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Anime: Dragon Ball Kai

Dragon Ball Kai (Dragon Ball Z Kai outside of Japan) debuted in April 2009 in time for the 20th anniversary of Dragon Ball Z. In a nutshell, Kai recuts Dragon Ball Z for the 21st century; it tells the same-old story of the original show, but with a few new tricks up its sleeve.

Toei recycled animation from Dragon Ball Z itself, but it also updated the coloring and converted the recut footage to HD. Kai turns down the amount (and frequency) of talk breaks and features next-to-no filler or padding (except for any that Toei couldn't remove from the Dragon Ball Z animation). The end result of these changes? A sleeker, faster, more action-packed show than the original series. The original Dragon Ball Z has 194 episodes from its beginning through the end of the Cell Arc; Kai has only 98 episodes for that same timeframe. (This gives us a ratio of roughly 1 Kai episode for every 2 Dragon Ball Z episodes). Toei announced in 2012 that it would produce the Buu Saga for overseas markets; these episodes starting airing in Japan on 6 April 2014. However, the final arc is going to make things difficult to compute out. While the international version (subtitled "The Final Chapters") is set to be 69 episodes (down from 92, for a 25% reduction in length), the Japanese broadcast version is being cut down even further for an as-yet indeterminate number of episodes.note  It's unclear what the Japanese home release for the Buu arc will look like at this point.

The vast majority of the original Japanese and English voice actors reprised their roles; Masako Nozawa returns as Goku's Japanese voice, while Sean Schemmel returned for the English dub. Christopher Sabat also directed the English dub by FUNimation.

The English dub of Kai comes considerably closer in terms of accuracy to the Japanese version of the show than the Z dub since it lacks the character rewrites, replacement scores (though the entire Japanese score ended up replaced around the world with recycled music tracks from DBZ when the composer was found to have infringed upon other artists' work), or massive dialogue changes (though a few dialogue alterations exist in the The CW 4 Kids/Toonzai/Vortexx broadcast of Kai) for which the Z dub became (in)famous. The show will be coming to Toonami on [adult swim] in Fall of 2014.

Kai contains series-exclusive examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The intent of this recut was to distill the original show into a much faster-paced, action-oriented adventure more akin to the original manga. The efficiency of the recut is up for debate, but it has been largely praised for avoiding the filler, shortening the talk breaks that plagued the original show, and including flashbacks as far as the original Dragon Ball.
    • Prior to the Buu Saga announcement, Kai only goes to the end of Cell saga. The original Dragon Ball Z had 194 episodes at that point. Kai got to the same point in 97 episodesnote . For those who don't feel like doing the math, that means exactly 50% of Dragon Ball Z was able to be cut.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Astoundingly, Ryusei Nakao manages to make Frieza's suffering, as he laid dismembered and begging for Goku's help, invoke the pity and sorrow that the latter felt from the audience this time around. Living and breathing the character for over twenty years helped him bring a genuinely pathetic vulnerability and sincere "humanity" to his performance. Kenji Yamamoto's decision to use a cello score during the recut made the scene a borderline Tear Jerker (when the score was replaced, the recycled music from DBZ worked well too, but not quite the same way as Yamamoto's).
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Deliberately invoked by Toei Animation when they created The Final Chapters for an international audience with "Fight it Out!!" and "Never give up!!!" as the opening and ending theme, which they replaced with "Kuu-Zen-Zetsu-Go" and a series of ending themes for the Japanese broadcast version. Curiously, they didn't bother to replace "Fight it Out" from the background score, so the title card and eyecatch music in the Japanese version is an arrangement of a song it doesn't use.
  • Animation Bump: Even disregarding the new opening, within the show there are some digital clean-ups alongside other moments of the series that really looks its age.
  • Art Shift:
    • An accidental and relatively minor example. Because of the recut of the story, the first episode ends up opening with scenes from n movie made much later in the series' run, then cuts to the original beginning of the series, and the difference in the art is pretty noticeable.
    • For that matter, the fact episodes are made of several episodes cut-and-pasted together makes for some obvious shifts when you go from a well-animated episode to a not-so-well-animated one (see Freeza's death).
    • Several scenes were also touched up digitally. This is painfully obvious when it happens as it's largely a tracejob, resulting in some hilariously weird proportions.
  • Ascended Meme: Goku specifically mentions that Mr. Popo is terrifying.
    • The edited TV dub also changes the correct translation "It's over 8000..." to "It's over 9000!" and of course has Vegeta Suddenly Shouting as in the original Ocean Dub.
  • Auto-Tune: On display in Sean Schemmel's version of "Dragon Soul".
  • Big "NO!": When Goku seems to be stuck on the exploding Namek.
  • Bowdlerise/Edited for Syndication: Three levels:
    • Japanese broadcastnote 
      • In DBZ, Piccolo's Makankosappo leaves Goku and Raditz with big bloody holes in their torsos. This is changed to mere burn marks in Kai.
      • Shots of baby Goku's and Gohan's genitals that were shown are covered in Kai.
      • All instances of characters Flipping the Bird have been removed.
    • Nicktoons
      • Here is a handy in-depth Nicktoons edit guide, the following is a basic summarization:
      • The Kai dub contains a considerable amount of cursing which of course is censored on Nicktoons, often substituting swears such as "damn" with "darn it" much like on Toonami.
      • Though, there is one swear they missed in the "lost episode" (note that this was just Nicktoons; Vortexx cut the line completely):
      Android 18: Now I'm PISSED!
      • Naturally, the TV version of the series has edited out heavy violence to accommodate it for younger audiences. The blood is left in, but it's usually colored brown to resemble dirt.
      • Actual mention of the words "death" or "die" as well as "kill" (and even "funeral" at least once) are replaced with "destroy" or "defeat". However, there are still occasional instances where the word die and kill are still left in. This is definitely a step up from simply referring to death as "another dimension" like in the Saban/Ocean dub, and a step down from Toonami leaving in nearly all references to death for DBZ.
    • The CW 4 Kids/Toonzai/Vortexx
      • Considerably more censored than the Nicktoons version, for example, one of the most confusing and rather pointless edits is the removal of Shenron from the opening.
      • Took the bullet that the farmer shot at Raditz, and turned it into a blue glowing... thing. I don't even think they bothered to explain what it was.
      • The dead now have a little ball of light over their head, rather than a halo. Later episodes (the ones on Vortexx) just split the difference and just cut the differentiation completely.
      • Mr. Popo is blue, as the block has made it a policy to never show blackface stereotypes uncensored after Jynx caused a stir. Unlike the halo change, this one carried onto Vortexx, albeit leaving the lips red rather than recoloring them a flesh tone as previously done.
      • Two words: Spirit Blast.
      • Gallick Blast too. Not nearly as bad, though, since Gallick Gun is only used twice in the series.
      • Goku punching Vegeta in the stomach while using the Kaioken is changed to a shot of Vegeta's surprised face and Goku looking constipated. The scene in the opening "Dragon Soul" where Vegeta punches Goku in the face is also cut.
      • Apparently when you explode and die you turn into glitter.
      • In the same video, all of the dialogue from Chiaotzu is muted, along with shortening one of Tien's lines to fit the edit.
      • Unlike Nicktoons, 4Kids care heavily about death. All references, even vague references to death (for example, sacrificed himself) would be edited (gave himself).
      • They also cut out the scene where Android 18 forces a kiss onto Krillin, probably because it felt pretty rapey to them. A surprising aversion to an often used double standard. Still, it creates a rather noticeable plot hole when he's trying to destroy her; the kiss was a huge part of his decision against it.
      • In one episode, Trunks cries out "Damn it!" (this one was later rectified in reruns). The very same episode cut out every scene that showed #18 being absorbed into Cell.
      • Speaking of which, for whatever reason, Cell's crotch is digitally recolored in all forms, albeit inconsistently.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The same as the original, but more apparent because some footage is cut out and the fights are shorter.
  • Cut Short: The initial Japanese airing ended after the Cell Games. Due in part to the Earthquake and Tsunami in Sendai, the episodes were delayed by a week. Since they didn't have broadcast space to add an episode, the final episode (98) was delayed until August 2011 in Japan. It's available on DVD and Blu-ray as a bonus episode.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: In the first volume DVD, Sean Schemmel, the voice actor of Goku, sang the opening theme (with an unfortunate amount of auto tune).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the uncut version, Roshi attempts to squeeze Bulma's boobs.
    • He also reads porn magazines and utters, "Naughty, naughty girls, hee hee hee."
    • Yes, even present in the edited version... this line here.
      Trunks: (to Goku) Please don't say anything, especially [Bulma and Vegeta getting together]! If things end up getting weird between the two of them, I might blip out of existence, because they won't have... well, they won't... you know!
  • Good News, Bad News: The good news is Frieza wants his fight with Goku to last a bit longer. The bad news is that Goku will spend his remaining time in excruciating pain.
  • Home Version Soundtrack Replacement: Due to the copyright infringements made by Kenji Yamamoto's compositions (as noted below), the show's soundtrack has since been replaced with Shunsuke Kikuchi's compositions from the original DBZ.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: During the On the Next segment after Captain Ginyu uses his Body Change technique on Goku, he declares that he should be the star from now on and the show should be called "Ginyu Force Kai."
  • Inaction Sequence: Very much absent this time around.
    • Even acknowledged/lampshaded by 18:
      (Piccolo and 17 are staring at each other after a round of attacks)
      18: Hey! Stop staring at him like a fool! Or do I have to come up there myself?
  • In-Joke: In the English dub; while King Kai searches his address book for the planet Namek's exact coordinates, he mutters, "This thing might as well be written in Japanese."
  • I Take Offense to That Last One
    Gohan: You're stupid and ugly and — you SMELL!
    Nappa (genuinely horrified): Augh! I smell? Why you - it's not my fault! I've been cooped up in a space pod for a year, what do you expect?!
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The first five minutes of the first episode reveals that Goku is an alien, and that Frieza destroyed the planet Vegeta. Both of these are plot twists in the original series, and treated as such in Kai itself when they come up again.
  • Lighter and Softer: Editing laws in Japan have gotten much stricter since Dragon Ball Z's original run; some of the blood and nudity had to be cut out.
  • Market-Based Title: The series is marketed internationally as Dragon Ball Z Kai. This is likely to lessen confusion about which series this actually is.
  • Milestone Celebration: The series celebrates the 20th anniversary of Dragon Ball Z. Likewise, the Buu Saga cut was released during the anime's 25th anniversary.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: King Kai once refers to Bulma as "that other lady" after talking about Gohan, Goku, and Piccolo.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya:
    Goku: "I'm a proud Saiyan who calls Earth home, and I'm here to defeat you. I am the warrior you've heard of in legends, pure of heart, and awakened by fury. That's what I am. I AM THE SUPER SAIYAN, SON GOKU!!!"
  • Necessary Drawback: After awakening #17 and #18, Dr. Gero mentions that, in order for their infinite energy reactors to function, he had to disable their behavioural limiters, resulting in their rebelliousness.
  • Never Say "Die": Either played straight or averted with the edited dub; it uses "gone" and such usually, with mentions of "death" being rare but very much present and/or implied. A huge step up from the very first dub which sent the death concept into another dimension.
    • Even the TheCW4Kids/Toonzai/Vortexx version lets people die. But with added sparkles and/or agonizing breathing beforehand.
    • Granted, the world of the dead is still referred to as "Other-World"note , but King Yemma does specifically mention "heaven" when he first meets Goku, and while it's a pretty generic term, it still has some minor religious overtones.
    • Note, the line is clipped out of the Toonzai/Vortexx version, merely having Yemma state that Goku is a "shoo-in".
    • All references to death on TheCW4Kids/Toonzai/Vortexx get wiped out. For example:
      Piccolo: Your father gave himself.
      Compared to:
      Piccolo: Your father sacrificed himself.
    • The Yemma scene is highly edited too.
      King Yemma: So even though (Goku) is a shoo-in, he still wants to risk training to meet with King Kai.
      Goku (to Kami): So this is the place everyone goes when they... you know, right?
      Kami: Yes. Every being, human or not, gets judged to see where they will spend their time.
      Goku (to Yemma): Yo! Did a big guy named Raditz come here?
      King Yemma: Yeah. He went, go figure.
      Goku: And he didn't give you any trouble? Hey, maybe I oughta stick around with this big guy here!
      Kami: Oh, no. King Kai is much stronger than him.
      King Yemma: What was that, Kami? Maybe you need a demonstration of just how strong I am!
      Kami: Oh no, sir. You must have the demon's own ears, the demon himself!
      Compared to:
      King Yemma: So even though (Goku) is a shoo-in to go to Heaven, he still wants to risk training to meet with King Kai.
      Goku (to Kami): So this is the place everyone goes when they get killed, right?
      Kami: Yes. Every being, human or not, gets judged to see where they will spend their afterlife- heaven, or down below.
      Goku (to Yemma): Yo! Did a big guy named Raditz come here?
      King Yemma: Yeah. He went, go figure.
      Goku: And he didn't give you any trouble? Hey, maybe I oughta stick around with this big guy here!
      Kami: Oh, no. King Kai is much stronger than him.
      King Yemma: What was that, Kami? Maybe you need a demonstration of just how strong I am!
      Kami: Oh no, sir. You must have the devil's own ears, the devil himself!
    • When Vegeta is fighting 18 and a semi gets thrown off the mountain, the tension is broken by an off-screen shout:
      Driver: Dude! My truck!
  • Off Model: The openings, outside of a few scenes, tend to forget that Krillin has six spots on his forehead.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Frieza's leitmotif contains ominous Japanese chanting.
    • And during the moments before 2nd form Frieza guts Krillin, we actually hear this song in the English dub.
    • Also present as Krillin, Gohan and Piccolo are attempting to fight Frieza's final form. Mind you, in the Nicktoons version, as well the TheCW4Kids/Toonzai/Vortexx version, simply plays the instrumental.
  • Power Levels: Same as before involving the scouters, but they seem to have adjusted some bits of dialogue and how the whole process works to highlight the need for strategy along with their "combat rating." It was implied that although Goku had a higher power level than Nappa, if he actually focused, he could give Goku a good fight.
    • Particular lampshade hanging here comes from Vegeta in his Curb-Stomp Battle with Jeice:
      “Anyone ever tell you you fools put way too much stock in those silly little gadgets!? I think fighting these Earthlings would have taught you that by now!”
  • Recut
  • Retcon: At the end of the Cell Saga, King Kai, Bubbles, and Gregory were revived along with everyone else wished back by the Dragon Balls in the Kai series finale. This is contrary to both the original anime where the wish only covered just the people on Earth and the manga where King Kai declined revival largely so that he could guide Goku around in Other World.
  • Role Reprisal: Quite a few. For some, Dragon Ball Z was their first voice acting role before becoming major players in the industry.
  • See You in Hell: Super Saiyan Goku yells "See you in hell, Frieza!" while firing a Kamehameha.
  • Series Continuity Error: One conversation between Zarbon and Frieza before the former's death reveals that they knew about Goku and Gohan (that they are Saiyans, they live on Earth, and are father and son). But later, before Frieza's final transformation, he seems genuinely surprised that Gohan is a Saiyan from Earth, and also wonders who the father could be before settling on Raditz.
    • The broadcast version had a minor case of this where Piccolo's attack name is "Special Beam Cannon" to accommodate the original dub name but then becomes the "Makkankosappo" in a flashback, which the DVD version uses.
    • During the Vegeta saga on the Nicktoons airing, Krillin uses the Destructo Disc attack, but calls out the attack name by the original Japanese name, Kienzan. Krillin calls it "Destructo Disc" in later uses in the Nicktoons airings.
    • Just before he escapes the Z Fighters, Cell tells them he knows the Kaio-ken technique. This, of course, raises the question of why he didn't use it when he was clearly outmatched against Vegeta, and later, Gohan.
    • After the defeat of Cell and our heroes making the wish, Goku notes that King Kai was brought back to life as well. In the next episode, he can be clearly seen with a halo still on his head.
  • Spoiler Opening: The series' openings tends shows major characters, villains and events before they're introduced in the show itself. YMMV since show is a recut of Dragon Ball Z and many longtime fans already know these.
    • The eye catches for the Buu saga also do this, showing off the Fusion Dance and Potara Earrings before they're introduced in the show proper.
  • Toilet Humor: When Goku first meets King Kai, the latter lists off benefits of his home planet, ending with being able to "pee for distance!" The edited version appears to have erased the urine streams.
    • In the uncut version, Master Roshi was taking a crap. It was taken out in the Nicktoons version.
  • Truer To The Text: It serves as a remastered Adaptation Distillation of the first Dragon Ball Z anime, with most of the filler removed, greatly reducing the original show's infamous abuse of talking is a free action.
  • Vocal Evolution: Compare the Japanese/English voices from the original series in 1989/1999, and compare them to the voices now. Playing the same role for over 10-20 years works wonders. Even those assigned new roles seem to fit in.
    • For example, compare Christopher Sabat's Vegeta when FUNimation just started dubbing DBZ's season 3 in-house in 1999 (when they finally broke away from Saban) to his performance in Kai. In 1999, Sabat was simply trying to imitate Brian Drummond's Vegeta. Only a few episodes later in the same dub, Sabat gave Vegeta his current deeper voice but gained a strange accent along the way (although Sabat later redubbed all of this for the Remastered boxsets with a voice fairly resembling his Kai voice). Sabat's Kai Vegeta compared to his 1999 Vegeta is worlds better.
    • Compare Sean Schemmel's Goku voice & screams in Kai to that of Schemmel's voice back in 1999.
      • Hell, compare the original FUNimation dub of Goku's first transformation into a Super Saiyan to Kai.
        Goku (original dub): I... won't let you... get away... with this! I won't... let you...!
        Goku (Kai uncut): You, you ruthless... heartless... bastard! I will... make you... suffer!
        Goku (Kai edited): You, you ruthless... heartless... monster! You're going... to pay... for that...
    • Also Sabat greatly improved his voice for Piccolo, whom in the original series had quite a hoarse and harsh sounding voice but in Kai sounds much cleaner, (it's somehow wiser due to that fact), and it's actually a lot closer to his natural speaking voice.
    • Dameon Clarke's performance as Cell has also improved, The original and Kai versions of Imperfect Cell; original and Kai versions of Semi-Perfect Cell and finally original and Kai versions of Perfect Cell.


How many Saiyans does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Just one. And nowadays, they are actually doing it rather... efficiently.


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alternative title(s): Dragon Ball Z Kai; Dragon Ball Kai; Dragon Ball Z Kai
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