Dragon Ball Kai

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Dragon Ball Kai debuted on April, 2009 in time for the 20th anniversary of Dragon Ball Z.

In a nutshell, Kai is a Recut of Dragon Ball Z for the 21st Century. Yes, it tells the same-old story of how Goku learned he was a Saiyan, his battle with Vegeta and Nappa and other villains. What else is new? Plenty!

The animation has been updated, the talk breaks are few and far between, and there is next-to-no Filler or Padding. End result is a sleeker, faster, more action-packed show than the original series. The original Dragon Ball Z had 194 episodes up to the end of the Cell arc, while Kai has only 98; this means a ratio of roughly 1 Kai episode for every 2 Z episodes.

The vast majority of the original voice actors in both Japanese and English were recruited to reprise their roles. Masako Nozawa returns as Goku's Japanese voice, as well as Sean Schemmel for the English dub. Christopher Sabat again directs the English dub by FUNimation.

The English dub of Kai is noted to be considerably more accurate than the Z dub, without any of the character rewrites, replacement scores, or massive dialogue changes (though there are a few dialogue alterations in the CW4Kids version of Kai) that the Z dub was most notable for.

A character sheet can be found over here.

Tropes used in Dragon Ball Kai include:
  • Actor Existence Failure: Daisuke Gouri, who reprised the voices of Ox-King, Enma Daiou and Porunga, died partway through the run and his ongoing roles were recast with Ryuzaburo Ohtomo. Mr. Satan (Whom he played in the original) is now played by Unsho Ishizuka.
    • Similarly, the role of Tenshinhan, whose voice (Hirotaka Suzuoki) died in the intervening years between Z and Kai, and was replaced in Kai by Hikaru Midorikawa.
    • Likewise with Dende's voice actress (Tomiko Suzuki), who passed away in 2003; she was replaced by Aya Hirano.
  • Auto-Tune: On display in Sean Schemmel's version of "Dragon Soul".
  • 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 Dragonball.
    • Kai only goes to the end of Cell Games Saga. The original Dragon Ball Z had 194 episodes at that point. Kai got to the same point in 97 episodes[1]. For those who don't feel like doing the math, that means exactly 50% of Dragonball Z was filler.
  • And Zoidberg: King Kai once refers to Bulma as "that other lady" after talking about Gohan, Goku, and Piccolo.
  • 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 an OVA 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 togetehr makes for some obvious shifts when you go from a well-animated episode to a not-so-well-animated one (See: Freeza's death).
  • Big No: When Goku seems to be stuck on the exploding Namek.
  • Bowdlerization/EditedForSyndication: Three levels:
    • Japanese broadcast [2]
      • 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.
      • 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 Ocean dub.
        • One theory is that Funimation did it intentionally to boost dvd sales. They had similarly ridiculous edits on Toonami, like changing 'butt' to 'rump' and the death talk censorship is rather inconsistent on Nicktoons. One example is censoring a very obscure 'late Father' to 'lame Father' after the word 'killed' was left uncensored just prior. A couple of cases even had a flashback with the same line that Funimation had censored in the episode it was spoken.
      • Physical attacks in general are edited out by just showing a Hit Flash or completely cutting the scene. Far more akin to the edits made by Saban Entertainment with the original DBZ back in 1996-1998
        • They seem to have gotten more lenient about the fighting violence in general, even showing Vegeta, in slow motion no less, getting his arm broken by Android 18.
    • CW4Kids/Toonzai
      • 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.
      • Mr. Popo is blue, as the block has made it a policy to never show blackface stereotypes uncensored after Jynx caused a stir.
      • 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 boosted with 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.
        • Unlike Nicktoons, the 4Kids care heavily about death. All references, even vague references to death (for example, sacrificed himself) would be edited (gave himself).
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The same as the original, but more apparent because some footage is cut out and the fights are shorter.
  • Cut Short: Ends after the Cell Games. The Majin Buu arc is not covered.
    • 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.
  • Death by Adaptation: An odd version here: Goku did die in the original series, but was resurrected at the end of the Buu saga; Kai, however, ends before getting to the Buu saga, making Goku's death permanent.
  • Do-It-Yourself Theme Tune: In the first volume DVD, Sean Schemmel, the voice of Goku, sang the opening (With an unfortunate amount of Auto-Tune) theme.
    • Each successive volume has its own singer (Justin Cook for the 2nd volume, Vic Mignogna for the 3rd volume and in the Nicktoons version, Greg Ayres for the 4th volume, Sonny Strait for the 5th volume, and Brina Palencia for the 6th volume)
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the uncut, 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!

    • Due to DBZ Kai's popularity on Nicktoons, the network started airing the original DBZ movies. Amazingingly the network aired Movie 12, "Fusion Reborn" almost completly uncensored, save for the short gag scene with Adolf Hitler, and its still all under a Y7 rating.
      • What about Super Android 13? The movie had seven uses of ass, four damns, two craps and one "aw f-", still under a Y7.
  • Good News, Bad News: The good news is Freeza 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 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 acknowlodged/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?


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 Freeza destroyed the planet Vegeta. Both of these are twists on 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's original run, some of the blood and nudity had to be cut out.
  • Market-Based Title: The series is being marketed internationally as Dragon Ball Z Kai. This is likely to lessen confusion about what the series actually is, as well as capitalizing on the fact that almost any English Dragon Ball product is more popular if you slap a Z on it.
  • 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!!!"

  • 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 4kids 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"[3], 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 version, merely having Yemma state that Goku is a 'shoe in'.
    • All references to death on 4Kids 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 shoe-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 gut here!
Kami: Oh, no. King Kai is much stronger then 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 shoe-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 gut here!
Kami: Oh, no. King Kai is much stronger then 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!

    • Averted right in the opening with the line "Nothing ever dies, we will rise again"
  • No Ending: Kai ends with episode 98, at the end of the Cell saga, with no indications that they'll continue on to the Buu arc. This, incidentally, makes a good deal of the Kai-branded video games irritatingly deceptive.
  • Off-Model: The openings, outside of a few scenes, tend to forget that Krillin has six spots on his forehead.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Freeza's Leitmotif contains Ominous Japanese Chanting.
    • And during the moments before 2nd form Frieza guts Krillin, we actually hear this song in the American dub.
    • Also present as Krillin, Gohan and Piccolo are attempting to fight Frieza's final form. Mind you, in the Nicktoons version as the Toonzai version simply plays the instrumental.
      • Note that the Nicktoons version plays the actual song until the music is replaced with old Z music, suggesting it has to do with the Yamamoto incident.
  • The Other Darrin: Used for quite a few characters whose original actors are either dead or unavailable. Several characters are replaced in the dub as well like Gohan and Bulma (the narrator was also replaced with one closer to the Japanese).
  • 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.

“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: Duh.
  • 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, some of whom Dragonball Z was their first voice acting role before becoming major features in the industry.
  • 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. I guess he was close enough on that part.
    • The tv aired dub had a minor case of this where Piccolo's attack name is 'Special Beam Cannon' to accommodate the original dub name but then becomes 'Makkankosappo' in a flashback, which the dvd version uses.
      • Also 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.
  • Stunt Casting: Arguably Aya Hirano as Dende.
    • His recast VA Maxey Whitehead could count given her recent breakout role of Alphonse Elric, but she'd already developed a niche for voicing young boys by then.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: This ended up being so widespread in composer Kenji Yamamoto's work that Toei Animation actually kicked him off the show towards the end of its run, and the music for the series, except for the eyecatch and opening/closing themes, was replaced with the original Japanese DBZ soundtrack. The English dub followed suit starting with episode 64 and all reruns of episodes previous to this.
    • The most blatant example: The track "The Ebb and the Flow" is a very blatant ripoff of "War" from the Avatar soundtrack. It is an almost note for note copy.
    • It should be noted that Yamamoto was doing this as far back as his days working on DBZ: the insert-song "Battle Point Unlimited" (used in episode 120, when Trunks goes Super Saiyan and kills Freeza) is a pastiche of an entire album (1985's A Secret Wish) by the German synth-pop band Propaganda.
  • Talking to Himself: Sean Schemmel as Goku and King Kai; Christopher Sabat as Yamcha, Piccolo and Vegeta; Masako Nozawa as Goku and Gohan.
  • 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.
    • Not in the Nicktoons version.
      • In the uncut, Master Roshi was taking a crap. It was taken out in the Nicktoons.
        • Also, Yajirobe biting Krillin's ass was edited too.
  • Truer to the Text: It serves as a remastered Adaptation Distillation of the first Dragonball Z anime, with most of the Filler removed (not to mention 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.
    • A very good example of this: compare Christoper 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 on DBZ Kai today. In 1999, Sabat was simply trying to imitate Brian Drummond's Vegeta, making him sound constipated. Only a few episodes later in the same dub, Sabat gave Vegeta his current deeper voice but gained a strange accent along the way. Sabat's Kai Vegeta compared to his 1999 Vegeta is worlds better.
    • Compare Sean Schemmel's Goku voice & screams from 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 the new dub for Kai.

Goku (old dub): I... won't let you... get away... with this! I won't... let you...!
Goku (new dub uncut): You, you ruthless... heartless... bastard! I will... make you... suffer! Damn it!
Goku (new dub edited): You, you ruthless... heartless... monster! You're going... to pay... for that...

    • Also Christopher 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, (its somehow wiser due to that fact.), and its actually a lot closer to his natural speaking voice.
    • Frieza is voiced by Chris Ayres, so he sounds male now.

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

  1. The 98th episode mentioned earlier is a bonus episode
  2. (These are present in the "uncut" version.)
  3. a literal translation of the Japanese "Ano Yo"