The fourth installment of Dragon Ball Z: Kai has been released, and this one contains episodes 40 through 52. Like the previous installments of Kai this one has been trimmed to the core action and most of the filler has been removed. The end result is a leaner version of Akira Toriyama's classic, but how does this volume compare to the ones released before it?
I'm not going to both recapping the series as a whole, but I will say that prior to this volume Frieza showed his ugly mug and gave the Z fighters something to complain about. With Planet Namek on the verge of destruction Vegeta, Gohan, Piccolo, and the rest all came together in an effort to stop the purple/white menace. Their results were for naught as Frieza continued to increase his power in stages with different versions of himself. Towards the start of this fourth installment he enters his final stage and only a Super Saiyan has the capability of stopping him.
Vegeta gets it into his head that he can become an ultimate Saiyan warrior in order to save the day. He's seeking revenge for the destruction of his planet after all, so naturally he wants to put an end to his foe. The only way he can achieve that, however, is to be gravely injured and brought back to health. That's how the Saiyans work in terms of powering up, apparently. Well, Piccolo obliges and Vegeta does get healed to the point that he becomes more powerful, but it seems like it was too little, too late. He can't hold a candle to Frieza's latest form and the glowing hero/villain falls prey to the real menace.
As the volume moves forward at a brisk pace, Gohan, Krillin, and Piccolo all stand up to take their shots as well. It's not until Goku emerges from his rest that he's able to make Frieza break a sweat. Becoming a true Super Saiyan, Goku clashes with Frieza in such a manner that the very planet below begins to shake. It's a long, drawn out battle that unfortunately lasts for the entire installment and as such it really hampers the development of the series. Granted this was the case in the original, but I was expecting Dragon Ball Z: Kai to cut out some of the fat here. While some was trimmed it was still a little too long in tooth for its own good.
The bottom line with this installment is that it's all fighting and hardly any plot. That may be well and good for most fans of Dragon Ball Z, but I've always enjoyed a little more content in my anime. The series still continues to pack a punch but the action-oriented romp is poorly paced and obnoxious, even in this condensed format. I'd consider this release recommended if you've been following the series to date, but don't expect it to be the best that Kai has to offer. Sure the fighting is good, but it's a terribly balanced release.
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.
Once again there are no bonus features for this release to call its own aside from clean animations and trailers.
While it's still entertainment in its most basic form Dragon Ball Z: Kai continues to be a bit better than the original. Even though this installment isn't edited as well as the others and the focus is all on action, there's still something to be said for it. The episodes fly by due to the breakneck pacing, and ultimately it's a release that fans of the series will want to add to their collection. Consider it recommended.