Dragonball Z is that kind of show that is both insanely popular but also forever copied and endlessly parodied. It's strength always lay with the fun characters and armageddon level property damage. But when the average one-on-one battle takes 5 episodes (Frieza threw off the curve), you are bound to get some complaints of a Franchise Zombie drooling over selling DVD's where nothing happens. Dragonball Kai manages to take everything great about Dragonball Z and take out the less impressive stuff. Fighters don't pause to stare at each other, there is little "cut to: shocked onlookers" and there aren't any Filler stories to inflate the episode count. This all results in a story that is familiar yet comes to you in a new way. For instance, the Saiyan Saga features the deaths of many significant characters. The original show had their deaths take place over the course of about 6 episodes, each one highlighting their particular struggle and spending a lot of time with how they die. Dramatic stuff to be sure. But with Dragonball Kai those 6 episodes are trimmed to about 2 1/2, and what happens is that your friends are dying around you and there is nothing you can do about it. The nature of their deaths remained and aren't "glossed" over, but it becomes significantly more poignant by not drawing it out. And a similar thing happens with the more drawn out one-on-one battles. These characters take a lot of punishment before they finally go down, mountains are destroyed before they bleed. But with the excess gone their near invulnerability is replaced by strategy (as the one tactic featured per episode now happens every few minutes) and when the bruises appear faster it highlights their power. That's not to say everything is perfect, sometimes basic continuity suffers. Gohan goes from survival training to sparring with Piccolo with no introduction (The original had a poignant moment where Gohan almost made it home on his own but took responsibility to train with Piccolo). Nappa discarded his damaged armor with the others intimidated he was willing to fight without it. All of that was cut it all out, so Nappa is just suddenly almost naked. All in all though, recommended for anyone who has wondered why Dragonball Z was one of the most popular animes ever.
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