This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 73 Review
“Great Saiyaman’s going to be a movie!?”
Gohan might have said it best when he teased this episode during the end of the previous installment. He declares, “Something terrible has happened! They’re making a Great Saiyaman movie!” Before this episode it’d be safe to say that many people would agree with that statement, but “The Preposterous Great Saiyaman Film Adaptation!?” turns out a rather thoughtful, entertaining story around the gimmicky character.
It doesn’t feel like this episode’s agenda is to be particularly prescient or meta, but Dragon Ball Super ends up telling a refreshingly relevant story that’s a pointed commentary on the current oversaturation of superheroes in cinema and pop culture.
The fact that the market has become so starved for more superhero movies that they actually want to make a film about the Great Saiyaman is actually a pretty brilliant idea for an episode. The difficulty is that Gohan’s blundering alter ego is typically seen as a weak spot from Dragon Ball Z’s later years. The comedic character doesn’t always receive the best reception from the audience, so telling a story that revolves around him (that’s a two-parter, no less) means that you really need to make sure that the character properly comes into focus and is as strong as possible. Otherwise people are immediately going to jump ship.
Something that certainly makes all of this more palatable is the fact that the episode doesn’t shy away from mocking the Great Saiyaman whenever the opportunity arises.
As if a Great Saiyaman film going into production wasn’t enough, it turns out that this film is also a vanity project for Mr. Satan that’s titled, “Great Saiyaman vs. Mister Satan!” As ludicrous as all of that might sound, the film’s generated considerable buzz and it still looks like the misguided superhero pair-up film is tracking to perform better than Batman v Superman. Out of morbid curiosity, Gohan, Videl, and Pan all go to the set of the film to see how production is going and if Gohan can offer up any constructive dance moves for the character. You know, the important stuff.
As it turns out, Videl is actually much more of the focus here than Gohan and the film’s star, Barry Kahn, immediately sets his sights on her. Barry Kahn very publicly hits on Videl and her rejection of him is even more brazen. Gohan and Videl tend to operate within this certain bubble of innocence, so it’s quite the shock when Barry basically makes it his mission in life to destroy Gohan and his happy marriage with his wife.
Furthermore, while all of the commentary on superhero cinema is still very much present, this underlying theme of revenge and blackmail is certainly a little unusual, but not exactly out of place in the world of cinema. It doeshowever feel a little awkward in a Dragon Ball episode.
A good chunk of this installment does seemingly revolve around Barry Kahn (who is most definitely not General Blue) and his incredulous demands and diva personality. He’s not based on any specific actor, but he’s very much a critique on celebrity culture just like how the rest of the episode mocks the film industry in a broader sense.
Great work is done with this one-shot character. Furthermore, the most eagled eyed long-term viewers of Dragon Ball might even recognize Barry Kahn from a brief previous “appearance” in Dragon Ball Z. During Majin Buu’s reign of terror, the tyrant unsuccessfully tries to hit on a woman. When she’s not interested, Buu morphs his face to look like a famous A-lister who’s on a magazine cover and this is technically Barry Kahn’s first appearance. The fact that he’s the actor that pops up for these episodes is yet another example of some of the wonderful, subtle fan service that Dragon Ball Super has indulged in for its dedicated audience.
Barry’s elaborate revenge scheme involves him appointing Gohan to become the film’s primary stuntman, which he hopes will lead to some “accidents” that drastically harm and/or embarrass him. Of course, Barry doesn’t know that Gohan is actually the realGreat Saiyaman, so any disasters or obstacles that are put in his way during the film are actually easy for him to avoid (that sequence with the tank is particularly wonderful).
That being said, Gohan still needs to keep his cover hidden, so he has to pretend to be “normal” in this role. It’s like if Chris Hemsworth’s stuntman on Thor was the “Real Thor,” but he had to continually keep his power in check. It’s kind of a brilliant idea that’s made even funnier by the fact that the person that’s trying to kill Gohan here is also dressed like the Great Saiyaman. It’s one of the most reflexive episodes that the show has ever done.
Gohan does a relatively good job keeping all of these balls in the air, but he finds himself in a bit of hot water when his efforts to stop a bank robbery go awry and Bulma needs to step in for support. There’s also some appreciated attention to detail here in the fact that Krillin is the police officer on duty that shows up to help with the bank heist. This provides a tiny glimpse into Krillin’s day-to-day life and that stopping crimes like this are how he spends his time.
There is also another bizarre, but welcome, callback in the sense that one of these robbers is actually a character that had a minor altercation with Gohan and Videl back in Dragon Ball Z. Apparently he’s never been able to pull his life together after all of these years. It’s a detail that’s totally unnecessary, but it shows a deeper focus on world building than the series is typically interested in.
After the bank debacle, it might seem like Gohan’s troubles are over, but matters only get worse for him after his superhero cover gets blown to Cocoa Amaguri, the female lead in the Saiyaman movie. Cocoa has the same manipulative thought process that Barry does and it’s unfortunate that these two conniving individuals don’t realize how perfect they are for each other. Cocoa sets out to blackmail Gohan unless he agrees to hang out with her and go on “dates,” much like what Barry had in mind for Videl.
Gohan’s trademark obliviousness also rears its head here, but he does have to face the tricky situation of what’s more important, his secret identity or the stability of his marriage? The direction that the episode goes down is perfectly fine, but wouldn’t it also have been something if this were actually a grueling two-part emotional drama between Gohan and Videl as they hit a rough patch in their marriage? This absolutely isn’t the sort of storytelling that Dragon Ball is interested in, but if Videl had actually given into the guy that hits on her and this actually became a story about what Gohan and Videl want out of life and marriage.
There have been many conversations about how much Gohan has been “forgotten” by the series, but what about Videl? She’s been relegated to the sidelines even more so than her husband and it’s often hard to remember that Videl actually entered the series as an impressive fighter.
Videl needs someone to actually see her more than Gohan does and while this womanizer, Barry Kahn, is not a good person for Videl by any means, he does at least appreciate her in a way that she perhaps hasn’t experienced in a long time. This certainly would have made for one of the most memorable stories from out of Dragon Ball Super if this first episode pulled the trigger on this idea and the next episode explores Gohan and Videl’s attempts to repair themselves, both as a couple and as fighters.
The situation that Gohan finds himself in with Cocoa also perfectly plays into this angle and accentuates the distance between Videl and her husband. All the necessary ingredients are there to make this work, but the episode’s goal is just much tamer.
Stretches of filler are the time to take risks and while this much attention on the Great Saiyaman is still a gamble, it would have been an interesting experiment to see the show verge into more serious territory. If nothing else, it would make for a great story to tell Pan when she grows up.
This episode also catches up with Jaco on some of his space journeys, which is never a bad distraction. His current target as a galactic patrolman is the parasitic host, Watagash, who operates very much like your typical evil symbiote. The episode is bookended by Jaco’s appearance, but it makes for an effective way to tie everything together.
The Saiyaman material doesn’t carry enough weight by itself, so the decision to have this storyline collide with Jaco’s hunt for this evil renegade parasite is actually rather clever. It also allows a level of hyperrealism to enter the fake movie about superheroes that they’re making that operates on a level that’s even deeper than the fact that Gohan himself is actually a superhero.
For such a silly, expendable installment, there are a surprising amount of layers to all of this. The fact that the story becomes a parody of a parody of a parody is why it ends up being such an entertaining endeavor. “The Preposterous Great Saiyaman Film Adaptation!?” even ends on a note of genuine danger, just so it can turn the tables on the audience one final time.
When it seems like this low stakes episode is about to wrap up, Gohan’s situation suddenly turns into a life or death conflict that immediately makes you eager for the next episode. “The Preposterous Great Saiyaman Film Adaptation!?” actually makes the audience anxious for moreGreat Saiyaman, which is a considerable feat in itself.
Dragon Ball Super has been on a real run as of late with their recent installments and “The Preposterous Great Saiyaman Film Adaptation!?” is no exception. It finds a compelling, unique story to tell with an underused selection of characters and it still fits in a solid blend of both action and comedy (Jaco’s antics never disappoint and is the Saiyaman film’s director supposed to be some anime composite of Guillermo del Toro?).
The series once again adopts a two-part structure to this story, but this is an occasion where this is actually a positive thing rather than a deterrent.
And hey! New end credits theme!