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Review: Dragon Ball Z Kai Volume One Blu-ray

The series finally arrives in the U.S.


Dragon Ball Z Kai has arrived on Blu-ray (and DVD). I started watching Dragon Ball Z probably back in 1997 when it aired on Cartoon Network. I wasn't fully committed to the show but I enjoyed it. The biggest problem I had was keeping up with the five days a week schedule. Sure I could've video taped it (remember, this was in 97, the age of VCRs) but I figured if I didn't have the time to watch it when it aired, I wouldn't have time to catch up later.

What is the difference between Dragon Bal Z and Dragon Ball Z Kai (in case you don't already know)? Basically this is the revised version (and remastered). This is the way creator Akira Toriyama originally intended the series to be. Dragon Ball Z's 291 episodes are being trimmed down and condensed to 100. Seems like quite a difference but after watching this first volume, the first 13 episodes, it does seem that less is better.

The action is clearly more intense with less drawn out scenes and situations. Some of the episodes I remember watching back in 97 were some of the regular versions of these first few episodes. I remember when (Spoiler Alert) Goku died and was making his way back. He kept running down that path to visit King Kai. I'd miss a couple episodes and it seemed he was still running along that damn path.

Being the casual fan that I am, I only have the first six volumes of the Dragon Ball Z manga (actually it's the cool "three-in-one Viz editions). As I watched these 13 episodes over this past week, I actually followed along with the manga. The show is pretty much identical to the manga. That shows that DBZ Kai is closer to Toriyama's original vision.

This release of Dragon Ball Z Kai Volume One is the first three volumes of the manga (or chapters 1-34). In terms of the original Dragon Ball Z series, episode 13 here corresponds to episode 30. The original Dragon Ball Z took over twice as long to get to this same place. As I mentioned, the pacing is a lot better here (although things drag on a tiny bit around episode 10 as we wait for Goku's return). The only real difference I noticed between the Dragon Ball Z manga and Dragon Ball Z Kai was the inclusion of Gregory in the show (although Bubbles is still with King Kai, of course).

I've always wanted to watch the entire Dragon Ball Z series but the idea of watching nearly 300 episodes has always put me off. I hate to say that I just didn't have the time to commit to all those episodes and we know the past DVD releases weren't exactly cheap. The idea of 100 feels a lot more manageable.

How was the Blu-ray? I've mentioned that the show's pacing is where it should be. The animation and colors are crisp and clear. It almost looks like the entire series was re-animated. I'm a HD junkie and watching the episodes on Blu-ray was a real treat. The only downside I have is I now have to wait until September 14, 2010 for the second volume of Dragon Ball Z Kai and it does end in a bit of a cliffhanger.

How's this volume rate? The thirteen episodes are good but this volume has a suggested retail price of $54.98. While that is 325 minutes, it still feels like a lot to pay for. But obviously you'll be able to find it cheaper online (I saw it for $34.99 on one site). There also aren't really any extras, not that you'd be buying this for them. You get textless versions of the opening and closing songs. So if you didn't get enough of either during the thirteen episodes, you can watch them without all the credits obscuring the animation. You get some trailers as well but trailers are trailers. I would give this a solid 4 out of 5. I may not be the biggest Dragon Ball Z fan but it was fun and this new pacing really works. If you've watched the original Dragon Ball Z or haven't seen these episodes yet, it's worth checking out.
sickVisionz moderator on May 18, 2010 at 5:30 a.m.
I'm glad it turned out to be a solid release.  I've heard that the BD isn't widescreen like the TV episodes, is this the case?
GMan staff on May 18, 2010 at 5:44 a.m.
@sickVisionz: That is the case. I actually tried looking this up while watching. Apparently Akira Toriyama wanted the 4:3 ratio for some reason. I just tried ignoring it and focusing on the episodes.
Sicilyon May 18, 2010 at 5:53 a.m.
Cool. I remember It taking like 3 episodes for Goku to find Gohan, or something like that
GMan staff on May 18, 2010 at 6:04 a.m.
@Sicily: Yeah, that was the good and bad thing about the show. If you missed a couple episodes, you didn't really miss anything. I was surprised when I heard Kai was cutting it all down to 100 episodes but after watching this, I really think it will be for the best.
Sicilyon May 18, 2010 at 6:12 a.m.
Even now when i watch episodes on the internet, it just seems like filler, but this sounds like a good first series to have, for my blue ray .
FoxxFireArt moderator on May 18, 2010 at 6:41 a.m.
I was in high school when Cartoon Network first started showing Dragon Ball Z. I don't feel that the long run down the snake path was excessive. It was suppose to be a ridiculously long path that is next to impossible to make the trip. I do see the appeal of cutting out the fat.
 
When it comes to animes that I really want to buy. I almost never buy them one at a time. I normally wait for the full release in a box set form.

I do contests the statement of :

" (actually it's the cool "three-in-one Viz editions). "

VIZ is incapable of making anything cool, but my opinion of that publisher is quite well known. When they published the precursor manga series, Dragon Ball. They had edited it so heavily. That later that had to release an unedited version along with their flawed version.
Daniel_Newton moderator on May 18, 2010 at 7:31 a.m.
Ah, these are the kinds of articles I want to see on the site, thanks GMan :)
I will probably invest in Kai eventually, any idea when the UK Blu-ray release is? I'm not sure how I feel about it being in 4:3 though... I thought one of the points of Kai was to make the series wide-screen.
 
Still, hearing it's almost identical to the manga makes me very happy. Goodbye filler!
CarlosGarciaon May 18, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.
What about available subs and dubbs?
GMan staff on May 18, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.
@CarlosGarcia: I didn't mention it but it does have Dolby TrueHD Japanese 5.1 (as well as English obviously). The video is all 1080p HD 4:3. I didn't check the Japanese track for the obvious reasons. Not sure about subtitles. I'd have to check the Blu-ray (which is at home). 
 
There doesn't seem to be any mention on their website:
 http://www.dragonballzkai.com/
Swayhavenon May 18, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.
Kai is easily better than the original.
hitsusatsu11on May 18, 2010 at 10:22 a.m.
z>>>kai, though kai s still good. 
Kyleon May 18, 2010 at 11:50 p.m.
I've always liked the DBZ manga much better than the anime because of the faster pace, so I was super excited about this release, but $55 for thirteen episodes??? Fuck. No.
Roveron May 19, 2010 at 12:07 a.m.
@Kyle: You can get it for like $38 if your a member at Righstuff and $32 from Amazon. Funimations suggested price is always way higher then the actually street price.
Charagonon May 19, 2010 at 2:02 p.m.
The real difference when it comes to trimming down DBZ into Kai won't be apparent for a while. It really wasn't until season 3 and beyond when the show truly earned the nickname Drag-On Ball.

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