Coming into Dragon Ball Z Kai, I could not have had lower expectations.
Fresh off of reviewing
Dragon Ball Z - Bardock: Father of Goku, my initial excitement
about finally having an excuse to jump into the Dragon Ball universe had
all but vanished. I was expecting more of the same, but I am pleased to say that
Dragon Ball Z Kai completely reversed my opinion of this franchise and created a
new fan. Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season One Part One is classic anime at its
Before the destruction of Planet Vegeta, an unremarkable baby boy named Kakarot
is sent by his father to Earth to someday avenge the Saiyans. Kakarot is discovered
by Gohan, adopted, and trained to become a great warrior. Since defeating Piccolo
in Dragon Ball, Goku married his childhood sweetheart and had a son who
he named Gohan, after his adopted father.
All is well in their lives until the day that Raditz shows up claiming to be Goku's
long lost Saiyan brother. Raditz wants Goku to join his small clan of remaining
Saiyans to annihilate the lifeforms on a particularly challenging planet. Horrified
at his Saiyan genocidal roots, Goku refuses Raditz' offer. This leaves Raditz with
no choice but to kidnap little Gohan until Goku joins Raditz' gang. Goku and his
old nemesis Piccolo team up to take on Raditz. Before his death, Raditz drops the
bombshell that the two other remaining Saiyans, Nappa and Vegeta, are more powerful
than even him. The story from that point follows the training of Earth's warriors
as they prepare for their battle with Nappa and Vegeta. Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part
One culminates with the ultimate battle between Earth's warriors and the
last two Saiyans.
This series can be best described as Dragon Ball Z: The Good Parts Version.
Toei Animation spliced Dragon Ball Z Kai together by removing all the fluff
and filler of the original. This reworked version of Dragon Ball Z is said
to closely parallel the original manga by Akira Toriyama. The story is tight; a
lot of major events occur and huge battles take place in these first 13 episodes.
As mentioned, I am a complete Dragon Ball newbie, so I do not specifically
know what scenes were removed, reordered, or edited from the original 291 episode
This new cut is focused on the main story and keeps the action at the forefront.
The story is fast-paced and almost always exciting; most episodes end right at a
point where you feel obligated to see what happens next. There were a couple of
episodes in the middle that began to lag where three different groups of characters
were training for the upcoming battle with the Saiyans. However, the story moved
on to the big fights just in time to pick up the pacing without beating you over
the head with how much Gohan and Goku were improving as warriors.
As per the Dragon Ball reputation, this series contains a lot of fighting
and some truly epic battles. The story itself was quite a bit deeper than expected.
However, there were a few perplexing incidents such as Piccolo destroying the moon
solely because a full moon turned Gohan into a crazed, giant weregorilla, but for
the most part the story is well done. Dragon Ball Z Kai is not the greatest
anime tale ever told, but it holds its own against modern action series. The Season
One, Part One boxset ends on a huge cliffhanger that leaves you pining for just...one...more...episode.
Sound: I watched this boxset with the dubbed English 5.1 track.
The sound is very clear and detailed. There is limited use of the rears, but that
is to be expected from a series that never intended for surround sound. Based on
my previous experiences with the Dragon Ball Z franchise, I was hesitant
to even select the English dub. The word coming into Dragon Ball Z Kai,
however, was that FUNimation completely reset the dub. The reworked English track
definitely lives up to the hype: it's fantastic! All of the voices sound great and
are well acted. There are very few of the absurdly corny lines that mired the original
Dragon Ball Z. Sean Schemmel and Colleen Clinkenbeard voiced Goku and Gohan
well and carry the show as the main characters. I also enjoyed Nappa, voiced by
Phil Parsons, who channels the spirit of Gaspar from
Mysterious Cities of Gold as an amusingly dumb brute.
The one disappointment was the voice of Kai. After all the buildup surrounding Goku's
quest to find the all-powerful Kai, I had much higher expectations. They were going for a Yoda effect
where the great master is an isolated, goofy, eccentric who can get serious, but
that voice was awful and killed the character.
Video: The image for Dragon Ball Z Kai was digitally remastered
and cleaned up by Toei Animation. Some parts were also completely redrawn. The art
throughout the series is uniform and I did not detect any particular scenes that
appeared newer compared to the rest. The opening and closing credits were completely
redone with modern art and new music. The series is presented in its original 4:3
aspect ratio. For a series that is over 20 years old, the remastered image looks
outstanding. The art definitely screams of 1980's anime, but it has certain nostalgic
charm that is enhanced by the cleanup job. There are a few specks of dust and grain
here and there, but the colors are vibrant. This show was a delight to view.
Extras: All that is included are some trailers and textless opening
and closing credits.
Final Thoughts: Dragon Ball Z Kai is the perfect jumping
in point for Dragon Ball newbies. I finally understand why this series
has attracted such a rabid fan base over the years. The episodes adequately introduce
the main characters although a few of the secondary characters still remain a mystery--hopefully
they receive some more screen time in future episodes. Adult non-anime fans will
probably find this series difficult to enjoy, however everyone else no longer has
an excuse to avoid Dragon Ball Z. I wish more classic anime series would
get the treatment that Dragon Ball Z received here. Recommended.
Bobby is a programmer by trade and a wannabe writer. Check out his other reviews here. You can also check out his blog about harmless nonsense or follow him on Twitter