Generation X, Millennials, or Generation Z, love the Dragon Ball Z anime, and many are still following DBZ manga episodes, despite the pause made by the writers. Its popularity is unquestionable. That is why Dragon Ball Z Kai was created, but which version is better?
This can be a tough thing to weigh, so let us dissect some features one by one.
Dragon Ball Kai or Dragon Ball Z
The original DBZ series was undoubtedly a phenomenon on an international scale because Dragon Ball Z Kai was created. If DragonBall Z were not a big hit, there wouldn't be any purpose in recreating it. But the question is - will Dragon Ball Z Kai surpass the original Dragon Ball Z?
Both are based on what Akira Toriyama wrote, but the original script was a lot longer. Dragon Ball Z Kai skipped Dragon Ball and all the fillers, which makes it a shorter version, but what Toei Animation wanted was to give the fans of the new generation a dose of DBZ. That’s exactly what they did.
Dragon Ball Z
The Japanese version presented the adult life of the hero, Goku. He and the rest of the team battled various villains. These vary from almost unbeatable and very powerful androids and aliens who travel to conquer and destroy. Dragon Ball Z showed how much he is willing to sacrifice. He was ready to risk his life for his family and friends, triggering his super Saiyan(1) powers.
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The casts were all important in the original DBZ series, including their opponents. Goku was already a funny and kind-hearted person who didn't know his potential until he met Master Roshi, who trained him. They added new characters apart from Chi-chi, Bulma, Yamcha, and Krillin as the series progressed. They were already a part of Dragon Ball, even before Goku became a Super Saiyan.
Number of Episodes/Seasons
Dragon Ball Z episodes has a total of 291 parts which are depicted from the manga series. It took off after the last part of the DragonBall series, where Goku and Chichi got married. The first episode of Dragon Ball Z is part of the Raditz Saga, "Mini Goku is Just Precious!" This Uncut episode was aired on April 26, 1989. The final episode was aired on January 31, 1996, "Even Stronger!! Goku's Dream is Super-Huge".
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Dragon Ball Z Kai
Dragon Ball Z Kai is a remake of Dragon Ball Z; therefore, it has the same storyline. However, it does not contain any of the filler parts. The part where Goku meets Master Roshi and the gang is not part of this series. Several factors are omitted, even with the Japanese version, but Garlic Jr. remains the main antagonist of DBZ Kai, just like FBZ.
All of the casts in Dragon Ball Z are present up until the Frieza Saga since this is where DBZ Kai ended. Piccolo still ended up as his friend and Gohan's protector and teacher, the same as what source material tells.
Number of Episodes/Seasons
You can only watch DBZ Kai in 159 parts, mainly because they did not include filler episodes on what was aired. That is actually what the producers wanted. Also, it ended abruptly in the Freeza Saga, as it is called in Japan, which made it even shorter than the original anime version. Though there are fewer with Kai, there are still memorable fight scenes, especially when the Dragon Soul soundtrack is played in the background.
How Do They Differ?
Graphics & Visuals
Graphics and visuals are very different, and as many see it, Dragon Ball Z has a darker theme compared to the lighter vibes of DBZ Kai. It has more contrast(2), the reason why some say that the older version does not contain subtlety even if the storyline already requires it. You will definitely notice the difference between the two, but then again, it will always fall to the preference of the person watching it.
Dragon Soul is widely accepted worldwide as well as this is also a good representation of what the producers wanted for this animation revision. On the other hand, this theme song created by Bruce Faulconer became the iconic sound when battles were about to happen.
The dub and the soundtrack of Kai are high quality, similar to how they make it in the movies, but there is something about the original soundtrack that makes it very nostalgic.
The iconic scenes first seen on the DragonBall series will not be shown on Kai since they omitted the Dragon Ball series and stopped on Cell Saga. A couple of these are Goku's transformation into a Super Saiyan and the Majin Buu Saga. Though Frieza's fight against Goku is still very much present in this revision, many scenes are missing.
Comparing the two, DBZ Kai has a stronger international presence compared to DBZ itself. This does not follow through, that the original script was not a good one. The comparison of the technology used and the easy access to the revision series gives it an edge, although all this appreciation mostly comes from individuals who watched DBZ before.
Fillers are not present in the Kai series, which in a way, is frustrating. Kai did not feature the moment when Yamcha used the Wolf Fang Fist or even when Piccolo and Goku learned how to drive. Since Kai was totally faithful to the manga narrative, these parts were omitted, even when initially aired in Japan. On the other hand, DBZ may have a lot of these, but it completed the plot completely.
If you watched Kai directly without seeing any of DBZ, you would find that the story is very precise, covering the triumphant wins over the evil opponents. They are trying to harm the earth and the universe. However, Dragon Ball Z started when the hero was still a boy. The entire narrative was laid out completely, even enhanced with some of the filler episodes that completed our hero's transformation.
Surprisingly, Kai used dialogues from the manga series, which may be surprising for DBZ fans. It may have been part of the expectation that the first release was closer to how the author Toriyama created it for so many years. However, if you thoroughly scrutinize the specifics of what lines were said on Kai, you will see how closely it is with what the author has written which is also the original plan for this series.
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There was too much violence, gore, and explicit scenes, so they had to lessen the bloodshed and remove the parts where body exposure or sexual humor is shown. Racism is also not allowed. That is why when Kai was aired, everything related to those mentioned was either toned down or cut. Though they removed many things, all fights were retained, including the special beam cannon attack.
When it comes to footage, there isn't much that has changed. As everyone knows, this is a revision, so whatever portion of Dragon Ball Z that was not shown that good is simply enhanced to lure in more people to follow. The dub on the original version may be a bit on the low side, but you can be sure that the footage is not squashed that much when it comes to footage.
Luckily, important voices remained, such as Sean Schemmel, who first dubbed the funimation in 1999 in Cartoon Network. With Kai, he continued to bring life to the same character. However, some roles had to be represented by different voice actors, such as Kid Gohan, Trunks, and Android 19. The voice actors are understandable not to be the same since some have already passed on and others are unavailable.
Can I watch Dragonball Kai without watching DBZ?
Yes, you can start watching Kai without going through any Dragon Ball Z episode if you want more manga vibes, per se. This version is more faithful to what the author of the original script has written compared to Dragon Ball Z.
Dragon Ball Z or Kai, which has a bigger budget?
Dragon Ball Z Kai has the bigger budget even though it has a shorter span. It only has 153 total chapters compared to the 291 of DBZ, but enhancing all the low-budget images into HD quality costs more. They also made total alterations to abide by the instructions provided to avoid banning the program.
And the Winner Is...
Dragon Ball Z will always be the winner if these two are compared. Those who never had the chance to view the original series Dragon Ball Z would say that Kai is a high-quality anime series and would prefer Kai because it remained true to what the scriptwriter has written.
However, to those who had the chance to follow DBZ when it was still Dragon Ball, hearing the soundtrack Bruce Faulconer created will allow them to imagine the death-defying battles between Goku and his almost-immortal opponents. These are the same technically, but in the end, you will always opt for something that will give you the complete details, and that is what Dragonball Z has.
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