This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 76
“This is the new me!”
Periods of filler where a series’ narrative engine slows down can become moments of frustration, but sometimes slowing down a little can allow characters to evolve in ways that wouldn’t be possible if they were perpetually bogged down with battles and high stakes decisions. It’s during this cool down period where Dragon Ball Super can reframe itself for its next big arc and allow a number of characters the necessary focus to learn some lessons and “redeem” themselves, so to speak.
At this point fans are surely ready for Dragon Ball Super to put its foot back on the gas and speed up the show’s main story, but this thoughtful, inspiring Krillin-centric episode is arguably the best thing to happen to the character in Dragon Ball Super. Krillin wasn’t even considered to be a part of the massive Zamasu/Goku Black battle, but “Conquer the Terrifying Foes! Krillin’s Fighting Spirit Rebounds!” implies that Krillin won’t be on the sidelines when the next big fight occurs.
Dragon Ball Super hasn’t been afraid to bring back a slew of old fan favorite characters. Accordingly, some fans have been hopeful that Cell or even Buu might appear in a similar context to Frieza’s recent return and “Conquer the Terrifying Foes! Krillin’s Fighting Spirit Rebounds!” doesn’t hold back. Not only are Cell, Buu, and Frieza back, but so are former threats like Raditz, the Ginyu Force, King Piccolo, and Dabura.
I’m pretty certain that no fans ever expected to see the likes of Tambourine or Nappa (let alone Saiyan Saga era Vegeta) return to the Dragon Ball universe either. Even though this episode “cheats” when it comes to the return of these familiar faces, it still amounts to a fun, surprising installment that knows how to properly push Krillin’s anxiety buttons.
Right off the bat, “Conquer the Terrifying Foes! Krillin’s Fighting Spirit Rebounds!” is an episode that’s either going to seem really amazing to viewers, or it’s an experiment that will just feel like a giant waste of time spent on imaginary threats. There’s a new promotional Dragon Ball series in Japan right now that’s called Dragon Ball Heroes that pretty much prides itself in its non-canonical “kitchen sink” style battles that it pushes in the audience’s faces. Senseless blows between nonsense pairings like Super Saiyan 4 Goku versus Super Saiyan Blue Goku may just wash over some people, but it’s exactly the kind of flashy action that other viewers adore.
“Conquer the Terrifying Foes! Krillin’s Fighting Spirit Rebounds!” could pretty much be an installment of Dragon Ball Heroes in the sense that its novelty is the ability to watch seemingly impossible fights take place, like Krillin versus Raditz or Goku versus the Ginyu Force. The way in which this episode rises above that kind of sensationalistic material is that it all connects to a strong emotional core for Krillin. This episode is about him reclaiming his fighting spirit and boy is it glorious.
What’s significant about these blasts from the past is that these aren’t just former foes, but they’re specifically the ones that have given Krillin a good deal of grief. They’re designed to prey upon his fears about returning to battle. It’s no coincidence that all of the characters who have killed Krillin in the past are amongst the Forest of Terror’s illusions. These illusions don’t discriminate and still wage war on Goku, but there are clearly Krillin’s demons. The installment even treats the audience to requisite flashbacks to when characters like Tambourine, Dabura, and Frieza have killed Krillin in the past. It wants to be as clear as possible about how traumatic this “reunion” is for Krillin.
In spite of Krillin’s concerns, Roshi reveals that the trickery of the Forest of Terror is actually exactly what the old man was hoping would happen. Master Roshi can detect that Krillin’s resolve is still soft and even though he went on this mission with Goku, he could tell that his heart wasn’t in it. It’s fighting under those conditions that get someone killed and that’s not going to help anyone here. The Forest of Terror may be an extreme measure, but it gives Krillin the necessary tough love that Roshi cannot administer.
The fact that Krillin’s first impulse when confronted with these enemies is to run away speaks to just how much the character has lost his nerve over the years. Goku may be the first one to figure out that their opponents are actually illusions of the forest, but Krillin clues into the crucial detail that these apparitions ostensibly feed off of Krillin and Goku’s energy. The two of them can defeat these specters countless times over, but it’s only going to make them more powerful because they’re taking their strength.
This is without a doubt Krillin’s episode to own, but the episode still devotes some time to Goku with the forest’s apparitions. There’s never any real danger that Goku’s going to be defeated like there is with Krillin (after all, these are Krillin’s most feared enemies, not Goku’s), but he still has to resort to Super Saiyan 3 to handle these obstacles.
It’s also appreciated that the episode separates Krillin and Goku and allows both characters to battle through their own material. It doubles the amount of action that takes place, too. As superfluous as all of these battles are, they look stunning here and there’s plenty of creativity on display in terms of the stylistic approach to these fights. Villains morph in size and go all over the place, plus the hazy purple sky provides an eerie backdrop to this bizarre showdown.
As touching as this final display is where Goku and Krillin pull off a beautiful joint Kamehameha to destroy Fortuneteller Baba’s illusion of Super Shenron, it’s actually inconsistent with the episode’s message. Krillin finally learns that the key to defeating these enemies is to calm down and reduce your strength, not to go in full power, but it’s exactly that strategy that eliminates the final challenge. The victory shared between Krillin and Goku is so enjoyable that it’s hard to begrudge the episode for any technicalities, but there definitely could have been a different way for these two to win and celebrate without breaking the previously established rules.
It should come as a surprise to no one when Roshi admits that he’s lying about the new technique that he was going to teach to the winner of his challenge. Of course, Krillin isn’t too broken up about this because he learns that the powerful new ability was within him all along. He’s more than happy with the transformation that he’s made on this mission, so even if Roshi is a manipulative liar, at least he gets results. It’s hard to argue with Krillin’s optimism, but it would have been cool to witness some “Mystic Krillin” ceremony take place and watch the character mop the floor with everyone for a few episodes.
It’s important to note Android 18’s small, but supportive, role in this episode and how much of a difference her inclusion makes here. For instance, compare her and Krilin’s productive relationship where they better one another to Goku and Chi-Chi’s, where everything feels like a constant compromise. Essentially, Android 18 is the purity and the good in Krillin’s life that balances out all of the evil that he faces. Her presence in his life is significant. He needs her.
It’s worth addressing the question as to whether this two-part saga would be just as successful if it were done with Yamcha instead of Krillin. The episodes would still surely hold a lot of weight, but it does feel like they would come across as hollow. Krillin has a wife and daughter to help ground and motivate him, not to mention the fact that he actually shares a history training alongside Goku under Roshi’s eye. Admittedly, Goku may have known Yamcha for longer than he’s known Krillin, but it seems fair to say that most fans would cry shenanigans if some episode’s tried to claim that Goku and Yamcha were BFFs. Krillin’s the best candidate for this journey and even though that doesn’t mean that Yamcha isn’t in similar need of rehabilitation, it’s the less interesting story. Krillin has hair to shave off, after all.
“Conquer the Terrifying Foes! Krillin’s Fighting Spirit Rebounds!” is the perfect conclusion to what the previous episode begins to dig into with Krillin and his confidence issues. The entry is a fun, cathartic trip down memory lane that also stirs enough change within Krillin that it can’t be seen as just indulgent fan service. As far as “Krillin Gets His Groove Back” stories are concerned, this is pretty much as good as it gets. You’re never going to see Krillin simultaneously kick Majin Buu and Frieza’s ass anywhere else. Now just bring on the next challenge!
And hey flying nimbus! We still remember you!
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem and his perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.