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"Dragonball Z Kai" Part 3: Antiheroics in Outer Space

With the battle for the Dragonballs having safely moved to the Planet Namek, the Earth is safe for the moment. Depending on who gets the balls and can make a wish, though, things might not be so safe. If our intrepid heroes acquire them, then the world will be safe and their allies will be brought back to life. If the evil Freiza and the newly-arrived Ginyu Force acquire them, hope is gone from our universe. What about Vegeta, the heroes unintended ally? What role will he play in Draonball Z Kai Part 3?

FUNimation continues milking the cash cow that is Dragonball by bringing the Japanese “director’s cut” of the most popular series to America. Almost redundantly, they’re bringing the original release of the series in the Japanese-styled Dragon Boxes at the same time. One of these is the ultimate way to watch the series for old-school, die-hard original fans wanting to sift through 200+ episodes. The other is a great introduction to a franchise, boiling it down to an around half, if not fewer, of the original episode count.

The episodes included in this set are actually some of the better of the series, starting from the arrival of the Ginyu Force and going midway through the actual battle with Frieza. At times, the story gets rather brutal, with a main character getting impaled, and even a child’s neck gets broken. Sure, it’s the world of Dragonball Z, where people have healing powers, and the main character has come back from the dead, but still, it makes for a good amount of drama. Given that these episodes were initially meant to build up to the climactic battle of Goku versus Frieza, there’s a lot of straight-out action and payoffs, and the eventual growth of Vegeta from villain to anti-hero is one of the franchise’s most notable storylines.

One main problem with Dragonball Z Kai—though it’s less of a fault and more of a “what could be”—is the contrast between the animation in the actual show and the animation in the intro. While the intro is composed of completely new animation, the series is, at best, remastered.

The new dub doesn’t hurt at all, but given the chance to make voices such as Frieza and King Kai more in line with their original Japanese characterizations (and if Dragonball Z Kai is supposed to be more accurate to the original story and all), they stuck with the overly goofy King Kai and the, well, evil grandmother voice for Frieza.

Surprisingly (and thankfully), FUNimation got around to crafting an extra of their own. They sit down with the cast and crew and ask them about their characters, though nothing really new is brought to the table. (And in a few places, what would be assumed to be common cartoon knowledge is held back, apparently on the assumption that the viewer is watching Dragonball Z for the first time. It’s 2011: everyone knows that Vegeta is Trunks’ father, everyone turns to Tang in Evangelion, Quattro Bagina is Char Aznable, and Rosebud is the sleigh). Still, by report card metrics, FUNimation receives an “A” for effort.

Dragonball Z Kai continues to be the best way to view one of animation’s iconic series. The extras may be minimal, but the plot is streamlined appropriately and the new animation doesn’t hurt. Kai continues to be worth the view, and while it doesn’t grant all our wishes, it doles out a decent alternative to the Dragon Boxes.

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