This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super Episode 86
“Just being strong isn’t enough for this job…”
Some anime series like to keep it quaint and cozy with limited cast of characters, but Dragon Ball definitely doesn’t subscribe to that thought process. Between the various series in the franchise,Dragon Ball is a universe that is full of hundredsof important characters.
Accordingly, it’s quite easy to lose track of who’s met who, who’s beaten each other in battle, and if there’s any weird overlap between characters who have just never come in contact. While it seems like Goku and Android 17 would have squared off in battle during the infancy of the Cell Saga, Goku’s heart condition actually takes him out of commission before 18 and 17’s reign of android terror begins.
As Dragon Ball Z moved away from Androids, it seemed like these two would probably never encounter each other (unless you count Dragon Ball GT’s “Super 17 Saga,” which is problematic, but still has its moments), but Dragon Ball Super in another inspired act of fan service and continuity, brings back the forgotten Android in a very big way.
“First Time Exchanging Blows!” begins with Goku eager to add another android to Universe 7’s Tournament of Power roster. Goku’s determination to find Android 17 is admirable, but it’s also pretty funny that Goku is ready to recruit 17, even though he’s unsure if the guy’s programming still dictates that he’ll murder him. Dende assures the Saiyan that Android 17 has done a complete 180 in his behavior. The episode even features some flashbacks to Dragon Ball Z’s Cell and Buu Sagas to provide some context and show how far these characters have come since their earlier days.
Dende explains that after the events of the Cell Games, Android 17 started a family (three kids, two of which are adopted, by the way) and more or less retired from the professional martial arts game. He’s built a simple life for himself on a peaceful island where he looks after the ecosystem of a number of endangered animals. Besides the occasional poacher that shows up, 17 has found a relative life of leisure.
That being said, Dende still reiterates to Goku that Android 17 has drastically increased his power level during the interim time that’s passed after Cell’s invasion. You can practically hear Goku salivate at the news.
Dende pulls a bit of a Howl’s Moving Castle to put Kami’s Lookout in motion and help Goku reach Android 17’s coordinates. Initially, the episode becomes a bit of a vanity piece for Android 17 as it allows him to dispose of some poachers on his own and show off his abilities, rather than allow Goku to lend him a hand.
It’s also rather noble to see Android 17 so focused on protecting the endangered wildlife. “First Time Exchanging Blows!” really develops a strong character for this new take on Android 17. He’s still a badass renegade that can hold his own in battle, but he’s also one of the more human characters to come around in a while (which is pretty ironic since the guy is an android)
There’s a lot riding on the first battle between two titans and “First Time Exchanging Blows!” doesn’t half-ass it when it comes to Goku and 17’s battle. The two prove to be an even match for each other, even when Goku turns up the heat with Super Saiyan Blue. The choreography is above average as these two assault each other and leave no time for recovery. One particularly amazing sequence sees 17 repeatedly punching Goku in the stomach in succession, with each new blow hurling him further into the sky. There’s a lot to look at during this battle, but as exciting as the fight itself is, the aesthetics and backdrop to this showdown make it even richer.
This fight looks incredible, but the biggest asset here is the decision to have their match take place during a sunset. All of the lighting and color effects here make this battle especially powerful and all of the visuals just pop in what’s already a momentous showdown. So many moments see these two warriors backlit against the sun and it looks amazing.
The abundance of oranges and yellows in contrast to Goku’s Super Saiyan Blue aura just look amazing. There’s a moment where a dolphin dives to punctuate their brief break in battle and it’s some of the most gorgeous material Dragon Ball Super has ever produced. This fight eloquently incorporates the island’s wildlife and Android 17’s ideals into the presentation of the battle and it really works. This might easily be the most beautiful battle from the entire series. Please set every fight against a sunset or sunrise, from now on.
Goku and 17’s battle comes to a premature conclusion as they become concerned for the safety of the island and the animals that live there. In the end they both reveal they’ve still been holding back and haven’t shown off their true strength. That’s what next week’s episode is for. Post-battle there’s an interesting little final act that sees Goku and Android 17 connect as people as they talk about their families. It continues to humanize this “new” character and speaks to how important teamwork will be in this upcoming tournament. It’s understandably not as exciting as their fight, but it’s still entertaining material between these two.
Additionally, much like Android 17’s sister, he quickly sees through Goku’s subterfuge regarding the purpose of this tournament. 17 remains uninterested in Goku’s offer to join Universe 7’s team. He’s in no need of money and even when Goku opens up to him about the universe erasure clause he takes a very pragmatic response to how he also doesn’t care about that. 17 doesn’t want to participate in the Tournament of Power because it would mean leaving his island unprotected and even though Goku offers up Goten and Trunks’ services as an answer, 17’s refusal speaks to how seriously he takes his responsibility here.
Goku doesn’t get much time to refine his sales pitch, but it doesn’t seem like it really matters because there are about to be much bigger problems for Goku, Android 17, and the Minotaurus. Poachers are one thing, but now it’s time for space poachers (from space!) to touch down on Earth and set their sights on the endangered beasts’ rare horn. By the way, can we get a Pokemon crossover going on here where Ash and company try to catch these beasts and Goku and 17 need to take down some pocket monsters?
All in all, it’s just really great to just see Android 17 again and it’s long overdue to have Goku finally meet him and test his strength. There’s even some clever dialogue that addresses how Goku and 17 are able to instantly recognize each other even though they’ve never met before. Speaking of which, the series also makes its first reference to Uub, the reincarnation of Majin Buu, who becomes Goku’s pupil during Dragon Ball Z’s epilogue after the events of the 28thWorld Martial Arts Tournament.
It’s unlikely that Goku and Uub will actually meet in Super, since their first meeting appears to be during the events of Dragon Ball Z, but it’s appreciated to see Dragon Ball Super attempt to connect some dots and organically build to some of the events that that they know are on the horizon (like Uub’s appearance, Pan’s infancy, or Bulla’s birth). It’s mostly just a fun piece of fan service to freak out over in an episode that’s already pretty high on the fan service.
“First Time Exchanging Blows!” ends in a fairly unresolved place, but in spite of 17’s reluctance to join this tournament, the footage from the opening credits implies rather strongly that he’ll likely experience a change of heart during the next episode. There are definitely some pacing problems in the first half of the episode and while a leisurely approach isn’t always a bad thing, it feels like a tighter episode could accomplish all the same things and still have some extra time to let Goku and Android 17’s encounter breathe. However, this is really just a testament to the quality level of the episode’s content. This material is so entertaining that you don’t want it to end.
“First Time Exchanging Blows!” is a satisfying installment of Dragon Ball Super that’s high on action and while it does only feel like the first half of a two-episode story, it’s still a strong reintroduction to a fan favorite character.
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.