What They Say:
Earth’s heroes continue their brave battle against the Android attackers, but a far greater evil looms on the horizon! As Goku hovers between life and death, the monster known as Cell blazes a trail of death and destruction on a quest to achieve his horrifyingly perfect form. Should the hideous creature succeed in devouring his Android brethren, not even the combined powers of a Super Saiyan and a Super Namekian will be able to spare the people of Earth from excruciating extinction!
Contains episodes 66-77.
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 eight 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 Vegeta in his Super Saiyan mode giving Cell the beating of a lifetime. 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 Kai on the back with him looking rather menacing 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 Vegeta looking all intense and angry against a dark gray 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)
As the Dragon Ball Z Kai incarnation continues, I have to admit more and more that it’s working for me. With so much of the material covered so far compressing things well compared to how it was in the original, the streamlining of the story has made it all tighter while still allowing for the show to spend time where it needs to in order to give it a sense of grandness. What I particularly like is how well they dealt with the Freeza saga overall and then short cut everything when it came to his father, which was from what I can tell pretty much what we had in the original. With it introducing the Androids and all their fun with time travel with Trunks, that compression there worked to smooth things out as well.
While I did grow to like the Androids in the course of the original, their presentation here is pretty good since they’re focused more on their journey at this point and keeping it casual. With 16 pretty much keeping it quiet sitting in the back of the truck, they’re going from town to town as 18 looks for new clothes and 17 just kinds of grins like a fool. But as is noted later, they have their own plan but they’re not acting like the monsters Trunks knew from his timeline. And that goes a long way towards making them more interesting characters since they’re not randomly killing everyone and instead just sort of have fun with them. Unless she gets some bad outfits from one of the towns.
This set has a lot going on besides that journey thankfully and a whole lot of it involves powering up. And that’s to deal with the threat that are the Androids at first, which turns out to be a minor concern to the real threat. That threat, discovered when they find a second time machine that arrived a year prior to Trunks original arrival, has some other… thing that has hatched from an egg that comes from the even further future. This thing is actually quite disturbingly creepy during most of this as we’re introduced to Cell, a hybrid creature grown by Dr. Gero’s computer for years that in the future has the makeup of people like Freeza, Goku, Vegeta and more. And in that future timline, he knows that he needs the 17 and 18 to be absorbed into himself to become Gero’s ultimate super being.
Dr. Gero really is the greatest threat from beyond the grave. And there’s some really amusing but smart time travel angles brought into here where basically each attempt to change time is just a new branch of a parallel world that doesn’t impact the other, so going back and forth to fix things only works in that new timeline. The realization is rather well done here and it gets everyone to focus on doing what they can in the present to defeat Cell before he can absorb the others and destroy the world. While the androids want to defeat Goku and just have the run of the place, even they eventually realize that Cell just wants power, more power and ultimate destruction.
The power up aspect of the set is surprisingly fun as well and kept largely to the side. The first bout comes from Piccolo and Kami as Piccolo has realized that he needs to merge with him in order to get to the next level to deal not only with the Androids but also Cell. Vegeta comes to this kind of realization as well that he needs to go beyond Super Saiyan and that there’s a glimmer of a way. Thankfully, he ends up spending time training with Trunks in the time and spirit room at Kami’s place where a year can be dealt with in a day. Seeing the two of them grudgingly work together is a good moment when they come out, as is the moment that Goku and Gohan have before going in. The father/son aspects here are blunt to be sure, but it deals with it pretty well.
As much as I disliked the way the original Dragon Ball Z series played out, I did eventually become a fan overall because reading the manga won me over. With Dragon Ball Z Kai, it feels like we’re getting something closer to that with all that it does in compressing things, streamlining it and making it move better. This set, though short with twelve episodes instead of the thirteen we’ve usually gotten, covers some good ground and sets up a lot of what’s to come. Cell’s introduction is spot on and appropriately creepy, the good guys spend time getting powered up without spending thirty episodes to do so and the scale of what’s involved is made very clear. There’s a whole lot to like here as it deals with a lot of different things and handles it all well.
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: September 13th, 2011
Running Time: 290 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.