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Dragon Ball Z Kai Part 3 Blu-ray Review

9 min read

The arrival of the Ginyu Forces is still a drag on the show, but a much shorter drag thankfully.

What They Say:
The last descendants of an evil race of warriors known as the Saiyans are on a collision course with Earth, and Goku – the strongest fighter on the planet – is all that stands between humanity and extinction. To save his friends and the world he loves, Goku must travel to a realm from which few return, but should he survive, he’ll discover the power to face the villainous Saiyan warlord, Prince Vegeta.

Contains episodes 27-39.

The Review
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 is nicely done with a straightforward new visual design image of Piccolo looking all angry in his usual outfit set against a white background that really draws the eye to the character. 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 green 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 green strip extends around to it a bit and is then given over to a dark gray. There’s a good image of Piccolo here surrounded by energy that has him looking mean and powerful 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 Gohan 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 se-tups. The menus are all about the clips from the show playing out in bold action with lots of vi-brant 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 and an eight minute video interview with the main English language ac-tors of the franchise talking about what Dragon Ball Z means to them. Fans will definitely enjoy it if you like the dub of the series and this re-recording of it as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The third installment of the Dragon Ball Z Kai series is the one that I have to admit I was dreading the most. Back when Dragon Ball Z was first released on DVD, we went through numerous vo-lumes of it from Pioneer and then FUNimation launched their DVD efforts with the volume focus-ing on the arrival of the Ginyu Special Forces. It did absolutely nothing to instill any faith in the franchise at that point, back when I had not read the manga and this was my first full exposure to bilingual Dragon Ball Z. So after avoiding the orange box releases a few years ago, I’m not back revisiting what I always felt was one of the lowest points of the series in genera and in the Freeza arc itself.

And it’s still just as bad. Just shorter. Blissfully shorter.

The Namek arc is one that does take a bit of time, though the streamlining is working well. This set opens with Kuririn and Gohan running around like crazy trying to keep at least on Dragon Ball away from either Freeza or Vegeta so they can’t invoke Shen Long. Which in turn frustrates just about everyone since it does drag things out a bit, but it makes perfect strategic sense. It can go on only so long though and it has to end with Freeza having all the balls, though things do change around so that Vegeta has them. When Freeza has them, it’s positively amusing because he doesn’t have the invocation needed to bring out Shen Long, so it’s running off to the Grand Elder to beat it out of him. Leaving the balls with some underlings or burying them is just plain stupid though for someone so powerful who could easily have another way of taking them with him. If you just acquired them all, would you leave them anywhere out of your sight?

Regardless, it does allow for events to play out a bit more and part of what we do get here is the arrival of some of Freeza’s ultimate special forces in the Ginyu Special Forces. These five mighty warriors arrive early in the set to bring new Scouters for Freeza and the gang so they can find Vegeta and the missing Dragon Ball. They’re positively comical, or at least try to be, because they have a special combination dance routine that they do and they’re confident in their abilities. They do manage to beat down Gohan and the guys fairly well, but it’s all just a holding action until Goku arrives. Goku’s training in space, cut ever so blissfully short in this incarnation, pays off handsomely as he flicks them away like flies. Though his sense of honor comes into play a little too much, it fits with his beliefs and character so you can’t be too disgruntled by it. Except for the fact that it leaves him once again within an inch of his life. There are some surprising moments ot it, at least for the other characters, as he’s able to absorb memories from some and gives Vegeta reason to believe that Goku has become the legendary Super Saiyan.

What defines this set heavily though is that Freeza finally takes a full on place in things, first by battling Nail and then going after Vegeta, Gohan and Kuririn. The trio are playing something of a holding action against Freeza while Goku is healing. Except that for Vegeta, he so wants to be the one to take him down that he can’t help but get into it. Freeza’s confidence is at least justified as he gets into things as he claims to have a battle power of something like six hundred thousand, which is impressive as Goku’s highly rated skills are now only at just over a hundred thousand. But the fight gets going in a very big way as Piccolo is brought into play through a little Ball magic and it’s fun to see him coping with being on his home world while still trying to be aloof as his entire race is being slaughtered.
Dragon Ball Z Kai has a lot going for it here as it does cut down on the slow moving material to a very good degree here. But as much as it helps, I can’t help but to think that it’s hurting the show in a bit as well. Freeza certainly is an imposing figure, but with some of the shortening of events and that of the Ginyu Special Corps, it feels like they’re losing some of what makes them seem as powerful as they are. So much is covered so quickly in the thirteen episodes here that the villains, at least outside of Freeza because of his transformations at the end here, aren’t as imposing as they once felt. A lot of it was bravado, but still.

In Summary:
Dragon Ball Z Kai is a series that I’m still somewhat ambivalent about because I love the original more, but grew to like this one a lot upon reading the manga. The Kai version of it is certainly streamlining events and making the pacing much faster, but it’s losing a little something as well. I continue to find it to be a fascinating experiment almost, to see if it can survive this kind of process that so many fans said was necessary over the years, myself included. I think it’s managing to pull it off much better than many would expect, but by its nature it can’t be perfect. I’m still impressed by the visual upgrade overall and am enjoying the experience, but I keep thinking that the manga will be the way I remember it the most in a positive light. This edition does a lot of really good things though and it has me interested to see just how the rest of the Freeza arc will go. And how quickly.

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: December 14th, 2010
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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