Blu-ray Review: Dragon Ball Z Kai – Season 1
24/07/2015 Leave a comment
Dragon Ball Z once again returns to the UK; but this time it’s been upgraded in High Defintion and re-dubbed for a new experience. Does this mean that Dragon Ball Z Kai – Season 1 is better than previous DVD releases? Find out in our review.
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!
To newcomers of the Dragon Ball franchise this Blu-ray (and DVD release) of Dragon Ball Z Kai – Season 1 may seem like a brand new instalment into a long-running-franchise; however its actually the original Dragon Ball Z anime series re-mastered in such a way that it fits closely in-line with the original manga. Does this make it the definitive edition of Dragon Ball Z? In some aspects yes; but if you are a long-time Dragon Ball fan then you’ll ultimately lose out on some nostalgia.
It all starts with Bardock, who is the biological father of Goku, attempting to kill frieza for – at this point in time – an unknown reason at which upon his death has a premonition that his son, Goku, will one day confront Frieza and defeat him. With Bardock, Planet Vegeta and the entire Sayian population destroyed we sit through ten minutes of narrated flashback that explains how Goku escaped the planets destruction and how he came to be the man he is today. It’s a similar flashback to the one seen in Battle of Gods, with the flashbacks to King Piccolo and Piccolo Jnr being the highlights, but it is also a flashback which sets the tone nicely for the upcoming events found within this instalment.
It’s ironic how ten minutes into Dragon Ball Z Kai and we only just now get to see scenes from the original Dragon Ball Z TV series; and from here on out its pretty much exactly how you remember it…. Almost. The main storyline of Raditz arriving on earth, kidnapping Gohan and fighting Piccolo and Goku in a fight to the death all remain true to the original source material; both manga and anime, but afterwards is where things start to change. For starters thanks to the newly translated English Dub (and subtitles) Piccolo’s trademark Special Beam Cannon is now known as its original translated name, Makankosappo, furthermore the blood detail of when both Goku and Raditz get hit by the beam, and when Radtiz coughs up blood afterwards, are removed. Do not be alarmed this is still the uncut version of Dragon Ball Z Kai, it’s just that for the ‘re-master’ selected elements were toned down.
In hindsight the removal of some blood during the Raditz encounter marks the start of changes made to the original Dragon Ball Z TV series as from here the show would progress to Goku travelling snake-way and Gohan being left in the wild for survival training. While this is the case it’s done over a much shorter period and as a result the scene changes between the two characters quite often with the narrator providing a breakdown as to why they have made so much progress in such a short length of time. This is just one example of how filler content has been removed from the show; as later-on the majority of the “search for namek” escapde has been removed; thus allowing the namekian saga to arrive and progress at a much faster rate. This is Dragon Ball Z Kai’s selling point; keeping the original storyline intact but removing the scenes which were not needed or overstayed its welcome and when done correctly its works extremely well – especially within two examples mentioned above. However this being said it can also cause negative effects when edits go too far – majority of which make their appearance quite early on in this set.
For starters when Piccolo gives Gohan some new clothes and a sword to defend with Gohan is unable to take care of himself; but in the next episode Gohan is perfectly capable of wielding a sword and evading a dinosaur. Another, more questionable, example is during the fight with the sayians as during this fight the scene cuts to a camera crew filming the fight for a TV broadcast ; but when and how did they show up? Well you’ll never know. Worse still it then cuts to KAME House whereby we see Bulma, Roshi, Oolong, Puraar, ChiChi (who is currently passed out) and Ox King watching the fight unfold. Initial thoughts are “when did they all show up and why is chichi passed out?” – as its not shown within the episodes of Dragon Ball Z Kai; but if you watched Dragon Ball Z you’ll know that everyone gathers at the KAME house and then when ChiChi sees Gohan on TV she passes out. Its these ‘little details’ which make watching Dragon Ball Z Kai a little bit disappointing; but it’s a small price to pay to cut out large portions of the show.
Speaking of scenes; the “previously segments” before each episode begins can sometimes feature scenes that were not shown in the episode itself; for example Goku’s Kaioken training on King Kai’s planet is shown before episode nine but you never actually saw it on the previous episode. I may sound negative or critical but in an industry where continuity is key there isn’t a lot of it in Dragon Ball Z Kai; but that’s probably down to the show being spliced together from the original footage rather than re-drawn. Ironically however some scenes have been re-animated and then blended in with the original background artwork – most likely due to the original film being too damaged to remaster in High Definition – and while most can easily be spotted it doesn’t distract you from the events unfolding on screne.
In regards to episodic content this season 1 release of Dragon Ball Z Kai begins with a new way to be introduced to the franchise and then ends with the Ginyu Force about to arrive on Namek; a lot of ground is covered and it sees plenty of fights, including Raditz, Nappa, Vegeta and Zarbon, throughout. This is all action, no filler and little dialogue entertainment and its one of the best ways to watch the series – if you can withstand the numerous edits and progressive mishaps.
When it comes to bonus material then there isn’t a lot to look forward to as the only included bonus materials are a selection of ‘extremely old’ trailers (Evangelion and Soul Eater) and different variations of the textless closing and opening song – both of which are available in English and Japanese depending on the audio option selected.
Interestingly enough these Blu-ray discs do have some hidden bonus content; but there is ‘officially’ no way of being able to watch the content. The content itself is trailers that were originally featured on the American Blu-ray release of the series so it stands to reason that FUNimation hand-tailored these discs for the UK (MangaUK) market and locked out any trailers for titles which are not under license by Manga Entertainment UK. Why do I believe this? Well for starters the discs are both Region A and B compatible but more importantly the disc menus are listed as Part One and Part Two (as they were in America) as opposed to Season 1.
Media: BD 50 x2, BD 25 X2
Region: A & B
Running Time: 3:27:40 (Disc 1 & 3), 1:32:19 (Disc 2 & 4)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) & Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Featuring twenty-six episodes that span the entire Sayian and Namekian Sagas we have a set that has been re-mastered, re-dubbed, re-animated and re-cut for your viewing pleasure; to newcomers it’s an ideal starting point – as it provides an extensive recap to Dragon Ball in the first episode – and to fans of the franchise it provides a new way to watch a timeless classic. Certain aspects of this release may not appeal to everyone, such as it’s toned down violence and extensive filler removable but it is one of the best ways to experience Dragon Ball Z.
When it comes to picture quality then Dragon Ball Z [KAI] has never looked so clear and crisp; for starters the episodes are presented in their original 4:3 broadcast ratio, the grain (or picture noise) that so often appears has been removed and the colour balance – which FUNimation got horribly wrong in their remasters – has been restored to how it originally was. Of course this is all of the Japanese studios doing; but when it comes to the discs then everything works as intended – with chapter markings and 5.1 DolbyTrue HD sound for the English Audio. Speaking of audio both Japanese and English dubs feature –what I believe- to be the Kenji Yamamoto score of Dragon Ball Z Kai; which suggests that we, the UK audience, have received the original assets.
This Season 1 release of Dragon Ball Z Kai feels like a double-edged sword; it features everything found within the main storyline, such as the battle with radtiz, gohan and goku’s training, the battle with the Sayians and the hunt for dragon balls on namek; but it sacrifices small amounts of strong violence and ‘progressive storyline continuity’ in the process. Basically If you are here for the fights then you are well-catered for as the fights now blend together as opposed to mindless dialogue in between; but if you are looking for a solid progressive pacing which sees the character evolve or ‘actually progress’ – both physically and emotionally – then you’ll probably want to return to the original series.
Despite my criticism Dragon Ball Z Kai – Season 1 is the best way to re-experience an iconic story; and with the HD transfer it now brings fresh blood into an aging franchise. Simply be; Dragon Ball Z Kai – Season 1 is a must-own for your collection.
Dragon Ball Z Kai – Season 1 will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from the 3rd August 2015 within the UK.