If you haven't heard of Dragon Ball Z: Kai by this point, welcome out from that rock you've been living under. Toei Animation's reimagining of the original Dragon Ball Z has proven to be a success in both Japan and America, and today we're looking at the third installment on Blu-ray.
For those just joining us Kai is a revisit to the original material from back in the day. Akira Toriyama's series has been popular for about two decades now, and it seemed like the right time to dust it off. New pieces of animation were added, the crap filler was cut out, and Toei took the extra time to ensure that Kai was a lean, mean Dragon Ball machine. Thankfully their efforts were successful and the first two releases from FUNimation proved to be more than worthwhile for fans of the franchise.
Last time around Goku, Krillin, and Gohan tried to take down Vegeta, but things didn't exactly go as planned. The battle between our heroes and their foe took up most of the installment and by the end things took an intergalactic turn. Frieza was on his way to Namek and there were a bunch of his cronies in tow. Considering the villain was on his way to gather Dragon Balls, it was only natural that our heroes led the charge.
This third part basically picks up at that point and sees Vegeta coming back into focus early on. He's out looking for the Dragon Balls again, and finds himself on Namek. Gohan and Krillin confront him prior to Frieza's forces arriving, but they fall drastically short on being able to take him down. The old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, kind of takes hold as Vegeta confronts Frieza's monkeys. The only problem is that he's not quite strong enough to handle them and Namek waits in peril until Goku finally arrives.
Like the volumes that came before it, this one focuses almost entirely on the fight. While this definitely adds to the breakneck pacing of the show, it also leaves it feeling as though its gotten a little ahead of itself. The rest of this installment is pretty much one big fight with Frieza and his pawns. Goku and Vegeta square off against a warrior capable of taking over someone else's body and Piccalo even finds himself standing before Frieza at one point. There isn't a dull moment here and the show really doesn't pull the punches.
One would think that Dragon Ball Z with no filler would be a good thing, but this balls-to-the-wall action is exhausting to sit through. The narrative is much weaker in this installment than it was in the others, and the focus only on fighting leaves it feeling a little shallow in some respects. Then again it is Dragon Ball, so I suppose that just comes with the territory.
At the end of the day I'd say this is a release that will be most appreciated by diehard fans just looking for action. Anyone looking for story or plot exposition will be left wanting, though again that's par for the course. Consider this one recommended, but not as highly as the releases that came before it.
Dragon Ball Z: Kai is presented on Blu-ray with its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. The show comes with a 1080p up-conversion and AVC codec. Compared to the DVD, the Blu-ray offers slightly more vibrant visuals with improved clarity and a lightly noticeable step up on resolution. I'd liken the presentation to some of FUNimation's other Blu-ray releases, meaning the picture quality looks better than DVD, but not quite as good as other shows on the format.
No matter how you slice it parts of this show are still very old, despite Toei Animation's new artwork and mastering. There's still quite a lot of grain in the image, and there're other signs of aging throughout. These traits aren't necessarily bad, but they do date the material to an extent. Overall the show looks adequate, but this high definition transfer isn't necessarily as good as it could be.
Dolby TrueHD with English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 selections are available for this edition. As far as the dubs are concerned they have been redone to fit the content of the show, and where possible the original cast has returned for their parts apparently. Any differences are negligible in this regard, though the biggest change here comes from the music presentation. New scores have been added and all around the soundtrack has been spruced up. Both tracks offer improved clarity over the DVD and the 5.1 track is the more dynamic of the two by far. The sense of immersion isn't the greatest, but some of the action packs a punch and the soundtrack really takes center stage.
Predictably the only bonus features this time around are the same as the releases that came before. Clean animations and trailers are all you can expect.
Dragon Ball Z: Kai continues to be fun, but this installment is more of a leave-your-brain-at-the-door kind of release. The focus is more on action than plot, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but 13 back to back episodes with basically nothing but fighting gets old after a while. The show is still strongly recommended, though his release is merely another to add to your collection if you've been following it.