This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 70
“Kakarot, don’t think you can beat me, even at sports!”
The characters in the Dragon Ball universe have faced a lot of difficult situations in the past, like the death of loved ones, the end of the Earth, time-traveling supervillains, and evil dopplegangers. However, all of that pales in comparison to what happens when these warriors get a few bats, some balls, and four bases. It’s finally happened, guys! It’s Dragon Ball baseball time!
“A Challenge From Champa!” is an extreme example of a love it or hate it situation when it comes to Dragon Ball’s filler. It pushes an idea that is so ridiculous and out of place, but that’s also why it strangely works so well.
“A Challenge From Champa!” features a long-awaited rematch between Universes 7 and 6, but it’s in freaking baseball of all things! Champa and Beerus decide to settle their score and the great equalizer that they naturally arrive at is America’s favorite pastime. Not only that, but this episode puts Yamchafront and center and pivots towards him being the key to victory, which is another bizarre feeling, but more proof of why this bizarre episode is one of the best entries that Dragon Ball Super has ever done.
A situation where Universe 7 and Universe 6 would square off in baseball does seem a little unusual, however Champa’s ulterior motives are perhaps even more peculiar! Champa has merely orchestrated this game of baseball as a cover so that he and Vados can steal the Earth’s food. Clearly the two have formed a taste for the cuisine, much like Beerus and Whis, but this elaborate scheme feels a little severe when Champa reveals what his true goal is here. It does provide another occasion for more bragging rights, which are practically currency between Beerus and Champa, plus nobody should need to have an excuse in order to play some baseball.
Yamcha actually has previous baseball experience in Dragon Ball Z, lest we forget. He turned to the sport after he decided that his martial arts days were behind him and his team, the Titans, are featured in two episodes during the World Tournament Saga. That being said, Yamcha’s baseball uniform even shows up in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, so clearly fans still enjoy referencing this unusual life path for the character. Dragon Ball Super embraces all of that in the biggest way possible and basically posits Yamcha to be a baseball superhero who finally has a chance to save the day and fulfill his destiny. Or not.
For a long time it seems like this episode could be Yamcha’s redemption story in Dragon Ball Super. Not only does it feature moments where Goku is in awe of Yamcha’s abilities, something that arguably hasn’t happened since the first handful of episodes from the original Dragon Ball, but there are even long vanity sequences where Yamcha applies his Wolf Fang Fist and Spirit Ball attacks to his pitching abilities that almost feel like something from out of a dream sequence.
Goku doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the subtleties of pitching (although in his defense everyone is pretty clueless about the sport) and his uselessness in the position leads to Yamcha’s rise to glory. Yamcha also wastes no time to let this power go to his head and throw his weight around. He intentionally leaves Tien and Chiaotzu behind and acts like they’re inferior and that he knows what’s best here, much like he must imagine Goku and company do when they leave him behind in battle.
The thing is, because this is Yamcha, he of course succeeds in a very Yamcha way of doing things. This basically means that he remains a punching bag, but he’s allowed to get results. He’s the hero by the end of the episode, but he might have permanent damage to his body and he’s the only character that’s actually hurt by this “friendly” game of baseball. Vegeta really gets to take out some aggression on this guy and it’s hard not to think that this abuse must have something to do with the fact that Yamcha was Bulma’s former romance. It’s extremely entertaining.
It almost feels like this episode trolls Yamcha just as much as it praises him and it’s kind of fantastic. How can you not love an episode that essentially turns itself into a meme by reenacting Yamcha’s infamous death pose by the Saibamen? And that’s the note that episode ends on for Yamcha! He’s a winner, but he’s simultaneous a meme gag and there couldn’t be a better distillation of this character.
One of the best things about this episode is that it provides a few moments where the audience is privy to Yamcha’s internal monologue while he’s out in the field. At one point he curses people like Vegeta for always being the “main character” and during one extremely philosophical moment Yamcha wonders if he’ll end up dying during this game of baseball simply because his character is so used to meeting his end. The series doesn’t always get this self-aware or deep, but it wears it well in this entry.
“A Challenge From Champa!” carries a very comfortable, loose tone that makes it a particularly fun episode. The jokes all land well here and just the visual of characters like Piccolo or Universe 6’s Iron Giant-like Otta Magetta in baseball uniforms is immediately humorous.
There are also some particularly absurd jokes that go down too, like Goku’s exceptionally slow ball and the fly that hitches a ride on it. It’s also just great to get to check in with Universe 6’s characters again (although unfortunately there’s no Hit) and Vegeta and Cabba get a few more moments to bond, which should excite some viewers. On that note, because Dragon Ball Super knows what the fans want, Vegeta plays for Champa’s team so the episode is able to answer the eternal question that fans have always wondered, “Who would win a game of baseball between Goku and Vegeta?” Their unconventional take on the sport and Yamcha’s confounded reaction to it all is another reason to love this episode.
It also doesn’t hurt that as silly as the idea for this episode is, there’s actually an exciting, compelling game that goes on and it’s treated with the same weight as any other battle in the series. Universe 7 and 6 need to figure out the weaknesses of these characters when it comes to the sport and then strategically figure out how to overcome them.
This match requires just as much intelligence as any tournament fight and it’s satisfying to see how these characters redistribute their talents to a new field. There’s something deeply ridiculous about the visual of Goku turning Super Saiyan Blue before he pitches a ball or a baseball bat carrying a blue and golden aura before it connects, but it also makes sense in the context of all of this.
The petty squabbling between Beerus and Champa hits such a fever pitch that the foundation of the planet begins to crumble. This baseball feud literally almost destroys the Earth (which honestly these guys should be used to after Arale’s antics did the same thing last week) until Whis and Vados intervene and reinforce why they’re the truly powerful ones in these God/Angel relationships. In spite of how this game was just supposed to be a means to an end, these two Gods of Destruction get insanely committed to the outcome.
Curiously, the episode’s conclusion just sees Champa and Vados run off and more or less forget their whole goal of wanting to steal Earth’s food. Champa is too focused on revenge and a rematch that everything else takes a backseat. This complete abandonment of their mission might read as sloppy to some, but it feels more like Dragon Ball Super is just playing into the comical angle of this installment.
It’s not like their plan here even matters. They could “steal” plenty of Earth’s food and it wouldn’t set the planet back any. Goku and company would also more than likely just share their cuisine with these guys (unless that means that Beerus loses any food in the process). It’s a silly conclusion to a silly episode and it’s not like this installment is about Champa’s double-cross plan; it’s about baseball and the game is already over at this point.
Fans are welcome to write off “A Challenge From Champa!,” but if they go into this one with an open mind they’ll find this to be a very enjoyable experience. The attention that the episode gives to Yamcha acts as a beautiful shot of nostalgia and in this solid stretch of filler that follows the Zamasu material it’s a real highlight.
There are definitely worse ways to “throw away” an episode and it’s just a shame the series doesn’t get to return to baseball again (how about an Other World Baseball Tournament where deceased fighters go at it?). The filler episode of Dragon Ball Z where Goku and Piccolo are in driving school together often gets singled out as the “best” installment of filler, but “A Challenge From Champa!” is a homerun—both metaphorically and literally—and it’s now the strongest filler episode from Dragon Ball.
Now let’s start the petition to get Arc System Works to make a Dragon Ball baseball game because absolutely.