From Bankai to Gear 5 – Here is how Dragon Ball inspired Shounen transformations through Super Saiyan.

From Bankai to Gear 5 - Here is how Dragon Ball inspired Shounen transformations through Super Saiyan.

When Goku first erupted in a golden blaze of Super Saiyan glory in Dragon Ball Z, it sparked a seismic shift in the shounen genre. Akira Toriyama’s iconic transformation scene birthed a legacy of powered-up forms that the new series would mimic for years to follow.

Let’s look at how Dragon Ball inspired Shounen transformations for years to come through Super Saiyan.

The Super Saiyan Transformation

PlayStation Plus January Games, dragonball
Image Courtesy of PlayStation Blog

Though not the first anime power-up, Super Saiyan uniquely captured fans’ imaginations. It was the climactic payoff to Goku’s rigorous training, a legendary myth come to life.

  • The striking blonde hair, teal eyes, and blazing aura made for an unforgettable visual statement. Super Saiyan felt truly epic in scope.
  • This inspired a wave of successors across the 1990s and 2000s shounen. Many adopted the formula of heroes unlocking dormant strength when pushed to their limits.
  • These new forms often featured spiky golden hair as a callback to Super Saiyan. But it was Bleach that took the concept and refined it for a new generation.

Impact on the Big Three

Bleach clarified the Shounen transformation blueprint, followed by Naruto and One Piece. These forms are achieved after an intense struggle, either through grueling training or in heated battles. The upgraded form lasts only so long before burning through the user’s stamina. And it comes with snazzy new abilities to unveil in combat.

  • Ichigo’s Shinigami powers allow him to access the explosive reiatsu of Bankai, condensing his oversized Zanpakutō down to unlock greater speed and strength. This revelation of Bankai creates immense hype. Later series Follow Bleach’s model to an extent.
  • Naruto gains access to Kurama’s chakra, culminating in his Tailed Beast forms. Later after taming Kurama and forming a bond with him, Naruto taps into Kurama Chakra Mode (KCM), which has several similarities to Super Saiyan.
  • And now with One Piece’s Luffy unveiling Gear 5, we’ve come full circle. Just like Goku shocked fans by first going Super Saiyan, Luffy’s new form feels like a watershed moment. His flowing white hair and flames draw inspiration straight from Dragon Ball Z.

Evolution of Transformations

Bleach (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Bleach (Image via Studio Pierrot)

Many of the newer shounen forms have their own fresh coat of paint, but the imprint of Dragon Ball lives on. Many forms retain the aesthetics of Super Saiyan’s electrified hair and aura. Naruto’s Nine-Tails Chakra Mode mimics SSJ. Kill la Kill’s character Ryuko actually uses fibers called Life Fibers to “go Super Saiyan” as she boasts.

  • In many shounen since Dragon Ball, the protagonist usually glows gold with lightning discharge akin to SSJ2 when powering up.
  • After decades of iterations, the shounen transformation genre has seen some fascinating evolutions. Yet for all the innovation, Dragon Ball’s influence still persists.
  • Many current popular series like Black Clover and Jujutsu Kaisen take cues from Akira Toriyama’s signature power-up concept.


Though the trappings have changed over the years, the core appeal remains. We love watching heroes surpass limits to protect others. And through transformation sequences, we share in their struggle and victory. So as shounen anime charges onward, expect Super Saiyan’s embers to continue igniting the next generation of ultimate forms.

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