Some Thoughts On: Dragon Ball Kai (English Dub) Episodes 14-26

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As the Nicktoons digital cable channel continues airing Dragon Ball (Z) Kai, I continue watching. It certainly doesn't hurt that several episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender come on after. (I've become a huge fan of that show... Toph is my favorite character!) Now, as last time, I have to put into consideration the edits made for TV broadcast, and I do. Other than the most obvious edits and rewrites for TV broadcast, the script remains mostly accurate, and is still scores better than the dub script for Dragon Ball Z. But, also important, the voice acting is better in places, too.

I still don't hear Goku when I hear Sean Schemmel's performance. To me, he's just a guy doing a voice that doesn't really capture the character most of the time. It's not a bad voice in itself, and would be suitable for any number of characters, but it's not suitable for Goku in the slightest. It just seems a little too serious, too rough, and without any cheeriness or charm. Granted, you can tell Schemmel is giving it his all in some scenes, but it's just not accomplishing much. I don't think he'll ever be Goku to me. His Kaio is as hideous as ever. However, his Nail is, and always has been, fairly decent. It's without a doubt his best role in the show.

Chris Sabat, however, has slowly crept his way into my heart with his performance as Vegeta. He sounds much more natural and casually arrogant, a sort of cockiness that comes easy to the character, and in the voice of the performer as the character, this time around. You can tell that Vegeta is really having himself a good time as he hunts down Freeza's henchmen and ruthlessly kills them. I especially liked his Vegeta during the episode where he steals Freeza's Dragon Balls and later when he has his rematch with Zarbon. Now, while I still probably prefer the pure self-satisfied smugness of Brian Drummond's Vegeta for certain key scenes, Sabat has proved himself every bit as capable. Strangely enough, though, in Yamucha's only appearance in this group of episodes, Sabat's performance seems to have gone to hell again. Ugh. At least his Piccolo is okay.

Colleen Clinkenbeard and Monica Rial continue to dominate the dub with their peformances as Gohan and Bulma, respectively. Clinkenbeard's Gohan has grown to be a tad more forceful and determined-sounding, but still has that cute little boy voice behind it all. Rial's Bulma captures her sometimes obnoxiousness, but also carries a geniune sense of caring and kindness to it that Vollmer's never pulled off. Other than this, there's not a lot to say about their performances, because they were good in the first thirteen episodes and continue on their paths.

The big draw of this group of episodes was the debut of the new voice for the evil Freeza, Chris Ayres. Much expectation was in the end met with incredulous discomfort, because Ayres' Freeza sounded very much like the Ocean cast voice for the role, Pauline Newstone. However, he soon proved he could deliver a stronger version of the villain than either Newstone or Linda Young, helped significantly by the better script. He sounds creepy, but has some of the mannerisms of the sophisticated Freeza and his faux-politeness. It's become a pleasure to get a Freeza that sounds legitimately wicked without being a characture. Granted, he's no Ryūsei Nakao, but he's a big improvement on the previous English dub voices. 

The voices of Zarbon and Dodoria, Freeza's trusted henchmen, are also new. Zarbon is played by J. Michael Tatum, who gives the character the same refined, superior attitude that he had with his previous two dub voices, but doesn't exaggerate or give him any accents. Dodoria, on the other hand, doesn't quite have an impressive delivery, as much as I like John Swasey, nor does he sound as intimidating as either the Japanese voice for him in Z or in Kai. Still, I'd say he's a marginal improvement over the previous dub voice. My favorite English dub voice for Dodoria is still Ward Perry, from the Ocean cast, though.

One of the touches I like in the dub is that Saichoro is no longer called "Guru", but is instead always referred to "Grand Elder". Another thing I like is that Vegeta's no longer depicted as just a constantly angry guy and the script seems to conentrate more on his ambition and snarkiness, without making him some simple black hat or obvious anti-hero. Vegeta's just Vegeta. Finally, Kuririn doesn't constantly make lame-ass comments. They allow Kuririn's natural lameness shine through instead of comically exaggerating it.

Overall, it's not quite as good as the Japanese version of Kai, certainly not as good as the Japanese version of Z, but it's good to hear it's being treated with some competency.