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What Is Dragon Ball Kai? Part III: How Does Kai Fit On the Shelf With Dragon Ball Z?

by on May 25, 2010

How does Dragon Ball Kai Fit on the shelf With Dragon Ball Z?

In 2002, Toei Animation began taking pre-orders for Dragon Ball Z “Dragon Boxes” to be released in Japan in a limited fashion. The Dragon Boxes contained a newly created master of all 291 episodes of Dragon Ball Z, remastered frame-by-frame by hand from the original 16mm film masters. Released initially only as two box sets, each would set you back roughly $1000USD. After the limited printing of these box sets ended, Toei released the series across forty-nine bare bones single disc releases, retailing about $40USD each.

In February 2007, FUNimation Entertainment released an in-house remastered version of the series. Teaming up with the Dallas-based Video Post & Transfer, they ran multi-generational film masters of the series through automated processes in an attempt at removing grain and dirt. This automated process smoothed the film into a more ‘modern’ digital animation look with colors often darkened or brightened to extreme ends of the spectrum (blues often became nearly black and flesh becoming solid white in some cases). These aftereffects betrayed the intended look of the twenty year old film or in some cases damaged it outright. FUNimation additionally ordered the cropping of the series into widescreen, removing roughly one-fifth of the picture from the top and bottom of the screen and effectively altering the viewer’s perception of the action happening on the screen. From there the series was released across nine ‘season sets’, each with a varying number of episodes never exceeding 39. The MSRP of each set was originally $50USD, although these days a smart shopper can acquire a set for $20-35USD.  

 During Otakon 2009, two months after the ninth Dragon Ball Z season set was released, FUNimation announced that they had acquired the Dragon Box masters of the series. With over forty episodes across six discs at a price of $60USD MSRP (typically in the range of $30-40USD if you shopped smart), Dragon Ball Z saw its first release in America with the Japanese version of the series as the main presentation; each episode defaults to the Japanese version of the series with subtitles with the 5.1 English audio track as a selectable option. The episodes retain their original names on the episode selection menu with their localized versions only mentioned in the end-of-disc credit scroll, and for the first time on U.S. home video the proper Japanese credits roll at the end of each episode. Another first is the presence of the original next episode previews in Japanese, which were previously not included by FUNimation since it didn’t have the audio. These previews do not come in English, so they are skipped entirely when episodes are played in English. Also of note is that this release of the Dragon Ball Z series is the first by FUNimation to not contain their broadcast music score; the original Japanese track is present instead. Three of seven planned sets have been released as of this writing, with the forth planned for release in September. Included in each box is a forty-page “Dragon Book” containing character artwork, episode summaries, and historical notes of what was happening in the world as each episode aired during the 1980s and 1990s.

With FUNimation currently having two separate releases of Dragon Ball Z on the shelves and now a release of Dragon Ball Z Kai right next to them, it can become confusing which one to buy. That question’s answer varies depending upon the fan. Dragon Ball Z spans 291 episodes while the still-running Kai tells the same story in less time. Kai will offer the viewer an animated telling much closer to Akira Toriyama’s original comic, whereas Dragon Ball Z will offer the original experience of the animated story and is much more in synch with the Dragon Ball animated series.

So there you have it, however much mileage you get out of the difference between these three Dragon Ball Z products is up to you. The difference between Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Z Kai that is likely to make the most impact on your purchasing decision is the length of the story. Dragon Ball Kai moves along much quicker, and thus might better suit the needs of the working or school-bound viewer. The show’s television run also means ease of access to those without the monetary funds to buy or rent the series. For those fans who would like to dip into nostalgia, the Dragon Box is not without worth in spite of the existence of Dragon Ball Kai.

An exciting new era in the Dragon Ball franchise and fandom is upon us. Whether you’re an old fan that has been away from the franchise (or anime in general) or a seasoned fan, now’s a great time to jump back on the wagon for a wild and crazy ride.

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