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The Super Saiyan Syndrome May 15, 2006

Posted by Lupus in Anime, Features, Manga.
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Dragonball and its sequels* are some of the most popular and well known anime shows in the world. It was phenomenal when originally released in Japan, took Asia by storm when translated, and even in America it was received with great enthusiasm (amongst those who watch anime/cartoons anyway). I have a 24 year old American friend who still regularly wears a Dragonball Z t-shirt, and that is surely a testament to its popularity.

It obviously had its flaws, such as the ridiciulously long “let’s-stare-at-each-other” time, its action consisting mostly of (awesome) flickering vertical black lines, and it invented what I call the “Super Saiyan Syndrome” (The Syndrome).

The Syndrome refers to when a character suddenly gains incredible power in order to defeat an enemy that he could not possibly have defeated previously. Sometimes he has to work for it, sometimes he doesn’t. Usually it seems to be triggered by anger or, as seems to be the only moral lesson to be found in shounen shows, “in order to protect the ones who are important to me”. However they get it, it always involve a physical transformation and a ridiculous increase in power. There are usually a number of levels.

Now let us examine some culprits.

Naruto
Is there anything cooler than ninjas? Ninjas that transform, obviously. Naruto, Sasuke and Gaara all transform at some point in the story. Naruto gets his kyuubi power, Sasuke gets Orochimaru’s seal, and Gaara turns into that sand monster thing. Naruto in the newest Naruto manga chapters demonstrates most ably the Syndrome – hell he even did a spirit bomb.
SUPER NINYANNN~~~
Super Saiyan reference? Nah, no way

Bleach
We started with Ichigo getting Shinigami powers, with a Zanpaktou. That’s cool, we all love normal people turned heroes. Then he learnt the inital release, then power-uped by “fighting along-side Zangetsu”, then Ban-kai, and now Vaizard powers. He has to work for all the them, true, but no one would notice if you replace the names with Super Shinigami, Super Shinigami 2, Super Shinigami 3 and Super Shinigami 4 respectively. [sarcasm]Kubo Tite gets props for a transforming sword instead of a transforming person.[/sarcasm]

Yu Yu Hakusho
Pretty much everyone except Kuwabara transforms. Hiei’s eye(s), Kurama’s demon fox form, Yusuke’s demon form, Genkai’s (HAWT) young form, Toguro with his vents… the list goes on. Togashi has since cured the Syndrome and Hunter X Hunter is better for it.

Tenjo Tenge
Souchiro’s black hair incarnation is definitely Super Saiyan, and so is Aya when she activates her eyes. If you still need convincing, find volume 9 of the manga and read the first chapter. Souchiro is definitely Super Saiyan.

TenTen
Can’t find that picture I was referring to… but with girls like this, who cares?

The Super Saiyans are great because they are easy to write, allows the underdog to win, and are incredibly exciting. I still remember how exciting it was to see Gohan beat the crap out of Cell when he went into Super Saiyan 2. But really, after all these years, you’d think mangakas would’ve invented other methods of making fights exciting? Or is it a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of thing?

*Except the bastardisation that is GT. I could feel my childhood dying when I watched that.

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Comments»

1. lolikitsune - May 15, 2006

Ehh. Back when Naruto was still in its first arc, it was pretty damn good. This was back when Sasuke was just quiet, and not emo, and when Naruto’s fox powers were a mystery to us and didn’t manifest themselves in “transformation” perse. It was downhill from episode 19.

As for Bleach… yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous.

2. AmiraPigglet - May 16, 2006

“But really, after all these years, you’d think mangakas would’ve invented other methods of making fights exciting? Or is it a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of thing?”

I actually don’t think The Syndrome is all that bad. Sure, as I grew older and as I watched more and more manga and anime, I start to scoff a little (at times when it got ridiculous). However, if done carefully and done well, it is so enbedded in the plot that you don’t really feel it is ridiculous.

E.g. Kenshin…there were scenes when I wanted Kenshin to be able to save the people he’s saving…and I didn’t care if he suddenly developed The Syndrome to defeat his enermy.

3. Shadowress - May 16, 2006

heehee… it always seems to be there in some form or other. once someone ‘powers up’ and supposely becomes the ultimate being, along comes another defeating him (is it just me or does the ‘evil’ syndrome mainly affects the guys?? ^^;; ). it’s a never ending cycle. kinda reminds me of the human evolution >.>

4. drmchsr0 - May 16, 2006

Caption for picture:

I WANT COCK. GIMME COCK.

5. Lupus - May 17, 2006

As for Bleach… yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous.
Despite its absurdity I love Bleach… I do dock it points for being Super Saiyan-ish, but the interaction between humour and action are done so well I hardly care. Either I’m too busy laughing or too busy getting excited. And I’m perfectly aware of what I just said.

E.g. Kenshin…there were scenes when I wanted Kenshin to be able to save the people he’s saving…and I didn’t care if he suddenly developed The Syndrome to defeat his enermy.
I don’t consider Kenshin to be suffering from the Syndrome, because he only power ups once in the story (when he learnt the final two techniques). The rest of the time it’s simply him getting serious… he already had all that power but he simply chose not to use it.

6. hopeless - May 18, 2006

I think the main problem with this strain of fighting is the unavoidable lack of suspence and fast-pace in the fights. When Character X becomes Magical Special Attack X+39 Saiyan, the battle just becomes an insipid barrage of using said attack. Its one of the reasons why, if I like action, it tends to be weapons-based or brief and realistic, since despite shows like Bleach being considering action anime, the action is often dull.

7. dandycandy - May 18, 2006

One could also argue that the Super Saiyan syndrome is waiting about 50 long, talked-filled and fightless episodes before that character gains ANY power to defeat his foe, much less touch the guy. I’ve followed DBZ due to my nieces and nephews (and overzealous sister), so I can see how it set the standard for the whole transformation thing. And Shounen manga isn’t the only one that showcases such a syndrome. Fushigi Yuugi had it too, when Taitsukun gave Tamahome a special ability, and when his family was killed, he showed it off, glowing spiked up hair and all, to try to kill yo-yo boy Suboshi. He only uses it about twice or so, but still, it’s bad. But like pocky and all out weirdness, it’s a mainstay of Japanese manga and anime, and probably won’t go away anytime soon. I bet people are probably expecting it, now.

8. AmiraPigglet - May 20, 2006

“E.g. Kenshin…there were scenes when I wanted Kenshin to be able to save the people he’s saving…and I didn’t care if he suddenly developed The Syndrome to defeat his enermy.”

Lupus: I don’t consider Kenshin to be suffering from the Syndrome, because he only power ups once in the story (when he learnt the final two techniques). The rest of the time it’s simply him getting serious… he already had all that power but he simply chose not to use it.

Yes. But considering how he was slowly losing his ability to fight that well, yet at critical times, he is still able to pull out some amazing stuff. To me…that is still…well…yeah…a little of The Syndrom? Dunno…maybe not.

9. Quan - March 7, 2008

I’ve noticed this also. I like the way you put it and I submitted the idea to TV Tropes, hope you don’t mind. If you don’t know TV Tropes then Google it, it’s a great site.


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