Reviewby Theron Martin,
Dragon Ball Z Kai
The Z fighters struggle to regroup in the wake of their thrashing by Androids 17 and 18. While the androids commandeer a van and go on a road trip to Goku's house, most of the Z fighter relocate Chi Chi and the recovering Goku to Master Roshi's house, Vegeta flies off to sulk, and Piccolo flies off to finally reunite with Kami, a move the latter ultimately does not oppose. Bulma also gets a phone call about a strange find which leads to an apparently separate mystery: why has a time machine identical to the one Trunks used been sitting abandoned for four years, where is its occupant, and does it have anything to do with a sudden rash of disappearances? And why do the newcomer's power aura and moves resemble those of several top-tier fighters? The answer is a new threat which can potentially make even the androids pale by comparison, one which needs those same androids to achieve its ultimate form. The four Saiyans all journey to the Lookout to use its Hyperbolic Time Chamber (i.e. Room of Time and Space) to complete year-in-a-day training as father/son pairs in an effort to advance even beyond Super-Saiyan in order to combat the androids and the newest threat: Cell.
Episodes 66-77 of Kai correspond to episodes 137-157 of the source material, the period most notable for the emergence of Cell as the franchise's second “boss” villain. Other major developments during this time period which have long-term impacts include Piccolo and Kami finally reuniting into one Namekian, the predictable push by the older Saiyans beyond even Super-Saiyan level, and the far more surprising hints of Krillin's growing ambivalence towards a certain one of the Z fighters' enemies. The Hyperbolic Time Chamber also reappears for the first time since Dragon Ball, but the Dragon Balls themselves do not. Overall, though, this piece of the story is all about how the Android Saga feeds into (in a rather literal sense!) the Cell Saga.
Some parts of this period are actually promising. Though the “road trip” idea by the androids is just a silly plot device to delay their arrival at Goku's place – and hence allow the Z fighters to safely relocate Goku – it does allow the series to develop their personalities a bit more. The simultaneous mystery posed by the second time capsule is an intriguing one, offering up the possibility that Trunks is not the only person who has been trying to meddle with time. (The writing also does a solid job of detailing in an accessible way the concept of the creation of divergent timelines.) The series also plays up the “mysterious threat” angle well, and the revelation of the nature of Cell and what he can do both throws out some nasty twists and provides yet another extension of events from Dragon Ball.. Getting to see Piccolo finally go toe-to-toe with an enemy who cannot overcome him simply by powering up again is also a treat, as is seeing the first signs in a while of Krillin's heart going pitter-patter over someone and Bulma showing that she's not just a baby-manufacturing afterthought anymore.
Sadly, the goodness does not last. Even with trimming the equivalent of seven episodes of content out, the sequences of Goku and Gohan waiting for their turn in the HTC take far too long and the fights towards the end of this run start to take on the same feeling of drudgery seen in the late stages of the Frieza/Goku battle. The trimming this time also eliminates the scene showing how Android 18 got changed out of her cowgirl outfit and into the get-up that she wears for pretty much the rest of the series. Tien does finally get to do something useful (and rather cool) in a fight for the first time this series, Android 16 shows some unexpected mettle, and Cell's tricks are eye-openers, but those moments are more exceptions than the rule. Cell's evolution into progressively tougher forms also stinks too much of merely repeating the formula created with Frieza, even when one factors in Cell's origin. For the heroes to raise the bar on their powers, though, a villain of suitable strength has to be around to motivate them, and Cell does fit that description.
Perhaps the most glaring problem through this run, though, is the handling of Android 18. She showed in episode 65 that she could make even Vegeta look like a fool, but yet when the time for the androids to actually fight comes up in this episode, she never even makes an action move and later gets treated as someone who has to run away and be protected. Granted, the plot does provide legitimate reasons for her to stay away from Cell, but even so the set-up stinks of a virtual neutering of her as a fighting-grade character. For the first time in ages the franchise has a worthy female fighter and yet it still finds a way to revert to being a sausage fest.
For the most part, artistic and technical merits continue as before. Neither of the versions of Cell shown in this block are aesthetically pleasing even in a “nasty-looking villain” sense, the unattractive body armor used by Frieza's minions is, unfortunately, back, and the brief scenes added in through this run to cover up cuts are more obvious. The cowgirl outfit for Android 18 also looks a little silly, but that may have been the intent. The fight scenes and flashy power displays are as vibrant as ever, though, and the musical score through this stretch does a little better job, especially in scenes that try to play up the ominous mystery and creature-feature feel of the scenes involving the second time machine and what happens to the nearby town afterward.
Recurring English dub roles maintain the same performance standards seen early in the series. Amongst newer roles, Jeremy Inman gives Android 16 an appropriate Terminator-like sound, while Collen Clinkenbeard sounds uncharacteristically stiff as Android 18 and Eric Vale gives a vaguely gravelly texture to Trunks' voice that never quite sounds right even though the acting is otherwise fine. Damien Clarke (listed as Dartanian Nickelback) does a far better job with the raspy voice of Cell in his initial two forms, while the small-town police in one episode get appropriately country hick voices. Dialogue revisions are sometimes extensive, although only in a few places are they saying something significantly different.
Funimation's decision to provide only 12 episodes on this set, instead of the 13 seen in the previous five, is a curious one, though likely intended to space the episodes out in a less awkward fashion for the remaining quarter of the series. Production and Blu-Ray values remain consistent with previous volumes, with the audio sounding especially good on Blu-Ray. Extras on the second of two disks only include clean opener and closer.
Despite some annoyances, the material covered by these episodes represents one of the better post-Frieza runs in DBZ. Even if it does seem like it is treading familiar ground in places, the story still conducts an involving build-up towards the upcoming epic battles against Cell and even offers a taste of them towards the end of this run.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Good sense of mystery early on, Bulma has more of an impact, worthy new villain.
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