Dragon Ball Super
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 64 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
Last week I was kind of lukewarm on Dragon Ball Super. I was still catching up, and I was never head over heels with the idea of a continuation of the Dragon Ball story to begin with. I thought Battle of Gods was a fantastic movie, but a lot of my hopes for the future of this series were dashed with Ressurection ‘F’, when I realized the writing standards for these kinds of things had not been raised as high as I would have liked. Super felt like it was offering a lot of the same, with nostalgia baiting stories that don't offer much in terms of substance or production quality. I spent a lot of time worrying that watching this show would ultimately feel like a chore, as opposed to something that I genuinely enjoyed as a fan of Dragon Ball.
I can now honestly say that my fear was misguided. Dragon Ball Super is awesome.
So in the story right now we're still dealing with the two Zamasus, with Goku taking on the immortal one and Vegeta taking on Goku Black. Vegeta's side of the fight has a pretty ordinary back and forth, with Black contemplating the power that anger has on a Saiyan body, summoning his own hatred for mortals to become stronger and more capable against Vegeta who was wiping the floor with him last episode. Goku can't do a whole lot against the other Zamasu because he's, you know, immortal, but there's a strategy being devised by Trunks and Bulma to use the Mafuba (“Evil Containment Wave”), the technique seen back during the Piccolo arcs of the original Dragon Ball, to capture him for good.
The two biggest takeaways from the first half of this episode are that a.) this show has really fantastic music, and b.) this show is legitimately very funny. The scenes where Bulma is trying to teach Trunks the Containment Wave by vaguely remember the poses, and later the scene where Bulma is trying to flirt with Zamasu as her big heroic sacrifice to save time both got big laughs out of me, but going through the backlog of the Future Trunks arc has quite a few gems as well.
So far, I find Zamasu to be a surprisingly compelling villain as well. Dragon Ball has power creeped itself to the point where the only viable opponents for our heroes are gods, but for a "species" that should leave a character with little room for nuance, Zamasu is delightfully motivated. His opinions on mortals are some pretty comic book-ish good vs. evil stuff, but man does he feel it. There's a sense of arrogance and, ultimately, insecurity that drives him to some pretty interesting places. Seeing him use anger for a Saiyan-style power up comes across as crazy snobby, but it leaves him with a great dynamic between himself and mortal characters.
It's true that there seems to be a lot of nostalgia pandering in this show, with the likes of Future Trunks returning and old classic techniques like the Mafuba being key to the plot, but I think a part of the show's soul exists within that shamelessness. In true Toei fashion, the name of this episode is “Revere him! Praise him! Fusion Zamasu's Explosive Birth!”, literally spoiling the cliffhanger twist that takes place in the last minute of the episode. The explanation for why Toei might would do this is to be sensational and draw in the kids who don't care about how naked and spoiler-y that is. They're happy knowing that a Cool Thing is going happen in the episode and they want to see it with their own eyes. They don't care if it's kept as a surprise or not.
And I remember being that kid who didn't care! So much of my Dragon Ball experience as a kid was knowing the whole story through research and word-of-mouth, then looking up the episode titles and counting down until the day that “the Vegeto episode” or whatever would air on Toonami. (Also, all things considered, there's a 99.99% chance we'll be seeing Vegeto again in the future and I am so hyped). The deeper I get into this Future Trunks/Goku Black arc, the more that these trappings start to feel smarter and more crucial to the experience than I probably would have thought otherwise.
As of writing this, I'm pretty close to caught up on this arc and I can honestly say that the preceding marathon was some of the most genuine fun I've had watching an anime in a long time. I don't think I could have enjoyed myself quite as much if I had been watching it weekly, or even if I didn't have this week's episode to really bring my appreciation of the show into its final form, but I'm grateful that I've gotten to have this experience nonetheless, because this is some true-blue authentic shonen junk food. It's not as slow as the original DBZ anime, but it's also very deliberately paced so that you only feel like a tiny step is made in the story each episode, with the cliffhangers, openings and endings smoothing the transition between episodes so comfortably that you can't help but watch more than you intended to.
And that's so key to the experience of a show like this. Between marathoning Dragon Ball Super and One Piece (and I should say that the Toei Power Hour is something I now very much look forward to every week), I found myself sprawled on the couch in the late afternoon, drinking soda and making myself popcorn while geeking out about the newest happenings with my friends when I realized, “Whoa! This is it! This is how this is supposed to feel.” and I had kind of thought that experience was behind me in life. When you're watching these shows week to week, tasked with thinking about them and critiquing them, you get caught up in the details like animation quality and pacing, but it's easy to forget how quickly those things drift away once you're immersed in the story and you're just hungry to see what happens next. There's a very specific experience that only shows like this can deliver.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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