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Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season One, Part Two
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season One Part 2 continues the great experiment of removing all the filler from the bloated 291 episode original series. As a longtime anime fan, I avoided Dragon Ball Z like the plague for years, assuming it was a juvenile waste of time. The remix, however, proves that Dragon Ball Z is oozing with old school awesomeness and is accessible for any fan of action-based anime.
The epic battle between Goku and Vegeta picks up right where it left off in the first set. Toe-to-toe, Vegeta is unable to overcome Goku's might, so he resorts to the last ability in his bag of tricks--he transforms into a Great Ape, which amplifies his power tenfold. In this new form, Vegeta obliterates Goku, who misses on his last gasp effort at knocking out Vegeta with a Spirit Bomb. With hope fading, an unlikely hero, the cowardly Captain Caveman-ish, Yojirobe, saves the day which gives Krillin an opening to land a half-powered Spirit Bomb that ends the fight.
For a superhero type of character, Goku comes across as a selfish thug. With Vegeta beaten to a pulp and unable to defend himself, Krillin has the opportunity to kill Vegeta and end his threat to the Earth and the rest of the galaxy. Goku stops Krillin for no other reason than he wants another shot at fighting Vegeta so he can further his development as a warrior. Goku's Saiyan instincts overcome his sensibility--Saiyans are renowned for their ability to come back stronger with each defeat. Vegeta's whole reason for being is to wipe out intelligent life on inferior planets and sell them off; planet Earth easily qualifies as such an inferior planet. Regardless of his Saiyan background, this egotistical act puts Goku's friends, family, not to mention the rest of the planet, at unnecessary risk for selfish gains. The planet Earth is not your personal training dojo, Goku. Buy a punching bag if you want to train.
With Vegeta beaten, but not out of commission, Krillin believes that his fallen comrades will be needed in the next encounter. He proposes the idea that, by using the Dragon Balls from the planet Namek, Piccolo's homeworld, they can revive the others. Bulma, Krillin, and Gohan procure a spaceship that can make the long journey to Namek. Unfortunately for them, Frieza, an uber-powerful galactic overlord heads to Namek at the same time, with the same goal of obtaining Dragon Balls. Only Frieza believes that the Dragon Balls will grant him eternal life. To make matters worse for our heroes, Vegeta catches wind of Frieza's intentions and despises the idea of being forever Frieza's underling. So, Vegeta also heads to Namek to grab the Dragon Balls. A few days after the Goku's friends leave for Piccolo's homeworld, he finally heals up enough to make the trip himself. Namek is setting up as the ultimate battleground for the fate of the galaxy.
Frieza, a villain of dubious gender, makes his glorious debut in this set. He's allegedly the most powerful fighter in the galaxy. Even the mighty Vegeta cowers at the idea of fighting him. In the original English Dub, Frieza was voiced by female voice actress, but in Kai, he is voiced by male voice actor, Chris Ayres. His take on Frieza's voice could still easily pass for a woman. Frieza also looks very feminine with the pink and purple coloring and that lipstick. Why the lipstick, Frieza? Regardless, Frieza's lackeys refer to him as "him," so I will assume that they settled the gender debate amongst themselves at some point and defer to their expertise.
Vegeta establishes himself as one of the most enjoyable characters in the series. Yes, the galaxy is his playground and inhabited planets are his personal ant hills that he squashes without remorse. However, his acts of villainy can be surprisingly comical and are always accentuated with his archetypal, but still welcome, evil laugh. Vegeta is shaping up as an interesting and highly entertaining third party, who now shares a common enemy with Goku.
This set of Dragon Ball Z Kai episodes delivers on its promise of non-stop action and no filler. This series aims to match the original manga, but it is not a complete remake in the vein of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Toei Animation and FUNimation have cut, remastered, and redubbed the timeworn and drawn-out original material into a series befitting a true anime classic.
Audio: I watched most of this boxset with the dubbed English 5.1 track. The sound is very clear and detailed. There is limited use of the rears, but that is to be expected from a series never intended for surround sound. This may come across as heresy, but I listened to a couple of episodes with the Japanese track selected and found it to be vastly inferior. The voices, especially Goku, sounded awful when compared to the new English dub. I previously held Dragon Ball Z as a prime example of an English dub done completely wrong. FUNimation has taken an atrocious dub and made it not only respectable, but a viable alternative. I especially enjoy Christopher Sabat's take on Vegeta. An evil laugh can easily ruin a character when done poorly, but Christopher Sabat nails the laugh and his voice is amusingly mischievous.
Video: The series is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. The image for Dragon Ball Z Kai was digitally remastered and cleaned up by Toei Animation. The video quality is impressive for a series that is over 20 years old. There are shows that are less than half the age of Dragon Ball Z that cannot touch the video quality of Dragon Ball Z Kai. Once again, the claim is that Toei Animation had to completely redraw some sequences. The transition between redrawn scenes and those that were just touched up was undetectable to my eyes. There are a few small specks of dust and grain, but nothing distracting. Dragon Ball Z Kai is nostalgic visual bliss.
Extras: The extras include clean opening and closing themes along with a few trailers.
Final Thoughts: Despite the questionable morals of Goku's decision-making, Dragon Ball Z Kai continues to be an awesome remake of a series that I used to consider a childish dud. The hand-drawn art and off-color palette have a retro charm that simply cannot be reproduced with the laser crisp lines of modern computer generated cels. The story of Dragon Ball Z Kai is simplistic, but this series is about non-stop fight action and Dragon Ball Z Kai delivers. Anime fans, such as myself, who love action and had previously written off Dragon Ball Z, should definitely give Dragon Ball Z Kai a shot. They may be surprised. Recommended.