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Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4(TV) (2010)
After learning that Frieza murdered his father and destroyed his home planet, Goku takes aim at the putrid purple monster in the greatest grudge match the galaxy has ever seen! The bruises multiply at a furious rate as the two warriors trade blows in a battle that literally destroys planet Namek. As the slugfest approaches a standstill, Frieza forever silences Goku's closest friend sending Earth s hero into a Super Saiyan rage that threatens to obliterate them both!
For more about Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 and the Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 Blu-ray release, see Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on March 30, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Masako Nozawa, Ryō Horikawa, Toshio Furukawa, Mayumi Tanaka, Hiromi Tsuru, Tōru Furuya
Director: Yasuhiro Nowatari
» See full cast & crew
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 Blu-ray Review
Redundant yet epic is the best way to describe the fourth volume in the series.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, March 30, 2011
Despite the prominence of the Dragon Ball franchise among Japanese anime enthusiasts since its inception in 1984, the series received little exposure on western shores during the 80's and early 90's. Thankfully, as the new millennium approached, television entertainment aimed at younger viewers began to undergo a profound transition thanks to the Pokemon craze, leaving the door wide open for the proliferation of anime entertainment in the Saturday morning cartoon block. Plenty of card-trading clones emerged to anxiously gobble up a piece of the pie, but other production studios recognized the potential for success in anime series that fit a different mold. With this in mind, the aging Dragon Ball franchise was introduced to America's youth, offering a violent-but-campy storyline, and all manner of outlandish characters. Unfortunately, the first series never gained much traction with the younger viewing audience and was soon replaced by the action-heavy Dragon Ball Z incarnation. When the second series met the same fate during its trial run, FUNimation made the wise decision to rethink the target market of the series, and re-release it during the adult-oriented Toonami slot on Cartoon Network. As a result of that move, Dragon Ball Z became a breakaway success on television and home video, earning its designation at the top of the most recognizable anime series in history.
Dragon Ball Z Kai (Kai translates to "revised") is a project undertaken by Toei Animation Studio to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the show's initial broadcast. It offers a condensed 100-episode version of the original 291-episode story arch, with any resulting plot-holes addressed in brief narrative segments. Aside from the shortened runtime, the new series also includes remastered high-definition video and sound, with a completely new recording by the original voice cast. Unlike other remasters before it, this is not merely a clean-up project to remove dirt and grime - it's also a complete reevaluation of source elements with entire segments discarded and replaced (if deemed overly-compromised for high-definition viewing).
When we last visited our cast of heroes, Frieza was undergoing a sequential transformation into an unstoppable tyrant, while Gohan, Krillin and Vegeta did their best to formulate a plan of attack. Matters seemed to improve with the resurrection of Piccolo from King Kai's realm, but despite his fusion with Nail, his powers registered far below Frieza's. With the future of Planet Namek hanging in the balance, the only remaining hope falls on the shoulders of a newly rejuvenated Goku, who arrives just in time to witness Vegeta's demise. As Vegeta lay dying, he informs Goku of Frieza's history with their Saiyan homeworld, begging him to avenge their fallen race. Filled with newfound resolve, Goku squares off with Frieza in the battle to end all battles.
If you're familiar with the structure of the original Dragon Ball Z series, this box set begins around episode 83, and ends with the events of episode 104. Considering the fourth volume of Kai finishes with episode 52 of the re-imagined series, we're on track for a total episode count that slices the original series in half. As I've mentioned before, this results in significant gains in the areas of plot development and pacing, allowing the Dragon Ball Z series to become much more accessible to a wide audience.
Interestingly enough, this volume marks the first time I've felt a bit underwhelmed by the pacing of the 13-episode block. It's been a number of years since I watched the Dragon Ball Z series, but I recall thoroughly enjoying the Frieza plotline through the original incarnation. Despite the consolidated story in this 13-episode arch, too much time is spent on the single battle between Goku and Frieza, which never departs from the surface of Planet Namek. Despite my fond memories of the villain Frieza, I've grown accustomed to the quick pacing of the prior three volumes, which dispensed with the drawn out fight sequences and introduced new characters or locations in rapid succession. As you can imagine, it was difficult to move into a more traditional DBZ structure after adjusting to the new style of the revamped series.
Despite my reservations with Volume Four, the one element that can be found in healthy doses is the epic nature of the standoff between Goku and Frieza. Between powerful transformations, new attacks, and the intervention of creatures all over the galaxy, we end up with one of the more memorable experiences within the DBZ universe. This single factor partially made up for the lack of variety in characters and locations, but couldn't possibly cover enough ground to match the originality of the previous volumes.
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 26Mbps), Dragon Ball Z Kai looks as good as I anticipated in the transition to Blu-ray. As mentioned earlier in the review, this isn't simply a remastered version of the series (as offered on prior DVD editions), it's a full-blown frame by frame digital clean-up, with newly created animation replacing entire segments. Identifying these new scenes is easy given the subtle stylistic differences (mainly in shadowing and the consistency of lines), but they blend well enough to avoid causing any major distractions. Aside from the new animation, the major difference in this newly-minted version is a complete lack of print flaws found in the original elements. Gone are the large burn-marks, dust blobs, and nicks that we've grown accustomed to finding throughout most episodes. In their place, we're given a clean image that accurately reflects the core intentions of the simplistic animation, but doesn't artificially enhance aspects of the hand-drawn style. You'll still notice byproducts of limitations in the source material, such as line breaks, slight image shift (from one frame to another), and a marginal level of detail, but considering the age and budget of the series, this is likely the best it will ever look.
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
To accompany the upgraded visuals, the Japanese and English audio tracks have been reworked from the ground up to include newly recorded dialog from the original voice-actors. The Japanese version offered on the disc is a lossless 2.0 mix, which presents a clean, full sound despite the lack of true surround separation. On the English side, we've been treated to a lossless 5.1 mix, which quickly earned its designation as my track of choice. I typically prefer the Japanese language track on most anime series, but given my extensive introduction to the dubbed version of Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, I associate the voice-work of the English cast with the nuances of each character in the show. Switching back and forth between the two tracks, it's clear the English offering incorporates a greater sense of immersion, separating sound effects across the surround spectrum to accompany the onscreen action. However, the differences in volume balance, clarity, and overall richness are negligible, allowing fans of either track ample reason to rejoice.
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mirroring the first two volumes, the only extras included on the discs are textless opening/closing theme music and a collection of previews for other FUNimation releases. I thought we'd continue to at least receive cast interviews after the third volume, but it looks like that will only be an occasional addition.
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you're a Dragon Ball Z fan and you own the prior three box sets of the Kai series, you shouldn't need my recommendation on whether or not you'll continue to stick with it going forward. I walked away from this volume with my own set of reservations about the 13 episodes presented within (longing for less fighting and more plot development), but how can we argue against a structure that's been in place since the inception of the show. From a purely topical analysis, Dragon Ball Z will always have its fair share of weaknesses due to the redundant nature of the programming, but the restructuring on Kai continues to be a major step in the right direction, delivering a final product that will surely stand the test of time.
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