Dragon Ball Super
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 123 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
Dragon Ball Z always got compared to professional wrestling for obvious reasons. Not growing up with wrestling, I never personally made any meaningful connections between the two, but I have no doubt in my mind that the Tournament of Power is the peak of such similarities. We've got an audience watching from the sidelines, we've got certain match-ups that we're clamoring to watch, and I don't think we've ever seen the story take this much glee in bringing all that machismo together for a ride of pure entertainment.
So Vegeta has been knocked down, but it's only so that he can make his comeback even stronger by the end of the episode. In the meantime, all the other fights continue as they've been established, only with 17 starting to take Toppo on mano-a-mano, because he finds it irresponsible for he and Gohan to fight at the same time when they have no familiarity each other's fighting style. Elsewhere on the battlefield, it's back to Super Saiyan Blue Goku vs. Jiren. This fight continues to be crazy fun as it ranges from pure brawn to more strategic fighting with Goku using invisible energy mines and his own version of Krillin's Destructo Disc/Kienzan in creative ways. The use of strategy here is great, because it doesn't slow the action down, and it lets Goku remind us that he's always been a smart fighter, not just a strong one. I'm also all for Goku's liberal use of Instant Transmission in battle.
The adrenaline really kicks in during the second half of the fight, shortly after Jiren narrowly avoids falling out of bounds. Jiren starts glowing red, and it seems he's starting to get something out of this match-up. Whether that means he's taking it more seriously or if he's actually starting to have fun is a mystery with that stoic face of his, but you can't go wrong with this blood-pumping action and wailing electric guitars. Something that I think gets overlooked as an essential quality for Dragon Ball is its constant sense of escalation on any scale, and learning that the Jiren we've been fighting until this point has been holding back considerably brings that home in a simple but effective way. There's a point where Jiren punches so hard that the resulting wind just grazes Goku's cheek and forces him out of Super Saiyan Blue, because he was so taken aback by the force that he needed to take a breather. And of course, we're told that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Goku vs. Jiren is by far my favorite part of the episode, but the biggest draw for a lot of people will be finally seeing Vegeta unlock a new transformation. It's looking more and more like Ultra Instinct isn't in the cards for him, and in its place he unleashes a new unnamed version of Super Saiyan Blue that gives him sparkly diamond hair and makes him look like one of the gems from Land of the Lustrous. I was a little surprised by how hard the show was hitting Vegeta's desperation to resurrect Universe 6, since that always struck me as a kind of throwaway motivation that I was never quite sold on, but this means Vegeta's significance in the Tournament of Power has skyrocketed, so that's cool. I also like how between Vegeta's new hairdo and Goku's use of Kaio-ken, both characters get their own personal twist on Super Saiyan Blue with their own unique coloring.
Ever since the original Goku vs. Jiren episode, I was blown away by the rollercoaster that Dragon Ball Super was capable of delivering, leaving no doubt in my mind that the final battle with Universe 11 would be a sight to behold. I like how we're front-loading this climax with a lot of good Jiren stuff instead of waiting for Toppo and Dyspo to be defeated first, even though I'm sure the next few episodes will be all about them. As simple and dull as Jiren could potentially be, I still get a lot of mileage out of his fights. That sense of escalation is really important to me, and the fact that Super was able to create an antagonist who I sincerely believe is stronger than Goku and Vegeta is really cool. He's like an impenetrable wall who leaves you scratching your head, wondering how the heroes are going to win. This is a really good episode that delivers on the action. I'm truly invested in seeing how this finale plays out.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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