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"Dragonball Z Kai" Part 6: More of the Same, Less of the Lame

The Androids are attacking! As Gou lays in bed thanks to a debilitating heart disease, it’s up to the other Z Warriors to stave off their attacks. When they decide to go hunting for Goku, they’re sidelined by an even bigger threat. The monstrous Cell has shown himself, and while the Androids hunt for the hero of the Earth, Cell hunts for food. Anyone and everyone in his path will become a meal that will power him up to his world-ending form, Perfect Cell. Can the heroes of Earth take down the Androids in time, or will they need to team up with the mechanical monsters to take out the greater threat? Dragonball Z Kai speeds to the point in this new collection, but is it more important to stop and smell the roses, or get to the finish line?

Dragonball Z Kai, for the uninitiated, is the sped up and remastered version of the original series. Fitting nearly 200 episodes into half the time was the goal, while redoing the voice acting, cleaning up some animation, and generally keeping the series more precisely on track with Akira Toriyama’s original work. Abruptly ended in Japan, the series will not reach its final major storyline (the Boo saga), and therefore, this volume is the next-to-next-to-last release of the series. The final villain of this story has been revealed, and all the players have assembled.

We could cover these episodes in detail. We could cover how they’re surprisingly decent, especially since they’re not covering a major fight that last episodes on end. We could cover that we get to see a crush blossom, a mystery unfold, characters acting against their regular attitude for the betterment of mankind. The Cell Saga has all of these and more, and these episodes are set between mindless action and tournament episodes (particularly mindless action, since there’s not much to guess what would happen other than lineup changes). These episodes mean nothing to the person who’s never watched DBZ, as it won’t successfully convert them from disliking the series. Particulars will also mean nothing to the DBZ fan, as they’re going to acquire the whole series anyway, instead of hunting and choosing.

Instead, this release and its only relevance are to the longtime DBZ fans who wonder how Kai handles things.

One of the instances that comes from redubbing the series is the fact that some of the voice actors have changed. While Bulma’s change was more just in actress and time, initially jarring but eventually a worthy replacement, the voice change for Android #18 sticks out. Initially voiced by Meredith McCoy, Colleen Clinkenbeard has taken over in recent years, having started voicing the character in video games. Not a slight to the actress, but she portrays a vastly different Android #18. It’s the reverse of Katie Holmes to Maggie Gyllenhall in the Batman movies, or the equivalent of the change in Janine in The Real Ghostbusters. McCoy’s Android #18 was solemn and robotic while still being human, rarely breaking from a general lack of emotion. Clinkenbeard’s is more human and feminine, and while they’re both valid takes on a character (McCoy’s having focused on the fact that while she used to be a teenage girl, she’s now just an cyborg, while Clinkenbeard maintains the girl aspect), my personal preferences is for the original interpretation. The change is not bad–it’s just a different take–and everyone will have their own opinions, including those who consider both actresses to be inferior to Miki Ito and Enuka Okama, the original Japanese voice actress, and the alternate English dub’s actress.

As usual, it would be great to cover the extras, but there aren’t any. A litany of suggestions could be made on the concept of the series alone; comparisons to the old dubs, guides to what’s been cut out, commentary by the dub cast, even Nicktoons promos for the show. Twelve episodes on two discs is on average at this point, and major studio releases manage to pack in dozens of special features; since everything FUNimation does appears to be in-house, this continues to be a befuddling lack. Either there’s not an interest in special features in the animation market (which FUNimation doesn’t represent, but exemplifies), or the assumption that people will buy these DVD releases regardless of the extra content, but a little extra value is always nice.

Dragonball Z Kai is an interesting experiment for fans of the series. With such initially tight episodes, there’s not much to be trimmed or lost, and debatable voice changes exist. It’s six with Kai, half a dozen with the original release. If you’ve been purchasing the Kai releases, there’s no harm in acquiring this one as well.

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