As fans of anime will know, things tend to get all kinds of kooky around here. There are huge, dramatic fight scenes, a whole tidal wave of emotions, story arcs that are just brilliantly nonsensical at times… they’re like animated soap operas, essentially, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Naturally, anime tends to be steeped in Japanese sensibilities, which is why many shows revolve around martial arts, high school culture, and all these sorts of things. Not to mention, of course, extra-terrestrial warriors who can fire humongous energy beams from their hands.
The more melodramatic the fight scenes, the better. The super-popular Dragon Ball series knows all about that philosophy. With four different anime series, a glut of movies, and a whole heaping heck of a lot of merchandise to its name, Dragon Ball is about the most popular and successful anime (or four animes, as we’ve mentioned) in the world.
As such, the whole world knows all about the Saiyans. This alien race looks very similar to humans (which is how Goku passed for one for so long, of course), but sport some abilities that set them just slightly above the average Earthling on the power-o-meter.
Did you know about their tails, and the bizarre relationship it has with their bodies? Do you know what S-cells are, or what happens when a Saiyan goes Super Saiyan? If not, hop on board with us as we take a closer look at this fascinating extra-terrestrial race. Did someone say Kamehameha? Here's Dragon Ball: 20 Strange Things About Saiyan Anatomy.
20 They Have Tails
Well, yes. Let’s kick this party off the right way, with one of the most downright peculiar elements of Saiyan anatomy: that tail.
If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy IX, you’ll know that unexplained tails where tails don’t belong are just a little bit on the questionable side. In a game full of odd rat-people and fish-men, nobody even looked twice at Zidane, but still. It was great to have his tail explained away later in the story.
As for the Saiyans, it’s a curious fact that every Universe 7 pure-blood is born with a brown, furry tail. They have (or rather, they develop) great dexterity with it, too, much like some species of real-world monkeys. As with Zidane Tribal, the fact that Saiyans are so humanoid and unremarkable otherwise (on the surface) makes this fact all the stranger.
19 Their Tail Is A Weapon
These tails are more than just interesting ice breakers at parties, though. More than just a curious biological characteristic.
The Saiyans tend to be renowned as a proud and powerful warrior race (whatever Frieza might tell you), and they hone their bodies to be powerful fighting machines. Not only can their tails be used as another ‘limb’ with which to fight, but it’s been referred to as the source of a Saiyan’s power. In “The Tail of Goku,” for instance, our hero commented that he felt as though he was weaker without it.
If you need proof of that, how about the whole Great Ape thing? Saiyans are able to transform into one during the full moon (thanks to Blutz Waves), while their furry appendage is still attached and good to go.
18 They can Fly
Ah, yes. Flight, that most enviable of superpowers. Who doesn’t wish they could just Superman their way around? Airplane travel can be an expensive affair, after all, and let’s not even get started on the food on planes.
Sadly, though, we aren’t Saiyan, and we’re stuck with our sad plight. In anime, flight is a super popular ability for characters to have, and it’s no surprise that the Saiyans are capable of it.
Not only can they levitate and fly by manipulating their Ki energy (more on that later), they’re able to implement these abilities into their fighting styles. Is this a biological thing? In a way, yes.
Needless to say, this amps up all the drama and destruction many times over, which is exactly what we’ve all come to expect of Dragon Ball.
17 Their Bodies Generate Mysterious ‘S-Cells’
The human body is a remarkable machine, isn’t it? Just stop for a moment and think just how amazing we all are. Did you realize that the human brain actually named itself? Well, dang. It suddenly got far too deep in here.
Sadly, though, we humans are nothing compared to Saiyans.
Today, biologists have most of the fundamentals of how our bodies work neatly mapped out and explained, but the internal workings of these guys are on a whole different level.
Their bodies accumulate special cells called S-Cells, which are produced by discipline and leading a quiet, sedate life. As we reported over on The Gamer, these are not qualities that some Saiyans are known for, which just complicates the whole concept even further. What a mysterious bunch these guys are.
16 They Can Become ‘Super Saiyan’
Speaking of those S-Cells, let’s take a look at one of the best-known and most unusual aspects of Saiyan anatomy: the Super Saiyan form. The Saiyans of both Universe 6 and Universe 7 can achieve this transformation, but it’s darn difficult to do and happens only on rare occasions.
The effects of transforming into a Super Saiyan are straightforward enough: the individual tends to become more muscular, sports golden hair, and has all-around dramatically enhanced abilities.
This isn’t all there is to it, though, because the effects of the transformation are not the same for every Saiyan. Throughout the Dragon Ball franchise, all kinds of different variations on the form have been documented. The individual, the circumstances and other such variables have a part to play there.
15 Some Can Even Achieve Super Saiyan God Status
You don’t even need to be a Dragon Ball fan to have heard of the power of the Super Saiyan form. The transformation, like the Incredible Hulk getting angry, has become synonymous with the idea of opening a can of righteous fury on all who oppose you.
That’s just not enough for some select Saiyans, though. There are ways by which some can achieve the Super Saiyan God form, which is really something to behold. This is far rarer and more difficult still, though Goku achieved it (by means of a ritual in which five powerful Saiyans channeled their Ki within him).
There are some curious guidelines in play as to how to attain the power, how it manifests and whether or not it can be kept. There aren’t really any solid answers to that one.
14 They Age Very, Very (VERY) Well
Now, we humans don’t tend to age all that well. Even those with bank accounts that rival one of the Kardashians, those who can afford the latest treatments and beauty products, are going to be looking pretty darn worse for wear at eighty. It’s just the way of things.
Saiyans, again, have us entirely beaten on that score. The race are renowned for keeping themselves in peak physical condition, so that’s no surprise, but did you know just how long a Saiyan remains in the prime of their life?
Human beings, as we know, don’t make it any further than 30 before they start groaning when they get out of chairs and constantly complaining that their back and/or knees hurt. Meanwhile, the Saiyans (as we’ve reported on The Gamer) hit their prime at 18 and remain there until the onset of their 80s.
13 They’re Deceptively (And Absurdly) Strong
Let’s not get bogged down in all this Super Saiyan and Super Saiyan God talk, though. The fact of the matter is that these beings, even in their ‘standard’ form, have some truly impossible might.
Saiyans tend to extensively train for battle from an early age, but even without all of that, even as children, they’re just off-the-charts strong. They’re only around the height of human beings, but there’s something very special going on below the surface of every Saiyan.
Before he had any training with Master Roshi, Goku was able to lift a car (Bulma’s, fans will remember) like it was nothing at all. Over the course of the franchise, they’ve displayed Hulk-levels of strength again and again. With all of their various enhanced forms in mind, we’re probably looking at the most powerful (yet remarkably ordinary-looking, much of the time) races in anime.
12 They Have An Incredible Healing Factor
Now, when you’re the kind of being who can fly at supersonic speeds and lift mountains like they’re just a couple of grocery bags, you’d probably start to feel more than a little complacent. Untouchable. After all, who in the heck would ever want to mess with you?
Saiyans may be formidable, but they’re not invulnerable. They do have near-fatal injuries, and that’s where another handy-dandy feature of their impossible anatomy comes in.
Zenkai (meaning ‘full recovery’) is a power exclusive to Saiyans, which allows them to enhance their strength in the aftermath of rough injuries.
You can think of it as a similar process to regeneration in Doctor Who, or Wolverine or Deadpool’s healing factor.
It’s not that Saiyans can’t be eliminated (as Dragon Ball fans will know all too well), but it’s certainly something.
11 Life On Their Super-Hostile Home Planet Made Them Strong
We humans really should stop and appreciate just how lucky we are. Look at this beautiful planet of ours. Granted, we’re making it a little less beautiful every day, in all kinds of bad and creative new ways (yay us!), but by some impossible cosmic chance, it’s got the perfect atmosphere for us.
Planet Vegeta, by contrast, would not be a great place to spend an intergalactic vacation. Not only does it not exist anymore, but the home planet of the Saiyans had gravity that was ten times stronger than Earth’s. Apparently, this dramatically-increased resistance made the conditions great for their training, and contributed to the race’s incredible strength and prowess as warriors. Saiyans being Saiyans, however, some of them had to go to even greater extremes.
10 They Can Survive Gravity Hundreds Of Times Stronger Than Earth’s
Gravity ten times as powerful as Earth’s? It’s probably best not to think about the connotations of that, or what it would mean for our hopes of flying through the air by holding many, many helium balloons.
The idea of that is difficult enough to stomach, but how about gravity 100 times stronger? Goku used a Gravity Machine while aboard Dr. Brief’s ship to train in those conditions. Vegeta went one better; training under the influence of gravity 300 times stronger! He dialed back after being injured by gravity 500 times stronger than Earth’s, so it’s good to know that there’s at least some kind of limit here.
9 They Can Withstand All Kinds Of Absurd Extremes Besides
So, there we have it. The pressure of gravity 300 times stronger than ours would have all kinds of grim effects on the human body, but Saiyans really aren’t going to be affected too much. Heck, Vegeta can happily keep right on lifting weights and such right through it, like one of those attention-seeking people at the gym (#workoutselfie). Gravity Shmavity.
That’s just the beginning of it, though. Aside from that, a Saiyan can survive all kinds of impossible (and completely impractical) atmospheric extremes, such as heat and cold. And let’s not get into the sort of punishment that Goku was able to survive largely unscathed (even as a child). Entire cities have been destroyed by energy blasts around him, but he just shrugged this off.
The incredible durability and resilience of the Saiyans in action, or just plot armor? Probably a bit of both.
8 They Can Also Transform Into The Mighty Oozaru Form
We’ve already touched on the Great Ape transformations that some Saiyans have exhibited, but we’re definitely going to have to take a closer look at that. Because… dang.
A curious spin on the legend of the werewolf, it’s the full moon that enables Saiyans to become Oozaru. On absorbing enough ‘green spectrum radiation,’ their tails react and they hit this superpowered state.
Untrained and inexperienced Saiyans lose control in this form and go on destructive rampages, which leave them depleted afterward. With intensive work, though, it’s possible for some to retain their minds and all of their discipline in this form, and even transform without the need of the moon at all (though this is super difficult and cannot be done without a loss of the individual’s Ki).
7 They Do Have Weak Points (Long, Furry Ones)
That’s right, friends. We’ve come quite far through this rundown without another mention of that most distinctive of Saiyan characteristics, the tail. Let’s get back on that, because there are so many more curious details about it.
For one thing, it’s tough to say whether it’s a weakness or a strength. It all depends on the individual, their mastery of their powers, and discipline. For untrained Saiyans, however, it’s definitely a weakness, as it’s so sensitive that injuries to the area can completely incapacitate the owner.
Nevertheless, though, Saiyans are able to overcome this, thanks to their immense physical and mental strength. It’s not uncommon for them to opt to have the tail removed or cut it off, either.
In short, the positives and negatives of tail ownership are tough to determine.
6 Their Tails Just Stopped Being A Thing Later On
As we can see, then, there’s a lot of inconsistency surrounding the Saiyans and their anatomy. Some can take wild new forms on a whim, others can’t. Some have tails, some don’t. Sometimes the tail thing is explained away by the fact that hybrid Saiyans don’t have them, but other times, hybrids just go ahead and have tails anyway.
These sorts of persnickety issues crop up in long-running shows. It’s inevitable. Here’s a curious thing, though: Universe 6 Saiyans don’t have tails, but for a very special reason.
In the Super History Book (a celebration of the franchise created for its 30th anniversary), Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama explained that the tails had been a thorn in his side from the off. Of Goku, he said,
“I’m always thinking about how things are supposed to work, so it was a real pain to figure out how he’d put his pants on or stuff like that. That’s what always bugged me most. Is there a hole in the pants? Does he put his tail through first, then put the pants on? So that made me want to just get rid of the darn thing… which I did, in the end.”
5 Saiyans Need Oxygen To Breathe… Except When They Don’t
Speaking of some of those shonky inconsistencies, here’s another strange aspect of Saiyan biology. It’s quite well established that these beings can’t survive airless environments (King Kai knew not to use the Dragon Balls to revive Goku, because he’d be in space and that would end horribly), yet they’ve been seen to do so several times. Very briefly, but still.
What’s happening here, then? The Dragon Ball Wiki suggests one possibility: “A plausible explanation is that Saiyans do, indeed, need air to breathe, but, due to their superior cardiovascular conditioning, are able to hold their breath for long periods of time, but still need a source of air to retreat into, after a few minutes.”
It's pushing things a little, even for Saiyans, but it’s not beyond the realms of the imagination.
4 The Hybrid Saiyans Don’t Have Tails
So, there it is. As we’ve already seen, Saiyan tails are the source of all kinds of wild shenanigans, and we’re not even done with them yet (more tail-related factoids are coming your way later in this list). Let’s not get carried away with all of this, though, because there’s something else super important to know: not all Saiyans have tails.
Hybrid Saiyans generally don’t. As is often the case with Dragon Ball, though, the rules don’t apply all the time, and there’s a bit of a grey area here. Gohan was born with one, for instance, while Goten and Trunks were not.
What’s happening here? What’s the cause of all of this? Is it something genetic? These questions are still heavily debated among the fan community.
3 They Can Assume Forms *Beyond* Super Saiyan God
As we’ve seen over the course of this rundown, the formidable Saiyan race are super strong in their vanilla forms, but they’ve got so much more potential besides. All this Oozaru business just multiplies their fearsome reputation. Frieza only attacked them in the first place because he feared that they were becoming too powerful, and can you blame him?
Heck, they can even exceed godlike status. What is there above Super Saiyan God? Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan, that’s what.
This form is attained by Saiyans who are always able to keep the regular God status in themselves (as Goku did), who then become Super Saiyan on top of that.
This being a ridiculous mouthful, the term Super Saiyan Blue is used instead (or Super Saiyan Rosé, in Goku Black’s case). Either way, we’re going far beyond bragging at this point. Then there’s Super Saiyan God SS Evolved, at which point we really do need to sit down and calm ourselves for a moment.
2 Even Their Eyes And Noses Are Superhuman
Now, the super strength, resilience, and inhuman agility, we can probably get on board with. After all, that’s what we want to see in anime, right? Marvel movie levels of special effects and theatrics.
Those darn Saiyans just have to lord it over us even further though. Did you know they’ve got the vision of an eagle and the sense of smell of a bloodhound, too?
Goku and Broly have been known to track other characters down by following their scent. Meanwhile, in the episode “The Nimbus Cloud of Roshi,” Goku’s able to see Turtle and Master Roshi at such a distance that Bulma states, "It's like you've got supervision or something."
Do you know why that is, Bulma? Because he does, that’s why.
1 Their Bodies Will ALWAYS Be Beach-Ready
With everything we’ve learned here, it’s clear that Saiyans are far, far cooler than we feeble humans will ever be. Here’s one final thing to make us all super bitter that we were born regular old Earthlings: their metabolism completely prevents them from ever getting fat.
That’s right, friends. You might think that this fitness-oriented race would live on a diet of kale, mineral water, and sensible salads, but it’s quite the contrary. Saiyans are renowned for their voracious appetites.
What with all that energy they’re burning up, they need around 30-40 times as much food as we do. Their preference is for meat, but anything (as long as it’s in vast quantities) will do just fine.
No, this isn’t the way to take care of your body, but when it comes to Saiyans, every possible rulebook is thrown right out of the window. Out of the window and onto the street, where it’s crushed by a speeding SUV.