It’s impossible to talk about some of the greatest anime series of all time without mentioning the masterpiece that Dragon Ball is. The Japanese manga series written by Akira Toriyama is well-known for the martial arts illustrated in its episodes, which led to a rapid gain in popularity all over the world. Five anime parts based on the franchise have been produced: Dragon Ball (1986); Dragon Ball Z (1989); Dragon Ball GT (1996); Dragon Ball Super (2015); and the web series Super Dragon Ball Heroes (2018). However, a remastered version of Dragon Ball Z (DBZ) was produced in 2009 namely: Dragon Ball Z Kai (DBZ Kai). For what reasons was it produced and what are the differences between it and the original version? The present article shows a brief comparison between Dragon Ball Z vs Dragon Ball Z Kai
Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z is the second of the Dragon Ball franchise and a continuation of the first part. Toriyama suggested the name DBZ where Z stands for Zenkai which means Last Time in Japanese. This was because Toriyama wanted this part to be the ending of the Dragon Ball manga series altogether. Dragon Ball GT was produced after the Z part but wasn’t based on the manga.
If Dragon Ball shows the story of Goku as a young boy, Dragon Ball Z on the other hand, follows the adventures of the adult Goku who, along with his companions, defends the earth against villains ranging from intergalactic space fighters and conquerors. DBZ is the continuation of Goku’s adulthood life as well as other characters from Dragon Ball and more.
Number of episodes
In the original anime production in Japan, the series was divided into four major sagas: Saiyan Saga, Frieza Saga, Cell Saga, and Buu Saga. The initial four sagas were further divided into a total of sixteen sagas for a total of 291 episodes.
Number of episodes
Captain Ginyu Saga
Garlic Junior Saga
Imperfect Cell Saga
Perfect Cell Saga
Cell Games Saga
Other World Saga
Great Saiyaman Saga
World Tournament Saga
Majin Buu Saga
Kid Buu Saga
Peaceful World Saga
Dragon Ball Z Kai is the high-definition version of DBZ done for the series’ 20th anniversary. “Kai”, which means altered or updated, is a digitally remastered version of Dragon Ball Z for a more refreshed look. In the original Japanese title the “Z” was removed and named “Dragon Ball Kai”
Since DBZ Kai is a reviewed version of DBZ, it does not have a different plot than the original series.
Number of episodes
The show premiered on Fuji TV on April 5, 2009, and ended initially on March 27, 2011, with 97 episodes and a 98th episode was later released.
Dragon Ball Kai returned to Japanese TV on April 6, 2014, with the Majin Buu Saga, and ended its run for the second and last time on June 28, 2015, with 61 episodes while the original uncut international version would go on to have 69 episodes, bringing the total episode count of the series to 159 for the original Japanese broadcast and 167 for the extended International broadcast.
Why/How is Dragon Ball Z Different from Dragon Ball Z Kai?
Dragon Ball Z Kai is a remake of Dragon Ball Z, consequently, it has the same storyline. However, there exist some differences between the two presented in the next section
It is now common knowledge! Melodies and tunes in anime are not there simply for the musical aesthetic and listening purpose. Soundtracks have a full place now in anime’s universe to the extent that an anime can receive negative criticism for relatively mediocre soundtracks.
Dragon Ball Z’s original Japanese soundtrack composed by Shunsuke Kikuchi is quite a popular anime song.
When Dragon Ball Kai started airing, Toei Animation, the animation company in charge of it, decided to use a completely different soundtrack. Kenji Yamamoto, the composer responsible for several Dragon Ball game soundtracks, composed the majority of the soundtrack and collaborated with other musicians such as the members of the band Dragon Soul.
When watching Dragon Ball Z Kai, you may be disappointed for this reason; some iconic scenes present in Dragon Ball Z do not feature in Kai. The Kai version stops at the Cell Saga, hence you cannot witness Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan and you cannot watch the spectacular fights against Majin Buu present in the Majin Buu Saga.
In terms of story, there is no major difference between the two versions as the two anime originally tell the exact same story from the Saiyan arc up into the Cell Games. By watching Dragon Ball Z Kai, you would find the story is precise and covers the triumphant wins over evil opponents. On the other hand, in DBZ, the entire narrative is fully displayed with some filler episodes.
Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Z Kai are both based on the original manga but Kai’s dialogue is much closer to the original manga.
Examining Dragon Ball Z Kai vs Dragon Ball Z with the original manga, you can easily detect that for Kai, the writers focused more on the original manga dialogues than on their own ideas. Kai in this aspect is far more authentic than the original DBZ anime.
The purpose of DBZ Kai’s launch was to attract new fans, a younger audience, by bringing much-needed changes to the original. Released with this aim, Kai also made many improvements regarding the quality of visuals. Putting alongside Dragon Ball Z Kai vs Dragon Ball Z, the DBZ anime seems to have a lot more contrast and saturation than Kai.
Kai went for brighter and clearer pictures, which resulted in a visually lighter appearance, providing a better experience for viewers.
Better colour quality and improved character models in Kai (right image) compared to Z (on the left), Quora.com
Popularity here is measured in terms of international presence. Comparing the two, DBZ Kai has a stronger international presence compared to DBZ itself. DBZ was criticized by many for being incredibly slow-paced, so Kai was the perfect solution to all these issues and provided viewers with the definitive Dragon Ball Z experience.
Not only is Dragon Ball Z Kai a simple recut of Dragon Ball Z, but it’s also been available on Blu-ray for years and is readily available online. You can buy it legally on Blu-Ray.com or watch it on Funimation.
Filler episodes in an anime are those featured in the anime but not present in the original manga. They are generally unrelated to the main plot, don’t significantly affect the progress of the long-term story arcs and generally serve only to take up space.
You will often find fillers in Dragon Ball Z, as a means of not getting ahead of the manga since the series was airing while the manga was still running in parallel. For example, the Garlic Jr. Saga figured in DBZ due to the fact that the Trunks Saga manga was not fully at the end of the Frieza Saga.
Many episodes are filler in DBZ; you can notice episodes 195-199, 202 and 203 based on the Peaceful World Saga, in which the characters resume their normal lives and grow. Gohan ends up meeting Videl and eventually goes on a first date with her.
Meanwhile, Goku enters a tournament of galactic proportions and meets the side character Pikkon. This filler arc is much like the ones; nonvalue added.
Dragon Ball Kai, when airing, had the original manga totally released. The anime, therefore, cancels most of the filler present in Dragon Ball Z. So many memorable scenes like Piccolo and Goku learning to drive are not present in DBZ Kai
Piccolo and Goku learning to drive in DBZ
In addition, due to these fillers, some really cool characters were introduced, like Pikkon
Anime has grown in popularity, however, some governments have a history of censoring it due to the belief that it has a negative impact on society. This censorship has led to many popular anime series being inaccessible.
Dragon Ball Z for example featured numerous brutal fights, middle fingers shown and a relatively fair amount of blood in many scenes. Dragon Ball Z Kai, in order to avoid offending the youth population and avoid censorship, scenes of extreme violence or containing a lot of blood were altered or suppressed.
We can remember the fight opposing Goku and Raditz in which they had holes in their chests during the fight with bleeding. The scenes have been modified in Dragon Ball Z Kai for censorship purposes.
When comparing Dragon Ball Z Kai vs Dragon Ball Z, there is a clear noticeable change in Mr. Popo who was recolored from black to blue. His black colour being controversial, it was changed in Dragon Ball Kai.
Mr Popo in DBZ vs Mr Popo in DBZ Kai
Comparison Table between Dragon Ball Z and Kai
Dragon Ball Z
Dragon Ball Z Kai
25 April 1985
05 April 2009
Number of Episodes
Since it was airing in parallel with the original manga, it had funny filler episodes
Dragon Ball Z Kai in total has only 153 chapters compared to DBZ with its 291 chapters but surprisingly, Kai had a larger budget. The low-budget images from DBZ were replaced by HD images in Kai and cost more!
Can you watch Dragon Ball Z Kai without Dragon Ball Z?
If you’ve watched DBZ, then you don’t necessarily need to watch Kai. Kai is just like Z but it cuts out most of the filler episodes.
Which is better: Dragon Ball Z or Kai?
It is quite challenging to decide which version is best to watch but both versions are very good. For the improvements it brought, featuring re-animated scenes, more vivid colours and cleaner visuals in the anime, Dragon Ball Z Kai is the definitive best version of the beloved anime in my opinion.