Some Thoughts On: Dragon Ball Kai (English Dub) Episodes 1-13

Never one to pass up an opportunity to comment on a Dragon Ball-related dub, I thought I'd give a few thoughts on the newest one, the one for Dragon Ball (Z) Kai. I've mostly been watching this on Nicktoons, but I'm aware of the differences in the presentations between the TV version and the DVD and Blu-Rays, and have seen bits of that, too. I mostly wanted to comment on the voice acting, though I have to say, the script this time around is so much more accurate than any previous Dragon Ball-related dub, it's a real shame they couldn't have been doing this the whole time, because now it actually watches like just an English version of the Japanese show in most ways. I'd give them kudos for this, but like I said, this is what they should have been doing for years. You don't get extra points for failing for a decade and then finally doing it right.

We all know what a harsh critic I am of Sean Schemmel's Son Goku. Frankly, I've never thought him to be right for the role. He sounds about right for the way they used to portray the character, mind you, but now that the script is more accurate, his flaws are actually more obvious at times. Still, I can't say that he's awful per se, just sort of miscast. He's actually sounding a little more natural, and sometimes I'm able to fool myself into believing this is really Goku's voice, but most of the time I just sort of tolerate it and learn to accept that this is the English voice chosen by Funimation for the role, and probably always will be. At least the voice itself not as bad as it used to be.

It's too bad that I can't say the same about his Kaio-sama. Funimation still sees fit to make his voice part of the joke, missing the point about him entirely. It's one of those voices that I dread having to hear again, and when I do hear it, I wait for the scene to pass. It's very unfortunate. At least after this group of episodes we won't hear too much from him until the Freeza battle is in full swing.

Chris Sabat returns to Vegeta, Piccolo, and Yamucha. I find this eye-rollingly pathetic, because Funimation is at a place now where they don't have to assign one VA to several characters for no good reason. Fortunately, Sabat has made what is probably the biggest improvement over all the other VAs in this cast. His Vegeta sounds less like "angry guy voice" and more haughty, his Piccolo is much more natural and sage (but still inferior to Scott McNeil's, which had more character to it), and his Yamucha is entirely devoid of the surfer/stoner accent. What's more, it actually sounds more like you would expect from the character, and not just some lame side character voice.

Sonny Strait, who was always a decent Kuririn, though he suffered from bad scripts, is better than ever. No doubt in part because of the better script, but the voice itself sounds much more confident in being the character. John Burgmeier's Tenshinhan is still fairly decent, but not great. He still sounds too irritated all the time, instead of just very focused and serious, the way his Japanese VAs have portrayed him. I still like Justin Cook's Raditz more than his Ocean voice. It really has a lot of arrogant douchebaggery sound to it, that works for the character.

Not all of the returning cast have improved, or are as welcomed back by me. Cynthia Cranz's Chi-Chi just sounds like she's in constant bitch mode all the time, even when the character isn't. We get that Chi-Chi is a harsh, educated-minded mother, often to extremes, but she shouldn't just sound like a completely shrill cunt every time she opens her mouth. At least her voice works out fairly well when Chi-Chi really is in overdrive. Mike McFarland's Roshi is still tragically generic, not that I can say much more for the current Japanese voice for him. A lot of other characters like Kami, Mr. Popo, and Nappa sound as bland and lifeless as ever, even with a better script.

The real stars of this dub, voice-wise, are the voice talents that have replaced previous ones in two important roles: Gohan and Bulma. Filling out the former is Colleen Clinkenbeard, also the voice of Luffy in One Piece and Riza Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Her Gohan sounds extremely age-appropriate for the toddler Gohan, and you can tell in the first episodes that her delivery is also perfect, making him sound very hesitant and awkward, the way a small child is. She even manages to tackle Gohan's training with Piccolo and his participation in the fight with the Saiyans remarkably, without trying to sound either too childish or too tough. He's just a kid with a kid-like voice, the voice of someone who has trained, but still hasn't quite made it to his full potential. I think this is probably the best English voice this character has ever recieved.

I didn't need anyone to convince me that Monica Rial's Bulma was going to be better than the previous one. Monica Rial delivers. She's a champ. Here she provides the viewer with a Bulma that sounds cleaner, sharper, and smarter. Most importantly, she sounds a bit more real and when she sounds concerned or worried about something, it doesn't sound forced. She doesn't scream her every line and lacks the "valley girl" affect of her predecessor. She brings a sense of fullness to the role not heard before in English for the role, at least for this material. She even makes Bulma sound sexier. I look forward to hearing more of her in the Namek episodes (at least, for a little while).

Clinkenbeard and Rial aren't the only new voices. Brian Massey is the new voice of Oolong, giving him an accent that makes him sound a bit like Massey's Ladd Russo from Baccano, and yet still utterly believable as the selfish, perverted, shape-changing pig (by the way, do we see Oolong change shape at all in Dragon Ball Z?). Doc Morgan is the new narrator for the series, and while I would have preferred a voice more like Brice Armstrong (who has unfortunately retired), who narrated the original series, Morgan's is acceptable. At least it doesn't sound like professional wrestling announcing any longer.

Recently it was revealed by Chris Sabat and Sean Schemmel that the role of Freeza had been recast, despite Linda Young returning to the role for a maniacal laugh in the beginning of the first episode (over footage of the Bardock special). Freeza was one of those roles that I felt desperately needed recasting, no offense to Ms. Young. She's a fine voice talent, but her Freeza sounded like a chain-smoking tranny, and was very just a different version of Pauline Newstone's "grandmother voice", also inappropriate. Based on the clues I've gathered as to the identity of the new Freeza voice, my best guess is Chris Ayres, the voice of Chouji Suitengu in Funimation's dub of Speed Grapher. I could be wrong, however. Either way, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what a new voice an a more accurate script brings. If it's anything like the Japanese version, Freeza can finally be taken seriously by the English-speaking audience.

While certainly a better dub than anything Dragon Ball Funimation has dubbed in the past, it's not a perfect one, nor even particularly great. There's still instances of idiotic ad-libbing, out-of-character lines that were actually more accurate in the previous dub, plenty of continued miscasting and mishandling of certain characters, and falling back on bastardizations like "Krillin" and "Tien", or forgoing of the "Son" name (except, bizarrely when Yajirobe says "Son" the traditional English way, mispronouncing it, in one episode).

Still, it's not awful by any means, and I'll probably continue to watch it, and maybe pick up a volume or two of the later parts of the show (when Kai is most useful). I'm sort of looking forward to how they handle later material.

I couldn't agree more. I'm

I couldn't agree more.
I'm getting tired of people talking bad about Clinkenbeard's Son Gohan and Rial's Bulma.
There emotional scenes are actually believable. (Case in point episode 17.)

My biggest gripe is what you mention earlier; the inconsistencies.
Goku and Gohan need there full name and the misspellings of 'Krillin' and 'Tien' need to go.
"True to the Japanese version" my ass.
Your giving out inaccurate information FUNimation!

Eh, I actually thought that

Eh, I actually thought that Monica Rial was ditzier sounding than Vollmer. Have you heard that awful redub voice for Maron in the DBZ Season 4 set? She sounds like a slightly tolerable version of that.

Sorry, can't say I've

Sorry, can't say I've have.
I got Season 3, but then sold it to a used book store after I realized FUNimation cropped the hell out the boxsets.
Dragon Box for me.

But back on subject; really?
The way I see it (or in this case hear it) is Rial nails Bulma's personality near perfectly.

Vollmer's Bulma on the other hand was valley girl personified.

Not the best from funimation.

Pretty much everything PenguinTruth said was true. They did a better casting for Bulma, and other characters like Yamcha or Vegeta sound better too. I also find the VAs for Nappa and Roshi to be just bland.
But I just can NOT agree on the new VA for Gohan. I can't take a male character seriously when he sounds so obviously like a woman. Yes, Gohan sounds very age-appropriate...... for someone of the opposite sex! Colleen is a good voice actor, but just not right for DBZ.
I prefer women to voice act for children. They usually have more talent. But it only works if the voice fits. Isn't that why so many people hate the old VA for Freiza, because the character sounded like a chain-smoking woman?
No matter the talent, some people can't play certain parts. The voice HAS to match! It's like sticking Raditz's voice on Gohan and saying it works just because it's good voice acting.
But to end on a positive note, everthing else PenguinTruth said I agree on.

I hate Bulma's new voice.

I hate Bulma's new voice. It's irks me in every way possible. Vollmer's voice although not the best all the time improved as the character aged.

Tiffany Vollmer's Bulma is

Tiffany Vollmer's Bulma is one of the worst performances in any dub I've ever heard. It's actually painful to listen to and it makes the character into a parody of itself. Monica Rial knocks it out of the park nearly every episode.

Gohan's new voice

Well I got to agree that I love Gohan's new voice. At first I didn't like it but now I have gotten used to it. I hated Gohan's old voice because it sounded so raspy and in the early dub episodes of DBZ he didn't sound innocent. This is also the reason why I can't watch the dub of Dragon Ball because I hate kid Goku's voice.

Bulma's voice to me sounds the same for the most part and I always liked her voice anyways. The dub seems pretty good but I am still annoyed with how terrible Zarbon's voice was. I liked his Ocean Dub voice.

Gohan's previous voice

Gohan's previous voice sounded like a scratchier Bobby Hill.

I liked Zarbon's new voice. It did everything the previous two voices did, but without the need of a bad accent.

I really don't see how most

I really don't see how most of you hate Gohan's voice.
It's the best voice for him short of Nozawa.

Then again, this is Clinkenbeard were talking about.
She makes every role she plays her own.

Do you ever wonder if people

Do you ever wonder if people in Japan who grew up reading DBZ manga post on message boards about how when they made the cartoon the voice actors totally misrepresented the characters?

You shouldn't really complain

You shouldn't really complain about the dub actors playing more than one character. They've done that in the Japanese version too. Masako Nozawa plays Goku, Gohan, Goten, and Bardock (And I think Turles too, if I remember.) And I haven't seen too much of Japanese Dragon Ball, but I can wager that they all sound more or less the same. And Krillin's JAP VA played both him and Yajirobe, so multiple casting is present in both languages.

But yes, I do agree in the long run that a larger voice actor variety would have been greatly appreciated. That's one of the problems the VAing industry is having imo. Not enough voice actors, and too many voice actors getting too many roles. VAs should get paid more so that they won't have to take on so many jobs, and more people would want to pursue the industry.

You talk to much.

You talk to much.

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