What They Say:
Goku, Earth’s greatest champion, bravely defends humanity against an invading race of warriors known as the Saiyans. When the mighty hero falls, his young son Gohan rises up to face the very villains who murdered his father. The battle rages through space to Planet Namek, where Gohan and his overmatched allies risk their lives to defeat the Saiyan warlord Vegeta and the monster known as Frieza! Contains episodes 1-26.
Set up in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and 2.0 Japanese stereo and mono formats, DBZ Kai is pretty much a return to the remastered DBZ sets previously, but the audio seems to have been cranked up even further. The 5.1 release is superb with me needing to reduce my settings by quite a lot and no issues with the transition between audio and visual. Also, comparing the dub with the subtitles this seems to be a much more faithful translation of DBZ to previous releases, making both dub and sub fans pleased. No problems with synching with the flaps or timing with the subtitles in either format – though with the new Funimation dub may draw comparisons to the Ocean dub back in the day, better translation or not. For me, it was more than acceptable.
Set on a 4:3 – 1.33:1 ratio, there are a few things which differ in this release because of it. First of all, the set up is more of a widescreen effect but more vertical so it doesn’t seem as good or big than the original DBZ releases I reviewed. On the plus side, the animation has either been cleaned up, remastered or completely reworked. The premise of Kai is taking DBZ, and pretty much doing it in a much shorter space of time, this meant cutting out various scenes, filler episodes, etc which will be discussed more in the content section. A lot of the animation is from the original series, but cleaned up – and a number of scenes are completely redone animation wise similar to the opening, eyecatches and ending. This could mislead some people when putting it in for the first time after seeing the cover and seeing the opening and menu screen, but then most of the series is the same DBZ animation, just a lot cleaner. So don’t go into this series expecting the animation to be the quality of the opening, just in certain places (like a lot of the battles in particular).
Each of the menu covers are the same – we have Shenlong on front of a Dragon Ball like wallpaper background with the DBZ Kai logo on the right, above a white border which has the menu selections – Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on Disc 2 and 4, Extras. It is very basic – no movement and even a bit dull to be honest especially with the updated animation but this was similar to the original DBZ releases so was kind of expected. Menus work fine though – no problems with selection, pretty standard from main menu and from the series so they do their job, just not wholly interesting.
The only extras are the clean opening and ending of the release (which for some reason are on both Disc 2 and Disc 4) and trailers for Evangelion 1:11, Soul Eater, X, One Piece, Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple, DBZ Kai itself for some reason, Sengoku Basara, Nabari No Oue and Dragonball GT.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This is a strange one to review. The original DBZ series along with Dragonball and Dragonball GT over the past few years finally reached the UK, remastered with English and Japanese audio. However, from 2009 onwards, this new version Kai had been released in Japan and then later to the US, and now to the UK among other areas. This is basically a cut down version of DBZ but with cleaner and in some cases newer animation.
I have reviewed all the DB franchise including the whole of DBZ, so in terms of what happens; you could simply read these reviews. However, there are things that have changed so this will be a review of what content there is, what has changed, and does it make Kai a better experience than the original DBZ?
First of all, the animation. A lot of it is actually from the original series, but cleaned up and remastered – there are some scenes which fit the animation shown in the opening, but they usually are in battle scenes intermixed with the original footage. Not quite a blink and you’ll miss it moment because it is obvious, but with some of the actions scenes going so fast switching from ‘old’ animation to ‘new’ animation.
Secondly the voice acting is different. Done in 2009 onwards, in both English and Japanese a lot of the actors have had to change because of age and such (though Sean Schemell is still the voice of Goku in English to fans delight) – Funimation taking over means a lot of different voices to the Canadian Ocean Dub of the original but those who have watched the movies will definitely get more used to it quickly – hearing Haruhi (Aya Hirano) as Bulma for example was a surprise in the Japanese but again, getting used to it pretty quickly.
The main difference however is the content. In the first 26 episodes of the original DBZ we only get up to half way through the Saiyan arc – in Kai, we finish with Vegeta killing Zarbon in the Frieza arc (which doesn’t happen until episode 57 of the original DBZ). So as you can see, this is in fact almost an abridged DBZ (not to be confused by the hilarious DBZ Abridged done by Team Four Star) with a lot cut out. However, what is actually cut out?
Well, to be honest, a lot of one might say filler, but another might say character development. Raditz’ kidnapping of Gohan happens in one episode instead of three, finding all of the old Z fighters is completely cut (so no amusing baseball stuff with Yamcha for example), their training with Popo and Kami in their alternate world is also completely cut, and perhaps the big one is that Gohan’s training in the wilderness is hugely condensed (the running dinosaur tail gag is limited to just one bit) – they do leave in the major part of him turning into an ape because that is a part that leads to Vegetas’ defeat, but a lot of his growing up factor alone in the woods is very condensed, which was actually decent in developing his character.
Other things which are cut are Vegeta and Nappa ‘saving’ the bug planet, and Goku’s encounters on Snake Way. So we miss the infamous hell sequence with the two rather unique characters Goz and Mez, and also the Princess Snake sequence. These could be seen as filler so understandable, but they were entertaining episodes (especially the Goz/Mez one) so still have a tinge of disappointment. The training with Bubbles and Gregory is also shortened considerably which also removes a bit about the Saiyan history so some development again was lost.
With the battle against Nappa, a lot of the fight is cut which in this case might be a good thing as a lot of it dragged, and the important parts (a.k.a. the Z fighters and Piccolo dying – Picollo’s development fortunately is still here throughout) are focused on well (though sadly, the infamous over 9000 quote is not here ^^) and the Goku/Vegeta fight is still excellent, perhaps more so when some of the animation changes to the updated one. It quickly switches to the next arc, the Frieza arc – where again, some noticeable cuts are made, like Gohan and Krillin not getting caught by the space pirates, and the fake Namekians on the planet not Namek ‘helping’ them with the Dragon Balls – which helps for the main story in this case so can understand. After that, the Frieza arc actually follows pretty well to the original – pretty much the only major cuts are of Goku training when he travels to Namek, the training with King Kai for Piccolo and the others is cut, and the Zarbon/Vegeta fight is shortened, but in 26 episodes this is where we get to.
So does Kai work? For me, yes. And also for newcomers, also yes. If you are not familiar to DBZ, this is a great way to just get into it because for the most part, what Kai cuts is not necessary to the grand scheme. Granted, a lot of the stuff that was cut was actually quite memorable and fun, and in some case actually good for character development – however for the most past it could be skipped. They condense the show to the main plot – the first arc does a flashback to the original series and shows Frieza killing Planet Vegeta, then we get to Raditz, Goku’s brother coming down, explaining Goku, a.k.a. Kakkarot’s heritage, kidnaps his son unless he kills every human. This leads to Goku and Piccolo teaming up, and Gohan showcasing some surprising power to lead to Raditz’ defeat and Goku’s death. So the Dragonballs are explained in how to revive him, and the other Z-fighters come into the fray when Raditz reveals the more powerful Saiyans.
So Goku, Gohan, Piccolo and the rest are training before Nappa and Vegeta arrive – Nappa overpowers most of them and kills them all bar Krillin and Gohan before Goku arrives, who defeats Nappa – then Vegeta kills Nappa and faces off against Goku so you see what type of character he is – but thanks to a lot of tricks, a bit of luck and a technique trained by King Kai, they win but let him live which could backfire as the Frieza arc hits – but then you see a much more powerful villain in Frieza which sets up Gokus’ training in the space ship whilst both the Earthlings (Krillin, Gohan and Bulma) and Vegeta look to find the Namekian Dragonballs, which are explained when Piccolo dies why the Earth ones can’t be used.
It is much more succinct, though fans of the original may be disappointed some of the silly scenes and more famous moments aren’t here – also the change of the voices in both languages could easily lead to which is better. In terms of the actual content and animation though, it has done a good job. I am not sure which one I consider better though as I was a fan of a lot of the fun segments as well and Gohan’s training actually made him much more likeable because you see what he was going through. Here, it was very brief and felt like he was on his own for days rather than months and didn’t learn enough about him aside from being a cry-baby initially. I will admit some of the scenes being cut I didn’t miss (like the fake Namekian arc which felt was obvious filler) so you have to take with what you like with what you don’t like in terms of the cut scenes. The plot is much more controlled and you get the important of the fighting scenes because they are to the point, with the longer ones still the focus such as Vegeta vs. Goku. Plus the cleaner animation and the new animation make it also better to look at.
So I can’t say if this is better than the original DBZ, but I would say for people who haven’t seen it in any form, this is a very good place to start. Fans of the original may seem like it is unnecessary aside from the new art and voice work, and if you prefer the original voices, then it is hard to recommend. Otherwise, this is a much easier way to watch DBZ if you just want the actual plot as it were and the fights that are important.
DBZ Kai is pretty much a shortened version of the original DBZ, for both better and worse. Better in terms of the important stuff it gets to it quicker, gets the characters we know and love right in the forefront and to the point, but on the other hand some of the ‘filler’ that is cut actually made a point, such as Gohan’s development or demonstrating how evil Nappa and Vegeta are. It is apples and oranges – newcomers would probably enjoy Kai more, but people with fond memories of the original DBZ would more be split on the new voices and cuts, as well as the fact it isn’t a full remake animation wise, just in parts. It is still cheesy fun though and it is still great to watch and turn your brain off.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 3rd, 2015
Running Time: 625 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.