The Classic Gets Revamped!
Ever since it hit big on Cartoon Network's Toonami, Dragon Ball has become just as much of an American classic as it is a Japanese classic. The only problem that some people had is that the TV show Dragon Ball Z, the most popular of the 3 act story (Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT), had too many episodes and felt like it was more fluff than substance. The manga, written and created by Akira Toriyama, was much tighter and leaner, and Funimation felt that the show could be recut and produced to fit that style of storytelling in HD. Thus, Dragon Ball Kai was born.
Kai in this instance means modified. This is exactly what's been done and in the best way possible. In fact, as someone who suffered through the original long run of the show, it feels like a completely different story. The voices have been redubbed and much better dialogue has been written. The show's new pace keeps you on the edge of your seat instead of begging for something exciting to happen, and the clean up of the animation is incredible.
In Season One, the story covers the Saiyan Saga when Raditz, Nappa, and Vegeta attack the Earth. The 13 episode season covers up to the point where Goku and Vegeta start their epic first battle, and considering it took the original show about 23 episodes to get to that point it's a big improvement.
The characters are alot more fleshed out this time around, and Gohan, Goku's son, has a much bigger role to play in terms of his power and abilities. The new voices help in this area, as most of the voice cast and style that was found in the later original run are used right off the bat.
All in all, I think it's an example of how much better you can actually make something by going back and cutting the fat. They did a similar thing with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but it still felt like the original series. Dragon Ball Kai feels like an entirely new take on the animated version of this story, and it's more than welcomed into my mental arsenal of media and literature. If you're an old school Dragon Ball fan, this is the series to make you appreciate it even more.