Some Thoughts On: Dragon Ball Kai (English Dub) Episodes 40-52
The late Freeza arc really needed a much more accurate, better acted English dub than Dragon Ball Z's. Some of the worst material of that dub came from this group of episodes, especially with Freeza himself. Making him extremely jokey, playing on his androgyny with sexual innuendo, and just missing the point of his character altogether were big mistakes Funimation made with these episodes. Freeza is a huge part of these episodes, so treating with him respect is a necessity.
Dragon Ball Kai did just that, rubbing ointment on the burns of the previous dub. The English dub's script allowed for Freeza to give his haughty, sarcastic (but not sexually charged, like the dub) remarks and feigned politeness and his grand declarations of his power. Chris Ayres lent him a regal-sounding voice and delivery. Even Freeza at his most relaxed sounds frightening. Ayres is the star of this dub, and I'll miss him after Freeza's out of the show.
Perhaps not as impressive as Ayres, and yet still pleasantly surprising, is Sean Schemmel's Goku. If there's one thing you can say about Schemmel, is that he has a good set of lungs on him, and when he screams, you can feel it. Here, though, it doesn't just sound like he's just voicing some character. For a few scenes, he really becomes Goku, a rarity for him. For one, I really enjoy how he handled Goku's transformation into a Super Saiyan, You can feel a geniune sense of rage building and being unleashed. But even better than that is, "I am the Super Saiyan! Son Goku!", which was a triumph for both the script writer and Schemmel. I was getting misty-eyed over that. I definitely fist-pumped during it. Is Schemmel the best Son Goku? No. I still find there's this heaviness to his voice that doesn't lend itself to Goku, which makes him sound a little too adult at times. But he's gotten fairly good.
Another scene handled quite well was Vegeta's death. Chris Sabat really made the scene sound more poignant, but not sentimental like the previous dubbed version. A better script certainly helped it along, too, though it could have used a few more tweaks here and there. I also really liked Vegeta's speech to Goku when Goku's is hallucinating and seeing him during the fight against Freeza. It's also pretty good when Laura Bailey was voicing the child Vegeta for a moment.
Colleen Clinkenbeard's Gohan continues to be strong. Cute-sounding when he needs to be, upset or angry sounding when he needs to be. Gohan doesn't do a whole lot in these episodes except when he goes out to see why his father's ki has disappeared. When he's talking with Bulma, the little exchange between himself and Bulma is handled really well. I'm also still enjoying Monica Rial's Bulma, even though she has even less to do in these episodes. Sonny Strait's great up until Kuririn's death. Most of the other VAs do a fair job, with a few exceptions (Kaio, for instance).
Even though I miss some of the flourishes of Z's version of these events, and the Kikuchi music, the better pace and better dub makes me really want to get this group of episodes on Blu-Ray.