Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Dragon Ball Fanboy vs Akira Toriyama and Toei part 3: Transformations

Transformations have been a mainstay in the Dragon Ball series since Frieza uttered his lines about second, third, and final forms.  Even before that you had people turning into giant apes, turning into younger version of themselves, bulking up, growing giant, growing multiple arms, and even Garlic Jr.  So it comes as no surprise that transformations have become a cornerstone in the series development.

Transformations are so vital to the series, that when you can't get a new one, you aren't important anymore.  Look at characters like Piccolo, Tien, Krillin and now even the half human Saiyans.  No new transformations equals no more use for you in the plot based fights.

So today I'm here to discuss with you all the usefulness of transformations in the show.  Are they still necessary?  Will continuing to create new ones break the show even more?  Will we fans ever stop being interested in Dragon Ball if the transformations stop?  I'd like to talk about that stuff as well as my overall feelings on the new transformations introduced in Dragon Ball Super.  Then I'd like to talk about the resounding effects transformations have had on other shounen manga as well as if transformations were an overall good idea for the Dragon Ball franchise overall.

The Purpose of Transformations

Having characters that are able to transform does a few things for the Dragon Ball franchise.  As far as the story goes, it can add a sudden shot of tension to the story when a villain or hero gets a new form in the middle of combat.  It can also add length to an epic confrontation and allow for others to have epic fights against an arc's main villain like with Frieza, Cell, and Buu.  It adds a level of excitement and hype as fans wait week to week for heroes and villains to achieve new forms and show off what they can do.  When it comes to merchandising, transforming characters can potentially rake in a lot of $$$.  Look no further than franchises such as Digimon, Pokemon, and Transformers for confirmation on this.  Then of course you have Dragon Ball and the countless shounen products that have followed Dragon Ball's blueprint for success.  Each form represents a chance to market it with new toys, clothes, games, and other accessories.

So with all that said, it sounds like a no-brainer to include as many cool transformations into a show as possible, right?  Not really, when you think about it.  While transformations are cool and do a great job at bringing a dose of hype into a show, overusing them can cause them to lose any sort of meaningfulness and become downright silly.  So let's now go over the usefulness of transformations.

Negatives of overusing character transformations

We're quickly moving in this direction


Towards the end of Dragon Ball Z things became a bit of a mess.  It started with the introduction of power levels and power multiplications and just ran rampant after alternate forms of Super Saiyan were introduced.  The original form being a 50x boost was soon outclassed after its introduction and so a boost was needed for that to thwart another transforming foe and so we get a "new form" which doubles the power of the Super Saiyan boost, giving Saiyans a 100x boost to power overall or so the guides tell me.  So when another power transforming villain is introduced, even that's not enough and so yet again the heroes must gain a new form that quadruples that, or so the guides tell me.  But no, the show must go on, so new, more powerful villains are again introduced.

In GT we have the likes of Baby, Super 17, and Omega Shenron who are all also technically transforming villains.  For that, even Super Saiyan 3 and 400x boost isn't enough, so Goku and Vegeta need to get a new form that's even more powerful than that.  Enter Super Saiyan 4 which is 10x as strong as Super Saiyan 3 which makes it 4,000x stronger than a Saiyans base form.

In Super we have Super Saiyan God greatly outclassing Super Saiyan 3 by at least ten times, putting it on par or above the Super Saiyan 4 boost in GT.  Then we get into vague and even laughable territory with the horribly named Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan since we're never told how strong the form really is in comparison to Super Saiyan God (later they make it more clear that it is superior).

Where I'm going with this is, where does it stop?  It's already gotten silly and even a tad pointless with forms that are just recolored versions of stuff we've already seen.  SSG Goku just looks like a skinnier version of Goku when he uses Kaioken.  It's a very basic design but on its own you get used to it and can see it as a cool new form.  I do like the idea of taking things back to basics so I got into the form and actually liked the way that the aura looked.  The aura gave the form a 'godly' feel.  It gave me a feeling of fire and I figured each new extension of the form would give it more of a "red hot" feel.  Instead of taking that form to it's next evolution Toriyama gave us something completely different (really more of the same) and incongruent with his current ideas called Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan, which is really just photoshopped Super Saiyan 1.  We didn't even have a chance to get used to SSG before it was replaced with a new laughable transformation.

I think transformations have overall been a great thing for the Dragon Ball franchise and served a great purpose at hyping the fanbase up.  But it was only hype when it was given to a character that we thought was already far outclassed and when it came out of nowhere it blew us away.  Now only the already strong people get them and it's not much of a surprise anymore.  Even the reveal for some of the newer forms have been lackluster. What I'm saying is that the series is becoming too reliant on them and that the newer forms have not and will not sustain the hype if they continue to be creatively stagnant.

Transformations should grant alternate abilities, not just power.


Killua using Godspeed in HxH
For Frieza, it was cool to see new transformations power him up, because each of his forms besides his final one was a suppressed state.  He was purposely limiting himself in a sort of armor.  Cell's transformation power ups were cool because he literally absorbed vital components into his structure to become a more complete being.  Buu's power ups made a lot of sense because he was literally absorbing other people.  He even inherited abilities (like Piccolo's intelligence) and weaknesses (like Gotenk's fusion limit and Daikaioshin's purity) of those he absorbed.  Now though, I think the time for huge powerups from transformations should be at an end.

I think the show needs to rethink its direction and have each transformation provide some useful ability so that the form has a real use and not just quickly get outclassed and discarded when someone else reveals a new form.  That is my wish for the show going forward so that it doesn't continue to discard characters every time an arc goes forward.  Other shows have already figured this out.  I need Toriyama, Toei, Toyotaro and company to figure it out too before they fatigue even the most diehard Dragon Ball fans.

Influence on other shounen anime and videogames


I'm not sure exactly what DBZ has influenced over the years, but I would hazard to guess that it's a lot.  I think the transformation trope, now prevalent in most shounen battle mangas comes directly from Dragon Ball.  I have a feeling that the trope of transforming boss characters in videogames may come from Dragon Ball as well, but it's just a hunch more than anything.  Over time, I believe these other shounen mangas have capitalized on the trope better than Dragon Ball in its later years.

Newer anime and manga series have taken what Dragon Ball made popular and added a fresh and tactical spin to it.  Thankfully we're past the early 2000s where everything was an ex machina hidden demon form and now things are generally more creative.  I think for DB to stay viable it has to learn from its students or at the very least Toriyama has to dig further for better ideas and more inspiration.  The original SSG form was very similar in concept and design to Luffy's Gear 2 in One Piece which itself was similar to Kaioken in Dragon Ball.  What I'm saying is that the three above transformations/powerups were very good and Toriyama needs to capitalize on fresh and organic ideas like that instead of shoehorned ideas like SSGSS, Golden Frieza, and now Super Saiyan Rose.

Anyways, that's my two cents.  What are your favorite forms from Dragon Ball and from other shounen series?  Thanks for browsing, my glorious readers!  Take care.


  1. I agree on most points you made. The DB franchise is where I developed a love for transformations and all they had to offer, but once it become apparent that they were merely rehashing the transformations and changing the color (I mean, Black Goku will be going Super Sayain Rose soon), I lost interst in them. I would rather see the lesser characters get a power up than see Vegeta and Goku get yet another power up that merely boosts their strength.

    That's one of the points you made that I agree with the most: powerups should come with something other than just a boost in strength. Sure we see new attacks and longer hair sometimes but that's about it. Where's the creativity? Ah, who am I kidding? Trolliyama is having fun is all.

    1. That's like 100% of my problem right there. Even if I might not care for the design of something like Super Saiyan Blue, Rose, or even Rainbow; it would be far more enjoyable if the form did something crazy and fun. I just see it all as a new reason to exclude more and more characters, because of how it's been handled so far.