In the aftermath of Goku’s thunderous punch-up with super-bad Freiza, the planet Namek was left to crumble into oblivion. With Goku seemingly caught in the rapture below, the gang try to bring him back with the Dragon Balls. Within the conflicting Ts and Cs, it turns out Goku wasn’t gobbled up in the explosion after all. Instead, he hopscotched to a distant planet to pack in some quality training. Over a year passes before he finally returns to Earth, but ditching his family for 12 months is a small price to pay for the ability to teleport.
Before Goku arrives though, the rest of the gang have to face the renewed fury of Frieza. And this time he’s brought his dad. Having undergone a Darth Vader-like cybernetic transformation to fix his bisected body, he’s out for blood and only the Earth’s total annihilation will suffice. Suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and a cocksure attitude – one to rival Vegeta’s boorish arrogance – is his ultimate downfall. It’s up to the pink-haired, sword-swinging super-Saiyan Trunks to clean up the mess.
While we’re quietly confident that folks know all the ins and outs of the series by this point, we’ll keep some of the twists secret. What we will say is that Trunks travelled from the future to warn of an impending android attack that leaves the earth a shelled out wasteland, and the gaggle of goodies a pile of corpses. But as events unfold, they’re vastly different to the future he lived through, and the rise of the lab-grown atrocity Cell is a much more deadly threat than the one the previous androids posed.
The exploration of time travel, and its many paradoxes, shows just how big an influence western sci-fi had on the formative series. In amongst the many nods to Star Wars are touchstones of Terminator and Alien. With the varying locations, series three proves to be a more stimulating and vigorous piece of storytelling then the previous entries.
More so than what came before, the Cell saga shows that Daisuke Nishio’s direction still stands up to scratch. The flourishes of horror are effectively tapped for the town and city-scapes festooned with empty clothes and the lingering silences. It’s what makes Cell such a chilling and memorable foe. He might be as one-dimensional a being as Frieza was – striving to achieve his perfect form for no other reason than because he can – but androids 17 and 18 with their brother/sister relationship see a level of characterisation on the enemy side hitherto unseen in the franchise. Add to that the enigmatic Android 16, and it’s a potent trio.
Although the voice acting is better remembered from childhood, it’s difficult to imagine any other actors stepping into the roles. Even with the cosmetic touch-ups and some of the events scrubbed completely, Kai is a rollicking tribute to that most cherished anime. Revisiting the series makes you realise just what an important work of sci-fi it is too. With Gohan versus Perfect Cell to come, the next collection can’t come soon enough.
Special Features: Textless opening and closing / Trailers
DRAGON BALL Z KAI: SERIES 3 / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: DAISUKE NISHIO / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: TSURU HIROMI, EMORI HIROKO, MIDORIKAWA HIKARU, NOZAWA MASAKO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW