The adventures of Goku and his merry crew take on an interplanetary flavour in this sequel to Dragon Ball. It’s five years since Goku and Piccolo Jr had their almighty showdown, when our hero receives a visit from his long-lost elder brother Raditz – but it’s not a happy reunion as it turns out he’s all set to conquer earth!
It’s also an eye-opener for Goku as he learns that he belongs to a race called the Saiyans, the deadliest warriors in the universe. What’s worse, two more Saiyans will be arriving in due course, eager to track down the earth’s supply of dragon balls.
Well, as always in the Dragon Ball universe, when the going gets tough, the tough get training, and Goku pays a visit to the underworld to get some tips from another of the show’s eccentric mentors, King Kai (ably assisted by a chimp and a cocky little grasshopper named Gregory, the standout new character of the series). Meanwhile, the task of getting Goku’s snivelling momma’s boy of a son Gohan into shape falls to the person you’d least expect – none other than Piccolo Jr himself, and the sight of the show’s erstwhile green nemesis turned into a gruff training sergeant is one of the highlights of the season.
Later, the action shifts to the planet Nemeck – Piccolo’s home planet, and home of the dragon balls. Determined to get all of these for themselves is new boss baddie Frezia and his colour-coded crew of world-conquering nasties. However, Gohan and a supercharged Krillin step to the fore as they attempt to thwart his plans.
As always, the show does a great job of powering up its characters while still keeping them grounded in personal quirks. In a season with more than it’s fair share of villains, the one who makes the deepest impact is the mighty Saiyan Vegeta. He’s like a dark mirror of Goku, thriving on conflict and getting stronger with every battle just as we’ve seen Goku doing in the past.
Like its predecessor, Dragon Ball Z Kai delivers a captivating blend of crazy humour and almighty throwdowns. The fighting is vein-bulgingly furious, with lives and limbs lost and beloved characters biting the dust in agony. Throughout, the quality of the vintage animation is brilliant, full of an intense expressiveness and explosive energy during the fight sequences and with a lovely Dan Dare-ish quality in the space opera scenes. The pulpy, lurid colours come up beautifully on this excellent DVD transfer. 10/10