Dragon Ball is a series that continues to change and grow, as it still thrives thirty years after its inception. The evolution of the series has seen the show’s focus shift from comedy to action, to include an introduction of an entirely new cast, new planets, and new universes. Dragon Ball is a series that isn’t afraid to go all out and try something new, but an element that’s been present since the show’s earliest days is Goku’s Great Ape transformation.
The Great Ape makes his first appearance all the way back in the twelfth episode of Dragon Ball. Originally, the transformation was just a Jekyll/Hyde-like obstacle that Goku had to learn to live with. As the saga continued, though, Goku learnt that his Great Ape alter ego and its corresponding monkey tail were actually proof that he was from another planet.
The presence of the Great Apes fluctuates throughout Dragon Ball until they manages to vanish completely from the canon (unless you’re a Dragon Ball GT fan). In spite of how the series slowly ignores the Great Apes rather than have Goku learn how to harness the power and turn it into some new skill, its stamp is still present in the anime.
Don’t expect Goku, Vegeta, and Gohan to all turn into Great Apes to win Dragon Ball Super’s Tournament of Power, though. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t much to learn about the Great Apes.
Here are the 17 Things You Never Knew About Dragon Ball’s Great Apes.
17. The Original Super Saiyan Was A Great Ape With Gold Fur
Dragon Ball is a series that has grown so large and ballooned beyond Akira Toriyama’s initial expectations in such a way that it’s often interesting to re-examine the series’ earlier moments. Before every Saiyan in the series was a Super Saiyan, Vegeta tells some curious stories about the “original Super Saiyan.”
In one of Vegeta’s lengthier storytelling sessions, he gushes over the incredible power of the first Super Saiyan. What’s interesting here is that, in Vegeta’s story, all of the Saiyans are in their Great Ape form.
In order to differentiate the Super Saiyan, there’s a Great Ape who has golden fur and leads the pack. It’s unclear if these “original” Saiyans were able to transform out of their Great Ape forms, which means that this legend taps into Super Saiyan power while a Great Ape.
16. An Artificial Moon Will Also Bring Them To Life
One of the few rules of the Great Ape is that the transformation requires a full moon. While this might seem like a pretty firm order, there are actually some sneaky ways to get around this.
The Saiyans are shown to be a sophisticated race that are well beyond that of humans, but they’re lacking when it comes to their moon recognition skills. Apparently, if someone is able to create a moon-like object, that’s good enough to get the Great Ape fires started.
This is a strategy that Vegeta notoriously puts into play with a glowing ball of energy during his first battle against Goku. The same tactic is used by Turles in The Tree of Might in order to stir up Gohan. It’s even shown that a realistic enough projection of a moon will still work in a pinch, which Piccolo learns the hard way.
15. Goku Briefly Turns Into A Great Ape-Human Hybrid During Super Saiyan 3
The Great Ape ability of the Saiyans slowly gets phased out of Dragon Ball once characters figure out the much more powerful Super Saiyan transformation.
Even though the hairy creatures become absent in the series, they’re still a crucial part of the Saiyan’s heritage. Dragon Ball Z tries to remind their audience about this connection one last time during the tail end of the series when Goku turns Super Saiyan 3 for the first time.
Goku’s Super Saiyan 3 metamorphosis actually looks like it’s a somewhat painful process. As Goku undergoes this transformation, he briefly takes on Great Ape characteristics before achieving this new level of power.
It’s the last time that a Great Ape makes an appearance in the series, as it isn’t even present when Gotenks reaches this level. It’s a touching reminder of Goku’s roots and how far he and the Saiyans have come.
14. They Can Breathe Fire
It’s not enough to already be a giant, ferocious gorilla beast, but the Great Apes also have some extremely powerful attacks at their disposal.
While Dragon Ball keeps the Great Apes relatively grounded and limits them to brute strength alone, Dragon Ball Z gets a little crazier and allows the creatures to shoot massive energy beams from their mouths. It’s a detail that suddenly brings the Great Apes closer to resembling Godzilla more than King Kong.
Dragon Ball GT ups the ante even further, though, by giving the Great Apes fire breath. The ability is first demonstrated by Baby Vegeta’s Golden Great Ape, and he doesn’t put it to waste.
13. There Is A Great Ape Costume So Everyone Can Experience The Magic
The Dragon Ball video games have become increasingly complex in their degrees of customization. The costumes and flair are now at unheard levels so that players can have the perfect experience.
As fun as it may be to fight other characters as a giant Great Ape, it’s easy to see how the form can be problematic. Fortunately, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 offers a friendly alternative that allows every character to let out their inner Great Ape with a handy costume.
The Great Ape Suit consists of four pieces, along with the Great Ape hat and tail accessory, which completes the ensemble. For what it’s worth, the color of the ape suit does not change if the character goes Super Saiyan.
12. Their Size Is Inconsistent
Sure this might be nitpicking, but it’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint how big the Great Apes are because various episodes give them radically different proportions.
The first time that a Great Ape is seen in Dragon Ball, Goku’s transformation is about the same size as Pilaf’s castle. As the Great Apes becomes more popular in Dragon Ball Z, though, their various appearances see their size range from 50 feet tall to even more gargantuan proportions. There’s a reason it’s called the “Great” Ape, after all.
The Budokai Tenkaichi video game series scales the size of the Great Apes down drastically to about 25-30 feet tall, yet they’re still the largest characters in the games.
11. In The Arabic Dub, Saiyans “Summon” Their Great Apes Forward
There are bound to be a number of differences when an anime goes through the dubbing process, whether it comes down to localization or just simple turns of phrases.
Dragon Ball is a unique series that, due to its popularity, it’s one of the most widely dubbed anime on the market (there are even several different English dubs out there). Naturally, this means that some of the translations are going to be less accurate than others, but the Arabic dub really takes some liberties with Great Ape lore.
The Arabic Dragon Ball Z dub claims that Saiyans actually summon forward their Great Apes, like some form of hidden inner strength. It’s not an involuntarily action that renders them powerless and out of control, but rather just another skill at their disposal. It’s certainly an interesting interpretation of the material.
10. They Appear In Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump
Akira Toriyama is no stranger to mixing his respective franchises together and being receptive towards crossovers. Arale from Dr. Slump pops up a number of times throughout Dragon Ball and even makes a fairly recent appearance in Dragon Ball Super.
Goku is quick to repay the favor and also checks in with the Dr. Slump crew every now and then. However, in the 1997 remake series of Dr. Slump, there’s actually a four-episode crossover saga where Goku spends some time in Penguin Village.
Goku’s encounter with Arale largely revolves around her obsession over monkeys. This makes a Great Ape transformation inevitable, which allows the unique cast of Dr. Slump to react to the creature in their own way.
9. Saiyan Elite Can Control Their Great Apes
The Great Apes allow Saiyans to tap into a huge reservoir of power, but it’s thought to come at the cost of losing finer skills, like communication and intelligence. This makes the transformation more of a last ditch effort since it’s a power that comes at a real cost. However, not everyone has to pay this steep price.
Vegeta explains that the “Saiyan Elite” are so in tune with their power that they’re capable of controlling their forms, retaining their memories, and they can even speak while in Great Ape form.
This is behavior that’s consistent with Bardock and his Saiyan comrades (Fasha, Tora, Borgos, and Shugesh), so it seems to checks out. Furthermore, the Budokai Tenkaichi video games provide the same treatment towards the Great Ape versions of Raditz, Nappa, King Vegeta, and Turles, who are all elites in their own right.
8. They Are Werewolf Beasts In Dragon Ball Evolution
Dragon Ball Evolution is a true disaster. It’s a tall task to effectively pull off a live-action adaptation of Dragon Ball, but many of the decisions present in Evolution are just plain confusing.
Dragon Ball Evolution is pretty liberal with what mythology from the series that it chooses to include. However, for whatever reason the Great Ape aspect is something that they wanted to touch on.
Dragon Ball Evolution decides to turn the Great Ape (which they call by its original name, Oozaru) into an ugly werewolf reject. Goku still turns into a gorilla creature, but he doesn’t grow in size.
It’s just a person-sized monkey that still wears Goku’s clothes. It’s more Teen Wolf than it is King Kong. What’s even worse is that the film also makes Oozaru out to be an Evil God that works in tandem with Piccolo, which doesn’t make any sense.
7. They Can Still Fuse
The Dragon Ball video games made a lot of fans happy when Great Apes were suddenly playable characters. However, the challenge then becomes: after the initial thrill of fighting as a giant monkey wears off, where else is there to go? Dragon Ball Fusions is a game that is very much about answering that question and it definitely finds a way to make Great Apes feel fresh.
The whole point of Dragon Ball Fusions is to create absurd combinations of characters and push things as close to fan fiction as possible. It’s impressive to be able to fuse five characters together, but the game also lets players fuse together the Great Apes.
There’s not too much leeway in this department, but it’s just awesome that the game allows for such a thing. Plus, it’s hard to ignore the awesome visual of two Great Apes in a rehearsal for the fusion dance.
6. Universe 6 Has Evolved Past The Great Apes
Dragon Ball Super expands the show’s universe by, well, adding eleven more universes into the mix. The existence of new universes allows the show to return to a lot of old concepts and characters. For instance, Universe 6 introduces some new Saiyans into the mix, but don’t expect any of them to turn into Great Apes any time soon.
Cabba, Caulifla, and Kale from Universe 6 all are without tails as a result of their universe’s Saiyans evolving past them. This is a rather interesting development subce it paints the Great Ape transformation as something more primitive.
It’s not a mandatory apart of the Saiyan race and it’s actually something that can be weeded out through the years. Whether this is a good thing or not, it does make the Saiyans of Universe 6 seem different fromDragon Ball’s heroes.
5. There’s A Golden Great Ape Form
Dragon Ball GT throws a lot of crazy ideas at the wall (Goku needs to actually fight against dragons from the Dragon Balls!?), but one concept that seems to have found an audience is the series’ radical take on the Great Apes.
Dragon Ball GT spends a lot of its time in outer space instead of on Earth. These intergalactic exploits eventually result in a bizarre situation where Goku views a “full Earth,” as opposed to a full moon. This subtle difference results in Goku turning into a Golden Great Ape as opposed to the standard kind.
The practicality of this Great Ape variant comes into question, but it appears to be a prerequisite stage that must be mastered before attaining Super Saiyan 4. Super Saiyan 4 also comes across as a controlled, fully realized version of the Golden Great Ape’s power. Plus, who doesn’t love a gold paint job?
4. 17 Million Zeno Units Of Blutz Waves Are Required To Transform
Dragon Ball isn’t exactly a show that embraces science or attempts to explain the madness that happens in its universe. As a result, nobody really examines why a full moon can transform a Saiyan into a Great Ape, especially when the show is full of even crazier things.
In spite of this, Dragon Ball GT attempts to pull back the curtain a little bit and get into the nitty gritty of Saiyan genealogy.
Dragon Ball GT introduces the idea that it takes more than just a tail and moon to turn into a Great Ape. There are actually things called Blutz Waves that have a big role in the process.
A Saiyan requires 17 million zeno units of them in order to transform. Blutz Waves can be found in the light of the full moon, or really, the light that comes from any “full” planet. Blutz Waves can even be artificially manufactured with the right technology.
3. Saiyans Were Originally Great Apes Who Then Evolved
Dragon Ball is rather loose when it comes to information on the very first Saiyans. There have been flashbacks that go back a few generations that shed light on older customs, but there are still a lot of questions about early ancestors.
Dragon Ball portrays the Great Ape form as a sort of yin and yang balance for the Saiyans and there’s never been a reason to assume that things were ever different. The Dragon Ball GT Perfect Files resource book happens to share a few details that reframe this relationship, though.
GT Perfect Files speculates that Saiyans actually started as Great Apes and then slowly evolved into the more intelligent humanoid species that could then harness their own power.
2. There’s A Legendary Great Ape Form
This is certainly one of the most rare versions of the Great Ape, but it’s also the most overpowered and extreme take on the beings. The Legendary Great Ape is a transformation that is exclusive to Broly, due to his fancy title of Legendary Super Saiyan.
Broly’s Legendary Super Saiyan status emits an electrifying green aura, which is essentially what goes on here, only in Great Ape form. It’s a giant, glowing Great Ape that succeeds in being even more terrifying than usual. Picture GT’s Golden Great Ape, but then turned up to 11.
It’s also worth noting that, much like how the Golden Great Ape form works, this Legendary Great Ape is a gateway transformation that’s necessary before Broly can turn into Legendary Super Saiyan 4. Thankfully, this exaggerated abomination is exclusive to Dragon Ball Heroes and Dragon Ball Fusion.
1. The Form Multiples A Saiyan’s Strength By Ten
It stands to reason that transforming into a giant monkey is going to increase someone’s strength. The question then turns to how much stronger do they become, and is it ultimately worth it?
This fighter’s math comes into play when Great Ape Vegeta faces off against Goku who’s in Kaio-Ken mode. Both of these fighters have increased their strength, but who is strongest?
The rule of thumb within the Dragon Ball anime and manga is that the Great Ape transformation multiples a Saiyan’s strength tenfold. It’s unclear if their speed is also multiplied by ten, but Goku seems to think that it’s at least equal to where it begins.
However, there’s a little bit of controversy over the fact that the Dragon Ball Z: Kyōshū! Saiyan Famicom video game says that the Great Ape just multiples a Saiyan’s strength by four.
These are all the gargantuan details that we could pull together on these big, hairy guys, but are there any others? Gaze into that full moon, ape out, and sound off in the comments!
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