Dragon Ball Super really changed the game in the anime's final "Tournament of Power" story arc. Battling the best fighters from across the multiverse pushed Goku into his biggest limit break ever, as the Saiyan warrior tapped into the divine state of Ultra Instinct. However, ever since the Tournament of Power, Goku has been able to access the power of Ultra Instinct again. The Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie briefly conveyed that fact, while the continuing story of the Dragon Ball Super manga has made Goku's struggle to get Ultra Instinct back a major hurdle to stoping the series latest big bad villain (Moro).
It may seem like a frustrating wait to some fans, but the struggle with this new power is exactly why Ultra Instinct is the Perfect Form for Goku! Allow us to explain:
Both Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super have made a point of routinely using intense emotional states as the catalyst for Goku's biggest limit break moments. It was Freeza brutally murdering Krillin that sent Goku into the rage that first unlocked his Super Saiyan transformation; the jump to Super Saiyan Blue came out of his frustration to defeat Freeza in the "Ressurection F" story arc. Ultra Instinct has turned this sort of tradition on its head, by having the form be something Goku stumbles into out of pure instinct and necessity during his Tournament of Power battles, without rewarding him with easy access to the power thereafter. That unusual approach of making Goku have to really struggle and work to achieve a new power has got fans thinking and discussing, and they've come to the conclusion that this power is adding more to Goku's character than many of us ever expected.
As the Dragon Ball Super anime explained (and the manga has further explained), Ultra Instinct is a power that must be tapped into by doing the exact opposite of what unlocks Super Saiyan. As Galactic Patrol Elite agent Merus tell Goku:
"Rage, grief, joy -- those strong emotions can translate to prodigious power.... Just like your Super Saiyan transformation. But the technique you're after is the opposite... It will activate when you achieve self-control in the face of a jarring shock to your emotions. Such is Ultra Instinct."
Basically, Ultra Instinct is a state achieved through a zen-like level of serenity and control - a full-fledged release of conscious thought and emotional attachment that brings a fighter to a higher plane of perception and reaction. Goku can't re-access it because he's simply too hung up mentally and emotionally to reach that place mind space again - and that kind of complex mental/emotional subplot seems to be intriguing a lot of fans, who otherwise assumed that being a hard-headed lunk who just likes to fight was a defining characteristic of Goku's character.0comments
Eventually characters must evolve though, and it seems that through Ultra Instinct, Goku is headed for a similar (and much-needed) maturation like Vegeta has shown throughout the series, as he enters a do-or-die training regiment with Merus. The only looming question is: to what end? There's a lot of fan speculation that after Ultra Instinct mastery Goku will be on the level of a true god - and that has potential to change the nature of Dragon Ball's story forever!
Dragon Ball Super currently airs its English dub on Adult Swim during the Toonami programming block on Saturday evenings, and is also available to stream on Funimation and Amazon Video. The Japanese-language release of the series is complete, and available to stream on FunimationNOW and Crunchyroll. The manga has chapters that can currently be read for free thanks to Viz Media, and Dragon Ball Super's big movie, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.