This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 81
“Without his wish we could have lived in peace!”
In episode 77 of Dragon Ball Super, the first installment in the show’s “Tournament of Power” arc, Beerus tells Goku, “your naïve nature could be a menace to the universe,” in response to the Saiyan’s urge to get in touch with Grand Zeno. That sentiment was true then, but it truly blossoms in this installment, which sets Goku in its crosshairs. “Bergamo the Crusher Vs. Goku!” absolutely delivers on the concluding battle in the Zen Exhibition Match, but the episode’s most interesting quality is that it leans into the angle that Goku is the bad guy here.
Goku’s clueless, cavalier attitude has been reason for concern plenty of times in the past, but he’s never had an audience of this magnitude before. The Universe 7 crew may understand how Goku operates, but it’s pretty eye opening when the other universes not only view him as a pariah, but go as far as to call him a demon. Goku can handle himself in battle, but what makes this episode a success is that his real problem here can’t just be punched away.
“Bergamo the Crusher Vs. Goku!” works so well because it gives Bergamo enough attention to make him layered and not feel just like any other antagonist. The episode powerfully begins with Bergamo’s attempt to plea to the Grand Zenos’ sense of decency regarding the tournament’s harsh rules. Meanwhile, Goku zones out and goofs off just because he happens to be insanely strong. What’s so great about the beginning of this episode is that it briefly puts the audience in the heads of the less powerful universes and how they’re feeling though all of this.
In that sense, Bergamo is ostensibly the episode’s hero as he fights for non-erasure rights across the universe and Goku is the major obstacle. Bergamo is able to twist the Zenos’ hands and gets them to agree to the conditions that they’ll rescind their erasure policy if he can beat Goku. This is a solid premise to get caught up in and the episode properly thinks it all through.
The obvious answer here would be for Goku to just let Bergamo beat him here for the greater good, but the Zenos also wisely stipulate that if Goku doesn’t go all out in his fight against Bergamo then they’ll erase all the universes in retaliation. The result is still just a fight between Goku and Bergamo, but the episode finds a way to make this final Zen Exhibition Match carry some actual stakes.
Those that have a good recollection of Goku’s fight with Yakon back during Majin Buu’s incubation period may notice some similarities here with Bergamo. Both opponents rely on a strategy where their strength increases as they feed off of someone else’s energy and Goku uses the same plan of attack on them both where he overloads them with power and turns their strength into a weakness. The fight against Bergamo operates on a much a grander scale, both figuratively and literally.
Goku and Bergamo appear to be on fairly level ground when in their base forms, but then Goku rather foolishly plays right into (and continues to play into) Bergamo’s trap. Once Bergamo grows from his boost in strength, Goku turns thing up, becomes a Super Saiyan, and the fight’s tempo only continues to increase. As Bergamo gets stronger, he also gets larger and Goku takes advantage of the fighter’s increased amount of blind spots. This David and Goliath style fight could be interesting, but Goku eliminates Bergamo before he even has a chance to show what he can do.
Goku and Bergamo’s battle looks great and features a good mix of close-quarters combat and projectile energy attacks. In the end Goku not only has to resort to Kaio-Ken Blue to defeat Bergamo (something he’s only had to do a couple of times in the past), but he then launches a massive “God Kamehameha” to officially knock Bergamo down for the count.
The explosion of power that concludes the fight is beautiful to take in, but it’s fascinating to see the other universes terrified of this apocalyptic level of power. The display is set to a score that’s just slightly off-putting and it perfectly hints at how the other universes view Goku as a terror. What’s even worse is Goku follows this up by arrogantly addressing all of the other universes and basically says, “Oh, you hate me? Well fucking use that and come at me.” It’s a very interesting angle to take.
It’s really encouraging to see that Dragon Ball Super just as easily could have let Bergamo defeat Goku and reverse the whole erasure epidemic, but it doesn’t. It understands that this is the more challenging, unique approach for all of this. It’s exciting to see that the series gives Goku the opportunity to not be the villain as he heads into the Tournament of Power, but then doesn’t take it. Let’s hope that the tournament itself takes more risky decisions that are in this nature.
After Goku swiftly takes Bergamo to task in front of all of the other universes, the Grand Minister begins to break down the nitty-gritty elements of the upcoming Tournament of Power. The rules of the tournament will be pretty standard fare (no weapons, no killing, and no flight-based abilities), but the real highlight here is that the Tournament of Power will be a massive battle royale where all 80 fighters from the ten competing universes will be going at it at once.
Furthermore, the battle will restricted to a lean 48 minutes, which means that the next collection of episodes will likely be slowed down to reflect this time limit (think Goku and Frieza’s “five minutes” on Namek). Everyone is still coming to terms with this news when the mysterious figure from Universe 11, Top, appears to have had enough of Goku. Top jumps into the ring and challenges Goku to a real battle (sorry Bergamo), so it looks like there will be at least one more fight before Tournament of Power recruitment begins.
“Bergamo the Crusher Vs. Goku!” is a satisfying Dragon Ball Super installment, not just because it contains an impressive, concentrated fight, but for the creative place it leaves Goku and his reputation. “Bergamo the Crusher Vs. Goku!” works so much better than if this episode was split into two and let this fight breathe a little more. Goku will likely get his big fight with Top next week, so letting this entry explore the emotions of the other universes and the rules of the tournament is the right play. Dragon Ball Super has a lot of excitement on the horizon, so let’s hope that the Tournament of Power doesn’t waste this goodwill.
It’s not going to be easy, but hey, these guys have Gohan on their side! With Gohan helping out Universe 7 can achieve anything, right Goku?
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.