The original American run of Dragon Ball Z will always hold a special place in my heart for being the go-to show after school. As weird as it is to say, DBZ was kind of a 'water cooler' series for me when I was younger; I would watch the show and go to school the next day to talk about the latest developments. I know I can't be the only one who did this either. There was a whole generation that fell in love with the series on Cartoon Network's now defunct Toonami block.
Since then however, we've seen release after release of the same material. Times have changed and other shonen franchises have stepped up to the plate to fill the gap that DBZ left when it ended so very long ago. Dragon Ball Z Kai seeks to reinvigorate the series by reediting the episodes to better follow the manga. I've been re-watching the series as Funimation releases new volumes and I'm truly surprised by how well the show holds up, despite showing its age here and there.
This volume tackles episodes 78 to 88, starting with the finale of the initial Cell showdown and ending with the beginning of Goku's battle at the Cell Games. The chunk of filler that took place between the two points is notorious for being completely ridiculous (driving licenses!), so you can imagine that this batch could benefit from some snipping. Is it enough to make this set worth picking up for the average fan?
Dragon Ball Z Kai Part 7 (DVD)
The Z warriors are in something of a pickle. With Goku and Gohan training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, it's up to Trunks, Vegeta and the rest of the crew to put a stop to Cell before he has the chance to devour Android 18 and evolve into his perfect form. It's a race against time as Krillin hurries to locate the blonde haired killing machine and destroy her before Cell gets to their first. Meanwhile, Vegeta is itching to test his new powers against a complete Cell, despite his son Trunks' plea to simply finish off their weakened foe. Will the Z warriors defeat Cell before it's too late? Will Goku and Gohan finish their training in time to help their friends? All this and more on the next episode of Dragon Ball Z!
At this point I'm reluctant to even talk about the tale being told here; most people who enjoy anime are either deeply familiar with DBZ or at least know the flow of the story. Part seven kind of occupies a weird space in that it begins with the conclusion of a battle and concludes with the beginning of one. I understand that it simply makes sense to divide up the sets in terms of the number of episodes, but it definitely makes viewing a little bit awkward. If this were the original series, I'd be complaining about the ridiculous amount of filter in this set. Fortunately, the edit job they did on this group of episodes is fantastic.
Some of you might remember the week leading up to the Cell games being a boring mess. Random adventures with side characters and drivers licenses, I remember being disappointed on a weekly basis with the lack of action/getting to the point. Episodes 152 to 160 are cut down to a meager three episodes. I know, sounds crazy right? The end result is a much smoother experience that flows the way it was meant to.
At this point in the series, the animators have gotten pretty good with hiding the added shots into the old footage. They still stick out somewhat, but it's a lot less jarring especially if you've been watching since the beginning. Additionally, the new Japanese and English voiceover sounds pretty solid as you would expect from the veteran cast. I'd give the slight edge to the Japanese cast simply for Norio Wakamoto's amazing performance as Cell; he makes watching these episodes way more entertaining.
The inherent issue with Dragon Ball Z Kai Part 7 is that it's still just more Dragon Ball Z. If you grew tired of the series years ago, I'm not so sure that this new, slimmed down approach will do anything to bring you back. I haven't actually watched Dragon Ball Z since it initially aired on Toonami, so to me Dragon Ball Z Kai is a surprising breath of fresh air and a nostalgic experience. To the average buyer who's been there and done that? I'm not convinced this will appeal to them.
If for whatever reason you've never watched Dragon Ball Z however, I would definitely recommend checking out Kai as a whole. Even if you don't necessarily enjoy it the whole way through, I think it will serve as a valuable history lesson on shonen anime. This set in particular has some killer moments, but the middle portion is definitely a slower, more character driven affair. It certainly serves as a solid showcase of the series' strengths and a reminder that we don't always need to have characters scream at one another to be entertained.
7.0 - Good. The action is fast and frenetic even if the animation doesn't always hold up. Fans of old school anime will eat it up, but it's admittedly not for everyone.
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