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"Dragonball Z Kai" Part Four: Unfinished Business

The fight with Frieza is at its most dangerous moment. With an ally dead and a planet on the brink of collapse, the heroic Goku has been pushed to his limits. When faced with the ultimate evil, he might just lose his cool and become the legendary Super Saiyan. In Goku’s ultimate battle with the fate of a planet (and the universe) at stake, he reaches a level of power unseen before. Is it enough to save the universe from a planet broker who’s ready to go for broke?

Dragonball Z Kai is back with another 13 episode set, this time (nearly) wrapping up the Frieza Saga. For fans of the series, this means Goku pretty much ends the fight with Frieza, but is still on Planet Namek. For the uninitiated, this means that the strongest threat the heroes have faced has all but won, leaving Goku to be the final warrior in a battle on a decaying and destructive planet. Many consider this to be one of the finest battles in the series, if only for the fact that Goku doesn’t hold back out of honor or hope for a second battle; Frieza’s actions have pushed him to the limits, and he has no desire to have a rematch, even telling him to get out of his sight (in contrast to most of his previous opponents, who have ended up becoming allies or anti-heroes).

From a straight-out logistics standpoint, it actually makes sense to apply the Kai treatment to this fight. Frieza’s attack, which will destroy the planet in five minutes, took about a dozen episodes in the original series. Of course, it still takes more than five minutes here (unless you make the argument that they’re moving and talking faster than normal people could), but much of the battle, while still lasting across multiple episodes, is trimmed to the prime hits and premiere plot points. Goku’s anguish over Krillin’s death is still handled well, and his turn to severity doesn’t miss any beats. The side-plot about Captain Ginyu’s return is still a slightly-humorous (if unnecessary) bit, and Kai‘s only audible change is to Bulma’s voice actress.

With textless songs and trailers being the only extra features in this set, Kai continues to prove that it’s purely for new fans or bored old ones. The Dragon Boxes, being released alongside the Kai sets, continue to be for the real original fans of the show; they include more episodes, more footage, and the incredible hardcover extra guides, the Dragon Books. While Dragonball Z Kai has the superior audio and translation (with the few voice changes being up for debate), and the superior pace, the recently announced ending of the series at the conclusion of the second major arc (the Cell Saga) means that this box set officially covers only the midpoint of the series and that it will miss the last third of the series.

Dragonball Z Kai continues to streamline the process without skipping anything important or truly supportive of the story. With the announced end of the series in Japan, though, it won’t complete the series, and therefore will remain an interesting but unfinished project. By contrast, the Dragon Boxes are like the Definitive Complete Editions: feature packed and covering everything.

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