- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0
- Subtitles: English
- Region: AB
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 2
- Studio: Funimation
- Blu-ray Release Date: May 18, 2010
- List Price: $54.98
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
The Dragon Ball franchise is one of the most popular anime series to hit in the past couple of decades. It has spawned television series, feature films, and numerous merchandising products from trading cards to video games. The franchise is so ubiquitous is hard to believe that it has been around for 25-years.
Dragon Ball Z Kai arrives in celebration of that 25th Anniversary. It is not a new series, but rather a rebuilding of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z anime. The Toei Animation Co. has gone back to the original drawings and animation cels to redo the series, being that most of the cels were destroyed when the series originally ended in 1996. New frames were added and the original series was shortened from over 200 episodes to just 100 episodes to create a more compact, action-packed version of Dragon Ball Z. The original English voice cast was also brought back to re-record their parts for this revitalized version of the Dragon Ball saga.
For those unfamiliar with the tale, Dragon Ball follows a boy named Goku who arrives on Earth mysteriously and grows up to become a great warrior. He befriends a girl named Bulma and together they go on a quest to seek out seven mystical Dragon Balls, powerful objects that when brought together have the power to summon a magical dragon that can grant wishes, such as bringing people back from the dead.
Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Z Kai pick up when Goku is an adult and he meets his older brother Raditz. Raditz tells Goku that they are from a powerful alien race known as the Saiyans and they are meant to destroy everyone on Earth. Goku and his one-time nemesis Piccolo fight off Raditz with the aid of Goku’s son Gohan, but Goku dies in the process, going to the afterlife where he must seek the aid of a yoda-like martial arts master King Kai to train him.
Meanwhile, it is up to Goku’s friends to stand against the remaining two Saiyan’s making their way to Earth, including the powerful Prince Vegeta, until Goku can complete his training and be wished back to life with the Dragon Balls. Can Goku make it back in time to stave off the planet’s destruction? Will he be powerful enough to fight off the seemingly indestructible Saiyans?
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part One contains the first 13-episodes and ends rather abruptly with a nail-biting cliffhanger. The series on the whole is geared toward a younger teen audience, but if you grew up watching it, you’ll definitely enjoy this newly re-mastered and reworked version.
Toei Animation Co.’s hard work in going back to the original drawings and restoring Dragon Ball Z has paid off. Although the picture still shows some inconsistencies in color reproduction and fills with a little noise, this is certainly one of the better looking anime releases to come along from Funimation in quite a while. The original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is maintained in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encoding. Film grain is present, although there is some softness to the overall picture and line art. Some areas of black fill look a little faded and greyish. The colors don’t necessarily leap out at you in this presentation, but I believe that is the intent of the animators rather than a result of this transfer.
Both the re-recorded English soundtrack in 5.1 and Japanese soundtrack in 2.0 are provided in lossless Dolby TrueHD. The English soundtrack is rather good with much less edginess to the high frequencies than is normally associated with Funimation soundtracks. The recording levels are still pushed a bit, requiring me to listen a full 5db lower than normal, but dynamic range is still good. Low frequencies are deep if not resounding and there are a lot of discrete sounds in the surround channels. Dialogue is clear, especially the narrator’s voice in the centre channel.
Supplements are disappointing here for a release celebrating this series’ anniversary. Only textless opening and closing songs are provided along with additional Funimation trailers.
The Definitive Word
Dragon Ball Z Kai is a dizzying action-packed adrenalin-filled frenzy that serves the Dragon Ball franchise well. The steep asking price of $54.98 for Part One’s 13 episodes may be a real hindrance, however, considering there are 100 episodes in total. Some may want to hold out for a complete box set and hope that the price is a bit more reasonable.
Additional Screen Captures: