Dragon Ball Z Kai Season 1 Part 1 (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Earth faces its greatest challenge as the Saiyan’s have come to kick its ass. And only Goku can stop them, provided he wasn’t already killed by them.

What They Say

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.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!

Dragon Ball Z Kai gets a good audio presentation for its release as both language tracks are done in Dolby TrueHD. The Japanese mix, which was naturally updated for its current airing in Japan, gets a solid stereo presentation though I do wish they’d get on the ball more about using 5.1 mixes for their shows. The forward soundstage gets a solid workout in general with a fair bit of directionality and a whole lot of clarity when compared to the weak DVD releases we’ve had over the years, be they in stereo or mono. The English 5.1 mix has a much richer and fuller sound as expected and it utilizes the overall soundstage effectively, though the rears don’t get a huge workout in general. Similar to past releases, it really comes down to which cast you like the best (both of which have casting changes), but I’m very pleased that we got lossless audio tracks for both and that they’re free of problems.
Originally airing from 1986… and then remastered and airing again in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series was broadcast in Japan zoomed and in widescreen but FUNimation’s releases mirror the Japanese Blu-ray releases by giving us the show as it should look. The release uses a dual layer and single layer disc set so the spread is nine episodes on the first and four on the second. Having watched the show numerous times in different sets over the years, this is definitely by far the best it has ever looked. Colors look great, detail is spot on and outside of some source related blemishes that they didn’t clean up for whatever reason, it’s a great looking release. It takes the warmth of traditional animation and moves it to a more detailed level than we’ve seen before and with a very clean and solid look to the colors it’s even more impressive. The various kinds of animation used throughout here, with the original that’s been tweaked and cleaned up, the redone pieces and the new pieces all provide for a very disjointed look. It can be quite jarring at first, but as the episodes progressed it bothered me less and less. After the variety of really bad releases over the years, especially remembering FUNimation’s own first Dragon Ball Z DVDs, I can say that while this isn’t perfection by a stretch, it’s left me pretty pleased.
The majority of Dragon Ball related shows have been released in larger sets lately so the packaging for this one feels a bit off because of that, though surely we'll see sets in the size of the original, Z and GT sometime to tie it all together nicely. The release is done with a standard blu-ray case with a cardboard slipcover that replicates the case artwork itself. The front cover is nicely done with a straightforward new visual design image of Goku gearing up for an attack set against a white background that really draws the eye to the character. The logo is kept to the lower left and is surprisingly small but fits well so the character artwork gets most of the attention. The right side has an orange strip going down where it has the logo and the volume numbering along with a couple of expected company logos. The back cover is done sideways where the orange strip extends around to it a bit and is then given over to a dark gray. There's a good action shot of Goku that's new along the right while below him they keep to the technical information and a bunch of logos. The majority is given over to the summary which covers the basics of the show along with a good push of the updated aspect of the series. We get a few small shots as well though they're small enough to not really matter or help to sell things. There aren't any show related inserts included but we do get artwork on the other side with a close-up action shot of Vegeta against a white background while the other side deals with a sideways episode breakdown by number and title.
The menus for this release are something of a disappointment overall and problematic, though perhaps more for these old eyes than for the young pups out there watching on smaller HD setups. The menus are all about the clips from the show playing out in bold action with lots of vibrant colors and that looks good. I like that. It sets the mood just right. The problem is with the navigation strip along the bottom, which does double as the pop-up as well, where they use small – small – orange text on top of a silver background and shuffle it all off to the right. With the font used and the combination of the colors, it’s unattractive and hard to read at even the tiniest bit of distance, even on larger setups. The menus do work flawlessly, discounting the fact that they don’t read the players’ language presets which continues to be a big pet peeve of mine, and everything is very easy to move about in.
The only extras included in here are on the second volume with clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Dragon Ball Z franchise has seen a lot of releases over the years in the US, most of which attract a fair bit of attention outside of the aborted singles that were done before they went for full season sets done in widescreen. I've watched the show from the Pioneer releases to the first DVDs from FUNimation to going back to the original series, then to GT and a slew of movies in between. I've read all the manga for both series which is what really made me a fan of it overall and gave me a better appreciation for the anime when I started in on that again at one point. I'm not a hardcore fan, though I'd love to see some new material, but I like the show well enough while easily seeing its faults
So along the way, Toei came up with a new idea for repackaging the show for release in Japan while bringing it to the eyes of new fans. With the show hitting its twentieth anniversary of the series ending in Japan back in 1989, what better time to take the remastered works and show it in high definition (upscaled and in widescreen on TV) in Japan and then sell some new Blu-ray releases. That might work in general, but at 291 episodes, it's a daunting process to be sure and not one that would really draw in audiences. So the idea that came up was to take the show, remove all the anime original material and condense things so that it's much closer to what the original manga series was like. With it being planned to condense it down to a hundred episodes, Dragon Ball Z Kai was born.
It's been several years since I had last seen the show, having avoided watching the widescreen edition, and I'm coming into this with the original series close to finishing out its run. The original Dragon Ball series is one that I have found to be the best of them all because it was fairly concise overall when it came to its fights as they didn't feel like they dragged on forever. Too much time spent on tournaments? Sure. But it progressed, aged the characters and changed relationships and abilities along the way. Kai brings us into the series with a brief recap of the original series and sets the stage where we now have an adult Goku, or as adult as he can be, who is married to Chichi and has a four year old son named Gohan. Gohan's cute as a button and wants to be a scholar when he grows up some day, something his mother actively encourages.
What we also see in the back story provided here is the material from the special that shows what happened years ago when Goku was born and how his planet died as he was sent hurtling towards Earth. The attack by Frieza, the death of Goku's father and the realization of something bigger out there in the universe is an element that changes how the original series was looked at, where Goku just wasn't like everyone else and no firm reason was really given that I recall. With the death of the planet, there are few survivors of the Saiyan race and those three have gone about as galactic mercenaries of sorts, removing populations from planets that they can sell to the highest bidder. They're working up a big one now and one of them, Raditz, has come to Earth to get Goku to join them since he's Goku's older brother. Suffice to say, he's shocked that Goku hasn't dominated the planet yet and taken control.
It doesn't take long for the show go to into full on battle mode, or for the other Saiyan's to arrive and get into some serious action. Over the course of the first thirteen episodes, the series covers about ten months worth of time as the first opponent is dealt with and everyone gets to training extremely hard to deal with the impending arrival of the much more powerful Saiyan's. The show takes a pleasant turn when Piccolo takes over the training of Gohan and forces him to grow up and become a fighter for now and a scholar later as the fate of the world is at stake. Piccolo's villainous origins are amusing to think about as we see him taking on more of a simple adversarial role with Goku but knowing that the two of them and others really need to work together in order to deal with things. Having the extended period where he's essentially training and raising Gohan gives him a very different perspective on life that takes time to sink in.
In Summary:
Dragon Ball Z Kai is intriguing to watch in this form. The first thirteen episodes cover roughly the first thirty episodes of the original series and it's obvious how much is missing. A lot of time was spent originally with Gohan going through his training or Goku traveling down the serpent path. Eliminating a lot of this material, filler or not, does tighten up the show a whole hell of a lot. At the same time, especially in the first half dozen episodes or so, it really makes it feel like it's rushed. Covering ten months time in ten episodes or so with all the training, both in the real world and the after world, doesn't lose its impact but it does minimize it some. I'm still somewhat ambivalent about how they're tightening up the show in this form and it's a curious experiment. The first batch of episodes here shows where a lot of it will go but I can't decide if I really like it cut down like this or not.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 54.98
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: Dragon Ball Kai