“You disappoint me.”
The relationship between father and sons is a recurring theme through the collective Dragon Ball franchise. In the earliest days of Dragon Ball, young Goku is on a journey that’s dedicated to his surrogate father, Grandpa Gohan. It’s a bond so important that he’ll even name his own son after him.
Goku’s not the only one to have a child in the show, but also Vegeta and even recently Gohan (and Krillin as well, for that matter) get to experience that life-changing event. At several points throughout the franchise, these children need to step in for their fathers and take the lead, but Dragon Ball continually finds a new context to explore this idea. “He Who Is Of Saiyan Blood” features the series’ latest take on the father and son theme when it puts the curious relationship between Future Trunks and Vegeta as its focus.
First of all, at long last after the Briefs family spends four long episodes toiling away on their decrepit time machine, they finally get the bucket of bolts in working order and ready to tear the space-time continuum a new one. There’s been enough going on over the past few episodes that this lengthy repair time hasn’t felt like an inconvenience (it’s actually believable—as believable as something that involves a time machine can be…). That being said, if the show had drawn this out any longer it might have started to feel redundant.
Over the period of time that Bulma has been working on the time machine, Dragon Ball Super has taken this opportunity to do plenty of character introspection, especially with Future Trunks. The final piece of this character work transpires in this episode when Future Trunks and Vegeta share a father-son training session together before everyone gets ready to face off against Goku Black for the second time.
The sparring scenes between Vegeta and his son are a lot of fun to watch and there’s a quiet respect between these two that goes a long ways. Future Trunks even thinks back to their time together during the Cell Saga when they both unlocked the powers of Ultra Super Saiyan. Future Trunks may be proud of his progress since then, but he begins to understand what progress really is when he starts to spend time with his father. It’s cringe-worthy when Future Trunks reveals that he’s still using the archaic, ineffective transformation. Even his seven year-old counterpart is further along than that.
Unsurprisingly, Future Trunks quickly learns that he’s greatly outmatched by Vegeta. In fact, he can’t even land a single hit him on him, but this excites Future Trunks rather than dishearten him on his “weak” nature. Future Trunks figures that if his father and Goku are this much stronger than he is, then maybe they’ll actually stand a chance against Goku Black.
Maybe he’s been worrying too much about this showdown. He even briefly considers the idea of stepping aside entirely and letting the Super Saiyan Blue duo extinguish the threat on their own. Future Trunks is of course exactly as concerned as he should be here. Goku and Vegeta have taken on Gods and won at this point, but nobody expects the upcoming battle to be a piece of cake. That’s not Dragon Ball.
Future Trunks may be stoked over the results of his training session, but Vegeta takes it the opposite way and is rather disappointed in his son (“3/10,” he tells him). Sure, Future Trunks is still incredibly strong, but that doesn’t stop him from believing that his son has let down his race in a certain way. The episode makes a point to highlight that Future Trunks still suffers from flashbacks and PTSD to his battles with Goku Black. They even interrupt his attempts at training and stunt his development, so to speak.
Above everything else Vegeta believes that Saiyans should continually improve themselves and get stronger because that’s who they are, not because there’s a new threat on the horizon. I suppose it probably has been about a dozen or two episodes since Vegeta has gotten to run his mouth and be a social justice warrior for the Saiyan minority. As a result, this typical grandstanding from the Saiyan Prince has a little more significance than it normally would.
After the verbal beating that Future Trunks takes from his father (right after the physical one) I was half-expecting Gohan to yell out at his father, “Well at least I’m not Gohan!” after the display that he witnessed a few episodes back. Future Trunks might not be at Vegeta’s level, but he’s literally fought for his life in order to attain his current power level. He’s not exactly someone that you’d consider to be lazy. All of this makes for emotional material, but Vegeta still proves that he loves his son.
Off of Earth, there’s a short, but enlightening scene between Zamasu and Gowasu as they watch over the existence of the brutal Babari race. Although with a name like that do they really have much of a choice in their behavior? The series continues to carefully show how the values of these two Kais slowly diverge.
Dragon Ball Super’s gradual treatment of Zamasu’s shift to the dark side has played out perfectly so far and it’s great to see the show really let Zamasu develop. A character like this works all the better when the audience is allowed to watch their downfall and “He Who Is Of Saiyan Blood” offers some very important scenes in that regard. Let’s not overlook the fact that the tea that Zamasu prepares for his mentor in this episode is bitter.
Gowasu gives Zamasu a major lesson on the Rings of Time and even temporarily promotes him to a Supreme Kai so he’s able to witness their magic. The results give a better idea of how Supreme Kais are able to pass judgment over a race and the two are able to witness 1000 years of Babari culture in an instant in order to see if the species “learn their lesson” or succumb to their weaknesses. The moral topic of what the “right” thing to do with this sort of power continues to be entertaining, deep material for the show to explore and it’s even more powerful since there’s no correct answer here. Humanity is supposed to be flawed.
Even though the pace may again be a little slower for this installment, this is still a highly enjoyable episode of the show. While some scenes may indulge in silliness, not a single sequence feels wasted and it’s crazy how good a job the show has done at developing Future Trunks’ character. This is Dragon Ball, but it’s killing it in the human growth department. This is bonkers, but super encouraging towards the show’s future.
Vegeta’s perspective in this entry is a huge piece of Future Trunks’ character that was missing and “He Who Is Of Saiyan Blood” helps the audience understand how fundamental their relationship is here. The episode also ends on the encouraging note where Future Trunks is reinvigorated to exceed his father rather than just throw in the towel. He also gets the pep talk that no one in his dystopian timeline is able to give him.
The brief comments towards Trunks’ take on image training and intense visualizations are also deeply interesting. Dragon Ball so often depicts the same variety of training from its fighters, so it’s always pleasant when a new approach happens. Furthermore, Future Trunks feels like the sort of intelligent, heady individual that would use such a tactic in his attempts to grow stronger. Meanwhile, Mai also seems to have her own form of “image training,” but hers has nothing to do with battle preparation. On that note, there’s plenty of decent humor in this installment, like Pilaf’s run as a master hacker and programmer, which manages to impress even Bulma.
Finally, there’s not much traction on the front where Beerus and Whis intend to do something about the impending threat and constant question mark, Zamasu. They do provide a nice rundown of the various ways in which Goku Black and Zamasu are different, but it plays like more of a recap for the audience than forward momentum. It’s clear that they’re far from done in this area, but their brief scene this episode is more concerned about their dinner plans and an impromptu visit from Zeno. Apparently the tiny omnipotent deity has business with Goku that he wants to discuss, which is news that has Beerus and Whis more shocked than when they found out that Zamasu and Goku Black share the same energy aura.
It’s been a solid running joke through the series that Goku’s lackadaisical attitude towards the universe’s most powerful individuals always results in him failing upward. It looks like Beerus and Whis would kill to have Zeno join them for dinner or be of more importance to him than some go-between for Goku.
“He Who Is Of Saiyan Blood” satisfies on many fronts, but the moment where Zeno drops this bombshell on the celestial duo not only made me laugh out loud, but it’s also one of the funniest scenes to date from the series. Dragon Ball Super is far from finished with the Goku Black storyline—in fact it’s only getting started—but get ready for some answers to Zeno’s situation in the following episode.
Here’s a hint: He doesn’t want to pick Goku’s brain over his farming secrets.