Dragon Ball: The Deadly Sins of the Super Saiyan Transformations

The Super Saiyan transformations were recently deemed obsolete, but what was the distinguishing element of each transformation?

At one point, Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation was considered the pinnacle of his achievements in the Dragon Ball universe. Since then, Goku and the various other Saiyan characters that have emerged in the franchise have managed to achieve the Super Saiyan transformation in their lifetimes, but developments in the series have seen Goku and some other Saiyans achieve forms beyond that of the initial transformation.

What fans tend to overlook, especially in light of the highly specialized forms introduced in Dragon Ball Super, is that the original Super Saiyan transformations had significant differences that went beyond just increasing power. So, what is the key distinguishing element that distinguishes each change in the original trifecta? The solution could be linked to a concept present in Buddhist and other theological circles: the concept of cardinal, or fatal, sins.

The Trifecta

Goku’s transformation on Namek was the first in the series, resulting from Goku’s fury after Frieza murdered Krillin. The fury factor became crucial to the change, which also applied to fellow Saiyan Vegeta, the hybrid Future Trunks, and, to a lesser extent, Gohan.

There have been variations of the first Super Saiyan transformation, the nomenclature of which causes considerable confusion, particularly in the aftermath of transformations that go beyond the first Super Saiyan, with Gohan achieving what became known as Super Saiyan 2, and Goku going even further with his posthumous reveal of the Super Saiyan 3 transformation.

Super Saiyan

A Saiyan with enough ki undergoes the first metamorphosis in a high-stakes fight. The original carriers of this form ascend through fury, frustration, or a combination of the two.

Vegeta gains this form in response to Goku’s mastery of it. Future Trunks is triggered by the discovery of Gohan’s corpse, while Teen Gohan is triggered by being pushed to his limit by Goku and remembering the times his companions suffered because of his inaction.

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The Variants

People think that the states of Ascended Super Saiyan and Ultra Super Saiyan are extensions or branches of the original Super Saiyan transformation rather than fully separate transformations in their own right. During the Cell Saga, they are mostly seen in Vegeta and Trunks. However, Goku, who was already familiar with the concept of transformation, quickly understood the problems with the Super Saiyan branch states, which often put more emphasis on the power of the transformation itself.

Because of this, Goku made something called a “Full-Power Super Saiyan.” Even though they are stronger, these are not considered new forms because they just change how the transformation fights.

“Full-Power Super Saiyan” refers to the stage where the Super Saiyan has perfect control over his or her form and almost little emotional cost or ki use.

Goku produces this final Super Saiyan branch to address its instability and restlessness. Wrath is key to the form’s early success, sparking its power spike, but it also makes the user unable to battle with a clear head. Goku wanted this form to feel natural, and he and Gohan succeeded when there was no crazy, streaming ki and the user’s eyes were calm.

Super Saiyan 2

According to Goku, “this is a Saiyan that has ascended past a normal Super Saiyan,” which causes confusion because to the branch phases of the basic form; yet, the changes are noticeable. This transformation has more power, with lightning flowing with the ki and even sharper edges to the hair; nonetheless, its defining feature is mainly evident when Gohan achieves the form.

Gohan, overcome by his wrath and sheer power, gets arrogant in his fight against Cell, which causes him to wish to prolong Cell’s pain; nevertheless, this results in Goku’s death. While not explicitly stated, Majin Vegeta shares characteristics with Super Saiyan 2, as does Goku when he takes the form.

Super Saiyan 3

This form is solely available to Goku and Gotenks and boosts their power. When Goku assumes this shape from the Otherworld, he has a shorter stay in the mortal plane, and the transformation disrupts the world. Characters’ brows disappear and are replaced with brow ridges; their hair grows past the waist.

Source: Z Amara

Goku’s voice becomes severe; he’s neither angry nor overconfident. The form prioritizes ki use for unconstrained power and exhausts the user even after they turn off the power. Super Saiyan 3 was the most power-hungry Super Saiyan transformation.

Deadly Sin

Beyond power, what distinguished the Super Saiyan transformations, particularly at the outset, was their mapping to different parts of what Buddhist theology refers to as the “three poisons” – mental states that cloud the mind and lead to “defilement.” They are as follows:

  • Dvesha (Rage)
  • Moha (Ignorance, which in Hindu theology leads to Mada – arrogance) and,
  • Raga (Greed)

Hindu mythology lists six similar unpleasant mental states. Goku recognized that regulating emotions, especially rage, was the key to becoming the first Super Saiyan, which led to his mastery of the form and its shortcomings. Gohan couldn’t overcome Super Saiyan 2’s hubris, and Super Saiyan 3’s gluttony shortened Goku’s life. Beyond power and appearance, Super Saiyan transformations reflect challenges on the route to enlightenment – the classic voyage west.

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