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Dragon Ball Z Kai Part 4 Blu-ray Review

9 min read

The battle between Goku and Freeza becomes a world shattering affair – literally!

What They Say
After learning that Frieza murdered his father and destroyed his home planet, Goku takes aim at the putrid purple monster in the greatest grudge match the galaxy has ever seen! The bruises multiply at a furious rate as the two warriors trade blows in a battle that literally destroys planet Namek. As the slugfest approaches a standstill, Frieza forever silences Goku’s closest friend – sending Earth’s hero into a Super Saiyan rage that threatens to obliterate them both!

Contains episodes 40-52.

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 deviates from what we’ve seen before as it has the pairing of Goku in his new form going hand to hand with 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 Freeza here looking all smug and powerful 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 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Dragon Ball Z Kai has another set of very busy episodes with this set as the focus is almost entirely on the battle between Goku and Freeza. We’re definitely getting to it earlier than we did in the original incarnation and the intensity of the battle has a very different feel as well since it’s much more focused. The Kai series continues to be an unusual piece to watch, though as we noted in the third volume, a lot of the pacing problems have started to fall away as it gets more into what’s at stake since the battles are far more focused.

Some of the subplot material is really variable here while some of it is quite good. The less than fun materi-al involves Bulma and Ginyu. With Ginyu having been reduced to a frog-like creature, he’s intent on figur-ing out a way back into a humanoid body so he can regain some of his stature and hook up with Freeza again. Of course, with few people left on the planet, his options are pretty slim, especially when it comes to someone he can take advantage of. Luckily, Bulma’s around so he manages to get into her body. It’s an awkward piece as it unfolds since seeing Ginyu in her body is readily apparent to anyone who sees her, though she mostly spends her time with Gohan so it’s sort of forgiven. It has its moments of being cute, but it’s largely a distraction to the larger events playing out here.

It also takes a couple of episodes here before Goku returns to the battle since he’s still recovering so that allows the others to try and hold Freeza off as long as they can. Vegeta’s back and forth with Freeza continues to be a bit draining since he’s so self-involved about being the one to take him down, but he does balance it with the fact that Freeza is the one that destroyed his world and killed his father. He has reason for wanting revenge on him and for biding his time all these years by working for him. The others do manage to work with Vegeta and there is some fun in seeing that considering they’ve fought against him a fair bit now, and against each other at times, but all of it really does feel like little more than prelude to the big event as we see flashes of Goku trying to sense what’s going on as he rejuvenates.

The bulk of the focus here though is on that fight itself that we’ve been looking forward to, the fight where Freeza and Goku are largely unbound with each other. The pairing of these two powerful people has been building for awhile in different directions. Having seen Goku’s growth since he was a little boy, he’s always looked for the next challenge because he loved it, needed that in order to feel like it would help him grow. Freeza’s past has been given some light, but largely we’ve just needed to know that he’s the biggest badass out there. With him being behind the destruction of planet Vegeta, his father specifically, and the majority of his own species, even if he calls himself an Earthling, the two have plenty of reason to go at each other. With Freeza’s fear of a Super Saiyan thrown into the mix, you can see his reasons for wanting to make sure Goku and Vegeta are wiped out at this point as well.

With the filler style material removed, the progression of abilities between the two is rather well played and feels just right. Freeza’s shift to his final form brings an immense amount of power out and he has no qualms in using it, though it’s good to see it takes an effect on him. With Goku, it takes a bit more since he’s continually pushing his body whereas Freeza has reached his pinnacle prior and has rested his laurels on that. Goku, like other Saiyans, only become more powerful the more difficult blows they deal with so someone like Freeza just brings him to a whole other level. The welcome part is with the whole Super Saiyan aspect as part of it is somewhat explained in that the reason it’s legendary is because it requires some amount of a good and pure heart involved, one that is enraged as the two passions burning together can bring a Saiyan to a whole other level. With Vegeta and the others being all about the fighting for the sake of fighting and getting stronger, and being cruel, they’ve missed out on that key component.

The fight between the two lasts about ten episodes here and doesn’t truly conclude in this set, but we get to see the rise of it to the upper levels which is really very engaging. Freeza was not a favorite villain from the first time I saw him, dubbed no less, and revisiting it in the Japanese language didn’t do much the next time around since it was a seemingly endless arc. With the tighter episodes here due to the Kai cut, the fight be-tween them moves at a very good clip and keeps it largely engaging and entertaining. It does get a little problematic since Goku does have that good heart and keeps giving Freeza chances, but you have to sus-pect that some of it is because he just wants to see Freeza really give him a challenge.

In Summary:
The fourth installment of Dragon Ball Z Kai is chock full of the action and it keeps you pretty engaged since it moves things up by several orders when it comes to the stakes. With the Name-kian’s falling away, Vegeta getting himself pummeled and Goku’s friends coping with some se-rious issues themselves, it’s all dwarfed by the fact that Freeza is ready and capable to destroy the entire planet. There’s a decent bit of strategizing that goes on with the storyline here towards the end as the Dragon Balls themselves come into play again, but a lot of it feels like it’s a whole lot of “if you had done some of this the first time around, you wouldn’t be this bad off now” kind of stuff. Still, as uneven as Kai was at the start, it’s finding its groove here and the Freeza arc definitely is benefiting from the new cut.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 8th, 2011
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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