Dragon Ball Z Kai, Part 1

But for all you die-hard Dragon Ball fans, Z Kai is unquestionably a must-have for your collection.

2010 TV Series (episodes 1-13). DVD, bilingual, $49.98. Distributor: FUNimation.

Yes, the evil Saiyans have (re)returned to Earth to satisfy their appetite for destruction. But if Goku, the world’s greatest fighter, has his say, these aliens will be sent home with a foot squarely lodged between their cheeks. Nevertheless, Raditz, the first alien, proves to be tougher than anticipated, forcing Goku into an unlikely alliance with his Earthly rival Piccolo. Together they achieve victory, but pay the ultimate price. Goku not only finds death, but other Saiyans are now on their way. And so, Goku’s friends and Piccolo have one year to train. Moreover, if they want to resurrect Goku, who has now entered a higher level of training in the afterlife, they need to collect the mysterious dragon balls.

But don’t underestimate Goku! The world’s greatest fighter is carving out his own path back to the world of the living.

Dragon Ball Z Kai

Seriously, you’d have to be well outside the world of anime to be ignorant of Dragon Ball Z. Hell, even if you’re relatively new to the scene, FUNimation has been releasing digitally re-mastered collections for sometime, not to mention the impressive Dragon Box collectors series. And that brings us to the point, the rub, if you will. With all these re-tooled box sets, why do we need Z Kai?

Well, for one, this is how FUNimation and Toei Animation Co. have chosen to celebrate the show’s 25th Anniversary. And it does include HD re-mastered video and audio, new opening and closing sequences, and the return of several original voice cast members.

Yet, honestly, that really isn’t good enough. I’ve seen more than enough re-mastered Dragon Ball. I’m good. I need something more!

Fortunately, FUNimation and Toei deliver.

Manga-centric is the word of the day. Dragon Ball Z Kai is a “new” take on Akira Toriyama’s original vision. I use quotes here because this series is actually a faithful telling of the original content. Again, the show is 25 years old. Anime in the 80’s, due to simple lack of access – no internet, no streaming –, was devoid of the purist Otaku we find today; the connoisseur more interested in a subbed version of their latest obsession. Consequently, a series could undergo great transformation in translation and narrative. And often there was a desire to extend a show far beyond its original scope; simply recall how Robotech was stitched together from three separate anime. For Z Kai, and appropriately for a martial arts based story, this reversal of transformation means better focus. Whole story arcs have been removed, greatly reducing the overall episode count. We are left with nothing but concise, fist-pounding action as our beloved Z-Fighters tell their tale.  

I’m starting to like Dragon Ball Z! Well, despite all the re-mastering, it doesn’t hurt that I’m beginning to view a little grain and older anime artwork with a nostalgic eye.

Containing the first thirteen episodes, part 1 covers the essentials: Goku’s death and initial training in the afterlife, Gohan’s training under Piccolo, the Saiyans’ arrival, the near defeat of the Z-fighters, and the eventual return of Goku. Better yet, all this action flows like a nail-biting 15 round heavyweight bout. Slow is not an adjective I would use to describe Dragon Ball Z Kai. It drags you in, pins you down, and makes you drink the kool aid.

Yes, if you’re not already a fan, you’ll be an instant convert. And, since this DVD will drop on May 18 and the series itself will debut on Nicktoons on May 24, I think new converts are on the way.

But for all you die-hard Dragon Ball fans, Z Kai is unquestionably a must-have for your collection. After all, this isn’t so much about another re-mastering of familiar episodes, but a purist retelling of the original manga story. It’s something ironically new.   

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