Dragon Ball Super
Episode 131

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 131 of
Dragon Ball Super ?

There's been a noticeable disparity in writing quality between episodes in Dragon Ball Super, which is something I've been trying to grapple with in the Tournament of Power, because it really impacts how enjoyable I've found this show on a weekly basis. Even last week's episode, which was clearly pulling out all the stops in its fight animation, was weighed down by the undercooked story. But as I'm sure I've mentioned several times by this point, every now and then there's an episode that really clicks so well that even the dumb and cheesy ideas start to work.

In this case, said idea is the shallow attempt to give Jiren some pathos. It didn't work for me last week and I found myself wishing they had just committed to his stoic mystery, but this is one of those special episodes that does a phenomenal job of selling its ideas. Once again I'm at a loss for who to thank at Toei, but this episode is a perfect storm of writing and direction. Everything feels natural and earnest, with the show getting to end on a high note with an easy contender for one of my favorite episodes of the series.

Last week saw Goku recoiling from his Ultra Instinct, with Frieza and Android 17 stepping in to fend off Jiren for the final stretch of the tournament. While the action isn't at a constant eleven like it was last time, I think this episode manages to be even slicker. It's still beautiful and wonderfully choreographed, but the visuals are much more focused on story and emotion over raw spectacle. The balancing act that this finale plays when it comes to Frieza is everything I could have hoped for, where he musters plenty of arrogant slime while still being completely sincere in his role as a temporary good guy. I've been waiting patiently to see Frieza's recruitment in this tournament pay off, and even I wasn't prepared for how warm and fuzzy I would feel seeing him and Goku team up. I've been playing Frieza-fanboy this whole arc, and now I'm shook. They got me good.

The fight ends with Goku, Frieza, and Jiren all going out at once, leaving 17 the sole survivor in the ring. He's the one who gets to make the wish on the Super Dragon Balls and predictably, it's a wish to bring all of the deleted universes back to life. It's hardly a plot twist considering everybody in the audience assumed that's how this arc would end, but the episode succeeds in making it a sweet moment all the same, where we get to see all the fighters come back to life and return to their homes. There's also the mini-surprise of finding out that the Zen-Ohs expected the winner to selflessly spend his wish on others, and had he not they would have just deleted everything anyway.

I think this half-episode denouement is allowed some wiggle room since we know there's more Dragon Ball Super to come (with at least one movie), so the show gets to end optimistic and forward-facing, where we can expect to see characters like Jiren again in the future. Speaking of Jiren, the final moment we see between him and Toppo is also great! Even the themes and story threads I didn't like are good in this episode. I can embrace an open-ended finale like this because Dragon Ball is story that will never end. There's always going to be somebody stronger, and that's part of the fun.

I am just a pile of mush right now. Super is not always a great show (hell, it's not always a good show) since there's only so much you can do to truly capture the essence of this franchise while also fulfilling its broad commercial obligation, but I'm really feeling something special here at the end. All of the sentimentality works. I can't talk about a single thing in this episode without sounding sappy and easy to please, but I don't mind that being the case. Sometimes you look at a drawing of a character you love and think "Yeah! That's it. That's how that character's supposed to look," and there's something bizarrely comforting about that. I can say that literally about the art in this episode, but that feeling extends to every other facet as well. The writing, the animation, and the general tone are all right where I want them when it comes to Dragon Ball, and even when I've been able to enjoy those things individually throughout Super's run, this is the first time I've seen them all become pitch-perfect like this in years.

I love Dragon Ball.

Rating: A+

Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Sam Leach records about One Piece for The One Piece Podcast and you can find him on Twitter @LuckyChainsaw

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