I just finished watching the first episode of Dragonball Kai with my roommate. It was very… strange. It was nostalgic in many ways, but somehow, it also felt like a completely new experience. Dragonball Z, along with Sailor Moon, was one of the first series that really propelled me into anime on the whole. It wasn’t the first anime I’d seen or the first I’d loved (those would be My Neighbor Totoro and Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh), but I’m sure that I’m not the only one to have ever-sweet memories of coming home from school every day with Toonami to look forward to. I haven’t rewatched DBZ since it ended its initial run on the block years and years ago, and I never did dig up the Japanese original to take a gander at either.
In reality, it really hasn’t been that many years. DBZ’s original dub run ended in April 2003. Six years. That’s not that long… right?
Though I’ve never seen the Japanese version of DBZ, I have heard its opening theme, and it really struck me just how similar in style and mood the new opening is to the original. I think it’s pretty amazing that they were able to do something like that — the nostalgia factor is definitely there, but it’s still a new song set to new animation, allowing for a new experience for everyone. The music is very energetic in that sweet, innocent kind of way: fun, but not that deep. The updates in animation are mostly apparent in the increased levels of shininess all around. It’s a great improvement while still maintaining all the charm of the older animation style — at the very least, no one is going to mistake this as a new series. It’s a remastering for sure.
The first episode contains a fair bit of recap and flashback since it’s only DBZ that’s being remastered and not Dragon Ball. It’s a good refresher though, especially since the beginnings of DBZ/K involve so many of the minor characters that don’t really make it to the second half of the series. Hearing the original voice cast for the first time was kind of shocking, honestly. Bardock sounds like his balls never dropped, and Goku is similarly afflicted (among other reasons, perhaps this is why everyone is so shocked to find out that Goku has a kid? :P). For the former, that’s just hilarious; for the latter, it’s humorously appropriate. Of course, both characters are voiced by women (the same one, in fact), and women voicing men in anime isn’t exactly a new or strange phenomenon, but considering how manly both characters are supposed to be, it’s kind of jarring?
Everyone else sounds pretty awesome though. Bulma doesn’t sound nearly as annoying in Japanese, and Gohan is actually kind of cute? (All of Toriyama’s silly name puns are also five times more obvious now, haha.) I am kind of excited to know that there will be no dealing with Cartoon Network’s censors this time around, so Roshi is free to be as perverted as he wants! The episode goes on to introduce both Raditz and Piccolo. Raditz feels so much more badass here — his voice is much, much more manlier than his father and brother’s, anyway. Meanwhile, Piccolo has been deemed weak and useless already, and I can already imagine the Internet’s resounding cheers when we finally get to the “over 9000” part.
I don’t remember how the first couple of episodes of the original DBZ went exactly, but the tempo of the series does feel much quicker. They’ll be shrinking a 291-episode series into ~100 episodes; even with all the filler axed out, this is going to be some amazing compression job. Nothing in this first episode felt rushed though; on the contrary, it was a pretty relaxing and well-paced episode.
Overall, it was a pretty good time. I’m still kind of surprised at DBK’s existence though. It’s one thing to just remaster it digitally, but this is really more like an super upgrade than any simple remastering job though. DBK is renamed and re-airing in a different aspect ratio; it’s in HD. The series itself is being re-cut to better fit Toriyama’s manga, and it’s getting new opening and end themes to boot. Compare that to a simple renewed edition like the Blu-ray of Akira or a freaky remake like whatever’s happening to Fullmetal Alchemist (haven’t watch it yet; holding out for FUNimation’s official stream). I find it pretty interesting, too, that DBK feature’s DBZ’s original voice cast, but FMA doesn’t. This is going to be a pretty fun run, but I’m glad DBZ/K is getting the treatment it’s getting. I owe this series a lot, after all. I wonder if there’s any US-made cartoon that’s revered as much to even think about getting something like this.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to sitting down every week with my roommate to watch this, especially considering we first met seven or eight years ago, on the Internet, on a DBZ forum. ;D Oh, the memories!