Episode 130 – “The Greatest Showdown of All Time! The Ultimate Survival Battle!!”
What follows a “Final” Transformation in Dragon Ball? A staredown. And commentary. “Ah, so that’s Ultra Instinct!”, “Well, we’ll see how he does against Full Power Jiren!”, “I wonder how this battle will conclude?”–thank you, minor characters, for tapping into the hive-mind and saving us from original thought!
The academic discourse hovering over the impending skirmish fades fast, however, and Toei catapults us into the series’ second-to-last episode with ki flurry fury. Super takes a page from the One Punch Man playbook, loosening up lines and emphasizing action with impressionistic attack animation–pure Dragon Ball hedonism and exactly what the Doctor (Slump) ordered.
The fight develops with unabashed unpredictability:
- Goku, freshly transformed, hammer-punches Jiren’s alien face.
- Jiren, perturbed by his thrashing, counter-transforms into Incredible Hulk Jiren.
- Incredible Hulk Jiren unleashes his Infinity Fire Blast Cannon and beats back Goku’s kamehameha.
- Goku (wait for it) survives, setting up the Battle to End All Battles: The Persistent Bastard vs. The Emotionless Bastard!
- The audience dangles over the abyss in heart-stopping suspense–who will emerge victorious? The Absent Minded Heat Lamp or the Grape Laffy Taffy of Justice?
Super excels when it keeps things simple, focusing on fights and flash. Unfortunately, Toriyama continues his penchant for baseless power-up rationales, appealing to Jiren’s fabricated traumatic past–The Memoirs of an Emotionless Bastard.
Unlike Toriyama’s previous excuses for baddy power-ups (i.e., “Guess it’s time to use 100% of my power” or “I absorbed your friends and now I’m unstoppable”), Jiren’s relies on a disingenuous facade of poignancy. To pour salt in the wound, the Justice Warrior’s transformation looks exactly like Toppo’s–Universe 11 must’ve attended some sort of Transformation Seminar in which they train themselves to elongate their torsos, incinerate their shirts, and grow extra rows of abs.
While the disqualified Z Warriors’ passionate expression of trust in their friend warms the heart (and leads to a montage nostalgia grenade), one can’t help but recall that Goku caused this whole mess by befriending Zenoh (against Beerus’ explicit instructions), asking the Supreme Child-Emperor of the Cosmos to organize the tournament (despite his knowledge of said Emperor’s habit of playing Ping-Pong-Planet-Boom-Boom when bored), and forcing every Universe to lose their entire population in a black hole of death for the sake of a good fight. Oh well! Water under the bridge–go get ‘em, Goku!
Episode 130’s second half straps the Drama Llama onto a Saturn V rocket and propels it into orbit. Jiren finds utility for his lack of dimensionality after all, evolving once more–this time into a Double Bastard (emotionless and ruthless), sending a flying murder disc into the stands to demonstrate the transitory nature of friendship. Goku retaliates with a swift and unforgiving torrent of retribution. Jiren apparently never watched the Freeza saga–hell hath no fury like a Goku scorned.
Here, a reviewer must pause and reflect back on his prior discussion of the “limits.” The limits–spat upon, double-crossed, and categorically molested–return to take their revenge on Goku. As Whis aptly summarizes, “The limit-breaking power of the gods… I didn’t think the toll would be this great.” Indeed, our hero falls to the Periwinkle Pal Hater and–
Toei one-ups itself in the animation department yet again–a satisfying barrage of bliss-bombs aimed straight for the feels-cavity. The Power of Friendship wins the day, upping the Dragon Ball fandom’s collective dopamine levels to unhealthy levels. Thanks to a few semi-surprises, Toriyama maintains suspense for next week’s finale. Despite the Creator’s tight grip on shounen clichés and conventions (most of which he invented), one anticipates Super’s end with sadness. After all, who will break the limits when Goku bids farewell?
And, please remember:
~ Don’t Shoot the Messenger