Episode 128 – “Noble Pride to the End! Vegeta Falls!!”
Sticking with the tried and true Dragon Ball formula, Toei summarizes the episode within the title, spoiling the ending before the action even begins. If I had to venture a guess as to what will go down, I would say Vegeta will take on Jiren and fight, to the end, after an impassioned monologue about “Saiyan pride,” and then get whooped. An outrage considering his previous death episode titles contained no spoilers whatsoever:
“Defeat Freeza, Son Goku! The Proud Vegeta’s Tears”
“For Those Whom He Loves… The Last Moment of the Proud Warrior!”
The barrel-chested plum-boy proceeds to pummel our titular hero into submission. Yet the Prince of Mockery lands a doozy of an insult on his eraser-headed opponent before kicking the bucket, labeling him an “emotionless bastard.” The taunt dovetails into a tongue-in-cheek critique of Jiren’s one-dimensionality, though we may never know if the writers actually intended to satirize their character-developing errors through the Saiyan Warrior’s dialogue. Regardless, Vegeta hits almost too close to the mark as a result of his flippancy.
In his final breath, he apologizes to Bulma, Cabba, and Goku for his weakness, but not Trunks or Bulla (buncha disappointments). The head-scratching omissions leave a bad taste in the mouth—most likely a script gaff since the numerous flashbacks feature the Saiyan’s children prominently. Still, Vegeta’s lack of regard for his offspring does little to further the writers’ goal of garnering audience sympathies.
Vegeta exits the arena with a whisper, not a (big) bang. The tournament’s stakes, artificially lowered, prevent the prince’s death from eliciting too deep of an emotional response. Compared to his previous death scenes, Vegeta’s gentle descent off the edge of the ring and ki-present to Goku seems an insult to his (oft-touted) honor. The late Hiromi Tsuru’s final voicing of Bulma (before Toei hands the baton to Aya Hisagawa) did, however, lace the warrior’s final gambit with a morsel of sentimentality. Unfortunately, the production staff stunts her impact, only sampling sub-second clips of past performances before her on-screen husband’s unceremonious end. The showdown itself falls short—its visuals and choreography shoddy even compared to the earliest no-name matchups. Toriyama once again prevents his spiky-haired ex-villain from matching his rival’s power, this time not even bothering to let him transform. It only takes a couple pops to the jaw for the second-tier Saiyan to melt into Goku’s shadow once again.
To add insult to injury, Toei ticks up the animation quality for the scenes directly following the ever-emasculated Saiyan’s dropout–an unsubtle message: “now that the Proud Warrior’s all fallen and whatnot, let’s start the main event.” Defying all expectations, Goku actually (brace yourself) goes Ultra Instinct to repel the Jiren-shaped plague that eliminated all his friends so far. Struck by the spirit of helpfulness, Belmod summarizes every viewer’s thoughts: “That damned Son Goku. How many times is he to surpass his limits?!” How many, indeed?
Everyone, real or fictional, knows that Toriyama treats “the limits” poorly. Numerous characters in the Dragon Ball universe have tested them, surpassed them, broken them, and all-around abused them for decades. Regardless, the next episode preview confirms that the string of mid-tier, pseudo-filler episodes has, at last, come to an end. Entitled “The Limits Super Surpassed! Ultra Instinct Mastered!!”, our next “limit”-smashing journey promises to grab “the limits” by the neck and grind them into dust. The remaining episodes will, if history repeats itself, sucker-punch “the limits” of animation and shounenosity until said “limits” beg for mercy.
And, please remember:
~ Don’t Shoot the Messenger