In the Saiyan Saga, we were first told by Kami about a mysterious King Kai who was a great martial arts trainer. And then again, we met the Supreme Kai in the Buu arc and were introduced to a whole Kai universe full of these supernatural godly beings. But what does Kai mean in Dragon Ball Z?
Kai literally means King of Worlds in Japanese and is the name of the rulers of the universe. It’s also the name of the remastered version of Dragon Ball Z, named Dragon Ball Z Kai, as Kai can also mean updated, modified or altered.
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What are the Kai’s?
Kai is actually a job title. Just like Kami is the Earth’s Guardian and Beerus is the Destroyer. Kai’s are the rulers of the universe, only below The God of Destruction and The Angel.
There is a Kai for each part of the universe, the North, South, East and West, as well as a Grand Kai. Then above the Grand Kai is the Supreme Kai.
However, Kai is not a race. The race of the Kai’s is ‘Core People’.
We know from the Dragon Ball Black Arc that Kai’s must be trained and so presumably have names before they become Kai’s but then lose their names and only become known by their titles.
So does King Kai means King King of Worlds?
Yes, just like Bond, James Bond, an ATM Machine (Automatic Transfer Machine Machine).
If you translate King Kai’s name literally, then it comes out as King King of Worlds, which is slightly ridiculous.
But King Kai, who is technically the North Kai, is a fun character who loves cracking jokes, so it’s possible Toriyama was just having a bit of fun.
And since Kai is a name, you aren’t supposed to translate it literally, so just accept his name is King Kai.
Although technically his job is King Kai, and he probably has another name he had before he became King Kai, but we aren’t told it in the anime or manga.
What does Kai mean in Dragon Ball Z: Kai
In English, words rarely have two meanings, but in other languages and especially when trying to translate them to English, words can sometimes mean different things in different contexts.
So although Kai’s literal translation is King of Kings, it can also mean updated, modified or altered.
A similar thing in English is Boss, as it is both a job title, but also a slang description of something cool or strong.
So due to the updated graphics and removal of filler content, Kai seemed like an appropriate thing to call this new version of Dragon Ball Z due to both the means and the obvious link to the Kai’s in the Dragon Ball Z universe.
There’s no doubt Kai is a badass word to call the updated version of Dragon Ball Z, but for me, whenever I hear the word Kai I will think of the moody kid from the original Bey Blades series named Kai, who had the cool blue spinning disc. But I suppose there’s room in the anime world for more than one Kai.