Dragon Ball Z: Kai kicks a lot of ass, and for my money it's probably the best way to experience the Dragon Ball Z saga. Almost all the fat has been trimmed out of this updated release of the classic anime, and it's hard to argue with that. The core story and action in the show was always the highlight anyway, and with nothing but that the series really excels. Today we're looking at the fifth installment.
FUNimation's treatment of Kai has gone over pretty well with the anime community. With thirteen episodes a pop, each part packs a lot of action onto two discs, and the options to get the series on either DVD or Blu-ray is definitely appreciated. This fifth release features episodes 53 through 65 and starts out with one hell of a bang.
That particular "bang" just so happens to be the destruction of Planet Namek. In the final moments of the confrontation between Frieza and Goku, the planet simply can't take any more of the turmoil. In the ensuing explosion it's feared that Goku perished in the blast as well, and in the following episode King Kai informs his friends back on Earth of his death. It soon turns out that he didn't actually bite the big one, but several others did, including Krillin, Tien and Chiaotzu. The Dragon Balls are used to revive them over a period of time as the Z Fighters seek to restore things to the way they once were.
From this point on things get kind of silly as a futuristic version of Trunks travels back in time with a powerful sword to defeat a cybornetically resurrected Frieza. Together with the other Z peeps Trunks waits for Goku's return in order to give him a glimpse into the future; a world where the Z Fighters are dead and Goku eventually dies of a hear-attacking virus. The culprit for all this? A pair of powerful androids that will attack in three years. Thus Goku and the gang train for three years to fight off the androids and prevent a dark, apocalyptic future. I won't divulge what transpires in the final three episodes, but I will say that it's worthy of Dragon Ball Z and is a necessary continuation of this particular storyline.
Sufficed to say, if you've been following Dragon Ball Z: Kai all along then you'll be plenty pleased with this volume. There's very little downtime and the action is pervasive enough to keep even the most spastic kids glued to the television. Those already familiar with the franchise will find the storyline to undoubtedly be old hat, but the streamlined presentation helps cut down on the runtime. The episodes here are a lot of fun and because of that the fifth release comes strongly recommended.
On Blu-ray, Dragon Ball Z: Kai continues to look great. The original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio is served up with a 1080p up-conversation and AVC encoding. This leaves the picture looking more vibrant and cleaner than it's standard definitely counterpart. Despite FUNimation's best efforts grain and artifacting do remain and the show definitely wears its age in parts. It's not a bad presentation by any stretch of the imagination; just don't expect it to look like a top of the line high definition remaster. Fans of Dragon Ball Z won't be disappointed at all.
For audio, Dolby TrueHD tracks are included with English 5.1 dubbing and an original Japanese 2.0 stereo. The quality of the voice work all around is stellar, and I dare say that it's better than the other releases of Dragon Ball Z in that regard. The clarity of the sound is better as well, and that's definitely a positive. Of the two I'd say the English 5.1 edges out the Japanese largely due to the 5.1 presentation and the sheer amount of action that fills the soundstage. English subtitles are included here of course.
For bonus features the only thing this release includes is the standard package of clean animations and trailers.
Dragon Ball Z: Kai Part Five is a fine continuation of the Z saga. The action is fantastic and the storytelling is much more refined in this version. Gone are the days where episodes were made up by half filler clips. That's okay in my book and Kai is a great accompaniment to the original in that sense. Fans and newcomers will want to check the series out, though only those who have been collecting will want to consider picking this one up. Recommended