Dragon Ball Z Kai is a 2009 revision of the original Dragon Ball Z - a show that's lauded as one of the best Shonen Battle Anime ever made. Toei Animation commissioned Kai to help introduce the Dragon Ball franchise to a new generation. The showrunners for Kai tried to change as little as possible from DBZ, but certain changes just couldn't be helped.
We're going to take a look at 5 differences between Dragon Ball Z and Kai, as well as 5 things that were unchanged. Our goal isn't to say that one series is better than the other. If anything, we're aiming to praise both shows for being awesome in their own ways!
10 Different: Kai Skips Dragon Ball
Dragon Ball is DBZ's direct predecessor. Goku is a child during Dragon Ball and meets Bulma, Krillin, Yamcha, and Master Roshi for the first time. Dragon Ball is loosely based on Journey To The West and is very lighthearted overall. It's also completely absent from Dragon Ball Z Kai.
One of Toei's gaols with DBZ Kai was creating a more expedient show. Toei wanted Kai to have fewer detours than the original DBZ and to complete its sagas faster. So they decided to skip over Dragon Ball and start off with Z. If you want to witness Goku's humble beginnings, you can buy the complete Dragon Ball series online.
9 Different: Kai Lacks DBZ's Filler
Anime feature filler episodes after they've run out of source material to adapt. Some anime even have entire story arcs that are all filler. The original DBZ had its fair share of filler episodes. Some of them are even pretty enjoyable. Nevertheless, filler detracts from the story as a whole.
When Toei ordered DBZ Kai, they decided to omit all of the filler from DBZ. Kai fans didn't get to see Piccolo and Goku learn how to drive. Nor did they get to witness Goku trade blows with Pikkon. But if you want a more streamlined series, Kai is the way to go.
8 Different: Certain Voice Actors Are Different
Years passed between the time DBZ and Kai released; Dragon Ball Z first aired on April 26, 1989, in Japan. On the other hand, Kai first aired on April 5, 2009! Most of the original cast members returned but some couldn't. As a result, characters like Frieza, Trunks, Kid Gohan, and Android 19 received new voice actresses and actors.
Some of the original voice actors retired by the time Kai was ordered. Others, unfortunately, had long since passed away. In terms of voice actors, we understand that everyone has their preferences. Nevertheless, we encourage everyone to respect the efforts of all the DBZ teams around the globe.
7 Different: Kai Stops At The Cell Games Saga
During its initial run, Kai made it to the 'Cell Games' Saga before getting canceled. To this day, no one really knows why - some think Toei wasn't satisfied with Kai's numbers. Others think that the impending release of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods may have played a hand in Kai's truncated run.
The good news is that Toei eventually ordered the World Tournament Saga in 2014. From there, Kai followed in DBZ's footsteps; from 2014 to 2015, Kai completed the 'Majin Buu' and 'Evil Buu' Sagas - wrapping up the Dragon Ball Z storyline in time for Super.
6 Different: Kai Has A Stronger International Presence
It might be hard to fathom, but once upon a time, Dragon Ball Z wasn't a worldwide phenomenon. When DBZ first came out internationally, different countries had different opinions of the show. North, South, and Central America immediately fell in love with Dragon Ball Z. But countries like Japan and China overlooked Akira Toriyama's show almost entirely.
On the other hand, Kai is loved much more on an international scale. The funny thing is that Kai's success was set up by DBZ. It just goes to show that opinions and tastes change with time. These days, both DBZ and Kai receive much love respectively.
5 Same: Goku's Voice Actors Stuck Around
In most versions of Kai, Goku is still portrayed by his DBZ voice actor or actress. Masako Nozawa originally voiced Goku over in the Japanese version of Dragon Ball. In Japan, it's customary for voice actresses and actors to continue portraying characters for as long as possible. Ms. Nozawa first voiced Goku when he was a child and still voices him over in the Japanese version of Super.
In America, Goku is voiced over by Sean Schemmel. Schemmel first took on the role in 1999, when Funimation started dubbing DBZ. If you watched Dragon Ball Z on Toonami in the late 1990s/ early 2000s then you've heard Schemmel's work first hand.
4 Same: Most Of The Footage Is The Same
Unlike Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or the Berserk show, DragonBall Z Kai is a revision of DBZ and not a remake. Kai primarily consists of retouched scenes from DBZ, with a few new scenes added in. And when we say 'a few,' we mean the absolute minimum.
Heck, Kai's intro is the newest material created for the show. Everything else that you see while watching Kai is the result of digital restoration. Some of the same animation hiccups that were present in DBZ are still present in Kai. We understand Toei's decision to go the minimalist route. If it ain't broke, don't fix it and all that jazz.
3 Same: Most Techniques Have The Same Names
The Kamehameha Wave is one of the most famous attacks in fiction. If you walk into a crowd of people, enter a horse stance, and use your arms to complete the motion most people will recognize the move. Most people will also probably give you a confused, frightened look.
If you've never watched Kai but are a die-hard fan of DBZ, you'll be happy to know that most of the special moves retain their names. The Big Bang Attack isn't called the 'Big Bubble Blast' or anything like that. Nor is the Special Beam Cannon given a neutered name!
2 Same: No New Super Saiyan Forms Are Introduced
As tempting as it might be, Kai resists the urge to add any new Super Saiyan forms to the Dragon Ball canon. Furthermore, Kai doesn't change how these forms work or how the characters gained them. This also extends to the Fusion forms as well, now that we think about it.
But back to Super Saiyan. Goku is still the first character to access Super Saiyan 1 on screen. He's also still the first character that we see tap into the power of Super Saiyan 3. And yeah, Super Saiyan Third Grade still makes users Hulk out and develop muscles on top of muscles!
1 Same: Yamcha Is Still A Jobber
In the world of professional wrestling, Jobbers are fighters who exists solely for the sake of losing. Originally a fleshed out character in Dragon Ball, Yamcha's been a Jobber since DBZ. Kai doesn't rewrite anyone's character arcs or shift their roles in the story. Everything plays out exactly as it did in the original Dragon Ball Z series.
Goku is still the main character and savior of the series. Piccolo is still Goku's former rival turned friend. And Yamcha still gets killed by a Saibamen early on. If you were a Yamcha fan during Dragon Ball, then you have our condolences - you had to see Yamcha get jobbed out in two shows! Hopefully, he'll redeem himself in Super one of these days.