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Dragon Ball Z Kai Part 8 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

The final battle against Cell takes on an intense level as the series draws to a close

What They Say:
The legendary Z reborn!

For the first time in history, experience the legendary Z as the master intended with this manga-centric, fresh take on Akira Toriyama’s original vision!

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 89-98.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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 seven episodes on the first and three 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.

Packaging:
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 Goku and Gohan in their overpowered Super Saiyan mode as they work together to fight off the big bad. 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 red 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 red strip extends around to it a bit and is then given over to a dark gray. There’s a good image of Gohan 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 Goku looking all intense and angry against a dark gray background while the other side deals with a sideways episode breakdown by number and title.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The only extras included in here are on the second volume with clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. The final volume also includes a new extra we haven’t seen before as we get the four part web interview with Sabat and Schemmel that runs about ten minutes and has a good bit of fun about it as they talk about the experience.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final collection of episodes, Dragon Ball Z Kai brings us ten episodes that deals with the final fight against Cell and a very enjoyable epilogue episode that goes back and actually finishes the main storyline that started it all with Trunks alternate future timeline. The series has moved at a good pace overall and the condensed and streamlined approach to the show has definitely left me enjoying it a lot. At the same time, finishing out this version of the series has put me in the mindset that I’ve now seen so many different incarnations of this show and all the other pieces of it that unless it’s actually new material, I can feel like i’m pretty complete with it all.

With the whole Cell Games going on, not that they’re fun games, events have really gone big here as it’s come down once again to Goku and Cell. Goku’s achieved so much over the years since he was the tiny squirt looking for his grandpa’s dragon ball that you really have to take it all in and enjoy the variety of experiences he’s had that has lead him to this place. Cell for his part is about as you’d expect as he just wants to enjoy this final fight and all that it entails, having felt like he’s truly earned it. And while Cell does play it big and has fun with it, it never really feels like he’s gloating. He’s loving every moment of it as it’s not something he really gets to do often, though both he and Goku are holding back some when you get down to it.

The fight between the two is very slick and well paced here as it unfolds, but it’s just part of the events overall. What I love about the finale here is that it does build on some of what the whole Dragon Ball Z series was about with how it moved things forward early on, made Gohan such a key player and forced him to grow up a lot. He’s done a lot in this series overall, including traveling to Namek and forced to deal with some real fear and loss, but this arc brings it all full circle as Goku shifts the weight of saving the world onto his young shoulder. But as is noted, Gohan has already grown and achieved more at his age than Goku did at his own that it really is quite striking. Gohan is really put through the paces here, especially with what it is that’s required to push him to the level he needs to go against Cell, but overall it really does come together wonderfully and helps shift all the characters forward just right.

I also particularly enjoyed the epilogue episode as it has Trunks finally returning to his own future alternate time line. Trunks was one of the catalysts for all of this happening when he came back in time to learn things and to try and stop the Androids from coming into existence, but that got shuffled to the background for a good part of the show. Here, we get to see him return to the future, meet up with his mother and put things right once again. It covers a good bit of ground in a short amount of time and really does make Trunks very enjoyable to watch here since he’s matured and become measured while also finding some closure when it comes to his father. With it being the separate time line, it doesn’t have any direct impact, but it’s a welcome story to see draw to a close, both with the Androids and the whole event with Cell in the future as well that looped back.

If there’s one frustration I had with this end set of episodes is that during the extended fight with Cell, Mr. Satan has far too much time overall. Part of it comes from marathoning the set since it just makes his presence feel all the stronger, but his inclusion in events just distracted me in all the wrong ways. Since he’s not part of the big leagues by any stretch, pulling the wool over others eyes is all he has when things do get into an epic level like this. But his continued avoidance of going in deep is expected and comical, which is the point, but it doesn’t work for me. I know they want to have some comedic effect in order to offset all that’s going on, but I wanted it played straight, serious and emotional.

In Summary:
Dragon Ball Z Kai draws to a close in a very good way here, bringing things to an end with Cell in a way that should be surprising (well, it was when I saw the series originally years ago) and runs with a lot of good action sequences. The whole Kai experience has been good overall, though off-putting at the start of it with how much was compressed, but as it went on everything really felt like it smoothed out and was made into a much better show without all the extraneous fluff. I was hesitant about the series overall when it was first announced and those opening episodes, but it won me over in the end. I’ll always have a love for the fight scenes that last a dozen episodes, but I’ll also find myself only watching this version again. Or reading the manga. There’s a tightness fo what’s done here that works well and drives home the core storyline, making it an exciting and engaging series from the get go.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Interview with Mr. Sabat and Mr. Schemmel

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

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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