The ability to become a Super Saiyan was once considered to be nothing but a legend, as it had not been performed for over one-thousand years. Vegeta stated that a Super Saiyan has achieved a level of power so overwhelming that it could only be maintained in a transformed state. Despite only being told through legend, Frieza, who was considered to be the strongest being of his time, became paranoid over the possibility of truth behind the legend due to the constantly growing power of the Saiyan race. Because of this fear, Frieza came to the conclusion that he must annihilate the Saiyan race by destroying Planet Vegeta, thus apparently sparking the end of the Super Saiyan legend. However, twenty-five years later, the Super Saiyan legend was proven to be true when Goku accomplished the feat during his titanic battle against the evil tyrant, Frieza.
After Bardock transforming into a Super Saiyan, the environment keeps changing constantly The Super Saiyan transformation comes in response to a need, not a desire. In all known cases, the form has been initially triggered by either desperation or indignation. Any other conditions are unknown, and motivation tends to differ; for example, Goku achieves the form out of anger over the murder of his best-friend Krillin and Bardock achieves the form out of anger after Chilled attacked a Plant child called Berry, while Vegeta achieves the form through sheer frustration at his original inability to achieve it, especially when Goku already had. While training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Goku informs Gohan that becoming a Super Saiyan is powered by rage and told him to imagine Cell and then Frieza (after Gohan stated he had never seen Cell) killing all his friends in order for him to transform into a Super Saiyan. As the Saiyans train during Dragon Ball Z, they discover uncharted levels beyond the first Super Saiyan level. The power increases of subsequent Super Saiyan forms are so high that by the Buu Saga, the original transformation has been literally reduced to that of a "child's play thing" (as stated by Vegeta; as both Goten and Trunks can transform and harness the power adeptly at such a young age).
Super Saiyan Goku unleashes an intense rage as he prepares to assault Frieza In the main series, all living Saiyan-blooded males after the Frieza Saga manage to reach at least the first level of Super Saiyan. No female Super Saiyans are ever seen in the Dragon Ball manga or animes. However, the Dragon Ball GT Perfect Files implies that Pan has the potential to transform and might have become a type of Super Saiyan never seen before. Female Super Saiyans have since appeared in video games, including Dragon Ball Online, Dragon Ball Heroes and Dragon Ball: Xenoverse.
The first Super Saiyan transformation occurs when a Saiyan who has reached a very high level of power loses himself in a fit of rage. However, the transformation must be triggered in response to a great need, an example being in Goku's case to defeat Frieza. While physical change is not too drastic apart from a slight increase in muscle mass, the power output increase is colossal; It was stated by Akira Toriyama that the form was meant to be 10x what Goku had previously accomplished (his previous max being the Kaio-ken x20, presumably making Super Saiyan's multiplier 200x Base), however he went on to state that it actually seemed to be a 50x boost, In Daizenshuu 7 the form is said to multiply the Saiyan's power level by 50x times its normal amount. In the Dragon Ball Z: The Anime Adventure Game, the multiplier for the form is 2.5x the user's normal amount of power). When Goku utilises the Super Saiyan form against General Rilldo in Dragon Ball GT, Rilldo states that Goku's power has increased a hundredfold.
The transformation has a noticeable effect on the Saiyan's personality. Any Saiyan that has turned to the side of good initially becomes ruthless and overcome with rage, and any Saiyan that was already ruthless to begin with has his ruthlessness amplified. This is first demonstrated when Goku turned Super Saiyan, when he went from a calm, collected fighter to becoming a vengeful warrior, hellbent on avenging his fallen friend, Krillin, even at his own peril. Later on, when Vegeta became a Super Saiyan, he became even more rash and belligerent, and became obsessed with defeating the Androids by himself, a drastic change from his smart, covert style he demonstrated in the Vegeta and Namek Sagas. Gohan becomes a Super Saiyan, while training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, but manages to regain control of his emotions prior to leaving the Chamber. However, the amplified anger that a Super Saiyan experiences returned when he became a Super Saiyan 2. The personality alterations are also on display in Dragon Ball GT: A Hero's Legacy when Goku Jr., a timid boy with no will to fight even in self-defense, saw Lord Yao terrorize the forest and became a Super Saiyan, his personality came full circle, accordingly.
The most noticeable physical change is that the Saiyan's hair becomes golden blonde in color and seems to stand on end, giving it a rising, flame-like appearance. This applies to all of the Saiyan's hair, including scalp hair, eyebrows, and the fur on their tails and as Golden Great Apes. Natural eye color temporarily changes to a greenish-blue, muscle tone becomes more defined, and the skin tone (and clothing) becomes lighter mainly due to the energy and light output of the golden aura. As the natural floodgates of the body are opened with the transformation, excess energy is radiated from the body in the form of a pulsing, flame-like aura. There is also a marked personality alteration, where the Saiyan becomes unusually aggressive and more prone to acting on impulse.
The Super Saiyan transformation also has an interesting, unique effect on Goku's family in addition to its normal effects: the way their eyes are drawn changes slightly. Normally, the outline around the eye is not fully drawn and it circles around about 3/4 of the way the eyeball. When in Super Saiyan, their eyes are fully surrounded by an outline, the same way that all villains are drawn; this is mainly due to Akira Toriyama wanting to show the anger and hatred that must be present for a Super Saiyan transformation. Though, this is not the case for the Full-Power Super Saiyan state, as shown with Goku and Gohan during the Cell Games Saga.
It is theorized by Krillin that the Super Saiyan transformation prevents Goku from performing his Spirit Bombtechnique. One must be pure of heart to perform the Spirit Bomb technique, and as a Super Saiyan, Goku's heart is full of rage, although not necessarily contaminated by evil. In the film Dragon Ball Z: Super Android 13!, when Goku becomes a Super Saiyan after gathering power for his Spirit Bomb, he loses control of the energy and instead absorbs it into his own body. During the Kid Buu Saga, Goku assumes the transformation only after successfully creating and throwing the Spirit Bomb, although it could just be that anger no longer filled his heart when he transformed since this took place after he mastered the Super Saiyan form during the Cell Games Saga or that anyone can wield the Spirit Bomb after it has been formed.
- Dragon Ball GT Perfect Files mentions that Pan could possibly become a type of Super Saiyan never seen before. In the Dragon Ball GT episode "The Heart of the Prince", Vegeta and Bulma mention the possible existence of a "Super Saiyan 5" form.
- True to form, in Dragon Ball Xenoverse, if a Saiyan wears Pan's Bandana, and uses any Super Saiyan transformation skill, the hair will transform along with it.
- Before the Super Saiyan concept debuted in the dub, the term is used in "Stop Vegeta Now!!" by Vegeta, who describes Gohan as "Kakarot's son, the little Super Saiyan." However, the concept of the Super Saiyan already existed in the original version. In the original version, the term is first brought by Vegeta after Raditz was killed by Piccolo. While waiting with Nappa on a conquered planet, the two Saiyans talk about getting all seven Dragon Balls and wishing for eternal life. Before taking off on a year long journey to Earth, Vegeta tells Nappa that only after they have become immortals they will be able to become Super Saiyans. However, in the uncut FUNimation redub, the term is introduced at the same situation as the original version.
- Goku does transform while having a tail in Dragon Ball GT, but sometimes his tail does not change color to gold, when both the tailed Super Saiyan 3 appearance and the first Dragon Ball GT Perfect Filesguidebook cover seem to indicate that the tail should have turned gold. In the video games Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, Dragon Ball Z: Infinite World, and Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit, for Vegeta in his Saiyan Saga outfit, the tail will not turn gold when Super Saiyan. Also in Dragon Ball Heroes and the Episode of Bardock movie, Bardock's tail remains brown too while it changes its color to gold in one of the Episode of Bardock promotional posters.
- All of Goku and Vegeta's known male descendants have been able to transform into Super Saiyans.
- In the Budokai Tenkaichi series, as well as the movie Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan, Broly's base Super Saiyan Form (before he turns into his Legendary Form) has blue hair instead of the usual gold. This is presumably due to the controlling device his father put on him, as in Second Coming, his Super Saiyan form had gold hair. This Second Coming appearance was made available as a secondary costume in the sequel games, as well as the Legendary Super Saiyan variation, which features whiter skin and torn clothing to match.
- Since its first appearance, the Super Saiyan has become one of the most recognizable images of Dragon Ball Z.
- In Cooler's Revenge, when Goku goes Super Saiyan, a bird that was killed when Cooler prepared to tear the planet apart was revived by Goku's transformation, which implies that Super Saiyans have a degree of healing abilities, although this only appeared in the film and he may have just transferred energy to the dying bird, like when Goku transferred energy to Frieza.
- In "Saiyans Emerge" and Bojack Unbound, a Human is seen with a shirt that says The Super Saiyan.
- Goku has the first transformation into Super Saiyan form in the manga since the Original Super Saiyan. However, it is revealed Broly may have transformed before him in the film Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan, and the same could be said about Bardock in Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock.
- In Dragon Ball Z: Broly - The Legendary Super Saiyan, Roshi briefly appears as a Super Saiyan whilst wearing different masks.
- In the Dr. Slump remake, Arale and a long haired human boy she fights both take on their own versions of the Super Saiyan form and then proceed to have a fight reminiscent of the ones in Dragon Ball Z. The form that the boy takes on turns his hair from black to silver.
- While a high power level, intense rage, and a need for more power are all stated requirements for an initial Super Saiyan transformation, exhaustion also seems to play a role. Goku was exhausted from battling Frieza at Kaio-Ken x20, Vegeta was already exhausted from his own training when protecting his spaceship from a meteor storm, and Gohan was exhausted from resisting Goku's Super Kamehameha. It is possible that the Super Saiyan transformation is in part a more efficient use of the Saiyan's ki, as in real life martial artists use more efficient techniques when exhausted to avoid wasting dwindling energy reserves.
- Chi-Chi's dislike for the Super Saiyan state is a reference to a social taboo in Japan, where a Japanese child dying his or her hair blonde is a sign of rebellion in the household. This is made more explicit in the manga and anime Cell Games saga, where Chi-Chi complains about Gohan becoming a rebel upon seeing Gohan in the Super Saiyan state for the first time.
- When contributing towards the Super Saiyan God ritual for Goku inDragon Ball Super, the golden energy from the rest of the Super Saiyans causes Videl's hair to take on the blonde hue.
- In Dragon Ball: Xenoverse, certain accessories that alter the Future Warrior's color and hairstyle such as Chi-Chi's helmet (which is ironic given Chi-Chi dislike for the form), Fortuneteller Baba's Hat, Launch's wig (a reference to the similarities between Bad Launch and the Super Saiyan form), and Pan's Bandana will change color whenever a Saiyan Future Warrior uses any Super Saiyan transformations (interestingly this only applies to Female Super Saiyans as they can only be worn by or the accessory only alters the hair of female characters such as Pan's Bandana). However it will not effect the hair color of accessories such as Goku's and Mr. Satan's wigs, nor Master Roshi's Beard.
- In the AB Group English dub of the movies (often nicknamed the "Big Green" dub) and some European dubs of the anime, the Saiyan race are called "Space Warriors", as such this transformation is termed "Super Space Warrior" or simply "Super Warrior", although Saiyans are occasionally referred to as "Super Warriors" while still in their base form.