Dragon Ball Super Episode 130
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 130 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
Alright, this is it, folks. We are officially in the proper climax of Dragon Ball Super as Goku masters his Ultra Instinct and goes toe-to-toe with Jiren at his strongest. Right away, this episode is front-loaded with some of the most incredible fight animation I've ever seen. The drawings are loose and fluid, and there's emphasis on choreography ranging from the usual flurries to something a lot more interesting and creative. There have been plenty of highlights throughout this arc, and Toei delivers in making sure this finale is the best of the bunch. The content of the episode almost doesn't matter, because the execution is such a show stopper.
As far as pure fist-pumping satisfaction goes, I think Ultra Instinct's original debut will still end up being more memorable for me, if only because it was such a great surprise that completely changed how I engaged with the Tournament of Power. There is no shortage of ways to nitpick the quality of the story (and I will in a second), but what Dragon Ball Super has given me in the past few months is an incomparable community experience. I've had a blast freaking out with fellow fans over the big moments, and I can't think of another show that's been able to tap into feelings like that with the regularity and intensity of this series. I'll be sad when it finally has to end, because it became such a reliable source of entertainment week-to-week.
My first actual issue with this episode comes with the premise itself. Now that Goku has fully powered up, he and Jiren are close to equal in power, which affects the dynamic they've had until this point. It turns out that I find Jiren significantly more entertaining when he's just a stoic brick wall compared to how emotional and angry he gets here. A major element of this episode is drawing on Jiren's tragic backstory, which doesn't work any better now than it did a few episodes ago. We contrast Goku's relationship with strength, where he uses his love of his friends as a source of power, against Jiren who gave up on interpersonal relationships in favor of growing stronger. It's similar to the comparison the show tried to draw between Vegeta and Toppo, and I still think it's an extremely weak grasp at an emotional through-line.
We also finally get our answer to the question, "What the heck is up with Frieza?!" It turns out that they weren't simply trying to trick us into thinking he was out of the fight, but rather getting us to keep him in the back of our minds so that we're not expecting the follow-up twist that Android 17 is alive. So when Goku's Ultra Instinct starts to fail again, Universe 7 has two back-up fighters to keep Jiren at bay. I have mixed feelings about this twist, to say the least. At the very last moment of the episode, 17 just pops out of the rubble like it's no big deal and is all "Don't worry, guys! I'm doing okay!" It happened so fast that I couldn't believe I was really seeing it. I guess it's kind of cool to have the two most fringe recruits on the team (two former villains, no less) being the ace up Goku's sleeve, but the cop-out on the major character death sure isn't.
It wouldn't be Dragon Ball without a big One More Thing to keep the fight from finally ending. Before Goku's power wears out, it seems that he has Jiren officially beat, only suffering from the recoil of Ultra Instinct once he has to make the final blow to knock his opponent out of the ring. In his final moments, Jiren appears willing to concede defeat, and this last second upset has him conflicted. Next week's episode will have the unenviable task of covering the final moments of the tournament, as well as whatever falling action the staff has planned for us. Seems like it's going to be pretty cramped.
This is a wild episode, warts and all. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this is among the best animation we might ever see for the franchise, and as a big crowd-pleasing battle, I couldn't have asked for more. It's crazy to look back at how lukewarm I was on this show for not living up to what Toriyama's manga meant to me, but the Tournament of Power arc really became its own thing and engaged its massive audience in a way that I can only respect. It's pulpy, arguably pretty shallow, but a fantastic rollercoaster all the same. It's been fun.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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