"Dragon Ball Z: Kai" is a unique simultaneous re-mastering and re-telling of the classic "Dragon Ball Z" anime series. For the uninitiated, "Kai" takes the original 291-episode run and trims the fat, omitting filler episodes in order to present a series that more closely resembles the original storyline of the mangas. The result is 98-episodes of lean, mean and far from childish storytelling. Initially released in two-volume per season installments, for a total of eight-volumes, Funimation is going back and re-releasing "Kai" as standalone, complete seasons, meaning viewers can enjoy the series as it originally aired, as opposed to encountering false breaks while waiting for a second release.
"Dragon Ball Z: Kai" season three is a bit of fresh air, eventually introducing some new foes for our hero Goku and company to face off against, but not before concluding last season's arc involving Frieza. One of the more frustrating, but likely not surprising early developments in the third season is the false absence of Goku. It lasts a couple episodes at best, teasing viewers with maybe some more time spent with the large cast of colorful supporting characters, but like clockwork, Goku returns to save the day. It's not all for nothing though, as Goku finds himself sidelined not too much later on as the season's new villains, the Androids provide a new flavor of villainy for our heroes and anti-heroes alike to combat.
Unfortunately, for as much as the Androids bring to the table, the series quickly falls into a comfortable lull, bombarding viewers with episode after episode of battles that quickly lose their epic feel as they become the status quo. Midway through the season, the series is fast approaching shaky ground, but like the early tease of an absent Goku being premature, the season does manage to recover with a few elementary, but engaging plot twists and the introduction of an even greater foe, Cell. Is any of this really creative or inspired? Probably not, but "Kai" manages to defy the odds and emerge at the end of the day, still entertaining, but not nearly as fresh as it began.
The third season of "Dragon Ball Z: Kai" is definitely the weakest thus far, but its final run of episodes does set up some interesting character developments, in particular the greater emphasis put on Gohan and his ultimate potential as a Super Saiyan. With only 21 episodes left, there's still a compelling enough reason to see the series to its conclusion. At the very minimum, "Dragon Ball Z: Kai" proves its necessity to exist by showing how at even 98-episodes, "Dragon Ball Z" can be a somewhat bloated series at times, trotting out the same formula, often multiple times in a row.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio transfer is definitely far cleaner and vibrant than the assorted "Dragon Ball Z" material I've seen in the past. There's a very minimal amount of compression in some shots, but considering how this new version of the series was crafted together, some elements still have some slightly faded quality to them. No one will ever mistake this for being a modern piece of animated work nor something from the heyday of classic Disney, but compared to other anime series' of the timeframe, this is a very good looking transfer.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track has considerable more life than the very flat and thin, original language stereo track. While voice work is incredibly well orchestrated, the dub is a bit more dominant than any other element of the sound mix. Effects are strong as forceful, despite the slight overshadowing by dialogue, but the accompanying score can sometimes go unnoticed. The Japanese stereo track, as stated above is far more flat sounding, but the overall mix is much more satisfactory. English subtitles are included that only accompany the Japanese audio.
The only extras are textless credits.
Whether you're going to buy "Dragon Ball Z: Kai" depends on how well you love the source material as well as the desire in wanting a leaner series. While this third season does conclude developments that took place over season two, the initial promise of something new with the appearance of the Androids, quickly enters familiar territory. The season does recover and once again, manage to hook viewers into giving the fourth and final season a go, but at this point, the series is really only for fans truly wowed by the first half of the entire run. Recommended.