The shitty power scaling in the DBZ franchise has already been pointed out, from the power creep in the Frieza arc to the immediate downplay of the SSJ transformation in the Cell/Android arc. No matter how you slice it, the overwhelming problem with Dragon Ball Z and Super’s fights center around a power system that promotes power over anything else. If my number is higher than yours, you aren’t going to do shit. Power levels have been thrown out because Toriyama realized what a pain they are but the reverberations of this terribly simplistic battle system still shows its way throughout the franchise even now. If x is stronger than y, x wins. Super has brought in hax like invincibility to try and combat this concept but it still pervades the series.
So the newest DBS episode centers around some weak bitch Kale turning into the raging freakshow that we all call “Female Broly”. That’s cool. The fun part about all of this is that the series does a horrible job of giving us any reason to believe that she is even near the level of someone like Goku. Before I break down my grievances with this form, I want to just take us back a few weeks in time. Kale was sperging out because she thought that Cabba was trying to get in her Neesan’s baggy pants. What did it take to stop Kale’s onslaught? A newly transformed SSJ2 Caulifla. Ok, fine. I’m not a fan of characters finding new reserves of power when unagitated and given no real stressors, but who cares, Super is already a shitty show. Now, let’s set up a scene here folks. Caulifla and ‘old man’ Goku go at it for a bit in their SSJ2 transformations, it is shown that Goku, while going easy, is still with a strength advantage over his opponent, seeing her as nothing more than a pleasant distraction. SO. Kale once again spergs out (her characterization is complete dogshit and I hate her) and attacks Goku.
Thus, where the memes begin, Kale’s attack was deflected by SSJ2 Caulifla while in this transformation, but now she is able to force Goku into Blue. But oh wait! Goku is suppressing himself… What the fuck are these Super apologists fucking talking about? Not only does Goku state that he is going to show more and more of his strength, but he wouldn’t go SSB to suppress himself under SSJ2, that makes no fucking sense. Kale from the first transformation is less than or equal to an SSJ2 Caulifla. Goku SSJ2 > Caulifla SSJ2. But oh no! Kale > SSJ2 Goku and (‘Suppressed’ SSB Goku). Big surprise, some of the people watching this bullshit series are pissed, including me. Why is that? Well, the power scaling already communicated that Goku is stronger than Caulifla in their respective forms, and that Caulifla could shrug off a full powered blast from Kale in an attack that wasn’t aimed at her in particular. Along with that Kale was communicated to be weaker than balls in her base form, easily getting fodderized by the most generic of enemies.
So then, that would mean that Kale’s transformation is inconsistent and inconsistency begets terrible power scaling. Note. Goku’s SSB is something that allows him to tap into a full range of his power (Kaioken is a separate buff). So, him going into that form allows himself to suppress himself down to nothing or to tap into his full power outside of KK. The problem with this suppression bullshit is it makes fights badly paced, giving up the sure understanding of who’s the strongest in the room (who’s going to win) for the cheap thrill of watching two grown adults beat each other up for a few moments. Goku is written to fight like this, but as I’ve already detailed: there is no reason for him to be under SSJ2 in his suppression. So maybe Kale is around SSJ3 level and Goku kept himself between SSJ3 and SSJ2; what’s the problem there? 1. Kale has no control of her power. 2. Goku isn’t retarded. Goku’s suppression serves a purpose in these fights, he sizes up his opponent and reaches their level gradually for a bigger thrill along with ending fights using the least effort. It is very irritating, but this is how enormously powerful characters communicate their superiority, just ask Frieza. So Goku, after getting walloped and tossed around like a rag doll, goes into SSB and what? Continues to get thrown around and walloped with even his Kamehameha not doing anything. This is bad writing, him going SSB after getting shit on is an indicator that he is going to put in more effort, but here we are with his attacks being just as ineffective as before.
The only thing making this worse is the fact that Kale can’t control herself in that form, which means that we should assume that she is always pumping out her full power when she is Brolied out. This assumption means that Caulifla knocking away her attack was a plot contrivance bordering on fanservice since Kale is clearly stronger than her by a wide margin. Another thing that can make this meme even worse is when you assume that Goku absorbed SSG back in the Battle of the Gods arc. This would leave us to think that his SSJ2 transformation would put him well over a lot of regular saiyans in the series. This only serves to make the power scaling make even less sense, since Goku would be able to wallop people in his base throughout most of the series. Oh…. wait. That one shitty episode where SSJ3 Gotenks was getting fucking destroyed by Base Vegeta (Purple fucker) happened, so then we would assume that the base potential of Goku and Vegeta are well above fusion SSJ3… This is the problem with this series. If Goku has this much power, why transform into SSJ2? Why transform into SSB just to suppress yourself?
With Kuririn, Goku used it to motivate. That makes sense since Kuririn has a habit of being afraid of those stronger than he is and he is often maligned as a weak bitch, so motivating him by entering an intimidating form has a purpose. Goku trying to stop the brutal emasculating session of face grabs and WWE moves using SSB is clearly for a different purpose, to exceed the opponent’s strength. So that is why Goku still getting shit on makes very little sense. Kale in this form would always be at her strongest due to the lack of control she has, Goku is very strong based off of the buffs he received in BoG and beyond and wouldn’t need to put in much effort in the first place, and Goku isn’t a dumbshit who is unable to gauge his opponent’s strength. If Goku went into SSB to meet Kale’s level, his attacks would be effective, but they weren’t. And I highly doubt that the episode director or the other clowns up at Toei were trying to communicate Goku being an idiot. They wanted to show off Kale’s transformation being strong, and I can respect that, but they communicated this by further downplaying the SSB transformation which was reasonably hard earned by Goku and Vegeta, so fans have the right to be mad when characters like this can just pull such power out of nowhere with improper buildup, backstory or hype. It’s just fanservice.
The conclusion that I draw from these events and the rest of the Dragon Ball Super franchise is that transformations are a hindrance and only hurt the narrative pacing and power scaling of the series. The idea of transformations were initially pretty interesting, great ape transformation was engaging, the Kaioken technique had a great risk factor to its buffs and the original SSJ transformation is at the height of popularity and nostalgia. Unfortunately, the SSJ image was broken down and built back up with derivatives popping every which way. It became a SSJ bargain sale. Pacing of the fights became overindulgent and sloppy, the stakes became less and less interesting, communication of power became difficult to comprehend and my enjoyment has dropped immensely over the years.
From series that I enjoy like One Piece, the power scaling is often a product of well designed rules and systems. Devil fruits are unique requiring unique methods for engagement which make every battle interesting and fun. The power scaling is consistent and it is fair, but the One Piece series doesn’t have a stipulation like DB’s power levels which leaves room for thinking and strategy to down stronger opponents. Just take a look at Usopp and Nami’s fights. Early in One Piece, a condition exists where the idea of practice, ingenuity and imagination in Devil Fruit use could potentially make the weakest power the most threatening and people like Luffy, Big Mom, and Blackbeard show this to be true in how they engage their opponents, and now that Haki has been introduced, the number of possibilities have flourished dramatically. In Hunter X Hunter, Bisky talks to Killua about his reservations when fighting stronger enemies during mid portion of the Chimera Ant arc, stating that when given the right conditions fighter D can beat opponents A, B, and C, assuming that A>B>C>D. The Nen system gives leeway to the idea of mastery and strategy being king within the narrative. Those who have put in the most effort, and have experimented the most with their abilities, taking the time to master the basics, the intermediate skills, and their hatsu can find reasonable counters against any opponent if given enough knowledge and resources. That is why monologues are given such attention during fights, finding ways to circumvent an opponent’s ability is important for being able to stay alive and hold the advantage during a Nen fight. Mind and matter in these two vastly different power systems leave room for well thought out fight choreography and pacing, allowing for thematic resonance and stakes to be organic and intense. Being able to allow the unimpressive to strategize and outperform the impressive is what makes these two series among the best battle Shounen that Jump has ever published.
What to take away from this rant? When making a story or a narrative of some sort, be sure to give time and attention to making the combat system interesting, intricate, understandable and functional; give time to communicate the rules of engagement and make sure that the characters stick by those rules.