Dragon Ball Super
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 78 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
I think the make-or-break quality of good shonen anime for me is that age-old desire to want to know what happens next. The cliffhanger for this episode is simple: a fight has begun and the episode ends just as things are about to get interesting. It's not even promising anything especially juicy, but the adrenaline hits at just the right moment. If I was marathoning this, I would have decided against taking a break and just watched the next episode already. There's a psychology behind long-running shows where an episode goes by much faster when you know it's just a small part of a bigger story, a feeling that I take for granted occasionally when this show isn't in the throes of a bigger arc.
So, confirming our suspicions based on the name "Universe Survival arc", it's revealed that this all-universe tournament is very much a matter of life and death. The winning universe's prize is to simply continue existing, while Zen-Oh, the closest thing we have to an omnipotent god in this series, plans to blink the rest out. Zen-Oh is presented as a happy, childlike figure (friends with Goku, no less), but the power he holds becomes more and more chilling as we're reminded that childishness has a potential dark side. Even Goku can't beg Zen-Oh to change his mind about that whole existence-erasing thing, lest he make the king of everything angry. This scenario feels like its making fun of all the times I complained about the show lacking compelling stakes.
However, the tournament itself isn't ready to start quite yet. Thanks to all the time travel hijinks during the finale of the Future Trunks arc, Zen-Oh has been hanging out with his own future self (or past self? I genuinely can't keep track), who is not familiar with what a martial arts tournament looks like. So a pre-tournament exhibition match is arranged between Universes 7 and 9, with each providing three fighters to compete. On our team, it's Goku, Gohan, and Buu. Universe 9, for which Supreme Kai and Kibito speculate a possible significance, is putting forth a trio of alien fox men. The first match rests on the shoulders of Buu, a character I'm ecstatic to see fighting alongside our heroes. Obviously, Buu is one of the strongest members of Team Good Guys, but we don't see him in combat all that often these days. The episode ends with Buu getting kicked around by his opponent, and then a mischievous smile implying that the pink blob-man is about to turn it up a notch.
Just as this mini-tournament serves as an exhibition before the real thing, these next few episodes serve that same role for the arc as a whole. This is a warm-up before we need our full team of ten to be in fighting shape, and it helps inform the rhythm of the arc to come. The stakes are already hanging over our heads, but this story is going to unfold in stages. We're in "Act One" of the Universe Survival arc, so to speak.
All in all, everything is looking pretty good right now. The circumstances are dramatic and interesting, and there's a distinct promise within the story to get a lot of mileage out of our colorful established characters. I love Buu and look forward to the role he plays moving forward, and seeing the likes of Beerus and Whis surrounded by the other Gods of Destruction and their assistants really hammers home how much bigger this world is capable of getting. Once again, even the gods of this series have something to lose.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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