I should have trusted my instincts when I decided to give Dragonball Kai a watch. It does sound quite intriguing to watch Dragonball Z again, only this time minus the filler episodes that really didn't add much or anything to the storyline; but with one change though, must come many, because for some reason writers always must omit something else that can feel almost equally important as the thing they wanted changed originally. I guess this is just one of those cases where you simply can't satisfy everyone, because DB Kai left me with a very bitter taste, and I actually prefer the original series by Funimation than this.
The story to DB Kai is no different from the original series. The Earth is paid a visit by a being named Raditz whom claims to be Goku's brother; Raditz reveals to him that he's not even of Earth, instead he comes from a different race called the Saiyians whom lived on Planet Vegeta. They eventually battle, and Goku as well as his allies learn that Raditz isn't the only one out there from that race, nor is he even close to the strongest. They then prepare themselves to battle against the last two warriors of the Saiyan race.
I will mention now that the removal of various filler such as Snake Way, Garlic Jr., and various other things was definitely a plus. The show moves quite better without the constant distractions; but the truth is, even without the filler, DB Kai can still be a chore at times with situations dragging along for too much time, and the outcome simply not being a good enough pay off for some of the waiting. In any case, the overall story is fun, and DB Kai works its way up to the final battle against Cell.
DB Kai manages to keep the action well paced enough, and character personalities are fleshed out. However, things could have been so much better had the only change to the show been the various filler. One thing DBZ did well was its voice acting for the English dub and character interactions. Some serious fans will catch the removal of some dialog and it may bother them, it sure as hell bothered me because Vegeta especially had some good lines, like his threat to beat on Yamcha for practically no reason. The changing of voice actors got on my nerves as well; Colleen Clinkenbeard is annoying as hell as Gohan, and had I never seen this before I would have been wishing for his brutal death at the hands of Frieza. Now speaking of Frieza, they have Chris Ayres playing him. I hate everyone Ayres, Chris and Greg Ayres have a very annoying, whining, saccharine feel that gets on my nerves quick. Colleen Clinkenbeard also voices Android 18, and she just feels all types of wrong here. Meredith McCoy is by far the best to play her; she brought a sinister yet sexy appeal to 18 that carried over to her facial expressions and even fighting.
Another thing DBZ always did amazingly well was introduce intense music scores. Funimation's BGM is probably this anime's best quality and they know it, yet for some reason they use boring elevator music, with no variation or anything new through out the entire duration of the show. Vegeta and Piccolo's addictive themes that described their characters so well? Gone. The terrifying BGM of death when Frieza goes off to kill Vegeta while King Kai narrates this is the evil Prince's last stand? Jettisoned... for some irritating trash that doesn't enhance the scene at all. I can list plenty more examples, but this proves to me that not everyone understands the effect music can have during some scenes.
The animation and artwork appears to be remastered, but the only thing actually new is the opening. I don't have much of a problem with this, still this could have been better updated. At least DB Kai delivers the action well enough and there's plenty going on that can turn a new comer into a fan. There's loads of fisticuffs and brutal beatings to go around.
As I look around there are plenty of people that really enjoyed Kai more than DBZ. I can honestly say that I understand that because it does trim a lot of the fat and focuses more on character and story development, along with action which is the main selling point. Unfortunately for me, I look for other things in my anime and music means a lot to me; a great soundtrack can actually mask flaws in a work, and DBZ was full of them yet the BGM smoothed things out making it more tolerable. In addition, there are things that seems changed for the sake of it. None of the voice actors from the original died while this was in production, so I see no reason for the change in cast, nor the removal of some lines.
Despite my dislike for this remake, if that's what it is, I still recommend it to fans so they can see it for themselves; but I highly advise to be prepared for these various changes. I already know plenty of individuals who had the same issues with this as I did.
Highs: Some of the removal of filler does work, enjoyable action
Lows: Altering of cast and BGM is a huge blow for me