Reviewby Sam Leach,
Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters
Blu-Ray - Part 3
With Majin Buu's latent evil now in full control, turning him into a “Super” Buu, humanity's population has dwindled to a select few. It's up to Gotenks and Piccolo to fight him off from within the Hyperbolic Time Chamber just long enough for Gohan, Goku, and others to return to the world of the living and offer their support. But even in the best case scenario, their enemy continues to grow stronger. The Final Chapters rage on toward the conclusion of the epic Buu saga.
It's time for the final installment, not just of The Final Chapters, but of DBZ Kai as a whole. Before the recent movies and Dragon Ball Super, this was the definitive climax of Akira Toriyama's work. Appropriately, the Buu saga is massive with even the cut-down version still landing at a whopping 69 episodes. Part of this is that the re-cut has loosened over time, but it also works to preserve the operatic nature of the full story. So much happens between point A and point B that it's kind of a marvel.
Of the three Final Chapters releases, this is the one that suffers the most from its general DBZ-ness, where there's so much fighting and so many anti-climaxes that it all starts to bleed together. Even the re-editing done for Kai, one of the show's greatest strengths, starts to lose its grip. It moves too fast and then too slow at inopportune times, such as Vegeta's big return getting zero room to breathe in the pacing.
Much of the combat in this set is the kind of thing I loved as a kid, so I can appreciate it in retrospect, but in the pretend world where I'm watching Kai for the first time as an adult—which is not a ludicrous scenario, I think the show is good enough to recommend to newcomers—this is where I'd lose track of where I was and never get back around to finishing it. I adore a good series of twists and turns, anti-climaxes, “one more things”, and frankly a lot of that affection comes from Dragon Ball arcs like this. It's just ironic that the actual physical action can be the most boring part much of the time.
All that said, it's still awe-inspiring to see how much can get packed into a twenty-something episode batch of DBZ Kai. Within one box set, we get the majority of the Gotenks vs. Super Buu fight, Gohan's fist-pumping return, Goku and Vegeta's fusion, and the final battle with Buu's original fearsome form, complete with Goku's most iconic use of the Spirit Bomb. The power that scene has in DBZ fandom to this day is nothing to sneeze at, making raising your hands in the air to “give Goku your energy” as recognizable a gesture as the Kamehameha.
The Buu saga feels like a culmination of everything the franchise has ever been. Along with being action-heavy, it mixes a lot of the old goofy charm back in after the fairly serious Frieza and Cell arcs, and that perfect balance goes a long way with me. Childishness is both the hero and the villain of this arc (Buu's true form is “Kid” Buu), and the sense of drama escalates as one minor slip-up can—and does—have massive consequences for the universe. While the long spells of droning action aren't usually a good thing, you do come out the other side feeling like you've been through a warzone. You really earn that feel good, multi-episode epilogue.
If you're collecting these sets, this one is no less essential than the others, but if we're measuring their offerings against each other, this is the weakest of the Final Chapters releases. The stuff that's good is still fantastic, but those great moments are further apart. I think this saga has such a fascinating momentum and flow to it, but it sadly falls to plot contrivances to carry us across the finish line. How can Goku come back to life? Oh, the Old Kai can just make it happen (which is actually pretty funny). How do we get Goku and Vegeta's supposedly permanent fusion to split? Oh, Buu's body just does that. How do we contact the Namekians? Oh, they've been listening the whole time. It's fairly well-known that Akira Toriyama is the type to make up the story as he goes, and it starts to become laughably obvious here.
That said, the points that matter still land incredibly well. Goku and Vegeta are back together, and after their hugely dramatic showdown, they're back on the same page with a far healthier relationship than ever before. Vegeta's growth into a humbler person who starts to take control in ensuring the universe's safety really punctuates the whole story, and Mr. Satan getting to be the one who inspires the world to give Goku's final attack the energy it needs just puts a big, dumb smile on my face. The way the main cast grows and their relationships with each other change is such a staple of the franchise, something that I still don't think I'm getting out of Dragon Ball Super.
If we're talking about DBZ Kai overall, then this is probably my ideal way of absorbing this story. Between the re-editing, the remaster, and the new dub, this series hones in on what I love about Dragon Ball down to its most basic fundamentals. Even though the end result can still be pretty slow, I'll always take that over going too fast, because it's important that the audience feels like they're going through something with the characters. Overall, this revisit to the Buu saga has been both entertaining and invigorating, as I'm reminded about all the little ways this franchise works a profound magic that I don't get elsewhere.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Emotionally satisfying conclusion, contains a handful of must-see classic moments from the series
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