Dragon Ball Super
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 120 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
There are only three universes left in the Tournament of Power, so the climax of this arc is just on the horizon. Like last week, we spend most of this episode picking off less familiar characters, just to get them out of the way before the inevitable Jiren rematch. Thankfully, this week is a slim improvement over last week, swapping out the weak trickster theme with good old giant robots commanded by a mad scientist, who are extremely Toriyama in their designs.
One of my issues with the show's occasional attempt to replace traditional brawling with strategy is that it slows the action down, and it's hard to come up with good brain-based challenges that feel appropriate for our heroes who can move at lightning speeds and follow enemy movement with intuition. However, these robots can take hits well and fire all sorts of weaponry, giving our agile protagonists something sturdy to bounce off. The animation is back to being swift and powerful, giving the action a lot of life, though the fight with Universe 3 is ultimately still hard to get invested in. I was surprised to see that it's going to continue into next week, and I'm excited to see more of what's being teased in the next episode preview, but for now it's just a bunch of robots being robots.
The character getting the most attention this time around is Gohan, who's been perpetually stuck in an awkward spot as far as audience expectations go. There was once a time when he was the strongest character in the series, but I always preferred his nerdier side because it made the rare occasions when he got to be a badass more meaningful. I think expecting him to be the star of the show at any given point takes away from his charm, so his role in the tournament has mostly been a victim of the ten-man team idea, which requires the arc to load its cast with too many characters. His primary job this week is to buy time for Goku and Vegeta, who are constantly being drained by their Super Saiyan Blue forms. He makes the most sense in that role, but I don't need a whole episode about it.
This is a case where the episode itself is superfluous, making me wish that we could pick up the pace and get to the much more interesting stuff it's leading into, but overall it looks too nice to be called a total waste. Gohan and the Androids all get great looking fights, and the fact that the battle with Universe 3 spills over into the next episode helps make it feel a little bigger than the Universe 4 fight. You've got robots combining to become an even stronger robot, and you've got a mad scientist with a mysterious trick up his sleeve, so that's a little more interesting than invisible fighters and bugs.
One of the big weaknesses of this arc is that you're inevitably going to have episodes like this. Typical shonen arcs have all sorts of ways to vary the pacing thanks to plotting, but here the "plot" is all fighting. It's just alternating between exciting and unexciting fighting, and variation of any kind is still going to have the same general flavor. There have certainly been worse episodes focusing on the nobodies of the other universes, but that doesn't stop them from getting a little old.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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