What They Say:
Krillin and Gohan test out their new and improved powers in a throw down with Vegeta, Frieza struggles to unlock the magic of the Dragon Balls, and Goku races through space on a collision course with the Ginyu Force! This installment of Kai has it all: seven Dragon Balls, four epic heroes, and three horrifying villains bent on world domination!
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, especially as all the songs are also dubbed into English (though half way through I believe the singer changes from Vic Migognia to Chris Ayres, still enjoying the Ginyu Force mini song in both languages though). No problems with synching with the flaps or timing with the subtitles in either format – good release.
Set on a 4:3 – 1.33:1 ratio, (so feels more NTSC than PAL based) the set up is still more of a widescreen effect but more vertical so it doesn’t seem as good or big than the original DBZ releases I reviewed. You can tell when the animation has been cleaned up more so as it happens a lot more often in this release, keeping in mind 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. 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, eye catches and ending. Again, 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.
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.
We have a few extras on disc 2 and 4. On both of them we have the textless opening and ending, and on Disc 4 we have trailers for Soul Eater, Eva 2:22, Eden Of The East – The King of Eden, D Gray Man Season 2 and DBZ Kai Part 3.
There is a neat extra on Disc 2 where we get a short interview with many of the US Dub Cast of DBZ though, whilst we did get something like this and more for the movie, the series never got much in this sort of stuff so nice that Kai did get something. It is set with a series of questions to the staff about the show and their characters, ranging from what is different with DBZ Kai, how big the DBZ franchise and just what it is about in general. We get comments from Justin Cook (director), Chris Sabat (Piccolo/Vegeta), Sean Schemmel (Goku), Sonny Strait (Krillin), Mike McFarland (Master Roshi), Monica Rial (Bulma) and Colleen Clinkerbeard (Gohan).
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A lot of DBZ Kai does feel that you can easily refer to my DBZ reviews for the content side, because it is exactly the same, except condensed a lot more. So this set for example effectively finishes the Frieza arc bar the conclusion. It takes 105 episodes in the original DBZ to reach this point, whilst here it is 52. In the previous release, I mentioned this wasn’t always a good thing because for example, a lot of what was cut and considered filler actually was good for Gohan’s character development whilst it felt a bit more rushed. Here however, the cutting and getting straight to the plot with the updated animation runs more smoothly as a lot of what was cut was definitely not necessary, and you do get enough of the characters development and the battle scenes to the point, but enough to enjoy.
For example, all of the training that Piccolo, Tien, Yamcha and Chaotzu do on King Kai’s planet is cut. You just get the fact that they have been training and have got stronger, because it is the same training Goku went through in the first season you know what is going on. Same with the training that Goku goes through in space, you just see he has gone up to 100x gravity, trained in it and before he gets to Namek, he gets used to regular gravity again. And pretty much anything involving Bulma bar the Ginyu frog incident is also cut. This means the main story and narrative flows through far more, and the characters that have been established you get to watch now in full flow against a villain that everyone is terrified of.
So the main things that happen are the introduction of the Ginyu Force, Frieza’s elite squad of warriors to take the Dragon Balls back of Vegeta, Gohan and Krillin. The three are forced to team up considering the Ginyu’s Forces powers and abilities despite the good guys’ reluctance. The Ginyu force are very….odd to say the least (but entertaining) and are seen basically as the next set up, setting up for Goku’s arrival when Vegeta, Krillin and Gohan are all defeated quite easily by Recoombe, the biggest member. When Goku arrives however, not only does he defeat him easily, he also takes out another one Bertha (whose gimmick is speed, so he is terrified when Goku is even faster), and with Guldo, a time stopping member killed by Vegeta, the remaining one Jeice flies back to find his captain to handle this newcomer. Vegeta interestingly says that Goku’s power may suggest he is the one to become something called a Super Saiyan, much to his annoyance as he felt he would be the one to have that honour…
Frieza himself now gathered the Dragonballs is annoyed that he can’t summon the dragon as he needs a password. He finds the only remaining Namekians (however Dende actually flies by him as he was heading to give the password to the good guys), leaving the one remaining warrior Nail, to distract him long enough whilst Dende gives the password out. A combination of Captain Ginyu fighting Goku and Dende going to the Earthlings is done, with Ginyu using a strange power to swap bodies with Goku after realising he isn’t as strong as Goku. This all proves for naught as he doesn’t have the ability to get Goku’s power level, and when Krillin/Gohan realise this, they fight him whilst Jeice is taken out by Vegeta. A few things happen, and long story short, Goku returns to his body and Ginyu is changed into a frog. Yeah, despite the climactic battle, it ends kind of silly.
With Nail outmatched by Frieza, Dende manages to get the password to Krillin and Gohan whilst Vegeta is actually sleeping, and summon the dragon. However, whilst it can grant 3 wishes, it can only revive one person. They revive and teleport Piccolo to Namek but Vegeta catches them, and they are forced to use the last wish to make him immortal. However, before it does, the Grand Elder died and the Dragonballs turn to stone. Worse, Frieza realises Nail was just stalling and goes off to find everyone and turn them into paste (Goku healing in the meantime). Frieza shows how strong he is, holding them back before revealing he can transform and make himself stronger. To further hammer the blow, in his 2nd form, his power is over a million and whilst Gohan actually holds him off for a while thanks to his increased power via the Elder, all three seem to be screwed despite Dende being able to heal them, however right at the death, Piccolo returns – and he has fused with the dying Nail to increase his strength to the point he is actually on par with Frieza’s second form.
Which of course means he has to go into his third form – the healed Gohan again his power has increased after being healed as Saiyans get stronger after near death, giving Vegeta an idea. He forces Krillin to nearly kill him, and then Dende healing him (despite being very reluctant) – this is where Frieza finally going into his final transformation. At this level, his power level is way too much, and when he kills Dende after seeing him heal, the others look set to be crushed. Vegeta says with his new power rush he is a Super Saiyan, but reality takes form and he is no match for Frieza, who beats him near to death. Just before he finishes him off, Goku returns after being healed – and Vegeta actually gets killed. Vegeta does reveal part of his back-story and history with Frieza, showing Vegeta had more to him than just a confident and cocky villain, and Frieza more of a tyrant than expected.
So it is Goku vs. Frieza for the majority of the rest of the set. It starts off quite even with both of them holding back their power, but when Frieza increases his power to 50% of his maximum, even Goku with his Kaioken technique can’t touch him. Goku resorts to using the Spirit Bomb, collecting energy from other universes, and when Piccolo buys him enough time, he unleashes it, apparently killing the tyrant. But when they all celebrate, he reveals he is alive, and blasts Piccolo, and actually makes Krillin explode. The death of his best friend enrages Goku to the point that a new power surges through him, turning his hair blond and making him angrier than you’d expect. Here, we get the first glimpse of the Super Saiyan what Vegeta alluded to, and here, Goku is far stronger than Frieza, which forces the tyrant to try and blow up the planet. With 5 minutes the planet lasting, and Frieza transformed to 100% of his full power, the conclusion hits bloodily…
The big thing is that with Piccolo revived, Kami is also brought back to life, being the dragonballs on Earth are also brought back. Mr. Popo brings them back, and makes the wish to revive everyone killed by Frieza on Namek. This includes all the villagers, Dende, Vegeta and most importantly, the Grand Elder (as he died via Frieza indirectly due to the suffering of his people) which brings back the Namekian dragon, with one wish remaining. Dende, via King Kai and the Grand Elder, uses the wish to teleport everyone bar Frieza and Goku to planet Earth, leaving the final showdown. So despite all the action, there actually was some intelligent plot going on as well, and all this was condensed into 26 episodes compared to 50+ it was in the original series.
And this does work better compared to the minor things the filler actually helped with in the first arc. Basically all that was cut was definitely unnecessary (as much as I like Bulma, her part was really not needed bar the fact they needed someone to fly to Namek), the fights were condensed to get to the point, and the ones that were similar in length was just the right ones (basically anything involving Frieza and the good guys, the one with Nail was cut short but again, that was necessary as just showcases how strong Frieza is and straight to the point) and they kept enough of Vegeta’s back-story to make him more understandable as Frieza as a villain is showcased to be the worst kind of being in the world. Goku as well with his Super Saiyan transformation changes with his character, he feels true rage, is a lot more stern in his actions, though still has his character intact when he waits for Frieza to go 100%, as wants to fight him at his best despite it not being the smartest move in the world.
Of course, the fact the 5 minutes Namek is going to explode in still takes 4 episodes means the usual DBZ jokes can still be made, but it ends with pretty much the conclusion of the battle, ready for the next arc (Androids/Cell) – however as I consider the Frieza arc to be the best, it definitely holds up well in this condensed form. The action goes through quicker, the cleaning up of the animation is a lot more noticeable, the characters get enough time to do what they need to and develop in some spaces, there are a few fun moments here and there and the return of Piccolo gives us the fact he has changed a lot since the first season (as he seems more of a mentor to Gohan than ever before) and Vegeta being brought back to life and on Earth sets you up wondering if he is going to change, but for now, a gripping finale in an action laden series, with a very good villain and a hero who changes (both physically and mentally), this is why I feel the Frieza arc is the best in the DBZ universe, and Kai does it perfectly.
DBZ Kai continues the abridged format of cutting filler and battles when necessary to allow the story to flow more naturally and a series which closely follows the manga more faithfully. Whilst the lower development of characters like Gohan due to the filler hurts the first arc more, this arc has them established and everyone still gets their moment in the sun, whilst development is still used especially in Vegeta. The classic hero vs. villain in a battle to the death, and the usual shonen tropes are in full effect, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. All of the awesome.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 28th, 2015
Running Time: 650 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.