This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super: Episode 68
“Come forth, Shenron, and grant my wish!”
Dragon Ball is a series that has a tendency to get very big at times. The fate of the universe has been in jeopardy countless times over and opponents have progressed from humans to literal Gods. Since Dragon Ball so often likes to play to the extremes, it’s nice to get an episode here that’s entirely devoted to attempting to figure out the right Dragon Ball wish. It’s a very simple idea, but it actually makes for a strong concept that holds a lot of potential.
Sometimes wishes are thrown away so casually in this series that it can be hard to remember that the first mission of the original Dragon Ball series was to find these magical seven orbs. Dragon Balls were the ultimate goal and now they’re treated like they’re pocket change. It’s nice to see the series pivot back to this humble premise and even though Goku and company have gained unbelievable strength at this point, there’s still something special about the opportunity and optimism in a wish for (practically) anything. No one is beyond that. The series is called “Dragon Ball,” after all.
After the very tense Goku Black and Zamasu arc that just concluded in the previous installment, it’s only natural for Dragon Ball to loosen up from the doom a little bit and kick back with some light filler. Master Roshi even comments on how dull things have gotten. This is typically what Dragon Ball does after wrapping up something heavy. That being said, there are nine episodes of filler ahead here, so brace yourselves. They cover a range of interesting topics (including an assassination plot on a character and an episode that I consider to be the best filler episode from any Dragon Ball series), but those that are eager for the next big saga to kick in are going to have to remain vigilant. If only you guys had access to Bulma’s time machine…
On the topic of time machines, Bulma is actually hard at work to make her remaining time travelling vehicle operational again, yet it’s going to require a rare mineral from the Earth’s core to complete. Bulma’s motivation here doesn’t come from wanting to reunite with the alternate version of her son, but there’s in fact a more complex reason. Bulma directly addresses the fact that she’s know that time travel is “a sin,” but she’s also a scientist and she can’t deny her need to experiment and improve the world around her. It’s nice to see Dragon Ball remember that there are other strengths that characters can posses rather than literal strength. Bulma’s intelligence and capacity to create might not be the focus of the episode, but in an entry like this that has a more relaxed feel it makes for a strong counterpart to everyone else’s goals.
Accordingly, “Come Forth, Shenron!” raises the valid question of what a good wish to Shenron actually looks like. Many different priorities are put on the table here. Everyone—from Goten and Trunks, to Android 18, to Master Roshi—wants to ask Shenron for something, but the problem is that they all plead a strong case and seem to be on relatively level ground with their wishes. That being said, it maybe would have been nice for everyone to gather the Dragon Balls while Future Trunks was still around so he could rightfully get rewarded for his instrumental help in defeating Merged Zamasu. Then again, he’d probably just wish for grown-up Gohan to stop being so lame and clearly the series can’t let that happen.
– While a lot of the wishes that are considered here are mostly frivolous, Goku actually does bring up a worthwhile wish that’s continually been ignored for decades throughout the series. Countless warriors and even villains have been wished back to life throughout Dragon Ball—some have even been resurrected multiple times—and yet King Kai still remains dead. This has basically turned into one of Dragon Ball’s longest running jokes and it was even addressed (and then promptly forgotten) the last time that these characters had a “spare” wish.
In spite of this, the one thing that is given the priority and automatically gains the spot of one of their two wishes is some impulse health care for Pan. Apparently baby Pan is sick and so she inexplicably gets a wish to make her feel better. Seriously? Just pop her a freaking Senzu bean, guys! Besides, 95% of doctors from West City all say that Senzu beans are non habit-forming and won’t cause developmental problems in infants. Not only that, but after Gohan gets his wish, he just leaves and doesn’t even stick around for the rest of the festivities. Can’t he at least support what’s going on here and have some fun? This is supposed to be a celebration, after all!
The final wish ultimately comes down to Goku’s desire to revive King Kai versus Bulma’s desire for the rare mineral. The episode even juxtaposes Bulma’s and Goku’s initial storylines parallel to each other and readies the audience for the fact that they’re about to collide. It builds a certain tension through this mostly humorous, casual episode that really comes to a boiling point by the conclusion. Goku puts his superior skills to use in order to help Bulma with her time machine and render her wish irrelevant. Of course, by the end of all of this neither of them really get what they want and if they had just initially worked together, then perhaps at least one of their wishes could come true. Both the episode and King Kai wink at this inevitable conclusion early on, so there’s a definite level of self-awareness present in this episode, too.
Another great thing about this episode is that Bulma really shows how awesome she is here by how she solves everyone’s problems and reduces their needs for wishes. Bulma even hires a gaggle of call girls for Master Roshi! She essentially turns into her friends’ own personal version of Shenron and while she’s hardly as green or as intimidating, it’s appreciated that the series spends some time on how important and useful Bulma is in this series. This is an episode where Bulma not only solves everyone’s problems, but she’s also seen as a big enough threat by Beerus and Whis that they have to intervene with her plans. When was the last time that any of the show’s main characters, let alone a human, was on a God of Destruction’s radar that much? Bulma’s biggest asset is still her mighty brain, but she’s clearly the show’s MVP this week.
“Come Forth, Shenron!” is certainly a lighter, more frivolous episode of the series, but it’s one that works and even has the energy of a good bottle episode of television. It’s also the perfect way to cool down and reset the high stakes battles and the risk of annihilation that has been so prominent over the last few dozen installments. The biggest threat here is everyone’s own egos. Furthermore, all of the characters are at their best here and that leads to a lot of jokes that all deliver in a big way. All of the gags with Pilaf are particularly wonderful and it’s fitting to see him become the series’ loser with bad luck once more.
This also isn’t the most eventful episode of the series and everything is essentially exactly the same by the end. No one has any considerable gains from the Dragon Balls and the gang’s lack of efficacy is even treated as the episode’s big punchline. The whole point is that because there are too many cooks in the wish kitchen, the whole thing is a bust. Even a random pair of prize panties would be an improvement here. Shenron’s impatience with everyone’s indecision is also an added bonus and a side of the character that isn’t typically seen.
“Come Forth, Shenron!” is hardly one of the show’s all-time best episodes, but it does stand out as a somewhat memorable installment of filler simply because of what it chooses to focus on. This isn’t the best that the series has to offer, but it’s far from the worst and it perhaps implies that the series is getting a little better with their ability to tell creative, different one-shot stories. If the series can consistently make its filler just as thrilling as its big battles then it will have really cracked the code here.
Hang in there, King Kai! Hopefully you’ll be brought back to life by the time that Pan graduates university.