'Dragon Ball Super': Why Goku's Ultra Instinct Manga Debut Is Better Than the Anime

The latest chapter of the Dragon Ball Super manga chronicled the most pivotal bouts in the [...]

The latest chapter of the Dragon Ball Super manga chronicled the most pivotal bouts in the Tournament of Power thus far - including Gohan revealing a special new power-up in order to take on Universe 6's fused Saiyan powerhouse Kefla. However, Gohan's transformation wasn't actually the main event of the issue - that honor went to Goku's first manifestation of Ultra Instinct "Omen," during his first bout with Jiren of Universe 11!

The manga's version of the Tournament of Power arc has been distinctly different than its anime counterpart - and that includes a very different debut of Ultra Instinct, as well as more backstory and depth than we ever saw in the TV series. Suffice to say: Dragon Ball Super's manga Ultra Instinct is much better than the anime version.

The first improvement that the manga makes to Ultra Instinct is in explaining how Goku understands and utilizes the power. In the anime, Goku mistakenly manifests Ultra Instinct "Omen" as a result of being pushed past his limit by his initial battle with Jiren - then again by accident, as prompted by his battle with Kefla. It made sense in the context of Dragon Ball anime lore, as Goku's thirst for challenging combat has previously pushed him to new power-ups; in fact, Ultra Instinct's step-by-step evolution was a clear callback to Goku's first Super Saiyan transformation during Dragon Ball Z's "Freeza Saga". However, the manga found a way to still honor that legacy, while also discovering a way to root the transformation in a poignant callback to Goku's roots.

In a surprising turn, it turns out to be old Master Roshi who teaches Goku to unlock Ultra Instinct. After Goku tries (and fails) to use a temporary power boost to beat Jiren at his own game of strength, Goku is left sapped of energy and on the ropes. Roshi chastises his old student for still having the same failure of insight and understanding that he had as a kid. As Roshi tells it:

"We don't master martial args to win fights. We do it to conquer ourselves. Until you learn not to get all cuaght up in the enemys power, you'll always be as green as the day we met... One last lesson form the Turtle School then. On how to move well!!"

Roshi then does something that anime fans may consider to be suicidal: he charges in to take on Jiren himself! The battle eventually goes the exact way that you'd expect (Roshi getting thrashed and knocked out of the tournament by Jiren), but not before the old master is able confound Jiren for bit, by moving so fast and agile that Jiren can't land a blow on him. It's enough of a lesson for Goku to overcome his fatigue, inspired by what Roshi had to teach him. Goku makes a strong proclamation, before finally manifesting Ultra Instinct "Omen":

"I was the worst apprentice who never listened, but it's thanks to that old man that I got stronger. So even now, I'm Son Goku... Of the Turtle School."

What's so rich about this manga debut of Ultra Instinct "Omen" is that it actually draws upon Goku's personal history as a warrior, and his relationship to various teachers from Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super, which leads him to this milestone manifestation of divine combat technique. Whereas the anime used Ultra Instinct as a gimmicky power-up to keep viewers invested in the ToP, the manga actually provides psychological foundation for the technique, as well as much clearer hints as to why this particular mortal (Goku) can tap into it.

Most importantly, the manga's version of Ultra Instinct is set up to have very clear distinction from Jiren's own philosophy that strength is the absolute route to pure power. Roshi's lesson clearly demonstrates that movement and agility are as much a part of power as strength is, whereas the anime left things much more ambiguous, framing Goku and Jiren as both being strength-obsessed warriors - except that one valued his friendships much more than the other, which is ultimately the key to Universe 7's victory.


How do you feel about the manga version of Ultra Instinct compared to the anime version? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Dragon Ball Super: Broly will hit Japanese theaters in December, and is expected to arrive in the U.S. around mid-January 2019. Dragon Ball Super is currently airing its English dub on Adult Swim during the Toonami programming block Saturday evenings at 9:30 p.m. It is also available to stream on Funimation and Amazon Video. The Japanese language release of the series is complete, and available to stream on Funimation, VRV, and Crunchyroll.