This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 80
“Forget my opponent. I need to see how strong I am now.”
When a show delivers so many consecutive fights, it can sometimes be hard for them to stand out or feel original. That’s the inherit problem when the Dragon Ball series approaches a big tournament. Sure, the variety in the characters themselves allows for originality in battles, but Dragon Ball Super definitely adopted a certain tunnel vision with its characters. The series’ newest arc isn’t even in the real Tournament of Power yet so it would be a severe problem if fights were already beginning to feel stale, but “Awaken Your Dormant Fighting Spirit!” features a particularly fresh take on fisticuffs.
Gohan heads into the ring against the middle member of the Trio De Dangers, Lavendar. Majin Buu’s canine opponent, specialized in leg-based attack, but Lavendar specializes in a decidedly more deceitful style of attacks. Lavendar has the ability to infect people with a poisonous mist and even though something like this seems like it should prime grounds for disqualification, the Zenos love a good show. Lavendar doesn’t hold back with his secret weapon and immediately blinds Gohan with his Poison Blow. Shin quickly suggests that Gohan pop a Senzu Bean now that he’s aware of Lavendar’s power, but he nobly—and foolishly, for that matter—refuses the healing aid.
Gohan’s refusal of the Senzu may seem stubborn and misguided, but he actually has a plan here. Gohan’s blindness causes him to rely on his other senses and tap into his training from Old Kai. He turns this setback into an advantage as he adopts a Zen-like awareness to his fighting style. It may take a little time to get moving, but this certainly makes for a refreshing take on a fight. Without his sight, Gohan initially relies on the sound of Lavendar’s footsteps and movements to take down his opponent. As Lavendar smartens up to Gohan’s strategy, he begins to levitate and take himself off the ground so Gohan no longer has the advantage of sound on his side.
Gohan holds out as long as he can with this bare bones approach to his battle with Lavendar, but this latest development pushes him to finally turn into a Super Saiyan. That being said, Gohan doesn’t undergo this transformation for the power boost, but rather he cleverly bounces his upgraded ki against Lavendar to act as a radar of sorts. It’s a crude plan, but it works and Gohan is once again able to track his opponent. Gohan is sufficiently awesome here and it’s incredibly satisfying to see Gohan experience such a fulfilling, impressive victory and he does it all with his eyes closed, no less. It’s exactly the sort of thing Gohan fans were in need of. Even if Gohan clams up for the rest of these fights, he at least gets his time in the spotlight here and looks like a big shot in front of his friends and family. The only problem is Gohan’s transformation into a Super Saiyan causes the poison in his body to greatly accelerate its infection. Gohan may get in some strong attacks against Lavendar, but it’s not long before the poison’s power intensifies and the aggressive furry gains the upper hand.
It may start slow, but the conclusion of Gohan’s fight with Lavendar is actually unexpected and suspenseful as hell. It connects a whole lot better than if Gohan completely overpowered Lavendar and didn’t face any challenges in the final act of this battle. Gohan knows that he’s no match for this poison and that he has to do something fast, so his kamikaze attack on Lavendar is really the perfect play. It shows that Gohan is still skilled enough to think on the fly and pull out an effective surprise attack plan when necessary, even if it means that he has to sacrifice himself in the process.
It’s also surprising to see just how infected Gohan allows himself to become before he finally allows himself a Senzu to recover. He almost reaches the point of no return, but it’s all in the name of doing his best in battle and not looking like a pushover to Universe 7. He wants to prove that he can stand on the same ground as Goku, Vegeta, and hell, even Majin Buu. Gohan’s in need of redemption more than any of these other characters and while his fight is very much a mixed bag, he still gets a little closer to that goal. Plus, it’s incredibly sweet to see how invested Mr. Satan is in Gohan’s livelihood and the outcome of the battle. Satan comes along as Buu’s support system, but there’s a fun “My Two Dads” quality to the cheering section this week as Hercule and Goku are both deeply invested in Gohan’s performance. Universe 9’s Supreme Kai also makes his biggest impression yet here as he proudly encourages Lavendar’s underhanded tactics.
Gohan’s fight with Lavendar occupies the majority of the episode, but when their battle ends and there’s still a decent chunk of time left, the installment goes in an interesting direction. Rather than head right into the Zen Exhibition Match’s final showdown, the episode allows the Grand Minister to explain some of the finer details of the Tournament of Power. Apparently the Grand Zenos have been thinking for a while now that there are just too many universes out there and that there are a tad too many redundancies under their watch. When Goku came to them with the idea of the Tournament of Power, this clicked in as the perfect tool to trim the fat and do some multi-universal spring cleaning. Dragon Ball Super hasn’t shied away from the fact that this Tournament is Goku’s fault, but this fresh news really hammers in the dangers of his actions.
The Grand Minister explains that while the Zenos are eager to get rid of a number of universes via this tournament, there will also be some universes that will be exempt from erasure due to their “Mortal Levels” ranking above a 7. FYI, Universe 7 doesn’t even rank at a 4, despite having Goku and Vegeta, and they’re actually the second weakest universe of the lot, with only Universe 9 coming in below them. Universes 1, 5, 8, 12 will sit out the proceedings due to their immense strength (and you can practically hear Goku cringe over this news).
This breakdown is actually the Zenos’ attempt to do the weaker universes a favor by keeping the overpowered universes out of the running. It makes sense and it helps limit the sheer amount of fighters in this upcoming tournament to a more manageable amount. On top of that, as grim as this seems, Whis tries to accentuate the silver lining in this news. He explains the Zenos were going to eliminate all of the weaker universes anyway and the Tournament of Power at least allows one of the weaker universes the chance to escape erasure by winning.
It is also made clear that even the Gods of Destruction from the erased universes will also experience erasure (sorry Beerus), however the Angels remain exempt of this penalty. This rule likely won’t have greater significance in the larger scheme of Dragon Ball, but it will at least give Beerus and Champa more reasons to freak out and stress during the Tournament of Power. This is never a bad thing. Due to the playful, unexpected nature of the Zenos, there’s still the possibility that there could be more changes to the Tournament of Power’s playbook, but for now it feels like all of the red tape has been taken care of.
“Awaken Your Dormant Fighting Spirit!” is one of the better Gohan installments of Dragon Ball Super to come around and it still features plenty of room for the character to grow. It’s exciting to see Dragon Ball rely on other elements for one of their battles and hopefully this will be representative of what’s to come in the Tournament of Power. There are very few instances in the series where battles result in a tie and this feels like a case where Gohan and Lavendar are truly at comparable levels, even if they depend on an entirely different set of skills. It’s also appreciated to see that this episode doesn’t attempt to stretch out its fight and that it allows more to happen this week than simply another battle.
That being said, next week is when Goku steps into the ring against Bergamo and they better let that fight go on for as long as possible.
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.