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Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One(TV) (2009)
The last descendants of an evil race of warriors known as the Saiyans are on a collision course with Earth, and Goku - the strongest fighter on the planet - is all that stands between humanity and extinction. To save his friends and the world he loves, Goku must travel to a realm from which few return, but should he survive, he'll discover the power to face the villainous Saiyan warlord - Prince Vegeta.
For more about Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One and the Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One Blu-ray release, see the Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One Blu-ray Review
Director: Yasuhiro Nowatari
» See full cast & crew
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One Blu-ray Review
A reworked version of the original Dragon Ball Z series is introduced on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, May 14, 2010
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. However, as the new millennium approached, television entertainment focusing on younger viewers began undergoing a profound transition in the wake of 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 taste. 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 young 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 (literally translated to "revised" in English) is a project that's been 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).
The first volume of the series is presented on two Blu-ray discs, and includes the first thirteen episodes of the series. As of the date this review is posted, we're only up to episode 56 in the Japanese broadcast timeline (which began in April, 2009), so I'd suspect subsequent Blu-ray volumes will be unleashed to coincide with a release schedule that places the majority of the series in our hands by the time the original broadcast concludes. For anyone familiar with my prior reviews of anime productions, I don't typically include a synopsis for each individual episode. However, given the newly-condensed framework of the series, I decided fans might appreciate a breakdown of each episode.
Episode 01:Goku is a legendary warrior and the strongest fighter on the plant, but he's about to encounter a foe from out-of-this-world. What brings this new menace to Earth? And what's up with his tail?
Episode 02: When Raditz abducts Gohan and announces his plans to conquer Earth, Goku and Piccolo are forced into an uneasy alliance. The two rivals don't trust each other, but neither of them can defeat the Saiyan on their own!
Episode 03: Despite the fury of their attacks, Goku and Piccolo are unable to land a death blow in their battle against Raditz. Gohan's unexpected outburst manages to weaken the powerful Saiyan, but it may be too little, too late.
Episode 04: Now that he's dead, Goku must fight to survive in the afterlife, especially during his treacherous trek down Snake Way. Back on Earth, Gohan endures his own punishment as a student in the house of Piccolo!
Episode 05: Piccolo tries to toughen up Gohan with some wilderness survival training, but things get hairy when the young Saiyan sees his first full moon! Meanwhile, Yajirobe summons Earth's strongest fighters to Kami's Lookout.
Episode 06: As the deadly Saiyan invaders approach Earth, Gohan makes slow, but steady progress under the watchful eye of Piccolo, and Goku struggles with the "gravity" of his training under King Kai.
Episode 07: To prove himself worthy of King Kai's training, Goku must test his mettle against a fleet-footed monkey and a powerful cricket that's big on respect. Meanwhile, in the land of the living, Gohan takes a beating from his monstrous master!
Episode 08: Goku's training under King Kai is finally complete, and he's eager to return to Earth. Master Roshi uses the Dragon Balls to summon Shenron, but will Goku make it back in time to stop the Saiyans?
Episode 09: The Saiyans have arrived, Goku isn't even on the planet, and the overmatched Z-Fighters represent Earth's last line of defense. When Vegeta and Nappa unleash the gruesome Saibamen, Yamcha picks a fight that could be his last!
Episode 10: Krillin's furious attack wipes out the Saibamen, but the Z-Fighters are powerless against the Saiyan warlords. One by one, Earth's defenders suffer devastating injuries ľ or fall in battle. Goku's return is their only hope for survival.
Episode 11: Piccolo hatches a desperate plan to prolong the battle until Goku's arrival. When Vegeta senses an awesome source of power approaching, he orders Nappa to dispose of the remaining Z-Fighters ľ starting with Gohan!
Episode 12: Goku arrives in time to save Gohan and Krillin, and the resurrected warrior is eager to put the hurt on Nappa. When it becomes clear that Goku is no ordinary fighter, Prince Vegeta steps in to finish the fight himself!
Episode 13: The stage is set for a final showdown between Vegeta and Goku. The Saiyan Prince is stronger, faster, and far more ruthless. Goku's only hope for victory is a technique that may very well destroy him!
As an anime enthusiast who's very familiar with the Dragon Ball franchise, I love what's been done on this revision of the original Dragon Ball Z series. As most fans know, one of the key detriments of the original 291-episode format was the rather monotonous nature of the lengthy fight sequences that often span far too many episodes. The violence makes the series what it is, but when it stifles the momentum of the plot, it's easy to grow a bit bored. Dragon Ball Z Kai doesn't necessarily eliminate the lengthy, multi-episode battles, but it redirects focus on the more important encounters in the story arch, leaving out the mundane side encounters. I'm sure some fans will still prefer the unaltered version of the series, but I found the narrative segments adequate to fill the subplots excised from the series.
One of the key reasons Dragon Ball eventually found its audience here in America was the lack of selective editing to remove the mature themes from the series. During its initial test run on young viewers, language was toned down, sexual innuendo was removed, and the violence was essentially neutered. Once Funimation made the decision to release the series in an unedited format, we were finally shown battles that had consequences (characters actually die), and elements that appeal to more than just kids. That's not to say the series doesn't have a childish sensibility to it, but I'd wager the original production was meant to entertain people of all ages. Thankfully, Dragon Ball Z Kai continues the trend of no longer editing for content, allowing for mild cussing and sequences of violence that may be deemed unsuitable for younger children. I wouldn't suggest parents avoid this release due to the occasionally mature subject matter (after all, the series is still rather tame), but I want to make it clear to long-time fans that this is not a compromised version of the Dragon Ball Z we've grown accustomed to.
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One 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 One 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 voice-work 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 true surround separation. On the English side, we're treated to lossless 5.1mix, which quickly earned its designation as my track of choice. I usually prefer the Japanese language track on other anime series, but given my extensive introduction to the dubbed version of Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, I associate the English cast with the characters 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 stage 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 One Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only extras included in this package are textless opening/closing songs, and a collection of trailers for other FUNimation releases. The two discs are housed in a standard sized Blu-ray case with a flashy slipcover over the top.
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The first 13 episodes of Dragon Ball Z Kai take viewers through a condensed version of the first 30 episodes in the original series. Going into this review, I was concerned the Kai version of the show would either lose the charm of the original production, or incorporate heavy editing that alters the tone of the story arch. Now that I've made it through the initial Blu-ray collection, I've concluded this is a better overall structure for what I use to consider a bloated production, and I can't wait to revisit the ongoing adventures in further volumes. From a technical standpoint, your appreciation for the quality upgrade will depend largely on your exposure to Dragon Ball Z over the years. Long-time fans who've grown accustomed to dirty source elements, drab hues, and substantial age-related deficiencies will be astounded by the visual upgrade on Kai. Likewise, the new lossless audio mix for both the Japanese and English options retain the original campy nature of the show, but provide a boost in richness that lends a significant step up over the prior DVD editions. All things considered, I'd give this an enthusiastic recommendation for long-time fans of the Dragon Ball franchise, but encourage newcomers to rent the first few episodes before making a purchase decision.
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One (1 bundle)
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Lightning Deal: Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One Blu-ray $19.49 (Expired) - July 9, 2010
Amazon has an interesting Blu-ray related lightning deal going on now: up to 11 a.m. PDT, you can order Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One for only $19.49 (65% off MSRP). The price history for this title shows this is the lowest it has been. Update: deal expired.
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