Dragon Ball Z: Kai’s main intention is to make the series more accessible to those that had a passing interest in the property, but could never fully commit (and with 450+ episodes in the original roster, who could blame you?).
Kai exists as a re-do, a start-over, using the original cells and episode structures to tell the saga ‘as it was meant to be told’.
The thing is, Kai honestly feels more like the result of an anime chop-shop than a coherent series – Season One replaces the original 30 episodes with only 13. It cuts through a lot of the fluff, but the result will confuse newcomers to the series.
For example, once the two real antagonists of the series get introduced, the show cuts to a reaction from the team of do-gooder earthlings, and there are miraculously four characters with them that you’d have no idea about if you hadn’t watched the original season.
It’s a small thing, but there are more oversights like this than we can forgive, and it’s something even veteran fans would find frustrating.
That said, the standout moments of the original series make a return – Kai actually manages to make training montages fun – and some of the silliest moments look dazzling in the Blu-ray animation ( like when Piccolo blows up the Earth’s moon).
This is undercut by some of the lazy plot-point executions, though – there’s a scene where a character sacrifices himself (a big deal in the original series), but in Kai, we’ve only known him for half an episode.
The show makes a huge deal about the level of this sacrifice, but the only emotional reaction you’ll have to the whole scene is confusion. It looks pretty, but at what cost?
Kai cuts down the time investment required to enjoy Dragon Ball, but it comes at a pretty weighty cost – and that, simply, is comprehension.
This was a release intended for newcomers, but ultimately, it appeals to neither those that have a passing curiosity in Dragon Ball, nor those that grew up with it.