The Many Levels of the Super Saiyan
Canon and Non-Canon
I chose to make this my first hub since I'm new and this is an easy one to discuss. I may be a Christian, but I'm a fan of Dragon Ball Z, so DON'T bash me because of what I like or don't like.
Anyway, I am going to explain to you, in order of power level, the many different forms of Super Saiyan that appear in Dragon Ball Z, both canon and non-canon.
"False" Super Saiyan (non-canon)
The "False" Super Saiyan makes its first - and only - appearance in Lord Slug, a side story to the canon series. This form is widely debated, but if my attempt does not explain it in a way that the reader understands, I apologize. The "False" Super Saiyan is actually a sort of "halfway point" - its power level is directly between the normal Saiyan state and the fully-transformed Super Saiyan. Its appearance is depicted as the body of the Saiyan looking normal, but with purely white eyes (no visible irises or pupils) and the golden aura of the Super Saiyan form. The character King Kai mistakenly stated, "My gosh! What a change! This has never happened before... Wait, it's the legend! Goku must've transformed into a Super Saiyan!" While every DBZ fan knows that it is not the true Super Saiyan state, it is indeed a clear sign that the Saiyan whom stumbles upon it is well on his (or her, although no female Super Saiyan is ever shown throughout the Dragon Ball series) way to becoming a true Super Saiyan.
In the movie Lord Slug, when the scene first shows this unusual form, Goku is near death and unable to borrow any further energy from his fallen comrades. Lord Slug, as he closes in, declares his boredom and chooses to kill Goku. But as he is about to deliver his fatal blow, Goku suddenly - and very easily - blocks that would-be-deadly punch, glares at Lord Slug with quite an evil look (note the above description of the eyes lacking the irises and pupils), and then a golden aura flares up around his body. After crunching Slug's hand backwards, Goku unloads a devastating assault that ravages Slug's left arm, forcing him to rip it completely off and revealing that Slug, like the character Piccolo, is a Namekian. Caught completely by surprise, Goku loses the "False" Super Saiyan form and is again mauled to near death.
Super Saiyan (canon)
That's right, fans. You all know about this one. The spiky golden hair, the golden aura, the bright green eyes; Goku attained this legendary form and used it to completely slaughter the evil tyrant Frieza on the planet Namek.
Earlier in the series, Vegeta described the Super Saiyan as a legend, stating that one appeared only once per millennium, and so it was dismissed by simple mythology, even by most Saiyans. But when Frieza bore witness to a Saiyan's killing of one of his elite warriors, he realized that the Super Saiyan legend was very real. Fearing the legend and the Saiyans themselves, he destroyed the race and their planet. On that same day, however, mere hours before Frieza arrived, Goku was born, along with the one character who actually - and truly - fits the Super Saiyan described in the legend (an unbeatable warrior who lives for combat and destruction). Yes, folks, that character is Broly (I'll explain him later).
The very first transformation into the Super Saiyan form is involuntary, and can only be achieved when a Saiyan has reached his or her maximum limit and is overcome with intense emotion, most notably rage or despair. An example of each would be Goku and Vegeta; Goku was outraged when Frieza murdered Goku's best friend Krillin, which triggered Goku's first transformation. Vegeta, while on a doomed planet far from Earth, was trying to fight for his survival and, out of despair, attained Super Saiyan. Right before Vegeta battled Android #19, Krillin wondered why Vegeta managed to attain the form, thinking that a pure heart was required. In the manga, Vegeta answered, "My heart is pure - pure evil!" Thus, it is clear that, whether the heart is pure good or pure evil, Super Saiyan is attainable.
In the case of Goku's granddaughter Pan, fans have asked DBZ creator Akira Toriyama why Pan wasn't able to become a Super Saiyan. He responded by stating that no one with less than 50% Saiyan blood can attain Super Saiyan, but this excuse was backed by his statement that he could not think of an appropriate design for a female Super Saiyan, since all the designs he made were ideal for males (larger muscles, spiked hair, etc.). Yet, this concept was ignored when he designed Goku's DBGT descendent Goku, Jr., with the ability to transform into a Super Saiyan, as well as Vegeta's descendent Vegeta, Jr. Because I did not find an explanation on that, I decided to create my own: The Super Saiyan instincts found a way to always remind the universe of the mighty race by creating a Super Saiyan every third or fourth generation, if the Saiyans happened to become extinct. It makes sense to me, so if it doesn't to the reader, I apologize. It was the best I could do.
2nd & 3rd-Grade Super Saiyan (canon)
2nd-Grade Super Saiyan appeared only briefly in the Z series, and only Vegeta, his son Trunks, and Goku used it. While significantly stronger than Super Saiyan, strength is the main emphasis in this form and its 3rd-Grade follow-up, which Vegeta did not use. In order to better combat the androids and the newest supervillain, Cell, the Saiyans began searching for a way to ascend beyond the Super Saiyan. Goku, his son Gohan, Vegeta, and Trunks ultimately decided to access the Hyperbolic Time Chamber for one year (that's Time Chamber time) to see if they could do it. Of the four, only Goku, Vegeta, and Trunks are shown as having attained these two levels. While some would consider them to be true Super Saiyan levels, Goku makes it clear that both the 2nd and 3rd-Grade Super Saiyan levels dramatically reduce the user's speed, trading it for sheer power, and thus they are unsuited for battle against Cell. Instead, Goku decides that the best way to utilize the Super Saiyan potential is to master it rather than make it stronger, and does so by staying in Super Saiyan form for as long as possible, resulting in what Akira Toriyama calls "Full-Power Super Saiyan." Vegeta, upon seeing both Goku and Gohan emerge from the Hyperbolic Time Chamber while in Super Saiyan, stated that they look like Super Saiyans, yet seem so relaxed and calm. In other words, when the Super Saiyan form is mastered, the user can maintain it for many days or even weeks as long as the user does not do anything too strenuous, suppressing the negative effects of energy consumption so that more energy can be focused into the attacks. This strategy proved to be effective against Cell, but was still deemed "not strong enough" by Goku, declaring that Gohan's "hidden power" was the only way of defeating Cell.
Super Saiyan 2 (canon)
The "Ascended Super Saiyan," or "Super Saiyan 2," is the true ascension of the first Super Saiyan form, being at least twice as powerful as its predecessor. The first to use this form was Gohan during the battle against Cell, but its appearance varies with the user. In Gohan's case, the hair stands almost completely upright, having only a single dangling strand. In Goku's case, there are only two or three strands dangling, while the rest stands up and has more visible spikes than Super Saiyan. Vegeta, because he never has any dangling strands at all, does not change much in appearance when he uses this form. In every case, however, the muscles are slightly larger, the aura turns from a gentle flame to a blazing torrent, and every few seconds there is a blue spark that accompanies the aura.
After the battle with Cell, seven years' worth of peace ensued, causing Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 power to deteriorate, as noted by Vegeta during the World Martial Arts Tournament. He stated that Gohan was more powerful as a child, and that the peace had distracted him from training to keep his power up. Vegeta, on the other hand, never stopped training, and eventually discovered Super Saiyan 2 sometime during the seven-year time difference. This also applies to Goku, who continued his own training after his death during the battle with Cell. While it is normal for a Saiyan to first transform into Super Saiyan and then into Super Saiyan 2, it is possible to skip the first. Goku and Vegeta did this right before their epic battle in the wilderness; Vegeta, because of his eagerness to fight Goku again, and Goku, because of his rage towards the newly-restored evil that Vegeta regained and also because Vegeta destroyed much of the martial arts arena, killing thousands of innocent people.
Legendary Super Saiyan (non-canon)
This form of Super Saiyan is often dubbed the "true Super Saiyan" by those who know well the Super Saiyan legend, and is a form exclusive to the character Broly, who has three movies based around his life and combat style. The Legendary Super Saiyan form is very different from the others. Unlike the green irises and pupils of Super Saiyan and Super Saiyan 2, Legendary Super Saiyan, like the "False" Super Saiyan, lacks both the irises and pupils. In addition to this, Broly himself is huge, standing some eight feet or more in height when he transforms into this form. The time required for gathering the energy to transform is but a moment, followed by a raw explosion of power. Once the transformation is complete, it requires no energy to maintain whatsoever, but instead it constantly makes Broly stronger the longer he remains in the form. Because of this, he must unleash massive amounts of energy at once to keep it from overwhelming and destroying him. He gains unbelievable strength and speed and is seemingly impervious to even the more powerful techniques, such as the case with Goku's Kamehameha at Super Saiyan strength. Broly merely laughed and continued his assault upon the stunned hero. Vegeta also made an attempt to stop Broly with one of his own mighty energy attacks, the Big Bang Attack, before the battle even begins. In this instance, however, Broly is only in his "Restrained" Super Saiyan form (due to the energy control device on his head) and is still completely unphased. Put simply, the Legendary Super Saiyan form deserves its name.
Super Saiyan 3 (canon)
This is the final canonical level of Super Saiyan, and in the Z series, only Goku and Gotenks (the fusion of Trunks and Goku's second son, Goten) are seen as having attained it. There is a significant change in appearance, along with a massive increase in power, resulting from this transformation. The golden hair grows to hip length, the aura blazes even more violently and is joined by more frequent blue sparks, the eyebrows completely vanish as the brow ridge becomes more prominent, and instead of green irises and pupils, the irises change to light blue, with the pupils a much darker shade. There is also an attitude change: the user becomes constantly aggressive, even towards his or her loved ones, though in such a case the user is simply a "toughie." The negative effects are enormous energy comsumption and, in the case of Gotenks, dramatically reduced time for the Fusion Technique to remain active.
Until Goku first revealed Super Saiyan 3, the different forms of Super Saiyan were not given official names (the first is the exception). To stall for time against the wizard Babidi and the monster Majin Buu, Goku decided to show off the levels of Super Saiyan. He reverted from Super Saiyan 2 to his normal state to begin, then shifted to Super Saiyan and then to Super Saiyan 2. To the curiosity - and shock - of all his friends and family, Goku pushed himself even further, taking several minutes to gather the energy and finally ascending to Super Saiyan 3, naming each form as he progressed. Because he was still dead, rather than consuming energy, the transformation began reducing his remaining time on Earth. After Trunks obtained the Dragon Radar from Capsul Corp., Goku returned to the Lookout, taught Goten and Trunks how to perform the Fusion Technique, and in exchange showed the children the newly acquired Super Saiyan 3 form, thus using up his remaining time on Earth.
In the film Fusion Reborn, Goku turned into Super Saiyan 3 to battle the monster Janemba. However, due to the fact that Goku was already dead, and also because he was in Other World, he was able to maintain the form easily without having to deal with energy consumption. In the video game Dragon Ball: Raging Blast, Super Saiyan 3 becomes available to Vegeta, and Broly, to the shock and delight of every DBZ fan in the world, gains access to "Legendary Super Saiyan 3."
Super Saiyan 4 (non-canon)
The final level of Super Saiyan appears only in the anime-only Dragon Ball GT, and is radically different in appearance from the other Super Saiyan forms. Unlike the others, Super Saiyan 4 completely abandons the "golden warrior" theme in exchange for what some would call a "monkey-man" form. The user first transforms into a golden Ozaru ape, but in order to complete the Super Saiyan 4 transformation process, the user must snap back into reality. Once this is achieved, he turns completely into a Super Saiyan 4. Also, the tail is required of the Saiyan in order to even be able to transform at all; without it, the transformation is impossible.
In the first episode of GT, Goku was turned back into a child due to an accidental wish made by an old enemy using the Black Star Dragon Balls, which had another, more serious side effect: every planet on which the Black Star Dragon Balls is used is destroyed exactly one year after the wish is made. And unlike the Dragon Balls of Earth, the Black Star Dragon Balls scatter across the entire galaxy. With this in mind, Goku, Trunks, and Pan traveled around the galaxy to recover the Dragon Balls and return them to Earth to see if the planetary-destruction effect could be undone, but during the journey, they encountered the first key antagonist, Baby, a survivor of the Tuffle race that was destroyed by the Saiyans. Baby somehow made his way to Earth, infected all the inhabitants so that they would serve him, and, after gaining enough energy, killed Goku. While in Other World, Goku decided to do more training so that, when he returned to life again, he could defeat Baby and save Vegeta. In the process, Goku regained his tail, partly because of his training and partly because he was reverted to a child's body. As a result, it became clear that, should a Saiyan's tail be removed when the Saiyan is young enough, the tail can regrow by natural causes. After returning to life and re-engaging Babv, Goku ascended to Super Saiyan 4, defeated Baby, and saved Vegeta. Later in GT, Vegeta also ascended to Super Saiyan 4 by using Blutz waves so that he and Goku could use Fusion to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Omega Shenron, a fusion of seven Shadow Dragons that emerged from Earth's Dragon Balls as a result of overuse. It is safe to assume that the Blutz waves were the main reason why Vegeta's Ozaru form did not have the golden color that Goku's did when Goku attained Super Saiyan 4. It was also the Blutz waves that allowed Vegeta to completely skip the Super Saiyan 3 transformation and move straight to Super Saiyan 4, which raised controversy. dispute, and anger from Vegeta's fans. A final - and somewhat racist - characteristic of Super Saiyan 4 is that, during the process of designing Super Saiyan 4, Akira Toriyama and Toei Animation made the form accessible only to pure-blooded Saiyans, possibly because at such a high magnitude of power, any being with any dilution of Saiyan blood wouldn't survive. The actual reasons are still unknown to us.
The Writer's Thoughts
In my personal opinion, the only Super Saiyan form that looks downright repulsive is Super Saiyan 4, and I'm pretty sure many of you would agree with me. Akira Toriyama should've kept the "golden warrior" theme that I mentioned above. As for the 2nd-and-3rd-Grade Super Saiyans, to me, those muscles look like the result of steroids that Satan himself might use.
Please note that I did a very careful and extensive study on the Super Saiyan subject, so everything here is to the best of my knowledge, unless otherwise stated. I hope you enjoyed my first topic. God bless!
P.S.: All the pics I uploaded came from Google. I saved them to my flash drive and then uploaded them from that. I do not own Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, or Dragon Ball GT. All rights and everything else belong to Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, and FUNimation Studios. This is merely a study on the topic of the Super Saiyan and in no way interferes with or compromises anything that Akira Toriyama, Toei Animation, and FUNimation Studios.