even if its stakes are considerably low and the installment focuses more on muted moments and character dynamics. This would also easily qualify as one of Napoleon’s favorite episodes of Dragon Ball Super due to how there’s a whole lot of strategizing and plotting out a plan of action.
Bulma continues her assessment of Cell’s old time machine, but now she’s ready to begin her extensive repairs to get it back in working order. Unfortunately, it looks like a drastic maneuver that’s at least going to take a few episodes until there’s any progress. On this front, Dragon Ball Super takes another solid opportunity to offer up a flashback to Dragon Ball Z’s Cell Saga, if only to illustrate how far along the animation (and Bulma’s haircut) has come along. The fact that Dragon Ball Super often indulges in these opportunities to show old footage comes across more as faithful fan service than excuses to be lazy. Dragon Ball Super also does something different this time around where it “stays” in the flashback and extends it even further with new footage that shows what happens afterwards.
The first act of the episode is all about getting lost in the past and even though there’s a slow start to “Trunks and Mai,” it’s hard to be angry with these thoughtful scenes. Besides, so much of this current story arc is about the gang’s need to get to the future, so the fact that this entry spends some time in the past acts as a healthy balance to the series’ increasingly complicated timeline.
While Bulma works away, Beerus and Whis take a break from their lounging and libations—albeit a brief one—to also intensify their efforts to find Goku Black. The two begin to try and locate the familiar-faced megalomaniac by an attempt to put a trace on his specific energy signature, but they strangely come up empty. Judging from the “Next week on Dragon Ball Super…” sequence, it looks like the next episode is when some real answers in response to Goku Black’s identity will arrive. This installment is interested in continuing to contribute to the villain’s mystique and let the audience have fun with the journey. For instance, the episode doesn’t miss any opportunities to provide close-ups on Goku Black’s Ring of Time and Potara Earing so theories can continue to mount.
Goku can’t stand to just sit around while Bulma tries to fix the time machine and Beerus and Whis do reconnaissance work, so the Saiyan flees to King Kai’s planet to cram in some impromptu training. Vegeta follows suit and immediately heads to his gravity room to try to increase his skills. Honestly, Vegeta spends so much time in there that I’m surprised he doesn’t just perpetually float off the ground. As eager as Goku is to get stronger, Vegeta’s even more driven than Goku in this case because of Goku Black’s treatment of his “son” in the future.
The best part of “Trunks and Mai” is that there’s a really wholesome core at the heart of this episode where Future Trunks opens up to Mai and tells her what a beautiful, inspiring person her Future counterpart is in his timeline. While Future Trunks and Future Mai might have had some sort of romantic nature to their relationship, this innocent friendship between Future Trunks and Mai is just meant to be sweet. Future Trunks makes Mai want to become a better person and Trunks undergoes the same sort of realization as he watches his older, future self impart life lessons to Mai.
I’ve mentioned before how satisfying it is to not just have Future Trunks back in Dragon Ball, but to have him back alongside young Trunks. Their unusual relationship continues to blossom in incredible ways and it’s a dynamic in the show that allows for a surprising amount of insight. These moments are even more powerful when the episode plays them in juxtaposition to Future Trunks’ bond with Future Mai before everything went to Hell. Some people may not be excited to get an episode where a lot of the time is simply Future Trunks and Mai having a conversation about pride and honor, but the fact that the show can still make something like that interesting is why Dragon Ball is a series that has such versatile appeal.
Oh, and if you were curious if Bulma’s parents are still alive and well, get ready to be happy! The two of them even get some pleasant face time with their time-displaced grandson.
Throughout Future Trunks’ depressing tales, the gang also learns that Goku Black’s ultimate goal is to rid the universe specifically of humans, which are a race that Goku Black has determined to be “inferior beings” who have constantly let down the universe. Goku Black’s motives will get further fleshed out in time, but this is kind of a badass motive for the villain. This isn’t someone who’s just obsessed with power or wiping out all life, but rather it’s inefficiency that he hates. He wants to streamline existence and that’s kind of noble in a sociopathic sort of way. Humans have apparently let Goku Black down in numerous ways (which is something that makes a lot more sense if the character is actually a Supreme Kai and has been viewing existence for centuries) and he believes that the universe would run better if they were taken out of the equation. He’s like if Ultron merged with Cell and then put on a Goku mask.
The brief tease of Goku Black in this episode indicates that the villain has become even stronger than he was before after his fight with Goku last episode. Naturally this leaves Goku Black only more determined to square off against Goku again and hopefully increase his strength to even more unbelievable levels. It’s a shame that Goku and Vegeta are both so power hungry—but in the good way—because they’re going to give the guy exactly what he wants. Let’s just hope that they can handle the challenge.
There might not be a lot of action in this one (although it does fit in a flashback to a brief battle between Future Trunks and Goku Black), but it has some of the sweetest emotional payoffs from the entire series and the wheels are slowly in motion for the heroes’ rematch against Goku Black. “Trunks and Mai” starts to spin a lot of plates, but this entry doesn’t feel crowded and the various efforts of the Z Warriors all come together in the end. Future Trunks’ depiction of his bleak timeline also really connects and does a good job to illustrate just how desperate things were under Goku Black’s thumb. It’s not as if the show hasn’t explored future dystopias before, but the score and the hindsight of what happens to these resistance fighters makes the material have more significance.
Piccolo must also be about to snap at any minute now. He goes from fieldwork for Chi-Chi to garden detail with Krillin for Bulma. I bet he wishes that an evil version of him showed up and got in everyone’s faces. Maybe then he’d have more to do than perfect his already-green thumb.