What They Say:
The epic showdown between Goku and Frieza reaches its climax as planet Namek crumbles beneath their feet! In the aftermath of battle, neither fighter is anywhere to be found, but Earth’s few remaining heroes have much bigger problems. A mysterious and powerful stranger known only as Trunks arrives from the future with a warning: the Androids are coming, they take no prisoners, and even Goku – wherever he may be – is no match for their kind!
Contains episodes 53-65.
Dragon Ball Z Kai gets a good audio presentation for its release as both language tracks are done in Dolby TrueHD. The Japanese mix, which was naturally updated for its current airing in Japan, gets a solid stereo presentation though I do wish they’d get on the ball more about using 5.1 mixes for their shows. The forward soundstage gets a solid workout in general with a fair bit of directionality and a whole lot of clarity when compared to the weak DVD releases we’ve had over the years, be they in stereo or mono. The English 5.1 mix has a much richer and fuller sound as expected and it utilizes the overall soundstage effectively, though the rears don’t get a huge workout in general. Similar to past releases, it really comes down to which cast you like the best (both of which have casting changes), but I’m very pleased that we got lossless audio tracks for both and that they’re free of problems.
Originally starting airing in 1986… and then remastered and airing again in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series was broadcast in Japan zoomed and in widescreen but FUNimation’s releases mirror the Japanese Blu-ray releases by giving us the show as it should look. The release uses a dual layer and single layer disc set so the spread is nine episodes on the first and four on the second. Having watched the show numerous times in different sets over the years, this is definitely by far the best it has ever looked. Colors look great, detail is spot on and outside of some source related blemishes that they didn’t clean up for whatever reason, it’s a great looking release. It takes the warmth of traditional animation and moves it to a more detailed level than we’ve seen before and with a very clean and solid look to the colors it’s even more impressive. The various kinds of animation used throughout here, with the original that’s been tweaked and cleaned up, the redone pieces and the new pieces all provide for a very disjointed look. It can be quite jarring at first, but as the episodes progressed it bothered me less and less. After the variety of really bad releases over the years, especially remembering FUNimation’s own first Dragon Ball Z DVDs, I can say that while this isn’t perfection by a stretch, it’s left me pretty pleased.
The release is done with a standard blu-ray case with a cardboard slipcover that replicates the case artwork itself. The front cover deviates again from most of the covers as it has the pairing of Trunks in his Super Saiyan mode taking sword to Freeza. The colors look good and they stand out even against the white background. The logo is kept to the lower left and is surprisingly small but fits well so the character artwork gets most of the attention. The right side has a purple strip going down where it has the logo and the volume numbering along with a couple of expected company logos. The back cover is done sideways where the purple strip extends around to it a bit and is then given over to a dark gray. There’s a good image of Trunks with an intense look to his face that definitely defines the character well while below him they keep to the technical information and a bunch of logos. The majority is given over to the summary which covers the basics of the show along with a good push of the updated aspect of the series. We get a few small shots as well though they’re small enough to not really matter or help to sell things. There aren’t any show related inserts included but we do get artwork on the other side with a close-up action shot of a Trunks looking all intense and angry against a green background while the other side deals with a sideways episode breakdown by number and title.
The menus for this release are something of a disappointment overall and problematic, though perhaps more for these old eyes than for the young pups out there watching on smaller HD setups. The menus are all about the clips from the show playing out in bold action with lots of vibrant colors and that looks good. I like that. It sets the mood just right. The problem is with the navigation strip along the bottom, which does double as the pop-up as well, where they use small – small – blue text on top of a silver background and shuffle it all off to the right. With the font used and the combination of the colors, it’s unattractive and hard to read at even the tiniest bit of distance, even on larger setups. The menus do work flawlessly, discounting the fact that they don’t read the players’ language presets which continues to be a big pet peeve of mine, and everything is very easy to move about in.
The only extras included in here are on the second volume with clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Dragon Ball Z Kai has certainly benefited from the editing and recutting of the material from the original length, especially when you take into account just how shortened the Freeza saga was. Much like the arrival of Vegeta, it’s all shrunk down considerably to a more managable length to where you feel you can enjoy it without getting bogged down in it. Part of what I keep running into, which surprises me, is finding that I sometimes miss the more drawn out aspect of parts of it. Not as a whole, but sometimes there are moments where it could use a little more slowing down before running into the next big moment. And this series does have a lot of big moments to it.
With this installment, we’re still going on with the Freeza storyline, but it’s on its last legs as we see how Goku continues to give him small chances in order to live. It’s not exactly out of kindness as he now views Freeza as below him and no longer a challenge, but also a punishment in order to have him go sulk off into a corner of the galaxy to pay penance for what he’s done. Of course, you know that’s not in Freeza’s personality, but the end of their battle does send the two beings on their separate ways. Where it gets groan worthy though is when Freeza’s near dead body is found by his father, which then sets a newly rebuilt Freeza on course to Earth to deal out his revenge. As powerful as Freeza is, papa has to be stronger, especially as he goes by the name of King Cold.
This all leads to a great amount of tension on Earth as they learn that he’s coming there and he’s a few hours ahead of Goku, so it’s going to be one hell of a challenge after all they managed to survive the first time around. With it being a year since all of it ended, they’ve trained harder but there’s something to Freeza’s level that just puts him too high above them. Which is why it’s all the more amusing after the right amount of posturing, threats and more, someone blinks in out of nowhere and slices and dices Freeza into a few different pieces before dispatching of his father even more quickly. Just as you expect to go into a larger round two with Freeza, you instead get the Indiana Jones moment where he just shoots the guy with the blades doing all the fancy moves.
This puts the show into a rather interesting direction and a wholly Earth based one, which I definitely approve of after all the Saiyan and Freeza material we’ve had so far, even if some of it did take place on Earth. The introduction of the eighteen year old Trunks brings a nice slice of fun to the show as time travel is now involved. Keeping it secret to just Goku, not realizing how good Piccolo’s ears are, Trunks lays out the deal about how Goku will die soon from an incurable disease as of this time period and the rest will be crushed a couple of years later when a pair of cyborgs are activated and send the world to ruin. Without Goku to rally them, they fall under the two androids reign of terror. But Trunks intends to set things on the right path by giving Goku the medicine he needs.
I adore time travel stories and bringing that element into Dragon Ball Z does offer some fun to it. Trunks actively sets to change the past so that the future doesn’t fall to ruin while dealing with the potential for erasing or severely altering his own existence. But that’s a given no matter what because if they do change the state of the battle when the two androids are activated, the young Trunks will grow up in a very different world. And that leads to alternate and divergent time lines and that just makes for very good fun. With the series moving ahead in time to cover these events in the near term, with lots of training happening off screen, it gets right into the good stuff. And all of Trunks warnings have come true, but there are some significant differences as well, which makes it all the more curious when he comes back to the past to make sure things go the right way, only to discover that it’s less certain than before by significant margins because of how he altered it. Trunks is a character that by most designs, I should really dislike because of how he’s come about and the way he shakes things up in a way, but he’s probably my second or third favorite character in the series behind young Goku and probably Piccolo. I even liked the GT series since it got to do more with him. I’ve always just found him a bit more driven in a way at times and a more interesting character because of what he’s gone through and the desperation to save everything, only to see many similar mistakes made, especially by those that are very important to him.
The conclusion of the Freeza arc is definitely a welcome part of the series and the quick shift into the next storyline that features the Androids does feel a bit rushed when you really get down to it, but part of it is just in marathoning this set. There’s some downtime to catch your breath when they deal with the dragon balls from Namek and bring closure to a lot of what happened, but it’s a small sliver in the grand scheme of the series and getting back on with more action really is the main thrust of things. Thankfully, the next storyline has a lot of really good material to work with and the introduction of the Android characters adds more personality and flair than Freeza and his flunkies could offer. And with it being based on Earth, it has a bit more charm to it as well with that sense of familiar and the ease through which they can bring in more of the cast. This is a very fun set of episodes that brings closure well and rolls forward just as easily.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 28th, 2011
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.