This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers
Dragon Ball Super Episode 75
“You’ve faced the power of Gods! I’d make a boring opponent for you.”
Dragon Ball Super has taken a bit of a risk after the good guys wiped away any trace of Zamasu from the universe. Rather than heading immediately into more peril, the series has pumped the breaks a little and decided to tell a number of smaller multi-part stories to great effect.
This nine-episode stretch of filler is still considered to be included as part of the “Future Trunks” arc, but it really deserves to be segregated as its own thing—the “Redemption of Filler” arc or something. The reason being that Dragon Ball Super really does rise to the occasion here. It embraces some really creative, fun decisions with these “extra” episodes that vindicate filler in big ways that should make the word stop inducing groans in the future. If anything, these more episodic installments have harkened back to more of the tone of the original Dragon Ball, which is also a fun change of pace.
On that note, “Goku and Krillin – Back to the Old Familiar Training Ground” is a perfect example of an episode that tries incredibly hard to do its best impression of the original Dragon Ball series. The reason for this is that this installment is a love letter to one of the series’ oldest and most important relationships—the bond between Goku and Krillin—but more specifically, it’s a deep dive into Krillin himself.
The character has largely taken a backseat in Dragon Ball Super and even gone as far as “retiring” from the superhero game. However, this episode works hard to bring warrior Krillin back into the picture and “redeem” the character, so to speak.
After all of the many hijinks that have been going down lately, Goku has some free time on his hands to get some intensive training done. The only problem here is that he can’t find a worthy sparring partner to keep him busy.
It’s safe to assume that Goku’s already tried Whis and Vegeta because he doesn’t consider them viable options. Goku’s stuck sparring against the Great Saiyaman until he eventually remembers that Krillin still exists (although I would have loved it if Goten quickly backpedaled and suggested Tien to his father instead). Krillin might initially seem like a controversial choice for Goku’s training partner and there’s no one that’s more aware of that then Krillin himself.
The conversation that the series has about Krillin’s vulnerability to a bullet is particularly interesting and Dragon Ball even spends more time on this topic than one might expect. It’s something that sparks outrage in Android 18 and triggers her to the point of explaining to her husband that she didn’t fall in love with some shlub who’s susceptible to gunfire.
One of the first things that Dragon Ball Z ever did to illustrate to the audience the power of Saiyans was Raditz’ demonstration where he makes short work of a shotgun blast. These are not characters that have to worry about firearms, so the fact that Krillin has regressed so far in his abilities that he’s no longer resistant to such attacks is rather significant.
Gohan is a character that has fallen down many pegs throughout the years, but even with his focus on his family and how weak he’s become, he can still take a bullet without flinching. This incident is the big trigger that finally inspires Krillin to get over himself and take Goku up on his offer and the results are pure bliss for fans that have been around since the series’ early days.
Goku and Krillin decide to call up their old mentor, Master Roshi, for their training duties and the whole thing is so nostalgic you can practically hear “Mystical Adventure” playing in the background. Additionally, the decision to superimpose old training flashbacks over Goku and Krillin’s current training is also brilliant. This isn’t the first time that Roshi has popped up in Dragon Ball Super, but it feels like the purest doseof the character to date.
Roshi is still very much up to his old tricks and full of questionable habits and predilections, but he’s also unrivaled when it comes to training. He enlists Goku and Krillin on quite the unconventional mission that doesn’t look like it will be that helpful to them, but clearly there’s more to this task than meets the eye. Roshi’s tactics tow that consistent line between brilliance and bullshit and even if everything that he tells his pupils is garbage, it at least gives an excuse for Krilln and Goku to train together again.
If Master Roshi’s presence isn’t enough of a throwback for the audience, his sister also pops in to visit with Goku and Krillin on their mission. Fortuneteller Baba usually has some sort of scheme in play, but whether she’s ultimately planning to hinder or help Goku and Krillin, it’s still nice to see the character again. It does add a bit of a Wizard of Oz quality to the installment too, as this witch watches Krillin and Goku’s every move through a crystal ball. However, don’t expect conveniently placed water to solve any of the obstacles here.
A lot of this installment is about Krillin finding his courage and getting back in the game, but it does manage to fit in some actual training. Roshi sends Goku and Krillin out to locate a rare herb (which is just marijuana, right!?) in the ominous “Forest of Terror,” but the duo mostly just get a lay of the land this week.
Krillin is appropriately jumpy through this creepy adventure, but the real threats don’t appear until the episode’s final moments, but boy are they worth the wait. More astute viewers will maybe be able to figure out why Roshi sends Krillin and Goku into this particular haunted forest. The episode makes the smart decision to force Krillin into battle, even if he’s not truly ready.
What’s especially fascinating about this episode is that it explores a level of fear and hesitation that’s apart of fighting, but typically absent in this series. Goku and Vegeta are pushing around Gods at this point, so Dragon Ball Super usually doesn’t reserve more than a sentence or two for these guys to exhibit concern.
Krillin on the other hand is revealed to be someone that now even gets nervous when he’s out on his police job. Naturally he’s going to be worried about jumping back into protecting the universe, let alone when Goku is his sparring partner, and this episode doesn’t shy away from that material.
Roshi equips Goku with a weighted turtle suit to handicap him to some degree, but Krillin still experiences trepidation to head back into this world. Some might find this degree of thoughtfulness boring and just want Krillin to head into battle, but it provides a human perspective that can often be forgotten in Dragon Ball and it gives this episode a real heart.
As much as this episode is a showcase of Krillin, it also does a good job to demonstrate why Master Roshi is still a part of this universe. His abilities may feel a little underpowered at this point, but the fact that he’s still able to motivate Goku and Krillin in such a way speaks to his resilient energy. Furthermore, he’s one of the few characters in this show that truly knows Goku and Krillin. His plan to put them in competition with each other as well as the complicated, suspicious mission that he sends them on in the “Forest of Terror” is the best way to push these two.
The new technique that Master Roshi promises to the winner is almost certainly a ruse, but it could also be an easy way for the series to quickly knock Krillin up a few power levels and give him a “Mystic Krillin” kind of awakening. Roshi’s presence goes a long ways here and it makes this episode much better than if Goku and Krillin’s training was with Whis or the Supreme Kai.
A two-parter that’s dedicated to Goku and Krillin’s relationship and once again pits them in competition against each other for Master Roshi’s approval is the perfect way for this stretch of filler to conclude. After Dragon Ball’s recent attempt to return Gohan (and by extension, the Great Saiyaman) to a favorable place in the eyes of the audience, “Goku and Krillin – Back to the Old Familiar Training Ground” is a satisfying follow-up. There was a time when Krillin was actually stronger than Goku and this episode doesn’t waste the opportunity to show the wonder in him getting his groove back.
“Goku and Krillin – Back to the Old Familiar Training Ground” finds a comfortable balance in its mix of humor and action and the decision to make Krillin and Goku’s friendship the focus in this first entry provides a strong foundation to carry over with next week. With the nostalgic cliffhanger that “Goku and Krillin – Back to the Old Familiar Training Ground” goes out on, it seems likely that what’s to come will be even more exciting than this episode and give the long-suffering Krillin fans what they’ve been waiting for.
And all of the people out there that have been pushing their “Bring Back Tambourine!” petitions can finally rest easy. You did it, guys. You freaking did it.