This Dragon Ball Super review contains spoilers.
Dragon Ball Super: Season 3, Episode 18
“I don’t just look like you. I took all of your powers, too. So, I’m Vegeta now!”
“Menace of the Duplicate Vegeta” is a disappointing entry from a disappointing mini-saga. There’s no better way to put it. It’s almost as if Dragon Ball Super knows that this episode jerks fans around and wastes their time so it throws in some Super Saiyan 3 Gotenks as a knee-jerk panic move to earn goodwill. This episode can’t suck if it features a fight between Super Saiyan 3 Gotenks and Vegeta, right? Yes. Yes, it can.
The episode kicks off immediately after the disastrous events of the previous installment’s conclusion. Not only is the Superhuman Water now in control of “Cloned Vegeta,” but the actual Vegeta is also completely powerless and unable to attack as a result. This puts the gang in flee mode as they try to figure out the best plan of action. Matters take a turn for the worse when they learn that if they don’t defeat this water clone version of Vegeta quickly enough, then he’ll completely replace the original one. This is because he’s also copied Vegeta’s “spirit” in addition to everything else about him. This adds a decent amount of urgency to Goten and Trunks’ struggle, but their efforts still come up short in the end.
While this filler saga definitely has a marred reputation within the Dragon Ball fan base, Funimation’s dub actually makes a rather brilliant decision that makes this detour a whole lot more fun. This episode doesn’t just feature an enraged Cloned Vegeta, but the episode goes as far as to recruit Brian Drummond, Vegeta’s original dub voice actor, to play the role.
This is an inspired decision that pays so much respect to the history of Dragon Ball and acts as a strong indicator of how much Funimation has grown as a company since their inception. This small difference between the original Japanese version of the episode and its dub doesn’t completely redeem the installment, but it’s an easy way to make an unimportant episode feel special. It’s also just great to hear Christopher Sabat and Brian Drummond trade off Vegeta barbs with each other.
This episode also fleshes out the lore of its villain in some interesting ways. That fidgety purple liquid is actually much more than that and in fact, a living sentient organism known as Komeson. This makes my allusion from last week about the Super Water’s resemblance to Venom’s symbiote actually pretty on point. Superhuman Water is just one of the many monikers that Komeson has gained through its numerous attempts to ravage the universe.
Last episode’s conclusion did a respectable job at establishing a very real threat as it headed into this installment. That’s why it’s even more frustrating to see that this episode mostly placates that opportunity, only to prolong the results to next week’s entry. I complained before that this whole Superhuman Water mini-arc is especially wasteful in its time management and it’s most apparent in “Vegeta Disappears!?” There’s just a whole lot of running around in this one as Goten and Trunks manage to illustrate how helpless they are here until Goku can arrive and bail them out of trouble. Sound familiar?
That’s right, once the gang on Pot-au-feu continue to make little headway against Cloned Vegeta, Goku happens to reach full strength on King Kai’s planet and senses their danger. Goku uses instant transmission and shows up on the planet in the nick of time. The guy seems particularly jazzed at the prospect of squaring off against an evil Vegeta and if he doesn’t act soon, there won’t be any Vegetas left for him to bicker and compete against. The two get a few blows in, but it’s all just a tease for the full battle that will follow next episode.
Not only is Goku’s arrival as the last minute trump card not new territory for the show, but it’s also a little condescending to Goten and Trunks. Sure, they’re still children and the whole point of this filler arc is to teach them a lesson about responsibility and maturity, but couldn’t Goku show up and see that Goten and Trunks have completely neutralized the threat (Besides, I’m pretty certain that a Super Saiyan 3 fusion could take out Cloned Vegeta anyway)? Then maybe the next episode lets Goku help the gang handle a new threat with the Super Water.
In fact, these episodes would all be a lot more interesting if Goku and Vegeta swapped roles. It makes a lot more sense for Goku to let his guard down and get absorbed by the Superhuman Water than it does for it to happen to Vegeta. Plus, isn’t an evil Goku clone more fun than one of Vegeta? Again, this collection of three episodes isn’t a complete misfire, but it’s frustrating to realize how very minor adjustments could have given it a lot more poignancy in the end.
I’m being pretty critical here, but there are no doubt other Dragon Ball fans that will be even harsher about these installments. On a purely aesthetic level, there’s also just something off about the way that the Super Water’s clones appear. The whole episode is about as close as Dragon Ball ever gets to the tentacle porn niche of anime. It’s upsetting to say the least and thank God Bulma’s not on the planet for this.
Once more, modest expectations from the jump make “Menace of the Duplicate Vegeta” and its accompanying episodes a whole lot more palatable. They may be pointless, but there’s still a bunch of fun to be had in this one, like Cloned Vegeta running through a greatest hits of Vegeta’s attacks and Jaco’s oblivious efforts to stay alive through all of this. In fact, Jaco steps into the role of de facto leader through this adventure until Goku shows up and it makes for an entertaining change of pace. Plus, an appearance from Gotenks and his ridiculous moveset is always pretty damn great, even if it doesn’t amount to much here.
Before Goku and Vegeta engage in combat, Goku boasts, “A serious fight to the death against Vegeta. Now that’s gonna be fun.” These post-tournament episodes have been duds up until now, but it’s hard to argue with Goku there. Next episode is the end of all of this Planet Pot-au-feu madness and then greatness can truly begin. Once these water clones are a thing of the past, the future will look rather bright.
…P.S. That’s a hint.