What is dragon ball z kai ? Dragon Ball Z is one of the most iconic anime of all time, but it’s a series riddled with filler. For as slow-paced as DBZ can be, this was never the case in the Dragon Ball manga. The original story flows quickly from chapter to chapter, which lends the story a completely different feeling. Someone who loves the Dragon Ball manga may not necessarily like DBZ.
Fortunately, that’s where Dragon Ball Kai comes up. Released several years after DBZ’s heyday, Kai is a much more faithful adaptation that remixes and recuts DBZ’s original animation into new albeit familiar episodes. This does mean Kai still has a lot in common with Dragon Ball Z, but the two series diverge where it matters most.
Dragon Ball Z Vs Kai: Differences
Kai & Z Have Different Soundtracks
Dragon Ball Z’s original Japanese soundtrack is nothing short of legendary. Shunsuke Kikuchi’s score helped develop Dragon Ball’s atmosphere and tone in the anime. A variety of music and smart track usage meant that big moments always carried weight, like Goku turning Super Saiyan for the first time or any of the series’ many battles. More importantly, Kikuchi’s soundtrack knew how to use silence and let a scene breathe before bringing in the music.
As the series was designed to appeal to a modern audience while readapting Dragon Ball Z, Kai sports an entirely new soundtrack by Kenji Yamamoto – the composer responsible for several Dragon Ball game soundtracks. Unfortunately, Kenji Yamamoto was caught in a plagiarism scandal before Kai finished airing, forcing Toei to re-edit the episodes with Kikuchi’s original score in place with completely different song placements than the ones heard in DBZ.
Kai’s Dialogue Is Closer To The Manga
Another major element that separates Kai from Dragon Ball Z is the script. Kai’s dialogue is much closer to Akira Toriyama’s original manga, outright lifting dialogue verbatim in some cases. This is especially great for fans who have only watched Dragon Ball Z in English. Funimation made enormous changes to the series’ script during their first localization, so much so that the original dub is barely representative of the story’s actual arcs and themes. Kai is the real deal from top to bottom.
Kai Is Censored
Like the manga it was adapting, the original Dragon Ball Z featured a fair amount of blood. A good example of this is Goku and Raditz’s deaths at the start of the show. Kai downplays most instances of gore considerably. Goku and Raditz don’t even have bleeding, gaping holes in their chest as they die – just black voids for censorship purposes. Characters still bleed and take damage, but not to the same level as DBZ. The English version of Dragon Ball Kai also recolored Mr. Popo from black to blue when the series was broadcast on Nicktoons.
Kai Doesn’t Have As Much Filler
Anime like DBZ features filler episodes once they’ve run out of source material to adapt. Since DBZ was airing while the Dragon Ball manga was still running, the anime often had no choice but to create some new material. DBZ had its fair share of filler episodes by the end of the series, including a filler arc in the form of the Garlic Junior saga with the powerful movie villain seeking revenge.
Kai omits most of the filler present in Dragon Ball, keeping only what would be too difficult to trim. This does mean Kai fans didn’t get to see Piccolo and Goku learn how to drive, but it also means the story never abruptly stops in-between big events. DBZ has its share of solid filler episodes, but Kai is better off without them.
Voice Actors For Some Characters
Kai retains most of DBZ’s voice actors. In fact, Christopher R. Sabat, who had originally started voicing Vegeta after his arrival on Namek, was finally able to voice his flagship role during the Saiyan Saga. Not every character had the same luxury, for better and for worse. Frieza is much more pompous thanks to the late Chris Ayres excellent voice work, who later continued to voice Frieza in Dragon Ball Super. Android 18 is voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard as opposed to Meredith McCoy, who returned for Dragon Ball Super. Clinkenbeard also voices kid and teen Gohan. While kid Gohan definitely sounds more like a child, the choice is still controversial among DBZ fans who adore Stephanie Nadolny’s take on the child iterations of Gohan, Goten, and Goku.
Openings & Endings
Openings and endings are a popular aspect of any anime. They set the tone for that respective arc and rarely remain consistent throughout an anime’s lifespan. They’re a great way to mark eras, especially for long-running animes.
Kai does not bring back DBZ’s openings and endings. DBZ fans who love “Rock the Dragon” may find this disappointing. However, Kai’s openings and endings are still great on their own. Although, they trend much deeper into spoiler territory. Those experiencing DBZ for the first time through Kai were likely shocked to see Gohan as a Super Saiyan for the first time through the opening.
Kai Stops At The Cell Games
Bizarrely, Kai’s original run ended with the Cell Games instead of adapting all of DBZ. For more than a while, it seemed like the series simply would not continue past Cell for whatever reason. Fortunately, Toei eventually ordered Dragon Ball Kai: The Final Chapters – a full adaptation of the Majin Buu arc.
The downside here is that The Final Chapters lacks the same care for the source material that Kai had. Turning a single arc into an entire show wasn’t exactly the best idea, and The Final Chapters ends up reusing some of DBZ’s filler anyways – creating major plot holes while still moving at a fairly slow pace.
Dragon Ball Kai Vs Dragon Ball Z: Similarities
Goku’s Voice Actors Stuck Around
Masako Nozawa has been Goku’s voice actor since Dragon Ball started. In Japan, it’s customary for voice actors to continue portraying characters for as long as possible. Ms. Nozawa first voiced Goku when he was a child and still voices him in the Japanese version of Super.
Goku is voiced by Sean Schemmel in the Funimation dub. Schemmel first took on the role in 1999, when Funimation started dubbing DBZ. Although English Kai recast some major players, Schemmel reprises his role as Goku for the series and is still dubbing him as of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.
Most Of The Footage Is The Same
Unlike Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or the Berserk anime adaptations, Dragon Ball Kai is a revision of DBZ and very much not a remake. At most, Kai retouches scenes from DBZ with mixed results. The touch-ups often have a modern quality that doesn’t line up with DBZ’s original art style.
Kai’s openings and endings are really the only new material in the anime. Everything else is directly lifted from DBZ and re-edited to better align with the manga’s pace & storytelling. This does mean some of the same animation hiccups present in DBZ are still present in Kai. Even worse, the fact that several DBZ episodes are usually stitched together into one Kai episode means the animation can (and will) abruptly change at the drop of a hat.
Characters & Techniques Often Have The Same Names
The English dub of Kai actually changes most of the technique names during the Saiyan and Frieza arcs to be closer to their manga counterparts. When Funimation began dubbing the series, they made more than a few liberties. Moves like the Kamehemeha were spared, but the Genki Dama became the Spirit Bomb and the Makankosappo became Special Beam Cannon.
Less than halfway into Kai’s English dub, however, the technique names swap back over to their Funimation localizations. While this may be frustrating for Dragon Ball purists, most English-speaking fans do know the series’ techniques by their Funimation names. The original Japanese version of Kai avoids this problem altogether since DBZ was already using the manga names. Interestingly, English Kai doesn’t even attempt changing character names back to their Japanese version (Krillin to Kuririn or Tien Shinhan to Tenshinhan).
DBZ & Kai Follow The Same Story Beats
There are no major story differences between DBZ and Kai. The two anime fundamentally tell the exact same story from the Saiyan arc up into the Cell Games and beyond when considering Kai: The Final Chapters. Raditz is still the first major foe Goku encounters, Goku still turns Super Saiyan on Namek, and he still passes the torch to his son Gohan at the end of the Cell arc. Kai simply condenses the overall plot and gets to the point, whereas DBZ will usually milk the most out of a single moment.
Fights Are Still Epic
DBZ is infamous for the length of its fights. What could normally be done in a few episodes may take 20-plus episodes. One of the biggest benefits of Kai is the more condensed telling of the DBZ story.
This greatly improves Kai’s pacing and fights, such as the iconic Goku vs. Frieza fight on Namek, are much easier to digest. In turn, this makes fights much more exhilarating as viewers get a better sense of the speed of each fight. On top of that, memorable moments like Trunks killing Frieza remain because those were also included in the manga.
Characters Are Still Loveable Or Feared
In Kai, characters still stay relatively true to their DBZ counterparts that many fans grew up and loved, or feared. Kai doesn’t rewrite anyone’s character arcs or shift their roles in the story. Most alterations come from Kai’s dialog sticking closer to the manga.
Everything plays out exactly as it did in the original DBZ series. Goku is still the main character. Piccolo is still Goku’s former rival turned friend. Vegeta has a change of heart. Frieza is terrifying. DBZ fans will still feel like their favorite characters are properly honored and live up to their memories of those characters.
Yamcha Is Still A Jobber
In the world of professional wrestling, Jobbers are wrestlers who exist solely for the sake of losing. To make another wrestler look extremely strong. Yamcha, one of Goku’s earliest companions, has been an unlucky Jobber since the original Dragon Ball. Yamcha fans may be disappointed to learn that that doesn’t change in Kai.
Of course, that would create a ripple effect throughout the DBZ story. How different would Dragon Ball be if Yamcha never died to the Saibamen? The spinoff parody manga Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha does explore the life of a Dragon Ball fan who is reincarnated as Yamcha with full knowledge of what’s to come. Sadly, that wasn’t adapted. It doesn’t matter if it’s DBZ or Kai, Yamcha’s destined to die.
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