Blu-ray Review "Dragon Ball Z Kai: Seasons One-Four"

dbz1Actors: Justin Cook, Christopher Sabat, Sean Schemmel, Sonny Strait, Mike McFarland and Colleen Clinkenbeard
Directors: Yasuhiro Nowatari
Rated: Unrated
Studio: FUNimation
DVD Release Date: S1: October 18. 2011, S2: May 22, 2012, S3: September 11, 2012, S4: March 12, 2013
Run Time: Season 1-3: 625 minutes, Season 4: 525 minutes

Seasons: 4 out of 5 stars
Extra: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Dragonball Z” is one of the most recognizable anime series in history. How is “Dragon Ball Z Kai” different? It takes the classic series that aired 1989-1996, which consisted of 291 episodes and complies it into a tighter 98 episodes. This was done to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show and also bring the series closely to Akira Toriyama’s 26 volume “Dragon Ball” manga. I know it is hard to be cool with loosing that much content from your beloved anime series, but I really dig it. All fans of the show know that there was quite a bit of fluff added and pacing issues with the original episodes. “Kai” feels a lot tighter and epic and represented well on Blu-ray, thanks to Funimation.

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” really gives “Dragon Ball Z” a feel face lift. If you are a fan of this series, you will bee shocked at how good this series looks. It features high def remasters from Toei Animation’s original source material. They have been really touched up and have never looked better.  But “Dragon Ball Kai” is not just “Dragon Ball Z” remastered for HD, it is a literally a frame by frame digital clean-up, which includes brand new created animation added in which replaces entire segments from the original series. The new segments though are blended perfectly with the original dbz2footage and makes the show flow very smoothly.

Season one aka the Saiyans Saga contains episodes 1-26. Here is the official premise: Goku – Earth’s greatest champion – bravely defends humanity against an invading race of warriors known as the Saiyans. When the mighty hero falls, his young son Gohan rises up to face the very villains who murdered his father. The battle rages through space to Planet Namek, where Gohan and his overmatched allies risk their lives to defeat the Saiyan warlord Vegeta – and the monster known as Frieza!

Season two aka the Frieza Saga contains episodes 27-52. Here is the official premise: The nonstop action continues with a furious flurry of flying fists that will leave heads spinning! Krillin and Gohan test out their new powers in a battle with Vegeta, the Ginyu Force shows off their deadly moves, and Goku races through space on a collision course with Frieza! As the epic slugfest approaches a standstill, the Putrid Purple Fiend forever silences Goku‘s closest friend – sending Earth’s hero into a super-saiyan rage that threatens to obliterate them both!

Season three aka the Androids Saga contains episodes 53-77. Here is the official premise: In the aftermath of the battle between Goku and Frieza, both fighters have vanished, and the Earth has a new set of problems. A mysterious stranger known as Trunks has arrived from the future with a warning: The androids are coming – and they’re not alone! The monster known as Cell blazes a trail of death and destruction in pursuit of his horrifyingly perfect form. Should the hideous creature succeed, not even the power of a super Saiyan will be enough to save humanity!

dbz3Lastly season four aka the Cell Saga contains episodes 78-98. Here is the official premise: Cell has finally reached his perfect form, and he won’t rest till civilization falls! Only a herculean effort by Earth’s heroes can stop Cell’s rampage, but a superhuman slugfest of unprecedented brutality leads to Goku‘s shocking retirement! Young Gohan alone must now battle the monster and his miniature minions. The outlook appears bleak, but somewhere Goku lurks, waiting to lend his strength to Gohan for one final Kamehameha Wave. Will it be enough to save the world!?

You have to remember that this show originally aired from 1989 – 1996, so this show might not really be screaming high definition. But like I said the HD 1080p transfers for each episode looks fantastic.  The colors are very crisp and pop right off the screen. Also the show’s aspect ratio is also preserved with its original 1.33:1 presentation. The audio presentation for these seasons are just as impressive as the snazzy video upgrade.

“Dragon Ball Z Kai” comes with newly recorded tracks for both the Japanese and English versions. Most of the original cast have returned to deliver a very sharp and clear. The Japanese track is presented with a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 track, decent but I have to say I am a bigger fan of the English tracks here.  The English audio comes with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track which includes the most accurately translated subtitles to date from the original Japanese scripts.  This is a real update for the show unlike what was done for the English dub in “Dragon Ball Z”, which is always debated. So with these newly recorded voice tracks, I have to say that the English track really take the cake.

As much as I absolutely love these series, I really don’t love the extras on each season. I would have love FUNimation to include a few audio commentary tracks from the new U.S. cast. Also I am sure they could have scrounged up some featurettes or better interviews with the cast/crew on the dbz4restoration. But what we get is the Opening theme song (“Dragon Soul” by Takayoshi Tanimoto) and the closing theme song (“Yeah! Break! Care! Break!” also by Takayoshi Tanimoto) for each season. Season three also includes an extra closing theme song “Kokoro no Hane” by Team Dragon from AKB48. Season two attempts an interview extra but it is far too short. “Interviews with members of the US Cast”, cats with Justin Cook, Christopher Sabat, Sean Schemmel, Sonny Strait, Mike McFarland and Colleen Clinkenbeard. Lastly there is a collection of trailers for FUNimation releases included with each season.

Dragonball Z is still going strong all these years later. “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods”, which is the 14th “Dragon Ball Z” movie and hits Japanese theaters on March 30, 2013. It has been 18 years since “Dragon Ball Z: Wrath of the Dragon”, the 13th movie was released in Japan. So this film is a long time coming. So U.S. fans get ready because you know that FUNimation will be bringing this over to us as well. Also “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was suppose to end with this season but it was reported by Krillin‘s Japanese voice actor Mayumi Tanaka last year that the cast is recording new episodes for what would be considered season 5 aka the Majin Buu Saga. So stay tuned.

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