If you’ve been following along with Dragon Ball Super, you know that the show has been teasing a new transformation for protagonist Goku for a few weeks now. But if you’ve been following along with the Saiyan’s saga since Dragon Ball, you probably know that this new form is just the latest in a long line of insane power levels for the super-powerful fighter. There was the stunning reveal of the Saiyans’ beast form (a Great Ape), followed by Goku’s power-pumping Kaioken technique and, ultimately, his reveal as the legendary Super Saiyan. That transformation, in the original battle against Frieza, remains one of the most pivotal moments of the franchise.
Dragon Ball Super is attempting to recapture the nostalgia of this moment (and of previous installments in the Dragon Ball series overall) by revisiting some tried-and-true storytelling formulas. The show has already brought back the Z Fighters for the Tournament of Power, pitted Goku against foes he didn’t have a chance to face during Dragon Ball Z, and renewed the rivalry between Goku and Vegeta through vigorous training sessions and epic battles. Dragon Ball Super has also introduced new levels of Saiyan power like Super Saiyan God, Super Saiyan Rosé and Super Saiyan Blue; they’ve even introduced the first female Super Saiyans in series. But Goku has achieved an all new level of power that is hands down the best yet.
In this past weekend’s two-part episode “The Ultimate Enemy Approaches Goku! Now, Let Loose! The Killer Spirit Bomb!!” (109) and “This is the Ultimate Battle of All Universes! Son Goku vs Jiren!!” (110), Goku and the mysterious and imposing Jiren finally squared off. Heroes (and villains) from a number of universes have been competing in the Tournament of Power to determine not just who’s the best fighter among them, but to save their own universe from being erased. The Gods are playing a pretty dirty game here, threatening universe nullification, but it’s Goku’s dream come true since he gets to test his abilities against the best of the best. In fact, it’s long been Goku’s willingness and enthusiasm to challenge himself that’s given him the opportunity to grow so strong and take advantage of his unique Saiyan potential.
As Krillin and Master Roshi mention once Goku and Jiren begin to size each other up, master martial artists long to test themselves against competent opponents at the top of their games and at full power. While this is a good way to show just how strong Jiren is, it also serves as a little walk down memory lane for Dragon Ball fans. Goku goes through his successive power levels, paralleling his character’s journeys over the years while testing his strength against Jiren … who doesn’t even flinch. It takes Goku going Super Saiyan Blue with a Kaioken x20 (the most powerful we’ve ever seen him to date) to even get Jiren to engage in battle. And when these two fight … it’s a helluva thing. Goku gets his ass handed to him, a rare thing to see these days. He quickly resorts to his ultimate attack: The Spirit Bomb.
However, this doesn’t quite work out as planned. After a lengthy tug of war (and much screaming from Goku), Jiren eventually repelled the attack and cast it upon Goku himself!
Now, in the past, Goku’s disappearance/fate would have been left mysterious for weeks upon weeks, but because Dragon Ball Super does not screw around with major plot points, the Super Saiyan soon returned in a remarkable fashion. It seemed that the Spirit Bomb had provided Goku with enough energy to tap into his deepest pools of potential power. Gone was any trace of Goku’s blonde, blue or even rosé hair, his usual spiky black hair in its place, but his eyes and his aura were certainly different. This silver-eyed Goku was radiating a sort of shimmering, translucent type of aura that gave off an incredible amount of heat but was much more focused than that of his normal power levels. The new form came with the ability to move with purpose, batting away powerful attacks with ease and dodging them effortlessly. This was the introduction of the technique known as migatte no goku’i, a.k.a. Mastery of Self-Movement, or Ultra Instinct.
While not quite as impressive as the moment Goku transformed into Super Saiyan for the first time (since it lacked much of the tense build-up and emotional triggers), the Ultra Instinct transformation was a helluva thing to see, regardless. Think of all the times Goku has ratcheted up his power levels either because he was playing around for fun or because he let his rage at the loss of a loved one take control; now imagine what he could do if he tapped into his full potential and actually focused. That’s Ultra Instinct, as Jiren quickly found out. This is probably the most thrilling fight sequence I’ve seen from Dragon Ball in recent memory. Gone were the chaotic movements and incessant screaming of Goku, replaced by precise strikes and strategic choices, each improving blow by blow as he learned and adjusted to Jiren’s fighting style.
While the fight raged on, the gathered Gods seemed to grow nervous. It seemed that Goku has suddenly attained a level that even they had difficulty mastering. Whis had been training both Goku and Vegeta in that technique earlier in the season, but it has never really been followed up on since then. However, a new “legend” was introduced, one that spoke of a fighter who was so powerful that not even a God of Destruction could defeat him. That fighter was presumed to be Jiren, but perhaps Goku is within striking distance of this distinction, as well.
However, there’s still a lot of fight left in Jiren, who dispatched even the silver-eyed Goku with relative ease once it was clear the Saiyan could no longer maintain the Ultra Instinct form.
Twice before we’ve seen Goku attain this “imperfect” Ultra Instinct state, but in the most recent episode “Transcending the Limit! Mastering Ultra Instinct!!”, as you might have guessed, Goku seemed to grasp the ultimate ability at long last.
With just about everyone out of the picture besides Goku and Jiren–and probably Frieza, just chilling on a piece of rock somewhere and waiting for the time to strike–it comes down to Universe 7 and Universe 11’s greatest combatants. Honestly, there shouldn’t be much left of the fighting stage at all when it comes down to these two. There’s a point where Goku seems to channel–or maybe even create?–the energy from an entire star or galaxy into his being, becoming a glowing manifestation of phenomenal cosmic power. Meanwhile, Jiren “heats up” to levels we haven’t seen before, and his massive amount of red energy clashes with that of Goku’s Ultra Instinct silvery-blue.
And for the moment, Ultra Instinct Goku seems to have the upper hand. Having switched from defense to offense, this is the first time we’ve seen Jiren actually on the ropes while Goku barely seems to be breaking a sweat. While I’m sure that will change in the episodes ahead, a couple of things are clear: This is the last time we’ll see Goku channel the Ultra Instinct power for this fight against Jiren, as remarked by the gathered gods. The Gods of Destruction seem to be a bit frustrated, concerned and maybe a bit angry that Goku’s abilities may have surpassed their own, even as Whis and his fellow angelic attendants/children of the Great Priest, and even the Omni King(s) are pleased and surprised by it.
Could Goku ascend to some sort of actual God status in earnest? Toppo was previously revealed to be a candidate for a God of Destruction; could Goku be a candidate for a God of Creation, or some other level of deity? That’s a question that’ll have to wait until Goku hopefully defeats Jiren, saves Universe 7, and makes his wish. Its answer probably has a lot to do with not only the fate of Dragon Ball Super but for wherever the franchise heads next.