For a while now Dragon Ball Z: Kai has been kicking ass and taking names. The show has jammed a whole lot of DBZ into a much smaller segment of episodes that it's almost daunting to think about how the project was handled on the editing room floor. Then again, the original series had a ton of filler and it simply needed to be gutted, in my opinion. Thusly it's no surprise that Kai is one of my favorite releases for the show.
FUNimation has released Dragon Ball Z: Kai on both DVD and Blu-ray. The sets have each contained thirteen episodes on two discs, and in each case the picture quality and audio were above what we've experienced before. The fifth release has just hit the market and this time around we get episodes 53 through 65.
Episode 53 starts out with the destruction of Planet Namek. The battle between Frieza and Goku was simply too much for the planet and in the ensuing explosion both were considered deceased. After the fact 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.
While the episodes may remain the same, the difference between the high definition and standard definition releases is certainly felt in the picture quality. The DVD is significantly softer than the Blu-ray and there's an abundance of grain and compression. That's not to say those elements aren't in the Blu-ray as well, but they certainly are to a lesser degree. The DVD, as it stands, is perfectly fine though. If given the option go with the Blu-ray, but those with DVD only won't be left in the dark by this release.
Likewise the sound presented here on the DVD is good, but the Blu-ray is slightly better in a sense. The DVD comes with English 5.1 surround and Japanese 2.0 stereo. As far as the dubs are concerned, both casts did a wonderful job. The English dubbing included for Kai is perhaps a little better than what we have become accustomed to, though if forced to choose I'd still say the Japanese is better. Technically speaking the sound quality is good on both accounts with decent clarity and no real problems to speak of.
For bonus features the only thing this release includes is the standard package of clean animations and trailers.
Dragon Ball Z: Kai is simply the original classic in a cleaner and meaner format. This fifth part continues the trend of cutting out the fat and including only the good stuff, and to that end the episodes here are successful. Action and storytelling take the center stage rather than filler and the experience as a whole feels more satisfying as a result. If you haven't seen Kai yet, it's a worthwhile investment; whether or not you're a fan of Dragon Ball. Recommended