Super Saiyan 3 Was A Struggle To Draw For Dragon Ball Z (And It's Not Because Of The Hair)

If Akira Toriyama's "Dragon Ball Z" is famous for anything, it's the character transformations. When all hope seems lost for Goku and the battle unbeatable, all it takes is some willpower and Saiyan screaming for the character to transform before viewers' eyes. Transformations are a big part of what makes "Dragon Ball" so entertaining and alluring, with each new power buff for Son Goku coming not only with a cool new hairstyle but also incredible new strength for Goku to learn how to master.

However, Goku isn't the only one that has to learn how to master his transformations. The animation team behind the "Dragon Ball Z" anime would encounter their own set of challenges with every new change Goku had in the hit shounen anime. One specific transformation of Goku that would prove to be a trouble to animate was one of the last in the series. Super Saiyan 3, Goku's most powerful form in "Dragon Ball Z," required animators to animate Goku's expressions differently.

The facial expressions of a Super Saiyan

In an interview with "Dragon Ball Z" character designer Tadayoshi Yamamuro (translated by Kanzenshuu), Yamamuro spoke about the challenges of animating the Super Saiyan 3 transformation. To everyone's surprise, it wasn't the crazy long blonde hair but Goku's facial expressions:

"Super Saiyan 3 Goku was tough. I didn't mind his bushy hair; it was his facial expressions. Even though his face had changed, I had to draw him so that you could still tell it was Goku, and that was tough. I had to draw him strongly thinking 'This is Goku!' (laughs). Also, though I liked Goku as a boy, I was still pretty green at that point, so I had trouble with him too. With animation, you have to make it look like the characters are moving in 3 dimensions, but it's difficult to convey that with round lines."

The translation from manga to 2D animation can be more of an intricate process than most general audiences realize. That's especially true for "Dragon Ball Z," an anime that features various transformations that change minor details in a character's facial expression. "Dragon Ball" creator Akira Toriyama made sure to make slight changes to Goku's face with every transformation, using these changes as a homage to those that inspired his work, like legendary actor Bruce Lee.

New transformations 20 years later

The attention to detail to every new transformation in the "Dragon Ball" universe helps keep the anime so refreshing. While the first three Super Saiyan transformations may not seem all that different from one another, animators' work makes each one feel unique. Goku's facial expressions, power set, and physique all change in small ways with each transformation, thanks to the hard work of the animators who bring the manga pages to life. That still is the case to this day, as "Dragon Ball Super," the sequel series to "Dragon Ball Z," has its own new set of transformations. Look no further than "Ultra Instinct," Goku's latest form that is filled with subtle changes to Goku's physique. 

The Saiyan has come a long way from the Super Saiyan 3 form that animators had a hard time with back in 1994 (the year the episode aired that first featured the transformation). Even today, the animation team behind "Dragon Ball Super" continue to keep every new transformation fresh. Without a doubt, the level of detail involved with these new forms in "Dragon Ball" help to keep it as engaging as it was all those years ago. The series shows no signs of slowing down either, with a brand new film on the way and Toriyama's ongoing "Dragon Ball Super" manga. There will undoubtedly be even more transformations in the future, with animators finding new ways to bring them to life on the screen.