A few years ago I wrote a short classic review on Dragonball Z from the Dragonball Z Remastered episodes. It was short. I also had to sit through the Funimation dub of it because there were no subtitles for the Japanese audio. Fast-forward to now, I decided to grab the Dragonball Kai re-remake that was part of the 20 year anniversary of Dragonball. It ain’t half bad.
Dragonball Kai is a remastered abbrivated version of Dragonball Z, which aired April of 1989 and ran for 291 episodes, concluding in January of 1996. Since then it’s gone on to pretty much be the de-facto standard of anime, even in parts of the world that aren’t accustom to Japanese influence. As part of the 20 year anniversary of the show, the re-broadcast of this special version started in April of 2009 and ran for 97 episodes, concluding in March 2011. It collects all of the original Dragonball Z excluding the Majin Buu saga and removes much of the filler episodes, which is great for first-time viewers, or anyone who wants to watch and not be bored to death with twenty episodes of nothing.
Dragonball Z is actually the sequel to Dragonball that premiered before it, and chronicles the story of Son Goku and friends, who live on Earth, although this Earth does not mimic the same features as our actual Earth, and is set in a somewhat distant future. Based on a Chinese novel Journey to the West, Goku and friends live out their days in relative peace, collecting the mystical Dragon Balls that grant the user a single wish. However, they also defend the planet from enemies and aliens bent on world domination, or just plain mean. Z is divided into nine seasons, or sagas, though many overlap each other. For instance, Season 2 is referred to as “Namek and Captain Ginyu Sagas” and Season 3 “Frieza Saga” but most consider the two together to be the entirety of the Frieza Saga, where Seasons 4, 5, and 6 are considered the entirety of the Cell Saga. Dragonball Kai pretty much squishes everything together under that assumption, and eliminates some of the extras, such as the Garlic Jr. parts featured in Season 4. Regardless, in each saga, Goku and friends encounter stronger enemies and must train harder each time to defeat them, often with disastrous consequences.
In the Vegeta Saga, Goku meets his Saiyan half-brother Raditz, but not having known anything about the Saiyan race, locks horns with him and is killed when he sacrifices himself to also kill Raditz at the hands of Piccolo. In the afterlife, he makes his way to Kaiô-sama’s planet for training as the others prepare. Vegeta and Nappa land shortly after and proceed to toy with Kuririn and the others before Goku arrives, but not before Yamcha, Tenshinhan, Chaozu, and Piccolo are killed by Nappa or his Sabamen. The death of Piccolo also means Kami-sama dies as well, being linked to him, rendering the Dragon Balls useless. Goku finally wins the battle after a long and drawn out fight with Vegeta, but not before he allows Vegeta to escape.
In the Frieza Saga, with Kami-sama and Piccolo gone, they must find a way to revive their friends and the Dragon Balls. This takes the unlikely trio of Bulma, Gohan, and Kuririn to the planet Namek, where Piccolo is from, with the hopes of finding their Dragon Balls and wishing everyone back to life. Unfortunately for them, due to the scouters’ communication devices, Vegeta’s employer, Frieza and his gang, learn of the balls and travel to Namek also. By the time the trio lands, Frieza has already killed villages of Namekians for the balls. Vegeta also arrives after being healed in search of the balls, hoping to free himself from Frieza’s clutches. Battles ensue as the forces fight with each other, Vegeta taking out two of Frieza’s top guard while the boys secure the help of the Elder and a boy named Dende. Frieza calls for his special guard, the Ginyu Force, to come and mop of Vegeta and the others for good. Goku too is on his way in a special Capsule Corp. spaceship modified from one of the Saiyan vessels that came to Earth. The boys and Vegeta team up to fight off Frieza, and succeed in scoring some light victories against Ginyu Force, but are beaten back. Goku arrives in the nick of time and finishes the rest of Ginyu Force off. It’s now a colossal showdown between the fighters and Frieza. The fight was not going for the team, with Dende and Vegeta being killed, and then Kuririn by Frieza’s hand. That was the last straw for Goku, who channels his rage and goes Super Saiyan, a more powerful battle state. Having used two of the three wishes from the Namekian Dragon Balls earlier to wish everyone Vegeta killed back to life, and for Piccolo to come to Namek, Dende secures the final wish to send everyone but Frieza and Goku to Earth after Earth used its balls to bring everyone Frieza killed back to life. The plan saved most of the Namekians and allowed Goku to finish Frieza off, but not before the planet explodes.
With everyone back on Earth, the Namekians use their Dragon Balls to bring everyone back to life before sending themselves to a new home. Goku turns out to be alive, but won’t come back home just yet. Peace returns, but only for a short time. Frieza was alive, and after being retrieved and rebuilt by his father, King Cold, set out for Earth to destroy Goku. He wound up meeting another boy with a sword who effortlessly kills him and Cold in Super Saiyan mode. Goku arrives hours later and finds out this boy is Trunks, the son of Vegeta and Bulma from the future. In that future, Goku is dead from a heart disease and everyone else is hunted and killed by two androids made by Dr. Gero, the former commander of the Red Ribbon Army from the Dragonball series. Still bitter at Goku and wanting him dead, he builds more android monsters to eliminate him and his friends. Armed with new information, at the risk of changing the future, the team meets up in three years to take on these androids. They wind up fighting two different androids, which one turns out to be Gero himself, who activates Androids 17 and 18, the fabled monster androids, after Vegeta in his stubborn pride refuses to stop Gero before he could activate them, desiring a fight. 17 and 18 quickly turn against Gero and kill him, awakening 16 and leaving. They attempt to make their way to Goku’s place to kill him, as he is recovering from his heart condition Trunks gave him medicine for. In several altercations with the androids, none of the fighters could match their strength, including Super Saiyan Vegeta and Trunks.
Unfortunate for both the fighters and the androids, another Gero creation came back from the future, a monster named Cell, who collects cells from all of the best fighters and uses them to build out a perfect fighter. In his timeline, 17 and 18, needed to complete his perfect form, are dead, so he kills Trunks and uses his time machine to come back to the past. It’s unsure which timeline this is, because Future Trunks is present when the team discovers the other time capsule and finds out who Cell is, but not before he absorbs cities of people and eventually finds the two androids and engages in battle with them, Vegeta, and Piccolo. Cell absorbs 17 and 18 to achieve his perfect form, again thanks to Vegeta’s overbearing ego believing he could beat “Perfect” Cell, only to be utterly obliterated. Goku and Gohan spend a year in the time chamber that lasts only a day, training to get Gohan into Super Saiyan mode and beyond, in efforts to raise their power high enough to beat Cell. Outside, Cell organizes a martial arts tournament to fight the fighters, but when Goku and friends arrive and start the fight, the ring is quickly forgotten as the titans battle it out. After dealing some blows, Goku tags Gohan in to fight, and much to everyone’s dismay, Gohan manages to outclass every fighter on the field, including his father. Not wanting to be outclassed, Cell ups the ante in a Vegeta-like move to force Gohan to his maximum limit by spawning Cell Juniors to attack his friends. After the death of Android 16 and the severe beatings of his father and friends, Gohan reaches Super Saiyan Level 2, and proceeds to waste Cell’s spawns and start to work on Cell himself. After punching him to hard he spit out Android 18, he reverts to Imperfect Cell. Enraged, he attempts to blow the planet up, but not before Goku teleports himself and Cell to Kaiô-sama’s planet where it blows up, killing Kaiô-sama and Goku. Cell’s brain survives, and rebuilds to Perfect Cell form and comes back to finish the job, but cannot match the power of Gohan’s Kamehameha wave and is finished for good. In the end, Goku remains dead, for now, and everyone else goes back to some peace and quiet, until the next battle.
Ah Dragonball. I have a love-hate relationship with Dragonball. In terms of classic shounen action series, it’s the undisputed king. It’s a formula for success that has been duplicated over and over in prior and current forms of action series. Good guy kicks ass, good guy meets bad guy, bad guy kicks good guy’s ass, good guy trains and/or powers up, good guy beats bad guy, rinse, and repeat. While the formula didn’t start with Dragonball most likely, it has certainly intensified over the past twenty years. Dragonball has three main series, and almost two dozen movies, specials, and other shows. There aren’t many shows on that level, in fact, only Ranma 1/2 really comes to mind when I think of it. But note that I’m not even considering the modern fare, like One Piece, Bleach, or Naruto. We’re talking classic shit here, before these shows got the wind needed to blow their sails.
That said, it certainly comprised a lot of my middle-school/high-school viewing, as Toonami’s height was around that time. Having just moved up to the northeast at the same time, I didn’t have any friends or social status (never had that anyway) in high school to speak of, so I watched a lot of Toonami. When I watch Dragonball now, many years and hundreds of anime shows later, it doesn’t watch the same way as before, as many old shows have, the “nostalgia goggles” effect hurts. Watching it in Japanese though was new and different, I hadn’t really done that before since they were extremely hard to come by twelve years ago, I managed to watch some Cell episodes in Japanese from RM raws, but no subtitles. Wakamoto for Cell is just so damn perfect it sucks I didn’t know who he was back then.
At any rate, with regards to Kai, no clue on if they will be doing Buu at some point, but 97 episodes is a good piece of the action without a lot of its famous filler. Lord knows if they condense Bleach down to a hundred episodes I might want to watch, I can’t stand episodes that spend 25 minutes doing nothing. If you’re a DBZ fan, consider grabbing this to re-watch, unless you have seen it recently. If you’ve never seen it, this is a perfect way to watch without all the filler and garbage.
Or you can be a boss like me and just skip through most of the episodes. Seen that shit a million times, right?