This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 78
“He’ll erase…the universes!?”
Both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z have had a habit of alternating between story arcs where there’s a major threat to Earth and then there’s an important Martial Arts tournament. This is a structure that’s more or less worked for the series. These tournaments make for a welcome break after facing off against a new major foe and they also generate suspense in their own unique way. There has definitely been overlap between these two types of stories in the past (the Cell Games is a prime example), but Dragon Ball Super attempts to do something different here with the Tournament of Power.
Even though this is “just a tournament,” the stakes are arguably even higher than they were with Cell, Buu, or even Beerus. The existence of the entire universe—not just the planet or the galaxy, but the whole freaking universe—is on the line. The fact that no one is directly attacking Earth or Universe 7 itself make this new arc initially feel a bit anti-climactic, but there’s literally never been more on the line.
“The Gods of Every Universe In Shock?!” may feel like it takes its time and doesn’t get a lot done, but it actually covers quite a bit of information on what’s to come. For starters, the winner of the tournament will be granted a wish from the Super Dragon Balls (shout out to Champa), which isn’t really that surprising, but what does come as a big shock is the news that the losers in this tournament will be completely erased (news that terrifies pretty much everyone except Goku).
Another interesting detail to come from all of this is that the setting for these battles will be the specially curated “World of Void” that’s apparently a world of infinite nothingness. That may sound exceedingly bland, but it makes for a plausible way to have multiple characters powering up to God-like levels and not having to worry about the stage/planet/galaxy collapsing from the sheer amount of power. I’m sure this World of Void will only be used for this tournament context, but it’d be nice if in the future some new villain could be banished to this empty existence like some alternate take on the Dead Zone.
When the unreasonably high tournament rules are established, Beerus, among many other mellow characters freak out. Gohan even insists that Goku should lie about this news to the rest of Universe 7 because the consequences here are so astronomically high. Beerus and Whis don’t miss the opportunity to lay into Goku for how irresponsible his idea for a tournament has become, but this merely feels like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Goku Hate Train that’s due to pull up. Goku offers to personally ask the Zenos to reconsider their decision, but they’re worried that such a judgmental gesture could make them erase Goku on the spot. He still doesn’t understand the graveness of their powers.
What’s even more insulting here is that Goku’s way of “handling” the universe erasure situation is to simply promise that he’ll beat every opponent that he faces. Well, wasn’t that always the plan, Goku? Arrogance isn’t exactly a tried and true formula for success. It’s not unusual to see Beerus and Whis skeptical of Goku’s behavior with higher powers, but when people like Gohan start giving him the side eye it’s perhaps time to reassess your actions.
Funnily enough, a short exhibition tournament before the actual tournament can start is exactly the sort of garbage that Dragon Ball is notorious for doing to stretch out a storyline and withhold the ultimate prize. This may be frustrating on many levels, but it really doesn’t make that big of a difference. The series is still about to offer up a fight for its audience, it just happens to be a scaled down version of what’s to come. If the show framed this as a qualifying match of the Tournament of Power would this be more palatable? The show even has a valid reason for this exhibition match due to how Future Zeno has never been privy to a fighting tournament before, whereas Present Zeno has watched Universes 7 and 6 square off in the past.
It’s not as if this Zen Exhibition Match is inconsequential. The Grand Minister ominously alludes to the fact that if any of the fighters in this pre-tournament showdown fail to be interesting or don’t provide enough of a challenge then the Zenos may even decide to make some erasures before the Tournament of Power begins in order to trim the fat. This puts Goku and company in a difficult situation because they obviously want to pick their strongest fighters here and do their best, but they also don’t want to give away all of their secrets and have the other universes aware of their tricks when the real fight begins.
This episode also features up the first real glimpse of all of the Gods and Angels from the other 11 universes that are out there (shout out to the God and Angel pairing that obviously get their inspiration from the Joker and Harley Quinn). The group congregates at the Grand Zenos’ palace to hear about their upcoming competition, but they’re all also keenly watching the moves of Universe 7. These aren’t just regular spectators.
The Grand Minister explains that for this Zen Exhibition Match each universe will only have a team of three warriors and only receive an hour to assemble said team. Goku naturally goes to recruit Vegeta as the first of the lot, but the Saiyan Prince surprisingly refuses Goku’s offer and still seems resentful of this situation that Goku has gotten them all in. Besides, it’ll make for a stronger introduction when the other universes learn about Vegeta and his skills in the real tournament rather than this warm-up.
Goku decides to use Gohan as his consolation fighter, which is honestly great news. Even if Gohan’s battles are complete embarrassments, it still means that some serious Gohan fights are right around the corner. It should also be fulfilling to see Goku and his son bond in a substantial way too, as these sorts of moments have been few and far between for the characters as of late.
Finally, the third member to round out Universe 7’s exhibition team is Majin Buu! Goku’s decision here certainly comes as a big surprise, but it’s nice to see that Goku’s thinking strategy here and beginning to understand the weight of this tournament. It’s fair to say that Majin Buu is the next strongest fighter after Vegeta and Gohan so even though Goku may not have a ton of experience fighting alongside him, he still realizes how much of an asset Buu can be. Seriously, why not just turn all of their opponents into chocolate or eggs?
Regardless of the semantics behind this exhibition set, what it really means is that Universe 7 still has one more hoop to jump through before the real fun can begin. Thankfully, it’s decided that Universe 7 will square off against Universe 9, which is completely unchartered territory for Dragon Ball. It’s exciting to finally get another substantial taste of what else is out there in Dragon Ball‘s many universes before the big tournament and Universe 9 as a preliminary opponent is much more satisfying than if Goku and company had to fight Champa’s crew from Universe 6 another time.
As far as we know, Universe 9 has never even encountered Saiyans before, so they’re going to be in for a treat. The canine-like Basil is introduced as the first of Universe 9’s furry opponents and while he doesn’t look like much of a challenge for Goku, it’s exciting to see that Buu is Universe 7’s preliminary fighter here. It’s been a long time since this guy has been allowed to let loose.
“The Gods of Every Universe In Shock?!” establishes a strong foundation for what’s to come and even though it does have a tendency to get lost in its own rules and baggage, there’s still plenty of tension and excitement to help carry this installment. Goku’s teammate selections for the Zen Exhibition Match hint at an encouraging direction for what’s to come and that the next few fights may be more unique than usual for the show. We still may be a little bit away from the actual Tournament of Power, but it sounds like this “practice round” won’t disappoint.
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, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.