Ever since Dragon Ball Z began its DVD release in America, DVDTalk has provided coverage of the series. Through good releases and bad, review copies have come our way and it's been our privilege and honor to tackle the series head on. It's only natural that we continue to do so as Dragon Ball Z: Kai is brought to the US thanks to FUNimation.
Don't know what Kai is? Well, it's basically a reimagining of the original Dragon Ball Z. Anyone who remembers the classic Akira Toriyama series knows that it was fat to an unnecessary degree. Filler content, stretched out sequences, and recaps littered each and every episode to the point that it bloated the show's length. Toei took that into consideration and decided to send Goku to the treadmill with a diet. Kai is the DBZ you know and love, but it's been cut down to the bare essentials. It's a lean mean machine and it's something any fan of the series should be excited to add to their collection.
In the first release of Kai we were introduced to the Saiyans thanks to a brief retelling of the show's origins. Soon thereafter a guy named Raditz showed up claiming to be Goku's brother and was all about conquering the Earth. Thankfully for us mere humans Goku didn't want that to happen and eventually things were right as rain. Then Vegeta showed up.
The second part of Kai picks up at that point and begins with a nice, long battle against Vegeta. Goku, Krillin, and Gohan have their hands full with the tyrant, but luckily our heroes know how to handle bad guys. That is, at least, until Vegeta unleashes his monkey state and beats the snot out of Goku. I mean, Vegeta turns into a twenty foot ass-kicking gorilla. There's really no stopping that. At least not a quick and easy way, though eventually our heroes figure it out and send Vegeta packing with his tail between his legs (figuratively speaking of course).
After an extremely brief respite, the next arc in the Kai journey begins with a trip to Namek. Unfortunately for our heroes Frieza is on his way there as well and he's not exactly bringing sunshine and puppies for everyone. Some of Frieza's cronies surface and Vegeta gets tossed back in the mix for another round of solid Dragon Ball Z action.
To be perfectly honest the 13 episodes here absolutely flew by. By the time I hit the last episode here I didn't realize that I burned through the whole thing. That's probably a good thing, because as good as the original was, it definitely had its moments where it dragged on for longer than was necessary. And you know what? That's definitely not a problem here. Kai is a blast so far and it has revitalized the franchise in a way I never thought possible. Sure it's not groundbreaking or entirely different; it's just better. Check it out.
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.
Disappointingly the only bonus features available on this release are clean animations and some trailers. A featurette about the reimagination or work put into this title would have been greatly appreciated, but nothing is available here.
Dragon Ball Z: Kai is a heck of a lot of fun and it's an experience that continues to get better as it moves along. With the fat cut out Kai is decidedly much leaner than its predecessor and as such I'd say that it's something that would appeal to newcomers and fans alike. Consider this release highly recommended!