Dragon Ball Kai Licensed/Announced By Funimation; May Release

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Funimation has announced that it has licensed Dragon Ball Kai, the new version of Dragon Ball Z now airing in Japan on Fuji TV. Kai is a cut of the show touched up for HD, with some redrawn scenes and filler removed for a smoother pace that resembles Akira Toriyama's manga. A new musical score has been composed by Kenji Yamamoto, known for his work on Dragon Ball Z video games like the Budoukai series, Burst Limit, Infinite World, and Raging Blast. Most of the original Japanese cast, including Masako Nozawa (Son Goku/Gohan/Goten), Ryo Horikawa (Vegeta), Toshio Furukawa (Piccolo) have returned to their original roles, but some roles have been recast, such as Aya Hirano as Dende.

According to The Fanboy Review, the Funimation English dub of Kai will include the same cast as Dragon Ball Z, but the script will be more accurate than Z's. The show had already been licensed some time ago and started being dubbed last year. The first DVD and Blu-Ray sets will be released in May.

Now, for my commentary on this.

I've been reviewing Dragon Ball Kai for some time, and I enjoy it. It breezes through Dragon Ball Z at a nice pace, removing a lot of unnecessary padding. No more Princess Snake, no more Fake Namek, no Bulma underwater on Namek getting in the way of the actual core plot. It's very convenient for somebody who hasn't watched the show for a long time and doesn't want to be hassled with all that extra crap. If somebody were to tell me that this is the version they prefer, I wouldn't blame them at all. I can understand it entirely.

But, really, Dragon Ball Kai is not a great product. It's lazily cobbled together. Instead of using the opportunity they had to completely reanimate the material, Toei decided to touch it up slightly at times, with a few redrawn scenes spliced together with the old material. This clashes terribly most of the time, not to mention that some of the "new" stuff looks like garbage, even if it is a bit smoother. It sticks out like a sore thumb. The new music is fit for video games, but not television animation, and certainly not DBZ. Kikuchi's score was perfect for this material. Yamamoto's score rarely shines.

I told myself a little while ago that when Funimation finally licensed this, I would probably not get it. I'm sold on the Dragon Boxes, a complete remaster of Z, complete with all the material in the show. I can enjoy Kikuchi's beautiful orchestral score, all the original voices without exception, and not be bothered with Toei's teasing new drawings. If I have trouble with the padding, I have a fast-forward button. If Funimation wants me to purchase Kai, they would have to do something big: they would have to finally do a good English dub for this story.

Funimation has decided to use the same cast as before. Sean Schemmel's forced, unnatural sounding, tough guy Son Goku and marble-mouthed Kaio. Chris Sabat's painful Piccolo. Tiffany Vollmer's valley girl Bulma. Linda Young's transvestite Freeza. Jeremy Inman's emotionless Android 16. Mike McFarland's bland Roshi. Eric Vale's annoying Trunks. I could go on. These voice actors have proven time and time again incapable of capturing the personalities of these characters, in Dragon Ball Z, in the original Dragon Ball dub (produced after the DBZ dub), and in the video games. I'm supposed to be impressed because Funimation has said the script might be more accurate?

Isn't Funimation the leading anime licensor in North America now? Haven't their dubs largely improved over time? Haven't they worked to a certain standard? Why would they do this, why return to the disaster of their Dragon Ball Z dub? To appease the twelve year olds they lied to years ago? Haven't those kids grown up and realized how awful that dub was? Are they still fooled into thinking Sean Schemmel is an appropriate Goku? I guess so. I see some of these numbskulls on YouTube whining about how "Goku shouldn't sound like a woman" when presented with a Japanese clip. Missing the point of the character.

Funimation has been given a chance to step up for once and treat the show with some respect. They've opted not to. And I could be wrong, sure, perhaps this new dub will still be excellent, and I'm hoping it is. I have my doubts, though.

So, given that Funimation has decided to use the same cast of "talents", there's even less motivation for me to collect any of Kai. The show has a lot of things working against it as it is, but if Funimation is going to continue fucking up the dub, too, I think I'll probably stick with the Dragon Boxes. I'll still review Kai as it airs, though (provided subbers don't drop it).

(Also, I have to laugh at Funimation retitling it "Dragon Ball Z Kai", because that's how I titled my reviews for a long time.)