Dragon Ball Kai Sucks

It’s no secret that I adore the Dragon Ball manga. It’s one of my most prized possessions. I love it so much that I summarized each chapter on my site years ago, as my way of sharing its contents with the world. Curtis Hoffmann’s summaries were what inspired me to buy the manga in the first place, so I was sort of hoping to do the same for others. And I still love it enough that I’m gradually trying to clean up those summaries, along with a few other things that give me an excuse to re-read the series.

Over the years, I’ve also complained many times about the additions and alterations in its anime adaptations. Back in the day, people would get outright offended when I told them something was “filler” during in-universe arguments. But I still enjoy watching the anime, or at least most of it. Even if it isn’t my ideal version of the story, it still has wonderful acting and music, along with lots of pretty colors. And the crappy anime-original material still had its charm, even if it’s just ironic enjoyment in some cases. (Like seeing a lengthy flashback of Piccolo’s life story as Gokuu and Freeza duke it out on an exploding planet. That’s just amazing.)

My Dragon Ball Books

One might expect that someone like me would love the idea of Dragon Ball Kai, a series that re-cuts the Dragon Ball Z anime into something closer to the manga’s version of story. And at first I did love the idea. I still do like the idea, but I don’t like the execution. Visually, it doesn’t impress me at all, and most of the newer animation looks horrible and out of place. The music is decent, but the original score is definitely superior. “Dragon Soul” isn’t even as good as the Gekiranger theme. And though I love that most of the living actors have reprised their roles, in most cases, they give subpar performances. The only positive it truly has over Z is the improved pacing, but I can get even better pacing by reading the manga, so what’s the point?

On that note, as a manga purist, it just isn’t good enough. There are all sorts of things that could have been fixed in Kai, like removing Gregory, or Ginyuu-in-Blooma’s body, but Toei took the easy way out and left those things in. They have all the tools to do a perfect manga cut of the series, but they haven’t used them. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not going to do it the right way, then don’t do it at all.

The first episode of Kai alone is full of things to bitch about. Chapter 195 is not the beginning of the manga. The previous chapters deserve far more than a two minute clip show. Gohan getting lost in the woods was unnecessary and nonexistent in the manga’s story. The same could be said for the clips of the first TV special, which only serve to spoil the eventual buildup to Freeza’s introduction. Why not include clips of Dr. Gero working on his cyborgs and gathering DNA for Cell, while they’re at it?

Even if I did like the Kai version better, it could never truly serve as a replacement for Dragon Ball Z anymore than Z could serve as a replacement for the later arcs of the manga. It’s an adaptation of an adaptation, not a unique second interpretation of the original material. I might have more respect for Kai as a product if it was a unique interpretation, reanimated from the ground up. But I already dislike the art style used in the opening and ending animation (along with the shiny, big headed, angular style used in the later years of Z and GT), as well as the “flat” look of digital animation in general, so it would just give me even more things to complain about.

But anyone who honestly thinks Kai was made for some artistic reason is only fooling themselves. It’s cheap, proven content for Toei to pair with One Piece on Sunday mornings — a glorified rerun. And it’s an excuse to not have to remaster all 291 episodes of Dragon Ball Z in HD (and probably not the other 217 episodes of non-Z animation either). Its very existence is an insult to my intelligence. As beautifully as my “Dragon Box” DVDs might upscale, it’s depressing to think that I’ll probably never get to see the original series in proper HD.

I don’t mind watching Kai casually, because, deep down, it’s still Dragon Ball. It’s still (mostly) the same actors voicing the same characters and telling the same story. Watching it doesn’t make boiling lava spew out of my ears. But the only reason I ever actively choose to watch or buy it is for scholarly reasons. If I weren’t a big nerd that likes writing words about Dragon Ball, I probably would have given up on it entirely many months ago.

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Categories: Contemplation, Television

11 Responses to “Dragon Ball Kai Sucks”

  1. PuppetDoctor says:

    Very good write up and I wish it were longer and more in depth. It was very well written.

    I agree with most of your points also. I do not like the new animation in the opening, eyecatchers, and endings. It doesn’t have the detail that the original Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z anime had. That is one of the first things I noticed about Dragon Ball Z when I first saw it on TV was the detail that most if any TV shows didn’t have. Digital animation just looks plain, clean and boring.

    The Kai music to be is just boring and generic except for a couple of tracks which I do like, and the redrawn scenes just take you out of the moment and are out of place.

    Reading the manga of DBZ again recently made me realize what a missed opportunity Kai is. They could have done so much more to make it accurate to the manga. For that reason I wish they reanimated Kai but in another sense I am scared if they were to because it would have that opening animation which looks horrible in my opinion.

  2. GojiitaAF says:

    db kai is cut by TORIYAMA, it’s an independent show not like funimation’s censorship in 1995 ! so DB KAI is not crap, you are wrong!

    DB KAI is an INDEPENDENT SHOW ! jeez !!

  3. OOoooOO says:

    I been a hardcore DBZ fan since i was lil kid… I loved DBZ on tv. I never read the mangas but Im sure they were great. Even tho the animation wasnt as good as other cartoons I couldnt get enough of it. I dont think it was worth remaking it into KAI tho… The opening credits on it had better animation then the new cartoon did. In my opinion it was a waste of money. Ofc tho die hard fans will still watch it. but i lost interest after the first episode. Whats the point when u can watch the original with better voice actors an more in depth with the cartoon storyline. Honestly DBZ kai gets a 1/10 in my personal opinion. I guess there still trying to recapture the original look of the series but when u spend this much money remaking a series u might as well go all out an make it look better to.

  4. Zaric says:

    My friend convinced me to watch an episode of Dragon Ball Kai, it just happened to be the episode where Cell stomps the android’s head in front of Gohan and Gohan turns Super Saiyajin 2 as a result.

    I’m not going to pretend to be a Dragon Ball Z fan, however in watching that end scene, I realized that something was wrong — Didn’t add up to my memories of the original run.

    And I found out what was wrong… the music. Gohan had some great music to him, the vocals really brought the scene to life. Fast forward to this episode of Kai, they tried to place an ‘epic’ instrumental and pretty well came under the bar of Z.

    I don’t mind the animation of the OP and ED, nor do I mind the animation of the later Dragon Ball Z movies. I judged the whole series POINTLESS once they didn’t even bother re-animating it let alone putting new story content in.

    It’s just as your writeup says, Dragon ball Kai is a glorified rerun. I had fond memories of Dragon Ball (pre Z), but I stopped following the craze for a reason. The show ran it’s course and ended. It’s over, we all moved on.

  5. MegaDeth says:

    I could only watch Dragon Ball Z with ORIGINAL JAPANESE MUSIC

    Plus Kai,puts too much censorship.
    They glorify so much their graphics and animation improvements,yet it’s nothing special in fact it’s kinda sucky
    They changed the sound effects.

  6. mrmemory says:

    No … it sucks. The whole things sucks. I have tried to watch it and can’t. It is just boring, and that is saying a lot as it takes very little to entertain me. Bring back el Tigre: the Adventures of Manny Rivera! Now there is some good programing.

  7. William says:

    For those of you who say it sucks, you’re idiots! How can it suck when they update the graphics and audio? Dumbasses.

  8. Cadc says:

    Why does it suck?


    they deleted this epic scene along with many others…

    that’s reason enough for me..

    Not to mention that the music is so generic and overused, All the epic music themes were removed, and the Magin Buu Saga wasn’t even released… like WTF?!

  9. vegeta says:

    i dnt mind the site its just tht most pple hat ewen other pple try to make good shows tht they dnt know about if you ask me the voices are way off and some off the lines the characters say are corny and i hate the fact tht they took out most of the action parts but other than tht i dnt mind

  10. Ross says:

    Okay, I know I’m late to this whole discussion but quite frankly I’m 21 years old and moved on from Dragonball years ago. However, Dragonball was a huge part of my childhood just like the rest of you and I have a massive collection of trading cards that I still cherish. That being said, I just recently discovered that this Dragonball Kai re-make exists. I was so infuriated with what I saw that I had to type into Google “dragonball kai sucks” and this website was the first result.

    I watched the Frieza episodes (the most epic, memorable chapter of Dragonball Z from my childhood), and I was so disappointed with this rendition of the original I practically threw up in my mouth. Remastered video? Give me a break. I could hardly notice the difference so I’d have to say that’s the ONE thing they got right. Modifying the scenes so they’re shorter? Wow, thanks for slipping that really awkward cut in there so I have no idea what just happened in the preceding 30 seconds. Perfect for a completely unobservant 4 year old…but why is a 4 year old watching this show anyway?

    The biggest kicker of all, the complete crowning failure of Dragonball Kai: the horrid Nintendo midi reminiscent music. What the hell? Are you kidding me? I loved Dragonball Z because it was EPIC, it was DRAMATIC, it gave me chills and made me think about it the next day while I was at school. There is no better way to completely ruin Gokus first super Saiyan transformation and Friezas impending ass-kicking than with some stupid, completely inappropriate Pokemon style battle music. I want screaming heavy metal guitars, booming drums, beast mode music. That’s what Dragonball Z was all about, the most hardcore ACTION cartoon us kids could watch in those days. And you completely ruined it Dragonball Kai.

  11. Melvins says:

    My problem with Z Kai is
    1- There’s no “DB Kai”. In Japan, it’s Dragon Ball Kai. Over here, just to capitalize on DBZ and screw over Dragon Ball, it’s Dragon Ball Z Kai. I mean really… Why all the apathy towards Dragon Ball?

    2- The score. I never liked the original Japanese audio, save a few tracks. It just came across as so ’80s, so juvenile, so repetitive. That’s what Faulconer- AT LEAST- had. It could sound juvenile at times, but it could turn around and sound serious, even epic. It sounded like video game music on more than one occasion, yes, but it had character. Each saga had their own bits of music. Hell, Faulconer didn’t even do the music for the first 70 episodes! But there was always something more that I wanted… I loved the electronic themes, but the fact that there was no ‘organic’, or ‘real’ music- real violins, real guitars, real pianos, real flutes, real instruments, real choruses- to go along with it, I felt could have been an improvement if added.

    Kai? It’s a “What Could Have Been” scenario. There are occasions where you hear what was intended. Kenji Yamamoto’s tracks are amazing- when Goku emerges from the healing chamber on Namek, for example. The music was what I always wanted- a pure mixture of electronic and organic- it sounds like someone took Dragon Ball Z’s score and turned it from 16 bit to 128 bit. It would have been perfect! Power and nostalgia. What more could you want?

    Then came the plagiarism case and the removal of (most of) the music…

    Shunsuke Kikkuichi’s music just doesn’t fit to my ears (yet it’s what this younger generation of kids think is ‘true’ DBZ music, sadly). It’s weak, it’s ultra-repetitive.

    3- The ‘upgrades’. I… don’t care much. You just went back in and used a computer to make the colors brighter and more vivid? Screw that, man. You’ve seen Naruto, right? Most DBZ fans hate Naruto- but they can admit that its animation screws DBZ over. After Naruto, there are thousands of other anime out there, and they have action scenes that are far more fluid, interesting, and realistic that DBZ’s. (More to be said about Z, though, since it was made in the ’80s and ’90s!) Why not completely redraw the series, providing us with an eyegasmic Animation Bump never before seen in the history of anime? Imagine what a fluidly animated Super Saiyan would look like. Imagine Goku vs Vegeta with the fluidly animated goodness of a mid-grade anime movie. Don’t say it can’t be done- Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, so many others- they do it all the time. Some even do better than that. And don’t say there are no funds- Dragon Ball Z merchandise are in the millions every year from toys, books, video games- so freakin’ repetitive, but decent selling video games- there is no reason for this.

    I do appreciate the added emotion to the voice acting. Take this for example- during Goku’s vision of Frieza killing his loved ones, it really sounds like he’s close to crying after realizing Gohan’s going to die. And when he EXPLODES into a super saiyan, his scream actually sent chills down my spine. In the original Z, it was more or less Schemmel reading his lines with appropriate screams that could come off as Narm. Voice acting, direction, and quality is vastly improved over Z.
    But that’s not enough to save Kai.