Review for Dragon Ball Z Kai Season 2
It's been five years since the events of Dragon Ball. Goku has settled down with Chichi, and together they have a son, Gohan, the apple of his parents' eyes. Gohan is a little timid, and spoiled by a mother who would much rather have a genius in the family than another martial artist saviour of the universe. Not that there is much saving to be done. The world is at peace, and even Piccolo's behaving himself.
Then suddenly, that peace is shattered when aliens arrive, or rather one alien, Raditz, a Saiyan, looking for his brother Kakarott. The Saiyans are the most brutal race in the universe; their trade is attacking planets, stripping them of the inhabitants, and selling them off at a profit. The one saving grace is that a stellar disaster wiped most of them out. There are only three left in the universe, four counting Kakarott, and Raditz is looking for his kid brother to recruit him to his nefarious cause. It turns out that Kakarott is actually Goku, and Goku forgot about his Saiyan heritage when he fell on his head as child. When Raditz learns that Goku has a son, whose Saiyan powers may be enhanced by his Earthling blood, the need to coerce both his relatives to his cause becomes intense, and a battle to the death ensues. But that's only the beginning, for there are two more Saiyans out there, and they now know of ripe little Earth's existence. They're coming to wipe out the inhabitants of Earth, and there's only a year to train up to be ready for them. Even little Gohan will have to undergo training. Training will be hard for Gohan, who's never wanted for anything in his four pampered years. It'll be even harder for Goku, who's dead. Time to start gathering the Dragon Balls again.
That was Season 1, which actually saw Goku resurrected, and Vegeta defeated, but in the process so many of their friends were lost, including Piccolo, Yamcha, Tenshinhan and Chaozu. At the start of Season 2, they’re in the next world, training with Kaio. Gohan, Bulma and Kuririn on the other hand have travelled to the Namek homeworld to find the original Dragon Balls, so that they can wish the Earth Dragon Balls back into existence and resurrect their friends. The only trouble is that the meanest villain in the universe, Frieza has arrived on the planet, is busy slaughtering the natives, looking for the Dragon Balls to become immortal, and not long after Vegeta shows up too for the same reason. Facing odds like that, the only hope that Gohan and his friends have is to hope that Goku can get there soon in his hastily built spaceship. But before that happens, Frieza calls in the dreaded Ginyu force. There will have to be an unholy alliance with Vegeta if they’re to stay alive long enough.
The next 26 episodes of Dragon Ball Z Kai, the Frieza Saga on a diet are presented on these four Blu-ray discs from Manga Entertainment.
27. A Touch-and-Go situation! Gohan, Protect the Four Star Ball!
28. The Countdown to Battle Begins! Enter, the Ginyu Force!
29. First Up For the Ginyu Force! Guldo’s Time Freeze!
30. The Nightmare Recoome! Come Out and Play, Vegeta!
31. Goku Arrives at Last! Take Down the Ginyu Force!
32. The Star Player Appears! Ginyu vs. Goku!
33. Full Power, Goku! Captain Ginyu’s Desperate Attack!
34. Surprise! Goku is Ginyu and Ginyu is Goku?!
35. Goku’s Comeback! Call Forth Porunga!
36. Frieza Closes In! Mighty Porunga, Grant Our Wish!
37. A Nightmare Transformation! Frieza’s Power Level: One Million?!
38. Frieza Bares His Fangs! Gohan’s Overwhelming Attack!
39. Piccolo Reborn! Frieza’s Second Transformation
40. Frieza’s Final Transformation! The Ultimate Nightmare Begins!
41. The Moment of Truth Approaches! Goku Back in Action!
42. Defeat Frieza, Goku! The Tears of the Proud Saiyan Prince!
43. Goku vs. Frieza! The Super Showdown Begins!
44. A Boundary Pushing Brawl! Goku, Frieza and Ginyu Again?!
45. Kaio-Ken Times Twenty! An All-or-Nothing Kamehame-Ha!
46. The Final Trump Card! Goku’s Ultimate Spirit Bomb!
47. Awaken, Legendary Warrior! Goku, the Super Saiyan!
48. The Angry Super-Saiyan! Goku Throws Down the Gauntlet!
49. Avenge the Fallen, Goku! Countdown to the Planet’s Destruction!
50. Full Power Frieza! Shenron, Grant Our Wish!
51. Goku’s Furious Road! A Last-Minute Resurrection Wish!
52. Duel on a Vanishing Planet! The Final Showdown!
Dragon Ball Z Kai gets a 4:3 pillarboxed transfer on these Blu-ray discs, reflecting the original aspect ratio of the show. So no more cropped heads and awkward framing as per the original DVD release of Dragon Ball Z. And given the more reverent restoration given to the show in Japan, there’s no excessive DNR erasing detail, the film grain is still there, and colours are faithful to the vintage of the show. It’s a decent transfer of a show which was originally animated on 16mm film. The show lacks the pin-sharp image that you might expect from a 35mm source, but generally the image is stable, sharp, and with consistent colours, bringing across the budget animation to satisfying effect.
That’s with the odd exception. The opening and closing themes, as well as the eye-catches to the show have been animated anew for this Kai release, and it’s here that you’ll find the sharpness and clarity suddenly taking a leap upwards into the full 1080p HD age. It looks like a different show at this point, and gives some idea of what the new Dragon Ball Super TV series will look like when it is broadcast in the near future. There are also odd moments in the animation where it becomes clear that the animators just couldn’t salvage the original frame for restoration, or perhaps a new scene had to be animated to maintain the continuity of the new edit. It’s here that you might find the clarity suddenly and briefly taking a boost upwards for a few frames, although the colours, film grain, and animation remain consistent with the rest of the show.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. As mentioned, the show gets a whole new dub in both languages, and what little I sampled of the English audio was robust enough. I watched the show through in Japanese though, and other than the odd fourth wall breaking moment where I heard Aya Hirano’s voice for Dende, it was similar enough to Dragon Ball Z to feel very comfortable to watch. One issue might be that this was one of the early Funimation Blu-rays and has a thin white font to its subtitles that can be lost against busy backgrounds. It’s all original Shinsuke Kikuchi music this time around, just as it should be.
These discs look like the Funimation discs, repurposed for the UK release (replacing the Funimation logo with a Manga UK logo, and changing the trailers.) Hence in the second Season collection, you find discs labelled Part 3, Discs 1 and 2, and Part 4, Discs 1 and 2.
The discs present their content with animated menus, but the episode select screens are a waste of time, with the episode titles written in a font too small to read at a reasonable viewing distance from your TV.
Disc 2 offers textless credits and a trailer reel with Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings and Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part 4 (Discs 3 and 4 of this collection), all presented in HD. You’ll also find a US Cast Interview here, with the voice cast talking about the differences in the Kai version, as well as their respective characters. This lasts 7:26 and is in 480i.
Disc 4, or rather disc 2 of Part 4 offers the textless credits again, and trailers for Evangelion 2.22, Eden of the East: The King of Eden, Soul Eater Half Series, D. Gray Man Season 2, and Dragon Ball Z Kai Part 5.
“On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, seven balls a’draggin’...”
I could have saved that line for a more seasonally appropriate review, but I doubt that there will be one. I’ll be honest. Dragon Ball Z has finally beaten me. It’s pummelled me, it’s kicked me and punched me and head-butted me into submission. All that’s left is a quivering lump of brain-dead, semi-necrotic flesh. I can’t take anymore! The original Dragon Ball Z had its issues, which I repeatedly drew attention to when I reviewed it, but there was that first time discovery of a veritable classic of anime, enough to give me an amused and tolerant appreciation of the show, if not actually liking it, at least recognising what made it appeal to fans. But three years is far too soon to be revisiting that story again, even in Kai form, and that amused tolerance has vanished to be left with something akin to loathing.
So let’s get this out of the way first. If you are a Dragon Ball Z fan. You want this release. Dragon Ball Z Kai is the only way in the UK that you’ll get to see the show as the creator intended, shorn of the filler to make it as authentic an adaptation of the original manga as possible, and presented in the original aspect ratio, retaining all of the look and feel of the film source. What’s better is that on Blu-ray, you get to see the show in all its HD glory, as sharp and as clear as is possible given the 16 mm print, the new English and Japanese dubs doing the source material justice. This is as good as the Dragon Ball Z experience gets, unless Funimation ever get around to finishing the Level Sets releases that they dropped for the plastic widescreen Blu-rays.
And now for my rant...
The Frieza saga began in the previous release, and is almost over bar the mopping up in this release; maybe one or two episodes of Season 3 will conclude the saga. That’s around 37 episodes of one storyline. When you consider that the original Frieza arc ran for 72 episodes, you can expect episodes to be shorn of filler material, the recaps, the pointless standing around commenting on someone’s latest special move. It should all be pure action from beginning to end, perfectly paced to get the story across. Yet this time around, to me it actually felt longer and more tedious than the first time.
The ratio of action to commentary has evened up, but the pace still stretches endlessly. The ten-minute countdown to Goku’s arrival on Namek is now twenty-minutes in dialogue, but it still takes forty minutes, two episodes of screen time, which is better than the eight episodes it took in Z. But the final, five-minute countdown to the planet’s destruction still takes four episodes! What I’ve learnt with my second Dragon Ball Z Kai review is that I missed the filler, I longed for the filler, some comic interlude, a brief diversion away from the endless posturing, the browning of trousers at the bad guy’s latest killer move, the reciprocal browning that occurs when the hero levels up.
I also discovered that I’m not as professional a reviewer as I thought I was. I started off with the best intentions, watch every episode from beginning to end, and write about it. That’s what I always do, dividing each series that I’m reviewing into two episodes a night so as not to burn out. That’s less than an hour a night for a series, 45 minutes in the case of DBZ Kai. Except when I started with this second season, I found that I’d keep falling asleep during the episodes. Diligent as always, I’d go back and re-watch what I missed, although I’d fall asleep again. A couple of discs in, I realised that I was spending two hours on a twenty-three minute episode that was just putting me to sleep, so I gave up. Now Dragon Ball Z Kai had an hour of my time, and if I fell asleep, tough! I’d use the recap at the start of the next episode to catch up. And my sheer dread of watching the show meant two episodes went to one episode a night went to one episode every two nights to when I could stomach it. That’s why this review is so late!
And that is why this is my last Dragon Ball review. If I ever see that muscle-bound spiky-haired high-pitched monkey again, I’ll give him a Kamehameha! The marks in this review are for the Dragon Ball fans... As for me, I’m going skeet-shooting with discs!