Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Dragon Ball Super: Universe Survival Saga: Tournament of Power Exhibition Matches [Episodes 77 - 82]

The Universe Survival Saga spans many, many episodes, and is by far the longest arc in Dragon Ball Super. And it's easily divided into multiple parts, and the first 18 or so episodes can be easily called a buildup arc of its own, which I'll cover here.

We get a new opening, we get a long-running (and as of the moment of writing, still-running) mega-arc instead of the seasonal ones that the Future Trunks, Beerus and Frieza arcs have been, and as of this point, we've exceeded the amount of episodes that the original 'sequel' anime series, Dragon Ball GT, had, and fast approaching the amount of the original Dragon Ball has. (We still have a long way to go before we top Dragon Ball Z's mammoth 291, though)

And such a huge arc, as in true Dragon Ball fashion, ends up with a fuckton of buildup, and a fuckton of controversy around the writing of Goku's character. For the Universal Survival Saga, we'll go on a more episode-to-episode basis, because it ends up being actually far more episodic and serialized at the same time.

Without further ado...

Episode 77: Burning off the stream of smaller arcs (I so detest using the term 'filler' for the very entertaining Krillin, Saiyaman and Hit mini-arcs) we start off with this episode, which opens with... the two Zen'o playing marbles with planets, and the off-hand cosmic horror revelation that they've blown up 202 planets. Which universe is this? What? And boredom seems to be the theme for this episode. Where the Zen'o's are bored, Goku is also bored. He's going through his life, selling the vegetables he's been farming all series long, and we get a love-letter to one of the first fight scenes in DBZ with Goku manhandling a bunch of robbers the way that his long-dead-and-often-forgotten brother Raditz did, only with less fatalities. However, a bullet grazed him, and he notes that just like Krillin did in the previous two-parter, he, too, has gone rusty. He goes off to meet Whis and Beerus, and after a bunch of conversations... he ends up using the button to go to meet Zen'o and remind him of the tournament.

It's so much like Goku, although his sheer blatant ignorance and defiance of Beerus is going to be something that Goku and the Dragon Ball writers will have to deal with for the remainder of the arc. Zen'o (who has completely forgotten) and the Grand Priest decide to do it, and to summon all twelve universes to them. It's a neat little buildup episode, and we get the nice, subtle hint that Beerus, despite his threat to hakai Goku the same way he did Zamasu, doesn't actually have the heart to do it, showing that they do have developed a friendship of sorts. We also get the revelation that Bulma is pregnant with Bulla (or Bra, if we're using the proper and cringey romanization), and some neat scenes with Goten bonding with Goku.

Episode 78: We get to see all the Supreme Kais, Gods of Destruction and the Angels of all 12 universes, and they're... they're cool and well-designed! We've got an elephant god, Tails from Sonic all grown up, Joker and Harley Quinn, a walking ball of fur with eyes, the monster from black lagoon... and is that a robot? None of these end up mattering all that much, especially the angels, but the sheer cacophony of insane designs makes this scene a treat. I can talk about how other anime shows handle the introduction of large amounts of characters at the same time, but DBS is actually doing a neat job. Obviously we're already familiar with universes 6 and 7, plus Gowasu of 10, but grouping characters in roles and sets and making the designs of the gods of destruction as vibrant and distinct as possible makes it a neat shortcut to accepting this potentially overwhelming amount of characters... and it's going to get even more overwhelming with each universe supplying 10 warriors each. While obviously not all of them are going to be prominent and some are just going to be jobbers, it's still quite decent the way that they organize each universe into their own 'themes' and introduce them gradually.

The Zen'o's and the Grand Priest tell the shocked masses of the Tournament of Power, which is going to be held in the World of Void, and that the winner of the tournament is going to get a wish on the Super Dragon Balls... and 'nothing'. Which is to say, Zen'o will destroy all the other universes that lose, and the little buggers note this with the same innocent detachment that they do everything else in their life. And while everyone is still in a state of shock (and Beerus personally blames Goku -- with very good reason) the Future Zen'o, being absent during the Universe 6 Tournament, asks for an exhibition match between Universe 7 and 9 -- a three-on-three, which is going to be the genesis of the first mini-arc of the saga. One of the big complaints I have about this is that, while it's true that Goku doesn't know how far Zen'o is willing to go in his flippant attitude towards universal genocide, Goku doesn't act guilty or horrified. His tone throughout all this and how Shin and Beerus berates him amounts to "oh well, it's a fight and I wanna fight strong guys!" It's very much acceptable and in-character for Goku to be obsessed with his fighty-fight mentality and carefree "ohai Zen-chan" attitude accidentally trigger the insanity that the universal-erasure clause is going to grant (although just as most Dragon Ball arcs the fact that the whole series is built around plot devices used to return people from the dead 90% of the time does make the tension somewhat non-existent), the fact that Goku doesn't feel or look guilty at all makes things fall a bit short. Again, while we'll get the revelation that Goku isn't villainous, an admission of guilt or horror would've definitely gone a long way.

Anyway, this episode mostly deals with recruitment. Vegeta refuses to go because Bulma is giving birth, and Goku ends up recruiting Gohan and Majin Buu (Mr. Satan tags along). Gohan's recruitment is pretty neat and helps to wrap up the slow and gradual development he's been getting throughout Super, and so far only these handful of characters know about the universal erasure clause. The episode ends with a huge, elaborate scene of all the gods arriving on the world of void, and Goku continuing to be carefree towards Zen-chan, and ends up being painted as the villain -- or as the heel, to use a wrestling term -- as being the one who suggested the Tournament of Power to Zen'o.

And their enemy is Universe 9 -- led by their god of destruction Seadra Sidra (a dude with mustache, perhaps the most boring god of destruction), their supreme kai Roh (a douchebag who spends most of the arc antagonizing our heroes) and their three champions, the hilariously-named Trio De Dangers, a trio of wolf-men. The pretty dense episode 78 ends with Buu fighting against the red wolf, Basil, after a bit of a short mini-heart-attack as Buu appears to have fallen asleep again. Thank god for Mr. Satan and his supply of chocolates.

Episode 79: It's just the fight between Majin Buu and Basil, and the Universe 9 wolf-man is just... well, he just kicks and kicks and shoots hadokens out of his feet. Roh's a pretty hilarious and hammy bastard, and I do like him. Of course, Buu, having spent the entirety of the previous episode being beaten up, is none worse for the wear. Trust me -- I sat through the Buu Saga. The mochi-devil-genie-man is indestructible... and because Goku and Satan told him to 'play', Buu thinks it's all just a game, even when Basil powers up with a random berry, and he's just bouncing around, happily acting with a hole in his chest... until Basil's blast causes a chunk of rubble to hit Mr. Satan. Buu's instinct is to go help Satan (awww) but Satan tells him to finish the fight. Which causes Buu to open his eyes and, well, we all know what happens when Buu takes an interest in something: complete smackdown! "You're strong... but I'm even stronger!" It's been one of the simultaneously most badass and most irritatingly overused catchphrases Buu has back in DBZ, but rooting for Buu this time around is really an amazing feeling as Buu unleashes a Majin Kamehameha that completely blows up Basil. No deaths, though -- it's a tournament. That's 1-0 for our guys, although I did feel that the Universe 9 wolf-men ended up being very one-note.

AnimeEpisode 80: Gohan vesus Lavender, this time around, with Lavender being the short, rabid-looking scrawny orange bastard. And Lavender is just a psychotic animal, charging around and cackling like a hyena. I do like this fight as well, although again, it does feel pretty one-note. Lavender's whole shtick is combining the fact that apparently Universe 9 wolf-people doesn't have a detectable ki level, and then he blinds Gohan with a purple poison mist-aura thing. Everyone wants to give Gohan a Senzu bean, but Goku and Gohan treats this as a training more so than anything. It's time to show off how much Gohan improved after being a jobber throughout the first two arcs of Super, right? Not exactly... but at the same time, yes. See, Gohan doesn't actually win the battle, but gets a draw. But on the other hand, he shows off that he is intelligent and battle-hardened enough to dodge all of the subsequent attacks from Lavender while blind, unleashes his Super Saiyan form, we get a good old-fashioned beam struggle, and Gohan actually knocks out Lavender with a wrestling move (did he learn it from Mr. Satan?)... but the poison gets spread too fast by the Super Saiyan form. Shame about that, but while I was pretty disappointed in Gohan drawing against an honestly unimpressive warrior (seriously, none of the wolf-men from Universe 9 felt like a threat) it at least allowed him to show off his skills, as well as lead to an eventual training sequence with Piccolo and Goku a couple of episodes down the line.

This episode also has the Grand Priest interrupt the proceedings to confirm the rules of the Tournament of Power, again reiterating that losing universes are destroyed. He also tells us that the Tournament of Power is just an entertaining way for the Zen'o's to destroy the universes with an 'average mortal level' lower than 7. Which means that the twin universes 1 and 12, as well as 5 and 8, are exempt from the Tournament of Power. Apparently Universe 9's average mortal level is the lowest at 1.86, and Universe 7 is at 3.18. With Beerus, Majin Buu and Frieza blowing up planets wily-nily, it kinda makes sense that the mortal levels in our universe is pretty low. Whis actually calls out Beerus on sleeping most of the time as why the mortal level is low, and Beerus lays the blame on the very passive "let mortals develop on their own pace" Shin. Of course, this sort of makes Goku's fuck-up more tolerable since this way one of the universes that are going to be wiped out has the potential to survive... but at the same time, it's caused by dumb luck and provocating the Zen'o's is a dumb-shit move in the first place. Oh, and we get the big revelation that... the angels don't get erased with their respective universes, but the gods do. Huh.

U9charactersTOP (2)Episode 81: The final match in the exhibition between universes 7 and 9 is Goku versus MachGaogamon. I mean Bergamo. Bergamo paints Goku as, well, a villain and a heel, working up the crowd. They can't blame Zen'o, but they can very well fucking blame Goku, and Bergamo paints Goku as a villain who wants to break the peace between the universes and doom the world, and then asks Zen'o to rescind the rule if Bergamo wins... and Zen'o says that, sure, why not... but threatens to erase universe 7 if Goku doesn't give it his all. Again, while Goku fighting seriously and beating Bergamo isn't something that is a surprise and definitely expected, the lack of guilt on Goku's behaviour kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Bergamo's ability is apparently taking hits and absorbing the force and becomes bigger and stronger the more he is hit. Which is neat and all, but it ends up being kind of a boring fight compared to the tenser Gohan-vs-Lavender or Buu-vs-Basil battles. Goku pulls off a Super Saiyan Blue/Kaioken combo and just beam-struggles with Bergamo to victory. All the whole "oh my god he has the power of a god" surprises all the gods of destruction present, and the Tournament of Power is, of course, still on.

The Grand Priest then tells the rules of the tournament -- each universe will supply 10 fighters each, and no killing is allowed. It's a survival match and victory is gained by knocking opponents off the ring. Weapons and flight are prohibited, and the match will run for 48 minutes. Which, in Dragon-Ball land, probably will last like 3 years or some shit. And as teh Grand Priest is about to dismiss everyone present... a dude from Universe 11, who was cloaked throughout the entire exhibition match, jumps onto the ring and challenges Goku...

Screenshot 2017-08-07-17-26-45Episode 82: And the dude is Toppo, which feels so much cooler and Dragon Ball-y er than the silly wolf-people. Toppo is a giant man with giant arms and a walrus-esque mustache, and he introduces himself as a "God of Destruction Candidate", apparently being in training to succeed Belmod, the clown-esque god of destruction, as a god of destruction. He is a member of the Pride Troopers, a superhero team (!) in his universe, and he will not stand by while a villain like Goku wreaks havoc. So while the Trio des Dangers are there to show off that Goku, Gohan and Buu are badasses, Toppo is the Nappa to their Saibamen. Toppo simply overwhelms Goku with sheer strength, fighting on par with Goku's Super Saiyan Blue form, although we get a very cool instant-transmission-kamehameha deal. The two seem evenly matched, but the Grand Priest pops in and stops the battle before they are about to power up. It's a pretty neat foreshadowing and instantly makes me love Toppo -- how can you not? He's like a tokusentai-superhero hybrid, and he looks like a jolly big walrus man!

As the Grand Priest dismisses everyone and tells them to return in like 3 days or around that, Toppo tells the 'villain' Goku that he's not even the strongest person in the Pride Troopers -- there is one that ranks above him, and also apparently stronger than a god of destruction: Jiren. Oooh, mysterious! Or, y'know, the dude with a Pride Trooper outfit that has the most screentime atatatatatatatata-ing with Goku on the opening. Still, it's pretty awesome hype buildup, and as someone who went into Super relatively blind (I certainly wasn't spoiled by anything in the Universe Survival Saga from video games or whatever) it's a neat delight.

So sadly, we're going to put off the actual Tournament of Power, because we're going to have a mini-arc of Goku recruiting everyone. I get why we needed these series of episodes (which I'll be reviewing separately) but at the same time... jeez. Still, the exhibition matches are pretty cool, highlighting Universe 9 and 11 as known quantities, and slowly doling out the rules about the Tournament of Power while ever-so-slowly trying to make the other universes have an identity of their own. Overall, a very neat little mini-arc that leads into the massive behemoth that is the Tournament of Power, with my only real complaint being Goku's attitude... and even then it doesn't really take me out of the story all that much, and while the wolf-men were somewhat disappointing, the actual execution of the fights are pretty much A-game, especially in depicting Buu's wacky abilities and Toppo's JUSTICE FLASH attacks.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Marvel's Runaways S01E07 Review: More Setup!

Marvel's Runaways, Season 1, Episode 7: Refraction

Runaways Vol 1 3So this is another episode that felt like it didn't do much but just sets things up and repeats some things that we've seen before... and really, only the performance of the actors really keep me from dozing throughout this 45-minute long episode. Again, we're entering the second half of the season and the Runaways aren't even close to running away. And while I realize that this espionage stuff is pretty neat and entertaining to watch in and of itself, I really kinda wish that we get a move going. 

We get to deal with the fallout of the affair, but it feels more like a continuity nod where the kids go "our parents fucked, right? How's yours dealing?" "Eh, kinda pissy". We get some unnecessary flashback to Victor and Janet Stein's youth where they drop heavy-handed foreshadowing about time-travel, before cutting away to Janet being super-fine with this suddenly energetic and happy Victor that's spending time with his kid and being supportive and going to open houses and shit. It's understandable, but it is one hell of a mood whiplash. Meanwhile, Bob Minoru is just trying to make their relationship 'public', while no one else really gives two shits about him. 

There is also a sense of disjointedness (apparently, after writing this review, I was informed that this episode was written by the dude that made Iron Fist? Jeez.) where the kids alternate from snarking and being mean at each other before immediately being best buddies in the next scene. And I realize these are teenagers, but to see them jump back and forth between emotions as if they have ADHD is kinda jarring. It does give us the neat scene where Nico keeps trying to get Alex to tell her how he knows about her mother's password, but for the rest of the cast it's a weird cut from scenes where they're panicking and going "oh my god, we need to bring our evil parents down!" to cracking jokes about Gibborim church stands to bonding moments with my evil parents. (Also, we don't actually get an answer about the Alex problem)

The Wilders contact the Yorkes about Molly's whole finding-out thing, and it's clear that they're the good cop in this situation. They want to protect Molly, send her away and all, but this, of course, fucks up poor little Molly's mind. And in fairness to my earlier criticism, this episode handles Molly very well. She confesses to her friends that she fucked up, ends up with anger from the older kids, and then she goes home to see that her adoptive parents are sending her away. The fact that these scenes have her joining the cheerleading squad in between them is perhaps unfortunate, though. I get that they're trying to show Molly looking for somewhere where she belongs, but it's so ham-handed and poorly done that it feels jarring. Thankfully the tearful sisterly hug between Gert and Molly is amazingly well-done. 

Meanwhile, the Yorkes parents get some extra spotlight, because apparently Jonah's magic blood induces a huge, huge high of positive emotions, as Dale experiments with the blood and accidentally gets some on his arm, and he spends the entire episode high on drugs, being super friendly and happy and everything... which ends up taking a dark turn when it's revealed that Victor Stein's supportive dad deal is caused by the huge infusion that he got when Jonah cured his brain cancer. And the episode ends with Victor's abusive tendencies (that uncomfortable flashback to Victor and young Chase is definitely warranted) and he beats up Chase... this time nearly doing so with the Fistigon gauntlets. Janet is forced to shoot Victor presumably to death to protect their child, which is the huge cliffhanger for this episode. With magic curative blood, though, I'm not sure if we can count Victor out just yet.

Hopefully, this will finally lead to the Runaways actually, y'know, running away, with Chase and Molly both coming into straight-up conflict with their parents.

We get some weird bit with the time-travel TV where future!Chase warns Victor to "don't pick up the Fistigons", which is pretty neat instant-foreshadowing, but I'm not sure if we need them. We also get some scenes where Frank Dean apparently gains healing powers and has regained his memory about seeing his wife fucking Jonah, and confronts Leslie about it... but I have to confess that I don't give that much of a shit about Frank Dean's subplot, honestly. Leslie and Tina Minoru also have a bit of a 'we rule PRIDE' moment, and Leslie tries to get everyone together... but it's more of the same, to be honest. The mystery about Jonah is still being built up, but I don't think we get any closer to any answers here.

Overall, while there are some great moments, it's a less-than-stellar episode of Runaways

Dragon Ball Super: Hit, Saiyaman & Krillin Mini-Arcs [Episodes 68 - 76]

So after the huge mental drain that is the Future Trunks Saga, we go through a smattering of light-hearted episodes and three two-parter mini-arcs that I'll breeze through quickly.

Episode 68: It's a cooldown episode that starts off with Bulma trying to recreate her time machine despite Beerus's warnings otherwise. Meanwhile, Goku gathers the dragon balls to finally resurrect King Kai back to life (a running gag throughout all previous arcs of Super)... but poor Goku ends up being waylaid by everyone else, who interrupts his wishes. Bulma by telling Goku to gather some plot device for her time machine, as well as Oolong, Roshi, Android 18, Pilaf, Goten and Kid Trunks who all want their own wishes. (We have the original Shenlong scene in Dragon Ball reanimated and it's beautiful). Everyone steps down when Gohan shows up asking for Shenlong to cure Pan from some Saiyan disease. We get the hilarity of Bulma fulfilling everyone else's wishes with the power of money -- Android 18 is amazing in all these scenes with her sass, by the way -- but Beerus shows up, blows up Bulma's lab and the crystal, and Shenlong can't stay for that long and ends up dissipating before Goku has the chance to wish King Kai back to life. Oh, poor King Kai.

Episode 69: Arale crossover episode! I never watched an episode of Dr. Slump in my life, and only know of Arale from fighting games. It's pretty hilarious, though, from Goku with hair gel to the Spirit Food Bomb to Vegeta realizing, and I quote, that "I'm fighting a gag manga character! Physics don't work on her!" in response to Arale breaking the Earth in half to Vegeta and Goku's expression when they accidentally behead Arale (she got better) to poop. It's a fun little episode that ends with Beerus showing up, killing off the Dr. Slump villain with the same HAKAI he used to kill Zamasu, stomping her foot to knock Arale back to her senses... it's all just fun fluff, ending with Vegeta still in a suit hanging from the tree branch because rule of funny.

Screenshot 51Episode 70: The baseball episode. Like the Dr. Slump episode, this one is pretty funny. Champa challenges Beerus to baseball because he wants to visit Universe 7's food stocks (doesn't he have an Earth of his own?) and it's... it would be pointless if it isn't so goddamned funny. From Yamcha suddenly getting the spotlight because he is amazing at baseball, to nobody realizing how to play the game (Vegeta and Goku's simultaneous "EEEEH" when they realize they aren't supposed to hit and knock people out with the balls) and just seeing Champa, Whis and Vados in baseball suits... oh, and we get to see Magetta, Cabba and Botamo again, which is neat! I like them. And, of course, we end with Yamcha in the memetic 'killed by a Saibaman' corpse even as he wins. Oh, Yamcha. Even when you win, you lose. I really want to be kinda angry at this filler episode, but it's so fun taht I can't.

Episodes 71-72: The Hit Arc:
Hit observes GokuSo these string of mini-arcs feel more like the feel of the more simple chapters that old-school Dragon Ball used to have before Dragon Ball Z turned everything into a huge, huge epic, and I'm fine with this. The first two-parter we got is the long-awaited rematch with Hit and it's... it's okay. It's not spectacular, and the fight is decently animated. Hit has gained some new powers including creating his own timey-wimey dimension and to unleash invisible punches, but the episodes try too hard with the whole "OH MAH GOD SOMEONE KILLED GOKU!" whuddunit question but Hit is also prominently featured throughout the episode so it's pretty obvious. It's pretty funny, I think, but completely in-character for Goku to hire Hit to assassinate himself just to get a rematch with Hit. I did think that the episode was stretched out a bit more than it should, especially the Gohan-and-Goten-tailing-Goku moments, and Champa and Vados delivering unnecessary exposition. The Goku is dead cliffhanger is also resolved almost immediately and I'm not sure what that is for. Still, the two-parter is decently done, and provides some neat buildup to the Universe Survival arc as Beerus and Champa both note that things are building up to the eventual confrontation with the other universes and they need their aces to be more powerful (poor Vegeta).

It's... it's a serviceable arc, but I don't really have that much emotion for this one. Hit's a cool character with a cool gimmick and a rivalry with Goku, but he's also relatively flat. It's nice to give him a fair bit of focus to himself, though, which I assume we won't get as much when we go to the Universe Tournament saga.

Episodes 73-74: The Great Saiyaman Arc:
Vlcsnap-2017-01-25-18h22m38s253Finally, Gohan gets some screentime! Poor Gohan has been relegated to the background throughout the entirety of Super, but the Future Trunks saga gave him a very neat and plausible exit strategy by showing just how happy he is with being a family man and a non-combatant, and that's pretty touching. Here, though, we get a fun excuse plot for Gohan to embrace his fighting roots again. Gohan gets accidentally roped into being a stuntman for jackass douchebag A-list actor primadonna Barry Khan, who sadly doesn't have the decency to die by the end of the two-parter. Barry is pissed off that Videl is immune to his douchebag flirtings (even though she's, y'know, a married woman with a visible husband and child). Gohan gets a job as a stuntman, for the simple reason that he wants Pan to have something to see of her daddy, and Barry hatches the plan to have the female lead of the movie, Cocoa, try and 'seduce' Gohan. Gohan, of course, is a straight-up nice dude who doesn't even respond to any of Cocoa's attempts to flirt with him -- if anything, Cocoa falls for Gohan.

Barry then shows up in Gohan and Videl's house with a 'nya ha ha your husband is a cheater, he kissed Cocoa!' and Videl just calmly rips up the photographs, sparing us the cliched anime plot of romantic misunderstanding and I just have so much respect for Videl at this point. "There must be an explanation. Please leave our house, you miserable man with no self-esteem." Barry tries to bully his way but, y'know, Gohan's a Saiyan and he does a cool supersonic boom thing to put the fear of god into Barry Khan. And I really love that neither Gohan nor Videl actually go the obvious way of, say, smashing Barry's car to intimidate him -- they're above that. And it's just so unexpectedly mature and so well-written.

Of course Barry gets possessed by a weird... parasite... creature called Watagashi, who escaped from "super elite" Jaco's custody. Gohan/Saiyaman helped Krillin beat up the two punks from the Buu arc that briefly get possessed by Watagashi, but it possesses Barry, and turns him into a giant monster. We get a very cheesy but well-done love power-up from Pan and Videl, allowing Gohan to beat Watagashi-Barry. The directors film this and works it into the movie, which is a big hit. It's still an episode where Gohan is weaker than what he should be, but it balances  Gohan's life as a family man, his alter-ego of Great Saiyaman and his relationship with Videl very well. It perhaps could've been done in a single episode, but eh. It's fine for me and they're doubling down on the Gohan-as-a-father-who-fights, contrasting him drastically from Goku, who tends to prioritize fighting over fatherhood.

Episodes 75-76: The Goku/Krillin Arc:
Oh man, what a great nostalgia bomb this is! There are so many callbacks to the old-school original Dragon Ball it hurts. Goku is looking for a sparring partner, but everyone's busy. We do get a brief sparring match between Goku and Gohan. I'm sorry, Goku and the Great Saiyaman... which shows that while neither are in their full power, at least Gohan can fight on par with Goku when they're both in Super Saiyan forms. Cool!

We end up returning to Krillin, who is a character I gained so much appreciation for after watching Dragon Ball Z Abridged (highly recommended for anyone who is a Dragon Ball fan, by the way). And Krillin's status as one of the series' most notorious jobber is brought up. While on a shoot out, Krillin gets hit by a bullet and needs to be bandaged... and in a setting where bullets shouldn't even work, it kind of shows that Krillin has rusted a lot. Android 18 sees this and delivers a bit of a tough love moment, going "I didn't fall in love with a weakling. Go and train!" It's obvious from later scenes that she means no malice out of it and is just egging Krillin on, but you can just see poor Krillin's can't-catch-up mentality that was built up very well from that one episode back in season 2 of Super. Add that to his daughter Marron innocently saying that she "doesn't want a weak daddy", Krillin and Goku goes off to Master Roshi to train again. And while Krillin accepts that he can never fight all those fancy Super Saiyajin forms, he is outclassed by even regular Goku, and Roshi ends up enlisting the aid of Fortuneteller Baba (hey! Haven't seen you in a while) to create a magical forest.

The magical forest manifests all of their greatest enemies -- Frieza, Cell, Super Buu, the Ginyu Force, Vegeta, Nappa, Demon King Piccolo, Dabura, Raditz... and Tambourine. We then realize that this is Roshi telling Krillin to embrace his fears, and we get a painful, painful re-enactment (with gorgeous new animation) as Krillin is reduced to screaming and running away, remembering his many deaths at the hands of Tambourine, Frieza, Buu and Dabura. Krillin gets separated by Goku and tells Goku off for enjoying the fighting a bit too much... and then Goku realizes that these illusions only get stronger if you fight them. And Krillin ends up facing his fears, conquering them and defeating the illusions, and even saving Goku from an illusion of Super Shenlong. I did like the little callback to the Kinto'un, and how Goku can't power up without killing the Kinto'un, which means that Krillin gets to be the hero. It's a cool bit for Krillin and develops his character a fair ton, and I'm definitely a big fan of this very nostalgia-driven mini-arc. It ends with Krillin shaving his head once more, embracing his martial artist roots... which is very convenient because the next big arc is going to include multiple fighters.

Overall, it's a neat handful of episodes both funny and semi-serious. And the biggest thing in my favour is that I don't know that any of these is coming, so it's a treat to suddenly boot up a crossover episode, or a Hit rematch, or a very well-written Krillin arc... it comes like a genuine surprise, and is actually far nicer to tell smaller stories in-between bigger arcs, making Super feel pretty rich and give attention to characters like Hit and Krillin where they might not be able to do so organically in the upcoming Universal Survival arc (or the previous Future Trunks arc). The next episode kick-starts the Universe Survival arc, which is... well, massive, to say the least. I think I'll actually split reviewing that arc into multiple parts.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Dragon Ball Super: Future Trunks Saga [Episodes 47 - 67]

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/img_1232.JPGHooooooooo boy.

I have to take a long, deep breath before I actually talk about this arc. It's... it's a very... polarizing arc of Dragon Ball Super, perhaps the most polarized I've been about any arc in Dragon Ball since its inception. The best thing I can say about the Future Trunks Saga is that it is an amazing collection of high-octane, great scenes, amazing-on-paper concepts and a hideously hateable villain that ends up being absolutely fucked over by horrible pacing, sequencing and a very unsatisfying ending.

And, well, the ending is going to be a huge can of worms I'll talk about later, but by god there are so many parts of the arc that ended up feeling like unnecessary shoving in of complications that try to make everything feel smart and inter-connected, but ends up just causing a fuck-ton of headaches handwaved away by random plot devices with properties we only know the moment it becomes relevant. Add that to the extremely questionable motivations of the Big Bad villain, Zamasu, and you get one hot mess of a Dragon Ball arc. And clocking in at 20 episodes, it lasts longer than Beerus (14 episodes), gold Frieza (12 episodes) and Universe 6 (13 episodes). And the thing is, we didn't need it to run that long. There is a significant amount of padding, random exposition and repetition that honestly wasn't necessary, and not to mention the glaring plot holes either.

One of which is the transformation of Trunks' hair from pink to blue randomly...  even in Dragon Ball Z flashbacks. Did he just dye it blue because he got the memo that blue is the new blonde?

The concept of Future Trunks, easily one of the most popular characters in the fandom, returning to have another dedicated arc where his apocalyptic future ends up being menaced by an EVIL Goku, a.k.a. Goku Black, sounds absolutely groan-worthy and feels like a shitty fanfiction prompt. But believe it or not, this concept is actually easily one of the best parts of the arc. Both Future Trunks and the desolation of the future timeline wrought by the insanely demonic Goku Black is amazingly done. And considering that I came into this entire saga blind -- I know that there was going to be a 'Goku Black' character and a Future Trunks Saga and a 'Zamasu' character, but I didn't know that they're going to interweave in the same plotline. And in that sense, the very first episode of this saga, episode 47, is one of the most chilling scenes I've ever seen since... oh, since original imperfect Cell's horror movie rampage, I think?

File:FutureBulma-LastMoments.pngUnlike Beerus or Champa, who were capricious gods, or Golden Frieza who never felt like a threat, the way that Black was introduced was amazing. He chases down Trunks (from here on, 'Trunks' just means Future Trunks, and I'll refer to the present-day Trunks as Kid Trunks) first as this unseen malevolent whirling shadowy mass with glowing red eyes, proceeds to murder Bulma in a very shockingly graphic death where Bulma gets chocked and vaporized body-first in an explosion. Trunks meets up with his beau, Mai, who is his lover in this timeline. Also Mai has a ki shotgun. Baller. But then Black catches up with them and kills Mai, the only reason that Trunks is able to escape is that Black doesn't even know what the fuck a time machine is.

He ends up in the present day, collapsing in the middle of everyone (and we do get a hilarious bit where Kid Trunks and the Pilaf crew thinks that the Future Trunks is an illegitimate elder sibling) and we get a bit of a long, drawn-out explanation of Future Trunks' role in the Cell saga which lasts the entirety of episode 48. Which is definitely somewhat necessary... but this is not going to be the only episode where it's mostly exposition.

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/black_crop.pngWe then get a sequence of scenes where Future Trunks then exposits to us just how the Buu saga ended up happening in his splinter timeline, and we're treated with the awesome scenes of Trunks murdering Dabura and Babidi. And then we have a long-winded sequence of exposition intercut with Goku and Trunks sparring and Goku showing off Super Saiyan forms 2, 3 and Blue. And then for no real reason Black shows up in the present timeline, pulled back through time via a time rift, and Black seems as confused as everyone is. Goku fights Black, but after a brief scuffle that lasts exactly a whole episode, he gets pulled back to his timeline.

It's... it's an okay scene. It's a scene that teases the strength of Black, but the way that it's done ends up being pretty convoluted. But eh.

Black blows up Trunks' time machine, but Bulma reveals that she kept the time machine that Cell used to return back in the Cell Saga, which is an amazing bit of continuity remembering. Oh, and Whis and Beerus gives us a long exposition about the time rings and splinter timelines, and how time travel is actually pretty fucking illegal, especially time travel to the past. They're willing to let Trunks slide, but Beerus and Whis are playing the apathetic gods who don't want to interfere (later episodes reveal that Beerus actually straight up is unable to travel through time, which puts him in a somewhat less-jackass light) and so it's up to Goku, Vegeta, Trunks and Bulma to work through everything, beat Black, unravel his true identity and rescue the splinter timeline.

And honestly, this first volley of 3-4 episodes, despite the exposition, is actually pretty damn good. It starts to fall apart in the second arc, however.

Future!Mai is alive, by the way, despite Black being shown to not at all be opposed to killing. Somehow she survived that huge-ass explosion and is 'merely' knocked out and nursed back to health by the resistance members. This is not the last time Future!Mai will bullshit her way with an inexplicably thick amount of plot armour.

The next string of episodes just focus on the present day and just jump all over the fucking place. We get some great moments, like a very enraged Vegeta keeping his cool but secretly training in tranquil fury due to the knowledge that the future-version of Bulma was murdered. We also get some neat callback to the Potafeu arc where the blue experiment Bulma asked Monaka to help randomly in the prologue section of that mini-arc ended up being the fuel to the time machine. Beerus and Whis discussing the ki of Black is also interesting, and this ends up causing them to talk to Kaioshin (who's split from Kibito!) and give us some extra lore about the god/Kai race in general. I didn't think it need to be this long, however, especially since we have multiple episodes just dedicated to Future Trunks interacting with present day characters and... it feels weird. Like, I love the moments in theory, but it just grinds down both the 'back to the future' and the 'discover Black's true identity' plotlines to a halt. Episode 51 focuses largely on Future Trunks, Kid Trunks and Kid Mai kind of in a weird bit of crushing on each other and shit, with the Pilaf gang up to some shipping hijinks... which... I don't really think we needed.

Vlcsnap-2017-01-25-18h12m52s922Episode 52 has a very, very touching moment where Trunks visits Gohan, and we get a beautifully re-mastered flashback to DBZ's one-armed Future!Gohan teaching Trunks (from this arc onwards the flashbacks are a weird mixture of reusing old DBZ footage and beautiful remastery) and Trunks visits Gohan... and is absolutely flabbergasted that Gohan is not a fierce warrior but just a little civilian daddy who dresses up as a superhero and runs around playing chase with baby Pan. Also, Trunks can't deal with babies and it's adorable! It's a very, very powerful episode and perhaps the emotional climax of the entire Future Trunks Saga for me personally, because Trunks' acceptance that Gohan has found peace and happy at being a family with Videl and Pan is just so goddamned powerful. We also get to see a very powerful and short scene where Android 18 (who, by the way, was responsible for killing the entirety of the future timeline's cast because she never became good there) walks up to Trunks and, well, acts like the coolest big sister figure there, telling him that there's no bad blood between them before leaving with her own happy husband and child. It's a very powerful moment as Trunks realizes that his previous fucking-up-the-timeline during the Android and Cell saga has borne some fruit and gave some of the characters who ended up dead and a genocidal psychopath respectively a chance at a very, very happy life... and honestly, this was a pair of scenes that struck the feels button so, so hard.

Also, it kind of makes me feel bad about saying that 'Gohan needs to fight, the naive fool!' all the time. Look at him. He's so fucking happy, and I don't want anything to take that away from him.

(Especially since Trunks has this flashback to a dinner he will never have with Future!Bulma and Future!Mai, since he thinks they're both dead)

Of course, that was only one episode, and the 'downtime' period lasts a lot longer than that. We get a lot of Trunks/Mai shipping that was adorable the first time around and just plain distracting and grating the next few times. We get Trunks sparring with Vegeta for an entire episode which amounts to mostly nothing beyond "get stronger, boy! Saiyans don't let others do the fighting for them!" I was tickled when Trunks uses the Buff-Super-Saiyan form as a bit of a fake-out, but otherwise that whole episode could've been a montage.

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/zamas_del_futuro_artwork.pngBeerus and Whis, meanwhile, are playing investigators. They bring Goku to Universe 10, where we meet the Supreme Kai there, an old coot called Gowasu. His apprentice is called Zamasu, a.k.a. the Big Bad of the Saga. We get yet another huge talk about time rings, and Zamasu makes it clear that he doesn't think much of mortals. Beerus sics Goku on Zamasu, and the two fight a little, which ends up causing two things -- for Beerus to realize that Zamasu and Black have the same ki, and for Zamasu to be absolutely triggered and pissed off that a mortal can trade blows with a god! How dare the mortals?

There's a lot of tea-pouring scenes in Zamasu/Gowasu scenes and attempts at trying to make Zamasu feel ambiguously gray in morality, but by god, it's wholly unnecessary since all it does is just establish what a gigantic douche-hole Zamasu is, because he ends up getting more and more pissed-off at mortals (or 'ningen', which really just means humans) and his ideologies grow darker and darker. And it appears that Beerus, Whis and Goku accidentally caused a stable time loop by causing Zamasu's hatred to fester in the first place and putting Goku within Zamasu's orbit. We get huge scenes showing Zamasu and Gowasu observing a dinosaur caveman race, and to display how the time rings work. Gowasu also watches the Universe 6 and 7 fight via GodTube (I wish I was joking, but no, it's real -- he even makes a God-Tuber joke), which causes Zamasu to see Goku's power first hand.

Oh, and to add more complexity to it all, Zen'o summons Goku because he wants a buddy, and gives him a button (read: Portable Final Act Plot Device) to summon him at any time. Goku gives Zen'o the nickname of "Zen-chan" and... puts off playing with him because he wants to get back to Earth? Really, Goku, you can't spare like an hour to muck around? I mean, Trunks and everyone else is happy to muck around. It's a whole episode of weirdness that seems to exist just to give a plot device for no real reason other than to be a deus ex machina for the final episode. It's a neat bit of world-building that I really wish didn't take place in the middle of a lull of episodes.

"Future" Trunks Saga - EP56 22
Finally, in episode 56, a full 6 episodes after Goku fighting Black in the present day, the Saiyajin trio takes a trip to the future. Future Mai is alive! Yajirobe is still alive for some reason (he doesn't actually contribute anything to the plot) and we have a fight.

Vegeta and Goku fight Black... who reveals a new Super Saiyan form, Super Saiyan Rose (ro-SAY). Which is as unexplained as Super Saiyan Blue. How did Black get it? I dunno. Why is Black so surprised in the present day when he sees Goku? I dunno. Just what is Super Saiyan Rose? I dunno. We do get a pretty cool clash and Black stabs Vegeta through the chest with a fucking energy sword, and then we get the revelation that there are two enemies in the future timeline -- Black and Zamasu. And Zamasu is apparently immortal, in that just like Cell and Buu, he can regenerate from any attack fired at him. We get a very cool Final Flash from Trunks, but that's not enough as Black and Zamasu lay waste to our heroes. But somehow, in the short time that Vegeta distracts them with a final flash of his own, Mai and Yajirobe manage to spirit away our unconscious and wounded heroes without the two god-like beings Black and Zamasu noticing or following? Yeah I don't buy that at all. It's just an excuse for them to get to a place where the trio can return back to the present day with the time machine, which I felt was absolutely unnecessary.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Zamasu is going around demanding information about the Super Dragon Balls from Zuno, while Beerus and Whis take Goku with them as they try to stop Zamasu from ever becoming evil, with the two of them realizing that Zamasu will kill Gowasu, and also will create Goku Black in the near future with the Super Dragon Balls, which would lead to, er... him travelling to the splintered future and team up with Future!Zamasu... because... um... okay yeah you lost me there. Why bother with the splintered post-apocalyptic timeline? Why so fixated on Universe 7's Earth, when he's from Universe 10? Why not just wish for the eradication of all mortals in the first place if that's what he's bothered with? There are huge planet-sized holes in Zamasu's plan and executions and that's easily the biggest weak portions of the saga.

And also the holes in Zamasu's logic, but I have the feeling that we're never actually meant to sympathize with him. I just wish that he was more of an extremist paladin-style deliverer of justice similar to, say, Akainu from One Piece, but Zamasu ends up degenerating to just a mass-murdering psychopath with the very flimsy bullshit of "the ningen will bring fucking violence, and only gods can correct them". By... precipitating far more violence, Zamasu? Yeah, you're wrong in the head.

"Future" Trunks Saga Ep59 23Regardless, we have our villain, and Beerus and Whis spring a trap for Zamasu in episode 59, where they show up in Universe 10. Beerus and Whis note that they cannot interfere with another universe's politics, and they can't stop a crime that hasn't been done. And then they just show up, give some dumplings, and then wait in space as Zamasu kills Gowasu... then has Whis rewind time and then they show up, stop Zamasu from killing Gowasu -- with the AMAZING way of materializing a kitty glove on his arm -- and then when Zamasu begins the first of his many motive rants, Beerus just grabs Zamasu's arm, breaks it, and says a simple word: "HAKAI." Or, y'know, destroy.

Throughout the past 59 episodes Beerus is lauded as the Hakaishin, a god of destruction, and it's just so motherfucking badass to see him actually show off his power. And it's not a huge glowing purple-black blast of energy like he uses when he's fighting Goku. This isn't a Beerus who's happy and fighting, this is a Beerus who's serious. And when the god of destruction destroys, it happens instantaneously. There's no attack, there's no big ki blasts or explosion, Zamasu just shudders and instantly gets deleted and it's such a fucking badass scene. From the kitty glove to the Hakai attack, it's easily one of the best moments in the saga.

Oh, speaking of Beerus... Whis randomly tells Goku that if a supreme kai is killed, the universe's god of destruction will likewise die, because they have a Piccolo-Kami thing going on. Which... kind of explains how Zamasu was able to survive the onslaught of 12 beings with Beerus-level power gunning on his head -- clearly he goes around killing the likes of Gowasu and Shin and never engages the Gods of Destruction. And the Angels -- Whis and Vados are angels, by the way -- apparently just go dormant without a god to serve. Great lore bombshells to us.

And there are many great badass moments like Beerus deleting Zamasu. Unfortunately they're interposed with so much bullshit and plot holes in between them that makes enjoying the Future Trunks saga a bit hard. Take this awesome sequence I just detailed to you. Beerus, Whis and Goku's investigation and execution of Zamasu takes around 2 episodes, but in-between all of that you have a fuckton of unimportant, and more egregiously, repetitive scenes of Trunks-Mai shipping, Zamasu ranting and the future resistance repeating the same tired "we must have hope" speeches over and over again. Anyway, the Saiyan trio and Bulma return back to the future just to make sure that it's changed (Beerus notes that a god of destruction's touch will destroy all future incarnations of the being, which is hardcore)

Oh, and Future Mai nearly gets killed only to be revived when the Saiyan trio and Bulma returns to the future for the second time. How shit is Zamasu and Black when they can't kill a random human with a shotgun? And why are they taking so much time wiping out humanity? Just drop an energy bomb and blow it up from space. Frieza did it at least three times. Vegeta did it once, I think. Beerus certainly did it many times. I do find that Zamasu and Black hanging out in their downtime in a random forest chalet to be hilarious, though.

Oh, and in episode 61, we get an even longer motive rant, and Future Zamasu and Black remain unchanged. Apparently while Beerus makes sure that Zamasu's plan will not work in our present day, the time ring has some bullshit power that protects Black and Future Zamasu from being changed by the god of destruction's powers. And they just created a splinter timeline or something? How does that work? What would happen if they take off their ring? Will they enter a different splinter timeline or will they get erased retroactively by Beerus killing present-day Zamasu? They try to be so clever by introducing spllinter timelines and time travel and the gods and parallel universes and the hakaishin's power, and all that ends up feeling far more convoluted, unnecessarily so, and while it sort of kind of makes some sense, it also ends up feeling that it's complex for complexity's sake.

Still, we go straight into the action for episodes 61 and 62, and it does feel a bit long for Super standards, although I honestly feel that it's adequately paced. The thing, though, is just how neither Zamasu nor Zamasu-Black shuts up and they just repeat the same mortals-are-scum gods-are-beautiful crapshit motivation over and over again. Even though we get the revelation that Zamasu and Black killed all the gods in all the universes in this future timeline. And mind you, we get a horrifyingly animated show of how the Black version of Zamasu murdered Chichi and Goten on-screen after he swapped bodies with Goku using the Super Dragon Balls in the timeline-that-wouldn't-be. And by god that's horrifying.

And this is where I think the Future Trunks Saga works best -- the actual primal moments in the fights themselves. It's the same problem I had with the Android/Cell saga where the setup is unnecessarily complex but the actual fights we got out of it are so awesome that I can brush it away. The thing, though, is that when I sit down and look back at the Cell arc, they both stand up very well under scrutiny and the time travel and alternate timeline makes a whole lot of sense when you prune away the noise. Here? It doesn't.

Still, we get a fuck-ton of great moments, easily the most amazing moments of action in the entirety of Super for the simple reason that Zamasu is actually a threat to our characters both as a fighting opponent and narratively. And the show makes us hate them so damn much, and it's a pretty great feeling to have such an ass-hat villain to root against.

Black's gimmick of creating energy blades might look simple, but it's still a neat attack style that makes the battles look relatively distinct. And how badass is Goku going wild and wailing on Black, and then doing that off-hand backhand punch-to-the-face to Zamasu? The animation are just so fucking smooth in these episodes, allaying the fears I had coming into Super with the quality from the Beerus and Frieza arcs.

The combination of two Zamasus are so powerful, that even with Trunks achieving a version of Super Saiyan 2 (?) they can't beat them... and they... return back to the present day? Future Trunks is left behind this time around in his new form and it's... wow, it's just shit pacing, isn't it? I really feel that they could have just extended this along to the end as a longer fight and it'd last better, but the constant back-and-forth felt absolutely unnecessary. Episode 62's second half is just a huge, huge, HUGE recap of what Zamasu and Black explained in the previous episode, with the excuse that they needed to explain this to Chi-Chi and the others. Piccolo suggests the Mafuuba and Goku instantly teleports away to learn it from Master Roshi (Piccolo's expression when Goku pops off just as he's about to demonstrate the Mafuuba is hilarious). All of this is just to inform Beerus, Whis and Gowasu about what happens in the future so Kaioshin and Gowasu can pop up later on to... do absolutely nothing, if we're being honest.

Gowasu's honestly just kind of shit, isn't he? For the amount of screentime he gets, all he does is just go "ZAMASSS" all the time and tries to act like a mentor but fails miserably. Although to be fair, that's a problem that Universe 7's gaggle of Supreme Kais also face, considering how flat they honestly feel throughout both the Buu saga and Super.

"Future" Trunks Saga - EP63 9
Which is all well and good, while Vegeta trains in the room of space and time. Vegeta trains so hard that he fucking blows up the room of space and time, while Goku trains to use the Mafuuba, the technique used to seal the original Demon-King-Piccolo. In the future Trunks is wounded-but-alive (how many times will this happen?), apparently because for being gods-beyond-gods Zamasu can't deal with tear gas. Yeah. Mai uses a sniper rifle and a special bullet to attempt to murder Black. It's pointless, but it's still a pretty fucking badass moment that, well, yeah, is another one of those 'great moments'. It does absolutely nothing, though.

Also equally badass -- Trunks showing up in his Super-Saiyan-2 form, using his sword as a decoy before unleashing the mother of all Galick Guns and blasting Black and the chalet apart. Trunks then unleashes the Cho-bakuhatsu-ha (Super Explosive Wave) which I remember fondly from the Cell Saga to attempt to blow up Black and Zamasu, attempting to take out at least the non-immortal Black... but he fails and gets beaten the fuck up. The scenes are still badass, though.

Episode 63 finally marks when the Saiyan trio and Bulma return back to the future again, and so do Gowasu and Shin. Gowasu and the Zamasus' arguments ends up coming up to nothing, really. Zamasu blows up the time machine, and we get a fight between Super Saiyan Blue Goku and Vegeta and the two of them. I absolutely love how Vegeta says that he's going to fight Black... because he wants to beat up the one that looks like Kakarot. That is amazing.

Also hilarious is how as Zamasu does another motive rant, the heroes completely ignore him as they discuss the delegation of opponents (and for Trunks, Bulma and Mai to fix the Mafuuba jar that got destroyed). Black even points out that "you do know none of them are listening, right?" and Zamasu just shrugs it off, saying that he's speaking for his own benefit.

"Future" Trunks Saga - EP63 30Also amazing is the absolutely brutal beatdown that Vegeta delivers upon Goku Black, ranting about how he can never draw out the true power of Saiyan Cells from the body he's just borrowing, because the strength of Goku's body is from the experience of multiple battles... and the barrage of punches he delivers to Zamasu through abandoned buildings is just so mother-fucking badass that I genuinely thought that between the Trunks beatdown of Black earlier and this one that Vegeta's going to actually straight-up kill Black. And his gigantic skyward scream as he shouts proudly that "I AM THE PRINCE OF ALL SAIYANS, VEGETA-SAMA!" as he tosses Black around is just so spine-tinglingly awesome.

Also awesome? Bulma shrugging off the time machine being destroyed, tosses out a portable garage out of her pocket and starts fixing it.

Then, um... Black pulls a power-up out of his ass and turns his energy blade into an energy scythe. That's badass! Then Black bullshits about how he's going to use anger as a source of power, then creates a random rift that... spawns Goku Black clones? That exist only to harass Vegeta and Goku for the duration of an episode, before being blasted away and becoming irrelevant? That was dumb. Bulma tries to get Trunks to learn the Mafuuba in Goku's stead (we get a hilarious cameo of Saiyaman and Ginyu poses) via a phone-recorded Piccolo. How hilarious is it that Piccolo treats it in a stiff Youtube-manual style of teaching? But while it seems that Trunks is going to Mafuuba and beat Zamasu... Goku forgot to bring the seal.

Yeah. Forgetting to bring the Senzu beans is one thing. Having the jar get blown up in the time machine and forcing Trunks, Bulma and Mai to glue it back together is another thing. Not taking the seal from Roshi? By god, that's just too stupid even for Goku. And honestly? This is the last we see of the Mafuuba, making all the scenes spent talking and expositioning about it, for Goku and later Trunks to learn it... pretty pointless.

Fusion Zamasu Full BodyWe do have Bulma being badass and stepping out of her garage, telling Trunks to master the Mafuuba in five minutes as she attempts to buy time from Zamasu by distracting her. It's a badass moment and while I know that Bulma probably won't die (or if she does, we can dragon ball her back) it is still pretty ballsy for her to just hold the line by distracting Zamasu the only way she can.

At the end of 64 and start of 65, Zamasu and Black fuses into Fused Zamasu. Or, y'know, just Zamasu with his mohawk transformed into Goku's hairstyle and a halo on his back. Remember fusion? Yeah, so did the writers for Super. It's pretty badass, and Fused Zamasu just rains down destruction all over with moves with pretentious names like 'heavenly judgment', 'holy wrath' and stuff like that, killing some random humans and blowing up some random buildings. Zamasu continues to rant and even the good guys are starting to lampshade how none of his arguments make any sense. We get an awesome beam struggle, yet another of those 'awesome fighting moments' that make this arc so tense to watch, as Trunks and Vegeta unleash a father-and-son Galick Gun against Zamasu, and they actually win the beam struggle. Vegeta then pulls off a Piccolo and blocks the next attack from striking Trunks, which is another awesome moment.

(Vegeta's character development from "running away from a fight? You should be ashamed of being a Saiyan!" early on in the arc to "you have to survive! For her sake, too!" is great, by the way)

Goku then briefly goes Blue-Kaioken to have his own beam struggle with Zamasu, yet another awesome moment. And this strain causes the Fused Zamasu to transform into Two-Face, where the mortal Goku cells transform half his face into weird purple goop, and they note that by taking the mortal Goku body into their fused form, Zamasu has essentially negated his immortality. Silly Zamasu.

Vegito vs zamasuWe get some explanation about the Potara earrings from Shin and Gowasu, and that apparently the time limit for the fusion is only three minutes for non-Supreme-Kais, instead of being permanent. Which explains a question everyone asks two decades ago when Vegito pops apart halfway during his fight with Majin Buu. So Goku and Vegeta fuse again, becomes Vegito, goes Super Saiyan Blue and fights toe-to-toe with Fused Zamasu, which is yet another holy-fuck-so-awesome moment. Vegito just trash-talks Zamasu's now-tired arguments, does an awesome an appropriate Spirit Sword stab into Zamasu's gut (especially considering everyone got stabbed in the gut at least once by Black all throughout the arc). We get a Final Kamehameha, an instant-transmission punch... a lot of awesome shit before Vegito's transformation runs out... because apparently Super Saiyan Blue just consumes too much energy.

FusionZamasuDiesAnd then Zamasu beats up Goku and Vegeta... only for Future Trunks to show up with his new Super-Saiyan-2-esque form (some people online call this 'Super Saiyan Anger', although I'm not sure how official this is) and the broken sword that the nameless kids in the resistance gave back to him. And there's a Spirit Bomb esque thing going on as every mortal shouting at Trunks to SAVE US happens. It's slightly out of nowhere, but hey, it works. We got an Android 8 cameo and... huh, I guess Android 8 would survive the android apocalypse, wouldn't he? Anyway, everyone does their spirit bomb give-your-energy-to-Trunks thing, which manifests in a gigantic blade, and Trunks bisects Zamasu from cock to head halfways, and blows him up.

That was badass. And extremely cathartic.

A lot of people have trouble with the Spirit Sword coming out of nowhere and Vegito being somewhat of a jobber in this climax... but I'm actually perfectly fine with it. I could've used a bit of a foreshadowing as to the fact that Trunks knows about the Spirit Bomb (and is able to modify it -- maybe take away all the Mafuuba stuff that went nowhere?), but it's such a thematically appropriate ability to use on Zamasu. Part of it is perhaps because I don't actually give two shits about Vegito, but ultimately episode 66 ends up being a pretty satisfying ending in my opinion.

So yeah. Future Trunks Saga? Pretty awesome. It does feel a bit fanwanky at times, but considering Zamasu's status as a god and the prominence of the potara earrings he wears it's actually a neat foreshadowing that fusion's going to take place sooner or later. I definitely feel that going back and forth between present-day and future and dealing with three incarnations of Zamasu felt a bit overkill and them trying to fit in way too much. Plus there's way too much padding (and the Mafuuba thing went nowhere). But for all its faults, Zamasu is a love-to-hate jackass of a villain, and we got so much awesome moments at the end, even if I really wished that Super Saiyan Rose, Trunks' new Super Saiyan form, Spirit Bomb Sword and the random angry scythe clone rift were explained a bit further. Still, the arc works amazingly at delivering the tense fights and high-energy HOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH fights with great moments in-between them. And having Zamasu, who rants about how worthless mortals are, defeated with a variation of the Spirit Bomb -- something that channels the wishes and powers of mortals -- is amazingly appropriate.

Oh, and Trunks got the win! Not Goku! I really wish future arcs would allow some of the other characters to get the win, and considering how much this saga has been revolving around Trunks -- as inconsistently as he is written at times -- it's definitely appropriate for him to kill Zamasu.

Screenshot 28Except -sigh- it's not over yet. We still episode 67. And somehow, despite being bisected and exploding into smithereens... Zamasu somehow became... stronger? And he just seeps "INTO THE UNIVERSE!" as a weird Antispiral-esque cloud of faces that envelop the entire world, and apparently the entire multiverse in the future timeline. And apparently they also somehow menace the present-day world, travelling through time. And um... why? How? This is a bigger asspull than anything else, because nothing really shows that Zamasu has had the power to do this at all. Zamasu then pulls a Kid Buu and unleashes his own version of the human extinction attack and finally succeeds in killing everybody except for the time-travelers, Trunks and Mai. So yeah, all that time spent to build up how we can have hope with Yajirobe and the kids and all that? They're all dead now. Whoops.

So yeah... it makes no sense, both in a narrative fashion and in-universe fashion. Goku remembers the Zen'o button from way, way back earlier in the arc, presses it and summons Zen'o... who, in this splintered timeline, never met Goku, who died from the heart attack. But Zen'o's reactions to Zamasu's blathering is the same as the audience's. "Man, that guy's annoying". Then Zen'o wipes out the entire multiverse, killing Zamasu, while our heroes escape via time machine to the present day.

What was the point of this, other than to show off Zen'o's power? And was it even necessary, I wonder? Also never mind how much it doesn't make sense that Zamasu randomly gets the power to become an all-encompassing wave of ego throughout the multiverse and the space-time continuum. Also everyone dies just to backfire on all the messages of hope and defiance that we've been talking about all throughout the arc, leading us to a very hollow ending that felt like it was tacked on at the last minute.

Goku then travels back to the future splinter timeline, where... it's just nothingness with Future!Zen'o floating in space. No reason for Future!Zen'o to trust Goku so much, but he does. Goku brings Future!Zen'o to meet Present!Zen'o, fulfilling the mission of bringing Present!Zen'o a friend. It's... umm... er... yeah. I dunno. It's a thing. Oh, and the Great Priest is Whis and Vados's father. That... should've seen that coming, to be honest.

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mai_dbs_by_saodvd_daseuh1.pngBeerus and Whis then allows Trunks and Mai to time-travel one more time, to a point earlier in the Future Trunks' timeline before Beerus dies and tells them to get the future Beerus's help in killing Zamasu and I dunno. It's just a way to get Future Trunks out of the story and I honestly feel like it would  be better for them to just end the episode at 66, or to have Future Trunks and Mai stick around in our present-day timeline. The farewell with Gohan is bittersweet, too, but it all ends up feeling really hollow. More than the problems that the rest of the arc already inherently have due to its flimsy pacing and storytelling, the ending is just such a clusterfuck that it leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

TL;DR Summary
So yeah... The Future Trunks Saga is definitely mixed. It ends up feeling like an adaptation of someone's fanfiction... and while there are many parts that end up feeling well-done, the arc as a whole is a messily-plotted one that coincidentally has a lot of great moments and wraps up a bunch of dangling plot threads from the Cell, Buu and Beerus arcs. It tries to go big and wide with the scope of its storytelling, delivers a crapton of lore to us in the process... but does it pretty messily and with an unsatisfying ending. It really should've been driven through the editing machine a bit more. It's a mess, but at least it's a glorious mess -- all the fight scenes are intense and well-choreographed, and I could (but won't) easily list some of the best and powerful action moments that would be as iconic as some of the best moments from Z. But ultimately it tries to do way too much, there are way too many inconsistencies, repetitive motive rants, plot holes and a shade too many ass-pulls, that it ends up easily being the messiest arc in the entirety of Dragon Ball, easily. So yeah... nice experiment, Zamasu's a great love-to-hate villain, and there are some undeniably great moments that if you'll excuse me I'll rewatch on Godtube Youtube right now.... but ultimately, it's definitely weaker compared to the Universe 6 arc by a huge, huge margin. There's a lot of great concepts, but it's foiled by a lot of misses in the execution and the desire to overcomplicate things unnecessarily.

Oh well. Next up... a bunch of side-stories before we finally begin the Universal Survival Tournament arc, which is, at the moment of me writing this, still ongoing.

Black Clover 140 Review: A New Character

Black Clover, Chapter 140: Although You Probably Don't Know

So yeah, I'm doing Black Clover now. If I ever get details on a certain detail in past chapters wrong, or if I forget the names or abilities of characters... well, fuckin' sue me, because I'm not going to go through any of the past chapters again. The newest arc is supposed to show the newly formed royal guards or whatever and are fighting into the enemy base... when we suddenly cut away to show the Black Bull base under attack by a White Eye squad led by this weird frankensteined magic knight corpse thing called Michael Caesar or some shit? Last chapter has minor one-note-personality members "sister complex" Gauche, "creepy-but-trying-to-make-friends" Gordon and "shapeshifter with crippling self-image issues" Grey fight against the bad guys.

This chapter has a new member with the absolutely hilariously underwhelming name of Henry that's apparently part of the Black Bull base and was allowed to stay there and leech energy from all the members, and now he's just jigsaw-shuffling the base around to help his buddies evade attacks. It's... eh. I can't say for sure if there's ever been any foreshadowing for this ghost, nor do I care to look it up, but Henry really feels far worse than other Black Clover's side-characters, yeah? The others at least just hang out in the background until their respective character arc where they suddenly have some sort of backstory that ends up redeemed and/or resolved immediately. Henry's is done in one chapter. Oh well. 

Friday, 12 January 2018

Boku no Hero Academia 166 Review: Stick the Landing

Boku no Hero Academia, Chapter 166: A Warm Provisional License Training Course

This chapter wraps up Team Bakugou's attempts to win the hearts of children and simultaneously showing Endeavour, watching from the stands, what it means to be a hero. And it's... it's competent enough. We get some neat world building by showing that each successive generations starts displaying superpowers at earlier ages (remember Eri reducing her birth father to nothing by accidentally activating her time warp powers?) and we get to see some neat fun little superpower battles, but Bakugou, Todoroki and Inasa just kind of build an ice slide to impress the kids with their powers and words, and it's... it's okay. The scripting and pacing falls a bit short, I think, and the fancy 'boss kid' is infuriating even when he's supposed to be redeemed.

What else? We get the confirmation that Camie's ability is called 'Glamour' and it creates illusions. The artwork's great as always, but overall it's not a particularly exciting chapter, although at least it gives some neat character development for Bakugou and Endeavour. 

One Piece 891 Mini-Review: Bit Too Predictable, TBH

One Piece, Chapter 891: Believing in Me

I'm not up to doing longer reviews this week, so I'm going to machinegun these out.

One Piece 891 is... okay. The main plot is honestly just more of getting to where we've been built up, which is giving Big Mom the cake, which is nice but nothing particularly special. Big Mom having a gigantic Prometheus about to descend from the heavens and burminate the ground is cool, but the cake's coming and it's honestly a couple of months too late. There were some neat moments in-between there, and I suspect this chapter won't feel as bad in a tankobon,  but it's overall not too hype over there.

Luffy and Katakuri's fight takes up a decent chunk of the story. We get Stussy, who I completely forgot was even in the story at all, and she tells Baron Tamago and Mont D'or that the Tamatebako caused the explosion, but... why would they believe her? We get this long sequence to introduce yet another quirky-Big-Mom-child, Flambe, who's an excitable little sister fangirl with a weird giant jelly-bean body that's apparently wanting to shoot Luffy down with sniper rifles.

There's some punchy-punch between Katakuri and Luffy that honestly doesn't look particularly interesting or new, and the only real thing worth noting is that Luffy is starting to see into the future and expanding his observation Haki. Overall, not a particularly bad chapter, but definitely not one of the highlights of the saga.