Universe 7 vs. Universe 11! Finally, the battle to decide the strongest begins! Which will be the last team standing?
1. The animation in this week’s episode is drastically superior to most of what we’ve seen for Super’s entire run. A far cry from when fans were pointing out all the off-model drawings, I’m not sure if the animators have simply grown accustomed to the work, if the extra time off allowed them to re-draw everything, or if they just decided this was too an important an episode to mess up. Whatever it is, they actually show off this episode: we get close ups of the rubble of this once beautiful tournament arena, effects of the wind on character’s hair, gloves…everything needed to amp up the tension that we’ve reached the final stage of this tournament. They’re really giving the ending to this the gravitas it deserves.
2. Much of this week’s episode is devoted to a showdown between Vegeta and Jiren, and entertaining a theory that fans have had about Super for several weeks now. During Goku’s battle against Kefla, Whis revealed that Goku was learning to master the defensive aspect of Ultra Instinct, but having trouble figuring out the offensive part. Since then, fans have been assuming that Vegeta would reach the attacking side of Ultra Instinct to place them on even ground again.
Honestly, I thought the theory was bunk from the beginning–it never works out like that for Vegeta. Whatever impressive power-up Goku might achieve, Vegeta gets it the arc after. That’s always been the rule, and Super’s shown no signs of shaking that up. Still, during this fight against Jiren they threw a tiny curve: Vegeta manages to perfectly dodge an onslaught of punches that Goku failed to avoid, and from then on puts a lot of pressure on Jiren, getting in quite a few blows. From there, Whis suggests that maybe Vegeta might be reaching UI as well.
The trouble is, Vegeta’s always “close” to a power-up. During his fight against Frieza, he powered up as much as a Saiyan could without reaching Super Saiyan, but ultimately died without achieving it. Against Cell he got “close” to the proper way to use Super Saiyan “Ascended” but really only made his muscles bigger while Goku figured out the cheat code. Being close and actually achieving it are two different things, but I appreciate them at least offering Vegeta fans some hope. If I had to guess, he does the damage he does because in the aftermath of the Goku Black arc he’s supposed to be stronger than Goku anyway after a year of training on his own.
3. This episode actually contains a lot of neat moments with the beginnings of the showdown against Universe 11. Gohan and Android 17 try their best to eliminate Toppo only to discover that he’s a candidate for being a god of destruction for a reason. Meanwhile Frieza goes up against Dyspo, who’s still somehow cocky even after Hit gave him more hands than the Blu-ray boxset of the Adams Family.
But surprisingly, Dyspo doesn’t just get wrecked right off the bat like you’d expect to happen to a one-trick pony. Instead, Frieza underestimates him, and winds up being fed several servings of concrete. I’m not mad about that–in the first place I’m tired of Frieza; he’s still Galactic Hitler and has shown zero signs of wanting to change or get better. Goku’s still playing around with him and Vegeta’s too busy trying to keep the universe alive to put him in his place, so if one of Universe 11 has to do it, so be it.
4. Hats off to the one true protagonist of Dragon Ball Super, Vegeta. That’s right I said it. Vegeta’s had by far the most interesting character growth than anyone else in the series. He started out as a haughty alien prince of a dead planet, but he’s suffered numerous defeats at the hands of heroes and villains alike. We got to watch him weep for his lost family and world during the Frieza Saga. We got to see him put his past behind him and get married and have a child with Bulma, the First Lady of DBZ. Some of his best moments have come from trying to protect those he loves–from when he finally decided to do the right thing and fight Majin Buu, to being the only one to actually do any damage to Beerus after he struck Bulma.
Even now, in this tournament, he’s fighting to win the Super Dragon Balls so he can wish back Universe 6. You can call it selfish because he wants to see a universe with a planet of Saiyans on it, but…is it? He just wants to see some version of his home again; is that wrong? Even this episode is important to his growth because it finally sees Vegeta acknowledges his pride. But rather than seeing it as something that holds him back, he recognizes it as an integral part of who he is and how he’s been able to come so far.
The show would have you believe that Goku’s desire to be strong for strength’s sake is more “pure” and this more protagonist like, but…only one of the pure-blood Saiyans in this tournament is actually trying to win it so he can wish his friend and student back, and protect his newborn daughter. And it’s not Goku. Yeah, ultimately the show will give Goku all the important plot moments, but the far more interesting character to follow is unquestionably Vegeta.
Still, despite giving Jiren his absolute best attempt with the most epic Final Flash I’ve seen since his fight against Cell…it’s all to no avail. Jiren is simply overwhelmingly powerful, and easily dispatches with the Saiyan Prince. But I wouldn’t count him out just yet–Goku didn’t pose a threat to Jiren until his ki was finally completely zero’d out.
5. Next Episode: Goku and Vegeta continue to battle against Vegeta, but all hope seems lost! Still, Vegeta manages to discover a power surpassing Super Saiyan Blue? What could it be?
It’s way too late for Vegeta to discover a brand-new power-up. As much as other shows have been fond of differentiating the abilities their characters get, that’s not how this is going to work here. The new hotness is Ultra Instinct. So expect this to be a form that grants a boost to keep up with Goku in Kaio-ken form but also one that we never see again after this battle is over with. There’s nine minutes left in the tournament, and roughly ten to twelve episodes left in the arc, so things will be winding down soon!
Dragon Ball Super is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.