Earth! Gohan! A Desperate Situation! Hurry Back Son Gokū!
With Gohan down for the count and Piccolo almost certainly dead, Frieza’s assault on the world’s assembled warriors has been swift and brutal. As the evil galactic emperor closes in for the kill, the only ones who could possibly stop him, Goku and Vegeta, are nowhere to be seen.
Spoilers from this point onward:
With Episode 22 of Dragon Ball Super being one of the more violent installments of the entire Dragon Ball franchise, there was always going to be an air of expectation surrounding this latest outing. While Episode 23 doesn’t have anywhere near as much action or brutality as its precursor, there is still plenty to take note of. A significant chunk of the episode focuses on Frieza’s gloating and grandstanding, still furious that he had to endure existence in Earth’s teddy bear-ridden hell. Like a cat playing with a mouse, he toys with the critically injured Gohan and ponders how wonderful it will be when Goku returns to find that all of his friends and family have been killed. Being defeated so easily has clearly taken its toll on Gohan, who blames himself for Piccolo’s death. While Krillin explains to him that there is no shame in sacrificing training for a family life, Gohan is still furious with himself for letting his power level decrease so much (bear in mind that he was once the most powerful of all the Z-fighters).
In one last act of defiance, Gohan transforms into a Super Saiyan, even though his body clearly can’t handle the strain – it feels like a while since we were properly shown the toll changing into a more powerful form actually takes. The resulting spike in power (nothing boosts your power level quite like seeing a life-long comrade being killed in cold blood) alerts Goku who had up until then been annoying Beerus by eating all of his pizza. Goku locks onto Gohan’s ki and uses instant transmission to bring both himself and Vegeta to the battlefield where Frieza waits. Curiously, Frieza has seen the instant transmission technique before and does not seem all that concerned by Goku’s fantastic ability. While Frieza has never been seen using instant transmission before, his remarks certainly imply that he can (or perhaps was too arrogant to learn it, seeing it as superfluous to his skill set).
With Goku and Vegeta back on Earth, we quickly see their wildly differing personalities, despite their seeming willingness to work together on Beerus’ planet. While Goku is quick to show compassion, ensuring that Gohan can be rescued and making sure that Piccolo can be revived by the Dragon Balls (thereby making his sacrifice in the last episode somewhat meaningless), Vegeta has other things on his mind. Granted, he does send Trunks away to safety by means of scaring him with a very epic thousand yard stare, but he shows us the cold, calculating part of his character which has made him such a good anti-hero down through the years. He vaporises Captain Ginyu/Tagoma without much thought (where’s your “body of steel” now!?). When Goku berates him for his needless act of killing, Vegeta callously explains that it was just simpler this way, as Ginyu was standing between them and Frieza.
Speaking of callous, in an act of over the top villainy, Frieza annihilates his soldiers to a man (only Sorbet survives) whilst powering up to his ‘final form’ (but not the “long awaited for 100%”) as seen in Dragon Ball Z. What follows is a bit strange. While Goku is shocked at how strong Frieza has become, but insists that he doesn’t need to transform into a Super Saiyan in order to take him on, which seems a tad contradictory when you see it play out. Much like in the Resurrection ‘F’ DBZ movie, the two will start their battle holding a little bit of something special in reserve. Unlike in the film though, a good reason as to why Goku, and not Vegeta, gets to fight Frieza is given; in taking out Captain Ginyu, Vegeta essentially used up his ‘turn’. As the two hyper-powered combatants prepare for their slugfest, we see something that we have never seen before; Frieza adopts an actual fighting stance. While this, on the face of it, looks a minor detail, it has big implications. He used to just slap his opponents around without thinking about it too much. Now though, after actually getting some training under his proverbial belt, he looks to be a proper warrior as opposed to some guy who just happened to be much stronger than everyone else.
In summary Episode 23 of Dragon Ball Super was pretty good overall, with some pretty nice touches and character moments. However, it is not without its flaws. Most notably, Piccolo’s death in the last episode has now lost pretty much all of its impact now that we know he can be revived. There is also the unavoidable fact that the episode’s animation is quite sloppy in places, bringing back memories of the critically maligned Episode 5. Vegeta in particular has not fared well in this department. He looks positively pudgy looking in a lot of scenes. Perhaps he had too much pizza and not enough training while on Lord Beerus’ planet?
Next week’s episode is where things look likely to really kick off, with Goku and Frieza’s battle beginning in earnest. Will it last anywhere near as long as the epic fight they had on Namek back in Dragon Ball Z? That lasted 4 hours…
[Image: Anime Arts]