The Legendary Super Saiyan

One of the all-time greatest...

Mustakin Hashim

8/11/20236 min read

I have something to say…

There was nothing like it on TV. And to this day, nothing has matched it. The violence, action, and the explosiveness are something that could not air on TV today, not without drastic censorship. I’m talking about blood, gore, the odd foul language and inappropriate perverse behaviour far too controversial for a so-called ‘kid’s show.’

I’m talking about Dragon Ball Z. An anime that is synonymous with the word ‘anime’, otherwise known as Japanese animation. Every day at 5pm, Dragon Ball Z aired on Cartoon Network during the Toonami block. Let’s talk about Dragon Ball Z and how the show impacted my life. The impact of this show is not only important to me but the genre. To this day, I still consider Dragon Ball Z to have the greatest, at least one of them, all-time greatest TV moments. It’s a favourite of mine. Moreso because the event cannot be replicated. The widely available internet of the modern age rarely allows us to have the element of surprise like it once did. ‘The moment’ worked simply because nobody could have imagined it. The idea was so novel, at least to my knowledge, that a good deal of anime/shows that followed replicate it to this day.

I am, of course, talking about the Super Saiyan. Our hero of the tale – Goku’s legendary transformation. Now, back then, in the late ‘90s and early noughties, the internet wasn’t widely available. Spoilers weren’t a thing back then. Word of mouth was a true power in those days. Spoilers only really existed from friends raving about it in class the next morning. The moment I want to talk about is when Goku transforms into the legendary Super Saiyan, a powerful evolution that increases one’s power-level tenfold and can destroy worlds. The transformation itself is a sight to behold. No television experience to this day has reproduced that sense of awe and astonishment the day we finally got to see Goku evolve into the greatest power in the universe and destroy the evil Lord Frieza, a world-destroying tyrant.

I must have been 9 or 10-years-old, maybe younger. There we are in a cramped living room, all my brothers (and sister) gathered around the TV, sadly something you will not find happening today because of streaming services and iPads, but there we were, glued to the small CRT television. Frieza kills Goku’s childhood best friend, Krillin, right in front of Goku’s eyes. In a fit of rage and emotion, Goku’s eyes change from black to green, and his hair flickers a radiant gold, finally transforming into a celestial being described only in legend. The Super Saiyan. Suddenly, a riveting golden energy surrounds our hero, golden-yellow hair fluttering, and a mean expression akin to Bruce Lee that would send chills down the spine of any child watching. Certainly did to me.

Shock. Our mouths were touching the floor. Who was this man with golden hair, green eyes, and exuberant energy surrounding his form? What happened to Goku? Nobody knew what was happening. How could we? We had seen nothing like it. Goku’s eyes and hair colour had changed, and a calm but raging beast ready to destroy the villain for killing his best friend replaced the happy-go-lucky nature of Goku. The rage was palpable, as if it was going to break through the television screen and grab my throat. Might as well have, because we were stunned. I wish I could go back in time and revisit that moment, just to appreciate it from a third-person perspective. The scene enamoured me, undoubtedly capturing the imaginations of thousands around the world. Let’s not forget screaming at the top of our lungs, trying to transform, just like Goku did. It was ridiculous, but we all tried it.

Why is this scene of Goku’s transformation so special? Dragon Ball Z is a sequel to the original show simply called Dragon Ball, which followed Goku from a child to the adult we see him at the start of Dragon Ball Z, married and with a young son. The show explored aspects of Goku’s strength and his eventual friendships with enemies-turned-good-guys, but I don’t think there was a single person who could have foreseen Goku’s power rise to such a god-like form. Dragon Ball went from a simple story about a young boy fighting in martial arts tournaments to spacefaring adventures about world destroying beings that could annihilate worlds with the flick of a finger. It’s special because it was unexpected. Not to mention the wait was worth it after hundreds of episodes. Episodes repeated for weeks before we got new episodes, only for the series to start from the beginning again. It was a cycle repeated frustratingly too often, yet we consumed the content over and over, holding onto hope that new episodes would finally air once it reached the very latest point in the story. We would wait almost a hundred episodes until it finally reached the episode we got to last, only to discover the next day we were back at the beginning. But when it happened… the world had changed. At least for us in the western hemisphere. Japan had already experienced the Super Saiyan years before us. A paradigm shift that would influence many anime and shows that would follow it, including my very own novel Aura Ignition.

A note. I am a huge fan and advocate of martial arts. As a kid, I practiced boxing, and more recently, I practiced Muay Thai, a kicking-boxing art from Thailand that utilises elbows, knees and grappling. I’ve always enjoyed martial arts. The beauty of it. The art of it. Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee are heroes of mine. I grew up watching Jackie Chan’s 70s and 80s classics such as Police Story and Project A. The intense action and fight choreography were so creative that western action films paled in comparison. Sure, watching Sylvester Stallone in Rocky and Rambo was fun and violent, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando and Terminator, but it didn’t quite have the flare of Hong Kong martial arts films. Hong Kong films were fast. Lightning fast. And that infatuated me. It was also very real. The stunts Jackie Chan performed required him to risk his life to get the shot, made even more real when we got to see the outtakes during the end credits. I desired to see similar fast action in western films. This was how I imagined my story Aura Ignition to be. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Dragon Ball Z style of action/powerful fighting in live action? I wanted fast and explosive action that had a beauty to it, not just explosions, violence and loud noise.

That day changed when The Matrix came along in 1999. As you can image, I was thrilled, because much like how I had envisioned a battle at the Twin Towers, it was as if what I had imagined had come to life in The Matrix. I would also like to mention Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The fight between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul lives rent free in my mind. I grew up watching fast and well-choreographed fight scenes, so naturally whenever I watched A New Hope, the lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader always left me underwhelmed. A part of me always wished Jackie Chan had choreographed the last duel. Would it have worked? Probably – no, most definitely not. Not for the western audience. But we finally got a lightsaber battle that had the fast action I always desired. The Phantom Menace and The Matrix were released in the same year. Seeing them back-to-back was an absolute joy. I was definitely too young for The Matrix, but it was the fights that interested me. It was later in my teens I appreciated the philosophical nature of The Matrix. Films such as X-Men, Spider-Man, and Mission: Impossible 2, and yes, even Power Rangers, followed in The Matrix’s footsteps. We lived in a post-Matrix world, where suddenly Hollywood films embraced martial arts style choreography. And I was all for it.

My dream is to meet Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, and shake the man’s hand for crafting the single greatest story ever told. Many will say there are better stories out there. Sure there are, I’m not denying that. But this story about a young boy from an alien planet who finds a home on Earth has captured the imaginations of people the world over. I’m one of them and I am convinced Jayden Aurora and Aura Ignition would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Dragon Ball and Akira Toriyama. There’s also Hideo Kojima and Hironobu Sakaguchi, but that’s a blog post for another day.

I end this blog post with words that have resonated with me since childhood. Something Goku said the day he became a Super Saiyan:

“I am the hope of the universe. I am the answer to all living things that cry out for peace. I am protector of the innocent. I am the light in the darkness. I am truth. Ally to good! Nightmare to you!”

Thank you for reading. Until next time…