Review: "Dragon Ball Z Kai Season Four" - Speed Bumps at the Climax
Thanks to Vegeta’s pride and Kuririn’s lust, the female cyborg No. 18 is absorbed by Cell. Cell obtains unmatched power with an unmatched desire to test it. Luckily, Son Gokuu and Son Gohan have completed their latest training. Whereas the story last season knew no end to its momentum, Dragon Ball Kai’s climax finds itself hitting a few road-bumps.
Dragon Ball Kai continues to follow the 1986 Dragon Ball comic’s storyline, this time to a fault. When told by his father that he is the only one capable of defeating Cell and saving Earth from destruction, Gohan, after ninety episodes of willingness to contribute, suddenly won’t lift a finger with his usual gusto. Cell, playing from the Prince Vegeta Handbook of Ego-Inflation, decides to goad Gohan into becoming angry and unleashing his full power. One gorgeously animated episode from Studio Cockpit later and Gohan has unleashed his full power, assuming a mysterious new transformation and bringing Cell to his knees.
A cheap grab at drama, the climax of the series completely forsakes the developments up to this point. Toei Animation ought to have employed its eighteen-year foresight to write a compelling story. While such would go against Dragon Ball Kai’s modus operandi of following the comic’s storyline to a tee, it is of little consolation to the character and story impairment.
Season Four provides a mild improvement over the dramatic performances of Season Three. Audio Director Nagasaki Yukio works lead villain actor Wakamoto Norio a little harder than in previous installments, pushing the veteran to employ his old charms as a villain character actor. Wakamoto ever so marginally begins to express interest in his trade again, delivering a delightfully smug bastard. However, the finer, crucial details of acting have gone astray. During a moment of crisis, Cell is filled with genuine fear. Wakamoto performs the scene with an amateur’s touch. Wakamoto’s past as a police-officer-turned-narrator leaves little surprise that he might lack the well rounded skill his other cast mates have. Nevertheless, for a veteran of his tenure, the damage he and Nagasaki contribute with their lack of preparation contributes to a list of disappointments already unsightly in length.
The same music issues that plagued the Season Three box set plague Season Four. The first ninety-five episodes’ music placement is hit hardest by the unfortunate business with Yamamoto Kenji while the as-yet unaired episodes #96-98 received some attention to detail. Nagasaki employs the gorgeous M1420 during much of episode #96, a clear attempt to re-evoke fans’ feelings of the piece’s use in Dragon Ball Z episodes #190-191. Serving as a backdrop to Gokuu’s pep-talk to Gohan during the final stretch of the battle, M1420 underscores the emotional dual performance from lead actress Nozawa Masako. While the nod is welcomed, one cannot help but wonder what Nagasaki’s original selection was.
As with most FUNimation releases, Dragon Ball Z Kai Season Four includes English subtitles for each episode, English dub track, text-less opening and ending animations, and trailers for their other properties. Each episode is edited to include English language text in place of the original credits and title cards as well as a replaced series logo. The Blu-ray release also includes the original “It’s time for Dragon Ball Kai” title card that appears before each episode transitions into the recap.
Dragon Ball Kai is a mixed bag. On one hand, it serves the value of introducing new music and performances to the franchise. On the other, the series was a complete marketing, financial, creative, and timing disaster. Ending amidst controversy and a national disaster, the curious experiment that was Dragon Ball Kai was primed to join the three previous Dragon Ball animated series’ in the archives…until news came of an international revival. Whereas Kai failed to catch on in Japan, new episodes covering the final story arc of the original comic were confirmed for international broadcast by cast and crew. Escaping the gnarled teeth of a miserable end, Dragon Ball Kai seeks to see a Season Five. The question is: “is Five greater than Four?”