Last time, on 'Dragon Ball Z: Kai'...a bunch of nondescript mountains got destroyed. Will it happen again?!?
When we last left our heroes and villains, the planet Namek was under attack by the villainous Frieza and his minions. Krillin, Gohan, and Bulma were working against time, severely underpowered against both Vegeta and all of the other beings invading the planet, seeking out their Dragon Balls. Goku, having recovered from his last battle, was in transit to the far away planet, training along the way, so that he can be ready to kick serious ass when he gets there. With Frieza's initial goons failing, he has a more powerful set of fiends en route to his current location...
The third volume of 'Dragon Ball Z: Kai' is definitely my least favorite, so far. The thirteen episodes, which cover the entire Ginyu Force story line, as well as the opening scenes of the battle versus Frieza (up until his third form), seem overly repetitive, especially compared to the prior releases, and very little happens. In fact, the story stalls dramatically, stuck in neutral. Sure, all seven Namekian Dragon Balls are found and brought together, but the constant showboating and arrogance of everyone involved means the ultimate equalizer was not cashed in any of the times it could have been. It seems no one has learned from their past battles, either.
I like this show, I really do, but with this release, I have to wonder: how many times can we watch the same damn thing without being bored with it? How many times will heroes or villains act completely out of character, for plot convenience? There are two distinct moments when pivotal characters are not killed by villains who could literally destroy them with both arms tied behind their backs, and we're talking bout bloodthirsty, brutal, evil creatures who do not value life. How many times will fights between large groups happen one at a time? Is it normal for a group of any kind to send out one warrior against one warrior, and watch as their friend dies, since they didn't help?! Why can't multiple fights happen at the same time? There's this funny thing called editing, where you combine two differing ideas in the same time frame, it can create tension.
Goku, lord bless him, is such a non-factor this volume he may as well be Raditz's jockstrap. En route for half of the season, Goku finally arrives, far too late, acts overly egotistical, and is quickly put out of commission by the scheming Captain Ginyu's powers. After being beaten to near-death status, he's put in a bacta-tank (from 'Star Wars,' a film series you may have heard of)-esque recovery device, where he cannot help his friends, though he can sense what is going on. So, in the midst of other battles, we get constant cuts to Goku, to remind us he's the main character, telling us what's going on. His son nearly gets killed, his skull stomped by Frieza, and he doesn't break out to help, fully recovered or not. After the Snake Way sequences (both to and fro), and the interstellar transportation training sequence, then this, I have to wonder, has there ever been a main character so readily put out of action, relegated to status updates at his leisure? I think not.
It's a shame, really. This volume is the first to show Frieza be a real mean son of a bitch. The galactic conqueror taunts the heroes perfectly, with disgustingly cruel and despicable dialogue, constantly taunting and demeaning his adversaries. It's great to listen to, it really sells how evil he is. Considering he changes forms two times in this volume alone, each time increasing his power and capabilities, I don't see why we even needed the Ginyu Force. Sadly, though, the show starts to get a tad ridiculous, speaking of increasing power, as characters become completely worthless in a moment's notice. In the original episodes, it's become somewhat famous hearing Vegeta freak out, screaming about a power level over 9,000. Now, the show jumps to 50, 100, 500 thousand, up to a million. A million! In the 'Dragon Ball Z' universe, these numbers are more than just odds, as up to this point you never see someone with a lower score win a battle. I guess you can say the shouting of these numbers will help youngsters learn how to count, and know what numbers are more than others, but it's still fairly ridiculous.
This volume features some unique fight sequences, which is pretty great, considering how many different battles there are, even if the villains are mostly disposable. There isn't much story or emotional plight to connect to, though, so this volume feels more like a fight compilation than the two that precede it. 'Dragon Ball Z: Kai' remains a great way for new audiences to access the massive show, and a new twist for hardcore fans, staying more true to the manga origins. This volume isn't the best, but it's a transition, getting audiences ready for a massive, absolutely gigantic battle to come!
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Dragon Ball Z Kai: Part Three' arrives on Blu-ray on two Region A/B discs, with episodes 027 through 035 on a BD50, and 036 through 039 on a BD25. Each disc has a single pre-menu trailer, though they can both be skipped through the top menu button. As always, the menus are window boxed full motion, with a great audio loop.
The first two volumes of 'Dragon Ball Z: Kai' each earned three-and-a-half star scores in the video departments, and this third volume does, as well. However, please do not take that as a statement that the video here isn't better than the rest. Surprisingly, this volume of 'Kai' has some absolutely great picture quality at times, far more often than in the past releases, and is mostly free of technical errors.
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, in the 1.33:1 window, is two-toned. Part of this new iteration of the show means that new animation had to be created, and while it is neo-classically done, so that it doesn't stand out dramatically (see: 'Ghost in the Shell 2.0' for an example of the wrong way to add in new animation), it's hard to not notice when new animation is on screen. Simply put, it's cleaner, brighter, and crisper, and with this volume, more prevalent than ever before in the series. Sure, the classic animation is cleaned up dramatically, with stabilized colors, but it can be very wobbly, artifact slightly, and have some noise elements that can be a bit of a distraction. The new animation also features cleaner, more solid, consistent lines, with no more dashing or missing spots, which is the norm for the classic cels.
I was quite impressed with the video quality on this release, and I'm sure fans will be, too.
Again, this show has two varying levels of audio track, with the default English receiving a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, while the natural Japanese gets a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 track. This review will cover both, since they provide listening experiences that are different for more reasons than just the language spoken.
English (3.5/5) - The first two releases of 'Dragon Ball Z: Kai' did not sound much different from one another. This time around, I thought the audio was a bit more subdued. The battles found within don't pack a major whallop, bass levels rarely kick off, mostly just lightly accenting scenes, and the entire mix didn't feel all that enveloping. The soundtrack fills the room properly, while there are some bits of fun movement and localization effects in the battle sequences, but this time around, the battles are even more talky, less fighty than before, so there's less to "ooh" and "ahh" over. No matter what volume I put this track at, it just didn't have a big punch. I still love the Doc Morgan narration, he's simply golden, but I do feel this volume is a step backwards in this department.
Japanese (2.5) - Stereo, stereo, volumes three and four will seem like stereo, as they're both pretty much the same damn thing, and that isn't a good thing, considering the sonic whoop ass found at points in this show in the English track. Take away the different translations on names, and it's still hard to not notice how non-immersive the Japanese tracks sound. Bass is borderline non-existant, while dialogue is rarely all that powerful, even in powerful screams. Battles lack oomph or any sense of urgency, they're just soft, just like the soundtrack. Prioritization isn't an issue, though the battle to be heard is fought between elements that could care less, with each trying hard to be softer than the other. If it weren't for the fact that these tracks are all technically passable and without actual flaw, rather than sheer meagerness in comparison to the English track, the Japanese audio would readily deserve a lower score.
'Dragon Ball Z: Kai' is a good show, but this volume will represent the low point in the show. There just is damn near nothing going on. Wow, a bunch of fighters who are readily and quickly dispatched show up. I get it, they're a bit of comic relief between one world threatening battle and another, but damn does this volume get old fast. At least the next volume has a bit more going for it...