The reverence of Dragon Ball Z elevates it beyond humble animation and into the annals of televisual greatness, where it simultaneously speaks for the genre and stands apart. To commemorate the 20th anniversary back in 2009, the series was literally taken back to the drawing board, where filler was edited out, the animation was scrubbed up and some new vocals were added for an end result more in keeping with Akira Toriyama’s manga series. Now it’s enjoying a steady distribution in Blighty from the good folk over at Manga UK.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how big a part nostalgia had to play in its adoration. It’s not that DBZ doesn’t completely deserve its accolades, but it does appear a bit primitive. The colour quality, line-art and aesthetic will be a shock to younger viewers who might be visiting this beloved property for the first time. For those that grew up on the show – which is a good chunk of us at STARBURST – nostalgia eases all the qualms and irons out the kinks.
The series two collection is divided into distinct segments, with the start mired in the tedium of the Ginyu Captain arc. Its combination of irritating baddies and frankly dull fights make it hard slog to the good stuff of the wider Frieza arc. While Goku is in transit and training in 100 times gravity, Gohan, Krillan, Bulma and Vegeta quibble over the seven Dragon Balls. Vegeta, ever the ego maniac, is still desperate to achieve immortality. The others, meanwhile, are just trying to bring back their dead friends from the first series. Never mind all that, the real highlight is the spectacular punch up between Goku and Fieza.
Choosing a favourite DBZ baddie is like asking someone to pick a preferred Star Trek captain, but Frieza is certainly a compelling first pick. Charismatic, captivating and androgynous, he’s an adversary desperate to showcase his bountiful vocabulary and power.
The battle royale begins in the primordial green haze of planet Nemec, where Gohan, Krillan and even Vegeta struggle to deal with Frieza on the cusp of his second form. It’s not until Goku finally arrives that the series reveals its true strength and intent, and the complexities of power levels and punches are in full swing. The enduring appeal of these characters is symbiotically linked to the action sequences. It’s characterisation by combat, and the duress of adrenaline and the flexing of muscles is a winning formula that saw the show through to its conclusion.
As Nemec falls into oblivion around them, and the rapturous red and the forked lighting a brilliant illumination, the climax of Goku and Frieza’s apocalyptic brawl is left somewhat punctured by the abrupt ending to the collection. At best, it’s an excuse to fork out for the next one on release.
No version of Dragon Ball Z can ever compare to the version that exists in the collective fog of our childhoods, but Kai does a pretty decent job all the same.
Special Features: Cast Interview / Textless opening and closing / Trailers
DRAGON BALL Z KAI - SEASON TWO / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: YASUHIRO NOWATARI / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: MASAKO NOZAWA, HIKARU MIDORIKAWA, HIROKO EMORI, HIROMI TSURU / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW