Dragon Ball Z (which I shall refer to as ‘DBZ’) is one of the colossal epics of our time. I would honestly put it up there with Lord of the Rings and the Odyssey, which is about as high praise as I can give. Now I don’t mean that it is as good as LOTR or the Odyssey but in terms of scale of story and imagination and even influence in its own particular market, DBZ is without a doubt one of the greats and will live on for a very long time. But for those of us with short attention spans, or those of us who just want them to get to the friggin point (I’m all for world-building but there is a limit), DBZ Kai is the perfect solution. It reduces the series to reasonable lengths and streamlines the show. The animation has been updated somewhat (I say ‘somewhat’ because there are moments in the Saiyan and Namek sagas where the animation looks exactly like it did in the original series). However, by the time of the Buu saga, it is looking completely remastered. No more noticing random shots and saying “There’s one! They didn’t update that bit!” The voice actors are all mainly the same with only a few changes to minor characters. Younger Gohan has a new voice (I prefer the original) and so does Dende, but those two aren’t really relevant here; I’m only reviewing the Buu saga and Gohan is a teenager by that point.
The dialogue has also been updated with a more modern script. This is particularly great because the humour is more relevant. This means that whenever Vegeta is snarky (which is like every second comment) he is unintentionally hilarious. He makes the odd comment that sounds like it’s taken from the Abridged series (or at least I thought so, it may just be my personal humour). To be honest that’s really it as far as Kai goes; remastered animation, modernised script, a couple of new voice actors and streamlined stories. Now don’t let that detract from how significant DBZ Kai is. While the changes may not be substantial, they are certainly important. Reducing a show down from 291 episodes to 98, while still retaining the story, the animation and the voice actors (most of them at least) is a hell of a thing to do. And for something as culturally significant amongst Generation Y and the Millenial generation, this is a work of spiritual importance.
I remember first seeing DBZ when I was 8 years old. My family and I were on a holiday in Australia. We were staying at a hotel in Sydney for a few days and one quiet afternoon when everyone was resting, I turned on the TV and by chance, discovered a cool new show called Dragon Ball Z (which I pronounced Dragonballzzz). It was an episode in the Namek saga where Bulma is left by herself to look after one of the Namekian Dragon Balls and ends up having to chase it all over the place on several misadventures. This filler episode, which served no point to the series, is one of the episodes that didn’t make the cut on DBZ Kai.
Kai was created with the purpose of upgrading and streamlining the series and increasing sales. Despite the obvious cash-grab, I fully stand by the idea as being a great one. Years ago, a friend of mine transferred all the series onto my hard-drive, and when I say ‘all the series’ I mean all the series. This included Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, and all the movies. I think the folder was somewhere in the realm of forty gigs. I decided to try and watch through the series in their entirety but only got through the first few episodes of Dragon Ball before being underwhelmed by the quality and the general childishness of the show and decided to skip to DBZ. The Saiyan saga turned out to be ten episodes of story in the beginning, thirty-four episodes of filler, and ten more episodes of story and the final battle. Seriously, that series drags on. I petered out around the time in the Namek saga where Vegeta kills Dodoria. DBZ Kai on the other hand, managed to shrink the fifty-four episodes of the Saiyan saga down to a mere twelve.
To say I love it is an understatement. This show has been a part of me since the day I first saw it in a Sydney hotel room 17 years ago. It was one of the coolest cartoons (yes I know it’s anime) I had ever seen, up there with Pokemon and Digimon.
I’m not in any way discrediting the original series (except perhaps GT). I grew up watching DBZ and I delighted in every moment of it, even the filler episodes (kids are so easy to please). When Goku finally dropped the Spirit Bomb on Frieza or turned Super Saiyan for the first time, or when Gohan destroyed Cell with just one arm and Gokus spirit backing him, those were the moments that got me so excited as a kid that my longing to be one of the Z Warriors was almost physically tangible. As an adult, those moments still give me chills and DBZ Kai allows me to revisit those moments without having to dedicate the next four months to watching through the series. I can happily watch through a full saga within a week and relive everything as it was, more or less.
Watch DBZ Kai. Watch as Gokus family grows, watch as his enemies become his brothers and sisters, watch as his kindness and mercy defeats even the most powerful and terrible enemies the Universe has ever seen. The colossal battles, the unimaginable power, the unforgettable acts of evil, heroism and love. And if not for anything else, at least watch the show to see teenaged Gohan acting like the biggest dork of all time as the Great Saiyaman. You’ll simultaneously laugh and cringe.
But most of all, you’ll love it.