Dragon Ball Super
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 114 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
There are only so many ways that I can describe an episode as being well written/directed/executed/whatever before those words lose their meaning, but what I'm ultimately trying to say is that some episodes of Dragon Ball Super have charisma and some don't. I was worried I was crazy for not being especially into last week's episode, but then we get an episode like this, and I'm reassured.
Even looking at the qualities this week's episode shares with last week's—namely the emphasis on Caulifla and Kale's team-up against Goku—there's a universe of difference. The art is much sharper and more detailed, and the physical weight sells the ferocity of the two-on-one battle without letting up. From head to toe this episode is a blast, finally letting the Saiyan girls of Universe 6 be killers on the battlefield without a single caveat. I don't think the words "Super Saiyan 3" are even muttered in this episode, and the show is better for it as we've got bigger fish to fry.
This is a case where Kale's Broly-like "Berserker" Super Saiyan keeps things interesting, because in the world of Saiyan transformations, it's an unknown quantity. We know where Super Saiyan 3 stacks in the current climate, but with a unique form, the story is free to do anything it wants. Even the meditating Jiren twitches as he senses her strength, so you know it's good. This also serves as a great moment for Caulifla to do what she does best: fawn over her awesomely strong protege. The beaming pride these two characters have for each other is infectious, and I'm grateful that they can push Goku into Super Saiyan God and give him a challenge that feels believable.
It's actually hard to keep up with all the elements in play here, because there's much more going on than usual with this show. Vegeta and Toppo's background fight continues to be entertaining, as does Frieza looming over the Saiyan foolery. But of course, there's a cherry on top. Similar to Goku's Ultra Instinct a few episodes ago, we're getting a major upset in the battle. Enter "Kefla", Caulifla and Kale's fusion counterpart who arrives just when we think Goku is having enough trouble. It's Caulifla's scrappy potential combined with whatever Kale's Berserker power might bring to the table. Design-wise, she pretty much just looks like Caulifla with a ponytail, but this episode did such a good job convincing me that the two were strong separated, so a fusion is a big deal.
This is as headstrong and sensational as Dragon Ball gets, but I think a story like this can handle just about any level of absurdity as long as it stays true to its characters. My least favorite stuff in this arc is when it feels like everybody's wasting their time sparring while the characters on the sidelines go "Wow! Cool!" The show doesn't have to tell us that something's cool in an episode like this. We can see it for ourselves.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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