Dragon Ball Super
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 75 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
It's tough being among the once indispensable human characters of the Dragon Ball cast. Unless you're a Saiyan or a literal god, no amount of superhuman strength will put you anywhere near the realm of helpfulness in the grand scheme of things. Krillin (or "Kuririn" if you're feeling saucy) stuck around as an essential character in the story for an impressively long time in the DBZ age, but he's pretty much a background extra these days. He doesn't mind so much, since he's still plenty strong enough to help out with his local police force, but even then, it's hard not to feel a little insecure when a Super Saiyan monster like Goku is your best friend, and your cyborg wife could fold your house several times over with her pinky.
Occasionally, Dragon Ball Super taps into something that's hard to describe. The Dragon Ball world is filled to the brim with a memorable cast of characters, all of whom interact with their world slightly different for one reason or another. It's easy for a status quo to set in, a pattern that all characters eventually fall back on with little significant change, but the show teases something a little bit more every now and then, and I find myself teetering back and forth on whether or not this show is actually scratching any itches for me. Even a little scene like Goku and Gohan (dressed as the Great Saiyaman) sparring manages to get a little something out of me. A scene like that is fun, because it acknowledges how different things used to be, when the gulf between Goku and Gohan's strength was not so big. I think that feeling of change is essential to what made the original series so engaging, and I keep crossing my fingers that we'll see further changes like that in Super yet.
That feeling of days past is hammered home further in this episode once Krillin's story kicks into gear. Goku is looking for a training partner, but everyone around him is either busy or uninterested. Krillin is waaaaaay below Goku's league at this point in the story, but he does find himself wanting to relive the days when the two of them could train and get stronger together. There is something bittersweet about the two of them returning to train under Roshi, and you get the contrast of just how unfair mother nature was in dealing out the growth spurts between them.
Krillin's main motivation to toughen up comes when No. 18 and their baby daughter, Marron, barrage Krillin with some weak-shaming comments in light of a bullet wound he received in his job as a police officer. (Because in this world, you can make your muscles so strong and dense that bullets bounce off of you. It's not about species differences, it's about a disciplined workout!) This scene comes off as surprisingly morbid and bizarre, as it paints Krillin's family as a pair of judgmental soul suckers. This is probably just a representation of Krillin's point of view of their off-hand comments, likely to get flipped in the follow-up episode with some kind of lighthearted "Aw, we love you no matter what!" scene, but for now it feels shockingly twisted. "Oh, you got shot? Wimp."
I really like this episode. Each of the sparring scenes (one with Gohan and one with Krillin) put the audience in the headspace of characters who have softened up in the years of peace, and the fact that Goku has only continued to multiply his power exponentially without them has a sobering effect. Everybody accepted a long time ago that Goku is living on an entirely different plane of existence in terms of strength, but the story cares about the weak characters too, so it's nice to see their feelings being taken seriously every once in a while.
This episode is kicking off yet another two-parter, which at this point is getting a little tiring. The pattern that I'm seeing with these pre-Universe Survival arc episodes is that we're getting strong ideas that take advantage of the larger cast of characters, but the attempts to wring two-episode story arcs out of them feels misguided. The need to have a beginning-middle-end story, complete with challenges for the characters to overcome, comes off as unnecessary and unconvincing. This episode ends with Goku and Krillin having to face off against the illusions of villains past, and this is where the thoughtfulness of the episode ends and the rote, paint-by-numbers filler writing takes over. All I want of these episodes is to give the support characters the spotlight for a moment and save the dramatic plotlines for the arcs that might actually have consequences.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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