The anime/manga hero goes blond when he goes Super Saiyajin, but not for fashion reasons.

It’s a staple of just about all action anime that before a big fight, the hero needs to tear off his shirt and radiate beams of ki as he charges up his inner power. But if you’re watching Dragon Ball, there’s one more step to the pre-fisticuffs ritual, which is that protagonist Goku’s hair needs to switch from jet-black to bright blond.

But…why? Sure, in-story the reason is that blond hair is associated with Goku’s “super Saiyan” form, in which his combat capabilities rise to even higher superhuman levels. Why would Dragon Ball creator and manga artist Akira Toriyama feel the need to go through the trouble of changing his hero’s hair color for a fictional condition?

Because it’d be more trouble not to change Goku’s hair color.

Hiroyuki Nakano, the current editor of Weekly Shonen Jump (the manga anthology in which Dragon Ball ran), recently appeared on Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV’s Nonstop variety show as part of a salute to the magazine’s 50th anniversary. During the interview, Nakano was asked why Goku goes blond when he’s in Super Saiyan mode, and he answered:

“It’s a lot of work to color Goku’s hair black. But Toriyama can depict blond hair just by leaving Goku’s hair uncolored, since the manga is published in black and white.”

That’s definitely true, since while artists working on the anime portions of the Dragon Ball franchise have to color Goku’s hair blond, in the manga it’s left the same color as the paper the comic is printed on. That might seem like a cheapskate way to cut corners, but Nakano went on to explain that manga is produced on incredibly tight schedules, and that being able to save even a little time in one spot means it can be used elsewhere instead. Looking at it that way, it makes a lot of sense to have Goku’s hair go blond as a Super Saiyan. It’s a power Goku unleashes for his toughest fights, and not having to color in his hair gives Toriyama that much more time so spend on the posing, line work, layout, and other aspects of the manga’s most dramatic and dynamic scenes.

Of course, all this raises another question: Why not just give Goku blond hair from the very beginning? As anyone who’s familiar with the very start of the franchise can tell you, Dragon Ball started off as a very different kind of series, beginning as a quirky adventure series before becoming the sci-fi martial arts epic of Dragon Ball Z and Super, and it’s possible Toriyama simply wasn’t thinking that far ahead when he first designed the character, or just didn’t expect the series to still be going strong 30-plus years later.

Source: Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where his hair changing from brown to blond after high school unfortunately didn’t give him martial arts superpowers.