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Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Review)

December 15, 2010 by  



The action and battles continue as of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three”!  Featuring Vegeta, Krillin and Gohan vs. the Ginyu Force and Piccolo vs. Frieza.  All-action, no filler and just an all-out action-packed volume of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”!

 

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three

DURATION: (Episodes 27-39) 325 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4:3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: December 14, 2010

Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Yasuhiro Nowatari

Produced by Kazuya Watanabe, Kohei Obara, Kyotaro Kimura, Makoto Seino

Music by Kenji Yamamoto

Theme Song Arrangement: Seiichi Kyouda

Anime Production: Toei Animation

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Son Gohan

Masako Nozawa/Sean Schemmel as Son Goku

Hikaru Midorikawa/John Burgmeier as Tenshinhan (Tien)

Hiromi Tsuru/Monica Rial as Bulma

Masaharu Satou/Mike McFarland as Kame-sennin

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Krillin (Kuririn)

Naoki Tatsuta/Bryan Massey as Oolong

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chi-Chi

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Brina Palencia as Chiaotzu/Puar

Tohru Furuya/Christopher R. Sabat as Yamcha

Toshio Furukawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Shigeru Chiba/Justin Cook as Raditz

Tetsu Inada/Phil Parsons as Nappa

Yasuhiko Kawazu/Christopher R. Sabat as Mr. Popo

Mayumi Tanaka/Mike McFarland as Yajirobe

The last descendants of an evil race of warriors known as the Saiyans are on a collision course with Earth, and Goku – the strongest fighter on the planet – is all that stands between humanity and extinction. To save his friends and the world he loves, Goku must travel to a realm from which few return, but should he survive, he’ll discover the power to face the villainous Saiyan warlord, Prince Vegeta.

For the past few years, I have been raving about FUNimation Entertainment’s releases of “Dragon Ball Z” from the original orange box collections to the recent Dragon Box Z DVD box set releases. And yes, I am a big fan of the anime series and simiar to the first two Blu-ray releases of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, I’m going to give my thumbs up to “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three”.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman. I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil. But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect. He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult. The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before. “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases. It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009. But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 100 episodes.

Needless to say, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” received rave reviews from fans in Japan, while some hardcore DBZ fans had a hard time watching a new interpretation of the series (especially with newer music) but when it was announced that the series would be released in the USA on Blu-ray and DVD, fans were happy and with the first volume, needless to say, I was quite happy with the first Blu-ray release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and if you enjoyed the first two volumes, there is no doubt that you are going to enjoy “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three”.

For my review of this Blu-ray release, I’m going to assume that many of the people reading this are familiar with the series. If you aren’t, if you want to experience the full “Dragon Ball Z” 291 episodes, FUNimation Entertainment currently has two releases of the series on DVD but at the same time, it is not imperative to watch the original “Dragon Ball” series to understand “Dragon Ball Z Kai” but it is important if you want to know the relationships of each character.

Currently available from FUNimation Entertainment is “Dragon Ball” which covers the younger years of Goku. “Dragon Ball Z” covers the adults years of Goku and have been released in nine volumes (seasons) via an “orange box release”. All nine volumes covers all 291 episodes and were remastered by FUNimation Entertainment but presented in 16×9 and utilizes both English and Japanese dub but caters to the English audience crowd who watched the series on television.

In 2009 and currently in the present, FUNimation Entertainment has released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box set releases (as of this review, there have been a total of four volumes released featuring over 30-episodes each). These releases are to satisfy the hardcore Dragon Ball Z fans who wanted the original Japanese uncut episodes, original Japanese music score but most importantly, the series being presented in its original aspect ratio of 4×3.

Also, released from FUNimation Entertainment were the movies and specials (on Blu-ray and DVD) and also the next story arc known as “Dragon Ball GT” (which “Dragon Ball” manga creator Akira Toriyama had nothing to do with until the final episode) which were also released in 2009 by FUNimation.

So, here were are in 2010 with the third volume release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” presented in HD.  These episodes are without the non-essential scenes or filler episodes and instead of 291 episodes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” has a duration of 100 episodes and the first two volumes on Blu-ray and DVD from FUNimation Entertainment consists of 13 episodes each. It’s important to note that this is not a remake of the series, nor is it a new HD recreation of the animated version of the series. The series uses the original 1989 animation but is cleaned up of all damaged cels and blemishes. Only the opening, ending and commercial cut scenes feature new animation.

Here is a basic summary of “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three” (episodes 27-39) on the two Blu-ray discs:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 27 – “A TOUCH-AND-GO SITUATION! GOHAN, PROTECT THE FOUR STAR BALL!” – Vegeta tries to get all seven dragon balls.
  • EPISODE 28 – “THE COUNTDOWN TO BATTLE BEGINS! ENTER, THE GINYU FORCE!” – Krillin brings Gohan to meet with the Grand Elder in order to bring out his inner power.  Goku completes his 100x Earth gravity training.
  • EPISODE 29 – “FIRST UP FOR THE GINYU FORCE! GULDO’S TIME FREEZE!” – Vegeta, Krillin and Gohan race to find the remaining five dragon balls before the Ginyu Force gets their hands on them.
  • EPISODE 30 – “THE NIGHTMARE RECDOME! COME OUT AND PLAY VEGETA!” – Vegeta vs. Recoome. Frieza tries to activate the seven dragon balls.
  • EPISODE 31 – “GOKU ARRIVES AT LAST! TAKE DOWN THE GINYU FORCE!” – With Vegeta, Krillin and Gohan barely alive after losing to the Ginyu Force, Goku arrives just in time to fight them.
  • EPISODE 32 – “THE STAR PLAYER APEARS! GINYU vs. GOKU!” – Goku vs. King Ginyu.
  • EPISODE 33 – “FULL POWER , GOKU! CAPTAIN GINYU’S DESPERATE ATTACK!” – Gohan shows Ginyu his full maximum power. Nail takes on Frieza.
  • EPISODE 34 – “SURPRISE! GOKU IS GINYU AND GINYU IS GOKU!” – Ginyu uses his special beam to switch bodies with Goku and tries to convince Krillin and Gohan to defeat Ginyu.
  • EPISODE 35 – “GOKU’S COMEBACK! CALL FORTH PORUNGA!” – Vegeta fights against Ginyu (who is Goku in Ginyu’s body).

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 36 – “FRIEZA CLOSES IN! MIGHTY PORUNGA, GRANT OUR WISH!” – Krillin and Gohan use the dragon balls and use their first wish, to revive Piccolo.
  • EPISODE 37 – “A NIGHTMARE TRANSFORMATION! FRIEZA’S POWER LEVEL ONE MILLION!” – Vegeta is back and now he must get to Frieza.  Meanwhile, Frieza shows his latest transformation.
  • EPISODE 38 – “FRIEZA BARES HIS FANGS! GOHAN’S OVERWHELMING ATTACK!” – Krillin and Gohan take on Frieza.
  • EPISODE 39 – “PICCOLO REBORN! FRIEZA’S SECOND TRANSFORMATION” – Piccolo vs. Frieza who shows off his second to last transformation.

VIDEO:

I always find it interesting when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z” because each review, I’ve always mentioned how things look much better when I saw the series especially comparing to my old Japanese TV recordings. But with the release of the series via the orange box season sets and then the Dragon Box Z releases, although they look good…nothing compares to how gorgeous “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks. The picture quality is clean, no spotting, no blemishes, no dust, no speckles… Colors are absolutely vibrant, blacks are nice and deep and the series looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

Presented in 1080p High Definition and 4×3. As mentioned earlier, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is not a remaking of the series in HD. The most noticeable addition is the opening and ending sequence and also the commercial cut scenes which use new animation and featured in HD. But ow awesome would it be if a “Dragon Ball” related series was re-created to look like those digital HD scenes? That would have been amazing.

But once the series begins, for those who have been watching “Dragon Ball Z” long enough or multiple times will just in awe of how beautiful and how clean the anime series looks in HD on Blu-ray. You’ll also notice scenes that you have never seen before.

First, lets discuss the picture quality. Not one blemish can be seen in these episodes. With the sketches and animation cels having since been discarded and anime series back in the ’80s and early ’90s not really being taken care of, Toei animation had new frames produced for this series and it was a laborious job of digitally tracing over still frames from existing footage and filling them with softer colors. Some scenes were cropped and new scenes were added.

But watching this series on Blu-ray, I can say that “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does not look like a series that came from 1989. Tohei Animation did a wonderful job with this animated TV series, editing these episodes and choosing what scenes to include and what new scenes to add to ensure that the pacing works out fine. In terms of picture quality, those ugly dust, speckles and blemishes are gone, I did not see any major edge enhancement or compression artifacts. I have no doubt that fans will enjoy this HD presentation of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.

Of course, for those wanting the true anime on HD treatment, this is probably not the series one should look for as you do get the original late ’80s animation and this series was created long before animators considered HD let alone were making the series digitally. But it all comes down to how it looks compared to the original series released on DVD and I have to say that this is the best looking version of the series available despite it being a modified and shortened version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

This is where “Dragon Ball Z Kai” shines on Blu-ray and its the lossless audio. The series is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese).

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

There are online stores showing that the Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 but this is incorrect, it is indeed a lossless Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 soundtrack. And both soundtracks sound great!

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio. Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels. For example, in “Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three”, there is a good amount of surround audio during Goku and Vegeta’s battle, while in the Planet Namek scenes, you can hear a lot of flight (as a big part of the series in this arc features characters flying after the enemy or to get from place-to-place).

But the biggest and most noticeable difference when it comes to “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and its previous “Dragon Ball Z” releases on video is the music. As a hero like Superman or Batman will have its own musical orchestra driven theme song in a film, Goku now has a theme, the enemies have their theme and when a Z-Warrior passes away, there is a theme. Music is used to full effect in the series and the majority of it is orchestra driven and also utilized in the surround channels. You will hear the strings or brass playing through the surrounds and its done rather nicely. Some people may have an issue with the battle music as the music tends to incorporate the style that you hear from the most recent video games and transitions from jazz/funk to synthrock.

But these effects and music sound so delightful via lossless, its hard not to be impressed by it. Again, the English soundtrack is much more immersive because it utilizes a 5.1 lossless soundtrack versus the Japanese 2.0 lossless track. But I know fans who have wanted anime on Blu-ray with Japanese lossless should be happy. It’s important to note that this is a TV series and not an OVA or film, so the fact that there is so much going on with this TV series audio-wise is pretty awesome.

Granted, I know there are hardcore fans who will tell me that they loved the original Japanese music and I’m sure there will be fans including myself who love the new music, but of course, this is all subjective. And with that being said, for those who liked the Falcouner music, then buy the orange season box sets. If you want the original Japanese BGM, then the “Dragon Box Z” sets is for you. If you want a lossless soundtrack with outstanding music that is fully utilized with your home theater setup, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is fantastic.

As for the dubwork, the voice acting has also been revamped with Colleen Clinkenbeard now providing the voice for Son Gohan, Monica Rial for Bulma and Brina Palencia for Chiaotzu and Puar. In Japan, the most noticeable difference is for Kame Sen’nin (Master Roshi) as Kohei Miayuchi passed away during the final season of “Dragon Ball Z” back in 1995 and for DBZ Kai is voiced by Masaharu Satou.

For the most part, both voice acting for the English and Japanese were very good. Of course, listening to both soundtracks voices are much different from each other especially the voice of the main character Goku. But depending on your preference, both Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel do a fantastic job as Goku. For those who watched the English dub and have played all the DBZ video games will probably see the most noticeable different with the character of young Gohan.

Overall, because of the clarity of the audio and how much it plays in the part of enhancing the enjoyment of the anime series, the lossless soundtrack for “Dragon Ball Z” is awesome! I enjoy the new BGM and if you have a 5.1 or 7.2 setup, you’re going to enjoy the soundtrack of this series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Kai – Part Three” comes with the following special features:

  • U.S. Cast Interview – (7:26) Featuring producer Justin Cook discussing the differences between “Dragon Ball Z Kai” and “Dragon Ball Z” and voice talents Sean Schemmel, Monica Rial, Sonny Strait, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Mike McFarland talk about their character and working on “Dragon Ball Z Kai”.
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • Trailers – Trailers for upcoming or currently available titles from FUNimation Entertainment.

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was.

“Dragon Ball Z – Part Three” focuses on the battle between Vegeta, Krillin and Gohan vs. the Ginyu Team and Piccolo vs. Frieza. Goku does make his return but bare in mind, even the original Frieza storyline for “Dragon Ball Z” was one of the longest and thus the fight between Goku vs. Frieza will continue in the next two volumes of “Dragon Ball Z Kai” (up to episode 54 and then transitions to the Future Trunks and Android storyline).

You get a lot of action in this volume alone but I have to admit that even during the airing of “Dragon Ball Z”, I was getting impatient as I wanted the Goku vs. Frieza storyline to start immediately and I wouldn’t be surprised if others feel the same way because with only a 100 episodes in this series, I was thinking how much more can they put into the Frieza storyline, especially with the Future Trunks, Android saga, Cell Saga and Majin Boo Saga still left.

As a person who has followed the series for nearly 20 years, watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” was a bit surreal because everything looked so clean. Especially comparing with how it looks to the first movie on Blu-ray which had dust and scratches galore and HD enhancing those defects, it was great to see a blemish-free DBZ series.

Now does “Dragon Ball Z Kai” replace my feelings towards the original series. Of course not but I can tell you right now that when watching “Dragon Ball Z” many years ago and even watching it again and again, part of the experience at the time was being kept at the edge of your seat because each saga lasted so long. We would literally have to wait as it would come out to our Japanese video rental store and would contain maybe two to four episodes. And this really tested your patience especially with each saga or battle lasting like 30 episodes or more.

If you were an original DVD purchaser of “Dragon Ball Z” when it was released per volume, not only was it an excruciating wait, it was an expensive wait to collect all volumes. Sure, the DVD box set releases definitely have fixed the problem and is much cheaper than how things were back then.

But what “Dragon Ball Z Kai” does is cut down all non-essential scenes, all filler episodes and focusing on the more important scenes of the story including the action sequences. Footage was re-edited to closely follow the manga and the action is now a more faster pace and I found the pacing for this series to be quite enjoyable and for those watching anything Dragon Ball related for the first time, especially on television, “Dragon Ball Z” makes it much easier for those viewers, especially those with a short attention span.

For long-time fans, this new revision of the series maintains the heart and soul of “Dragon Ball Z” but gives us the best looking and best sound version of the series. It’s not meant to replace the previous “Dragon Ball Z” series that we have enjoyed (and for many, have spent money for via the box sets) but to compliment it and also to bring the series to HD and now on Blu-ray.

“Dragon Ball Z” has been such a part of the lives of many people for two decades and with this release, hopefully will entertain a new generation of DBZ fans or hook fans who have been curious about the series for a long time. Because the series only lasts 100 episodes, there will be multiple volumes but this is one series that gets better and better with each season and the characters grow especially in powers and skill as they take on enemies that are much worse than the previous enemy.

As for the Blu-ray release and its special features, I admit that I was surprised to find the voice talent interview with the American English dub actors.  But for me, it was great to put a face to the voice I have listened to for so long.  And I hope that FUNimation at least continues this with the upcoming Blu-ray.  I would be happy to see commentary added someday.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is easily a must-own anime on Blu-ray series. Granted, I’m sure that many of us are quite biased towards the “Dragon Ball” series but for those who have always been curious about “Dragon Ball Z” and have no intention watching every episode made, then “Dragon Ball Z Kai” is recommended because it’s a much shorter run at 100 episodes and this particular release cover episodes 27-39 thus far.

If you are a fan of “Dragon Ball Z” or one who has always been curious about the series, then it’s about time to watch this series in HD. Definitely recommended!






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