Friday, August 26, 2016

A Dragon Ball Fanboy vs Akira Toriyama and Toei on Transformation Usefulness vs Cool Factor p1


Super Saiyan

Cool Factor: Straight up legendary.
The iconic form that's represented the most in the movies and games.  This form was instantly legendary when it was unveiled in the Goku vs. Frieza fight on Namek.  The first transformations of Goku, Trunks, Vegeta, and Gohan to this form were all epic, if not seminal moments in the Dragon Ball Z anime.  Though it was soon outclassed by other forms, nothing really comes close to the original Super Saiyan form when it comes to effectiveness, epicness, and great design.  Pale yellow/golden hair along with the aqua blue eyes and golden aura give this form a majestic feel and it is very striking to see characters normally with deep black hair and eyes transform this way.  The gain in muscle mass and the fierce expression that normally accompanies the transformation really strikes the point that it is the form of legendary warriors ... that is until the children get it, then it quickly becomes a lame and unearned plaything.

Usefulness: Useful and versatile.
Inside the show, the form grants a 50x power boost and can seemingly be improved upon and fully mastered to grant even more power.  This makes it extremely useful when it's first introduced especially since the boost had very little drawbacks to it.  It was the pinnacle of powerups for a short while, probably longer than any other powerup that the show has had.  Everyone with Saiyan DNA tried to attain then master it.  Outside the show, the form was great for creating a new sort of hype and coolness around the show.  When other characters sought out and gained the form, it made for some really good drama and payoff for the viewers.  Not to mention that the form is easily recognizable to anyone who has even glanced at Dragon Ball Z in passing.  It's been featured in the most movies, of course, since everyone uses it.  There are two versions of the form, raw and full power/mastered.  Such a spectrum of power and utility makes it the most effective transformation yet.

Super Saiyan 1 - Grade 2 

Super Vegeta

Cool Factor: Pretty freakin' cool...but we've seen it before.
Buff Roshi anyone?  Buff Frieza?  Filler Buff Piccolo?  I think you get it by now.  Still, even though it's not 100% original it's still very awesome to see Vegeta ascend to this form for the first time and beat the ever loving hell out of Cell.  I think this form is deserving of the title Ascended Super Saiyan.

Usefuless: Great stepping stone to mastery.
A very useful upgrade to the original Super Saiyan form.  Increases speed, power, and durability to greater levels.  It's not officially known how much it does, but it is significant.  I wish we got to see more of the form actually, but it's eventually greatly outclassed by Super Saiyan 2, so in the end it ends up not being very useful.  I do think it was and remains an effective transformation though, at least until one perfects the first form outright.

Super Saiyan 1 - Grade 3

Cool Factor: Looks cool but quickly ends up in a trash bin.
When we first saw Trunks' eyes turn all white and him bulk up to ridiculous levels I thought that it was the end for Cell (not really but I thought Trunks would win at least).  Trunks took an episode or two to power up and Perfect Cell even admitted that Trunks was stronger, but then proceeds to school the young Saiyan and even humiliate him to the point he gave up on life.  Probably the worst showing for any new transformation.

Usefuless: Not useful (so far).
Even in the show it wasn't a very useful form.  While the form greatly increases power it also greatly reduces speed.  That tradeoff is a death nail for most characters in the DB-verse.  Speed is key to winning fights.  Slow characters have no way to use all that power to hit faster characters especially since no one really uses Solar Flare effectively.

Super Saiyan 2

Cool Factor: Badass as all hell but no lasting appeal (unless Gohan's using it).
You can't mention Super Saiyan 2 without mentioning Gohan's epic transformation into the form against Cell.  It was a character defining moment for Gohan and one that still blows fans away to this day.  Gohan has and will always have the best Super Saiyan 2 transformation in the show.  If Gohan had never attained the form then it would actually be a pretty boring one compared to the original Super Saiyan transformation.  The hair gets spikier and there's a very slight charge of lightning around the body.  Not much of a change if you ask me, and seeing Goku and Vegeta transform really drives that point home.  Young Gohan's first Super Saiyan 2 transformation was very distinct though.  It has always been a beloved fan favorite transformation and one that I still consider badass though in the grand scheme of things, since it was only a power boost, it wasn't around for very long, and since it didn't look that distinct from Super Saiyan 1, it faded into the background pretty quickly.  If it did something specific or changed the character's look a little more, then I think it would have left a stronger impression on people.

Usefulness: Powerful but proves to be a one trick pony.
Inside the show, the Super Saiyan 2 transformation is twice as strong as the original Super Saiyan transformation, making it much better than the first.  The improvements include strength, speed, and durability.  Gaining the form required a high level of training and for Gohan a traumatic emotional catalyst, but after gaining it, it seemed effortless to maintain it as long as you trained regularly.  In the show it proves to be the most balanced form until the god forms are introduced.

Outside the show however, the form was never played up to be a big deal unless Gohan was using it.  Images of Super Saiyan 2 Goku and Vegeta are not as iconic as images of their Super Saiyan 1 versions.  I don't think the form was striking enough to gain much attention, whereas every other Super Saiyan form has a standout quality.  Super Saiyan 2 is definitely the most subtle so for marketing purposes Super Saiyan 2 is fairly useless.  Not to say that Super Saiyan 2 stuff looks bad.  I believe the opposite, that it looks really cool.  But outside of us hardcore fans, who can really tell the difference between the forms without having it explained to them?

Now, in my personal opinion, it's a wasted form after Gohan uses it against Cell.  Just giving Gohan a rage boost would've accomplish the same effect.  I think either the form should be reserved for Gohan only, or Toriyama should've had it specialize in something, like speed for instance.  It's definitely wasted since Super Saiyan 3, Fusion, and the Elder Kai powerup are all introduced right after.  Making it double the power of the previous form was also a mistake since it doomed the first form of Super Saiyan to obsoletion and set the stage for its own obsoletion later on.  That was the death nail for the show when it came to power balancing especially for Saiyans and other characters who were already struggling to keep up.

Super Saiyan 3

Cool Factor: Highly original, sticks with you.
A drastic new look along with a huge power boost accompanied this new form that Goku hid from Vegeta as they pounded each other's faces in in Super Saiyan 2 form.  Now this form looks GODLY!  The only thing I never understood about it was the lack of eyebrows.  I still don't get that.  I think it would look even more cool with eyebrows, but as is, it's great!  I think a Saiyan's muscle mass and height gets bigger as well which makes it a very intimidating form.

Usefuless: Like new technology, powerful as heck, but drains all the batteries.
In the grand scheme of things it's not a very useful form, but then again, I suppose we've never seen it completely mastered.  What SSJ3 grants is a huge boost in just about every category.  The "official" boost for it is 4x whatever SSJ2 is which makes it 400x a saiyan's normal base level.  BUT SSJ3 comes with a humungous drawback called stamina drain.  This transformation seems to be the most taxing one yet.  Goku can't hold the form for very long and has to recharge in the middle of a fight with an opponent of similar strength.  It's quickly thrown away in the new material in favor of a more simplified god form.  I would still like to see a mastered SSJ3 form, preferably with mastered eyebrows XD.

Super Saiyan God

Cool Factor: Takes time to get used to, but actually a badass form with potential.
I'll admit, I hated this form at first.  I thought it was a lazy palette swap and an unimaginative retread of the Kaioken technique.  And the way you attain it is the biggest asspull in Dragon Ball history in my opinion.  After looking at it for a while and truly understanding what it was and where it could go, I began to see it as brilliant.  I like Toriyama's philosophy for it.  He wanted something simple and striking and he succeeded.  For me the form is at its weakest when it's motionless and doesn't have the fiery aura like you see in the picture above.  The flat magenta color of Goku's eyes and hair just looks too plastic-like to me.  But once the fighting starts and Goku starts "burning up" the form truly begins to shine.  I was hoping there'd be more to it too.  I wanted to see its concept and design pushed forward even more.

Usefuless: Great potential, but grossly underutilized.
The power boost granted from the power up is off the scales.  It's probably the biggest power boost that the show has ever had.  In universe it's considered a temporary form, though those with genius level fighting instincts, like Goku, can absorb the power into themselves permanently and make it their own.  In the anime the form even grants the ability to heal mortal wounds.  In the manga the form seems more permanent as Goku is seen transforming into it in the U6 Tournament arc.

As I said above, I wish we got to see more of the form.  I think the potential for a design that expanded upon it would have been better than what we ended up getting in FnF.  The flame-like design of the aura and hair and how unique, mysterious and temporary the powers seemed to be opened a new path forward into the Dragon Ball universe that made it truly exciting again.  But it was never really expanded upon and what replaced it turned out to be particularly flat and incongruent.  So I feel this particular form never really achieved it's ultimate potential, which I think could've saved the franchise.

Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan/Super Saiyan Blue/Super Saiyan Beyond God

Cool Factor: Every bad thing a transformation could be in aura though.
Flat. Boring. Unimaginative. Asspull. Recolor of previous form. Dumb name. Does nothing knew. Completely forgettable. Laughable even.  Okay, to be fair Super Saiyan 2 just made the hair spikier and added lighting to the aura, but at least it felt like an organic transformation.  This form just looks and feels like plastic.  It's almost as if it were made to be a toy.  The red form was jarring but it at least simplified things again and made them fresh, with new concepts such as making a character more lean.  Blooper Saiyan is just a plain ol' retread with different coloring.  The only thing I like about it is the aura and the way it looks all static-y.  If they had that aura, plain black hair and maybe some glowing blue eyes, then I think I could get behind this as the ascended form of Super Saiyan God.  As is it just feels like a cheap attempt to make new toys.  Nothing organic about it.

Usefuless: Just an obligatory power boost, move along.
It doesn't really do much either, so of course it's temporary until they get the next new form.  I think it's telling how even with the form Vegeta gets schooled against Hit.  It's already been demystified as nothing special.  As a matter of fact since it's conception Goku and Vegeta have done nothing but get their asses kicked while using it.  At full power Golden Frieza wrecked SSB Goku pretty bad.  Normal Frieza killed SSB Vegeta with a planet explosion.  Hit absolutely wrecked Vegeta so bad that they had to retcon SSB being a form with perfect ki control since the transformation itself now drains stamina and greatly reduces ki apparently.  Without the aura to back it up, it proves to be the flattest looking form yet and clashes with the character's uniforms, making them both took like vibrant taffy.  When the aura is done right, you can kind of forgive the form.  Can't wait until it gets replaced though.

When the aura is done right, you can kind of forgive the form.

Honorable Mention:
Legendary Super Saiyan

Cool Factor: Absolutely dominating.
Say what you will about Broly, but Legendary Super Saiyan is pretty damn badass.  It was especially so when it was first introduced.  The green color of the hair and huge muscle mass also made me see this as the Incredible Hulk form.  Definitely one of the more unique forms, up there with SSJ3.  One thing I never got was how it was so fast compared to Super Saiyan Grade 3.  The first movie Broly appeared in made this form absolutely stick in the minds of the fans and a lot of the DBZ fan community believe that Broly has the potential to be the strongest character of them all.  I don't fall into that camp since I've observed many of Broly's limitations in his many appearances, but there's definitely room for other interpretations.

Usefuless: The best of the ascended forms.
What if you take all that power from Super Saiyan Grade 3 and add a proportional speed increase as well?  You get Legendary Super Saiyans, that's what.  Broly wipes the floor with all grades of Super Saiyan 1 including the mastered version of the form.  Even an (arguably) mastered Super Saiyan Goku stands no chance against him without the combined power of the other Z Senshi.  Broly ran through four Super Saiyans and a Super Namek during his road trip of carnage.  And I say road trip because Broly was a Mack truck while the Z Senshi were helpless pedestrians.  The form does lose all usefulness compared to Super Saiyan 2.  It's possible that it could have surpassed it (if Gohan was indeed using it in the Broly sequel), but I just don't believe it did.  Though at the end of the day I still don't get why this form has so much speed and grade 3 is so slow. *shrugs*

Final opinions:
So all in all you can see that I'm a major fan of the more original transformations.  Some have more potential for expansion than others.  I am starting to get fatigued on them all though.  They've already lost what made them special since there's a new one with each new arc or movie, etc.  By making them palette swaps now it quickens that fatigue.  I believe the forms each need something more unique to them.  They need a real reason for their use otherwise it's just a countdown until they are obsolete and that's no fun.

Out of all the newer forms, I believe Super Saiyan 3 and the original Super Saiyan God (red) form have the most potential for expansion of abilities and updated designs.  I think the forms should specialize to give the Saiyans a reason for using lesser forms other than the need to hold back or test opponent's strength.  SSJ3 could be the new grade 3, a form that maximizes power at the cost of stamina and some speed.  SSJ2 can be the speed focused form as already emphasized by the lightning bolts and svelte designs.

For the higher forms, I think it's not too late to branch from SSG and go back to the fire motif.  Emphasize the auras and make the hair changes more subtle and not candy-like.  It cheapens it.  If they're going to keep transforming then each of the forms needs to specialize too.  Maybe SSB can be that form that they can conserve ki by fighting in while other forms burn through it like mad, or a form that powers ki blast attacks or something.  What I'm saying is that the forms need to do something and if not, they at least need to look stylish or functional.  Now, I can't say that for SSB or the rumored Super Saiyan Rose.  I think the coolest thing they could do is have the hair become more and more fire-like until maybe it blends in with the aura almost.

Anyways, thanks for reading my ramblings glorious readers and please share your opinions as well.  Til next time, everyone.  Take care.

1 comment:

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