The Super Saiyan Gene

The Dragon Ball franchise is home to no shortage of iconic moments and images that have left a long-lasting impression on readers and viewers but few among these are as immediately recognizable as the legendary golden-haired transformation of the Saiyan race known as “Super Saiyan”. The world was first graced by this famous powered-up form in 1991 when series protagonist Son Goku attained it to defeat the villainous Frieza and since then it has inspired countless derivatives and homages, not to mention a continuing legacy within the Dragon Ball series in the form of a plethora of other Saiyan transformations. There is, however, one question the Super Saiyan forms have inspired in fans for many years and that regards the users’ genders. While Dragon Ball would continue for years, introducing more and more Super Saiyan forms those who became Super Saiyans were always male characters. Why was this?

That’s a whole lot of Super Saiyans. It’s also a whole lot of dudes. A little odd if you think about it.

While it is true that the Super Saiyan transformation is only accessible to members of the series’ fictional Saiyan race, it can hardly be counted as an explanation since there have been female Saiyans. Most notable among these are Goku’s granddaughter Pan and the daughter of his rival Vegeta, known as Bra in Japanese or Bulla in English. Unfortunately neither of these characters ever achieved the Super Saiyan form, even though it seemed like they should have. Bra is shown to be 9 years old in Dragon Ball GT and her older brother Trunks was able to transform into a Super Saiyan at age 8 with seemingly no effort. As for Pan, she was shown to have become stronger than her own father Gohan in Dragon Ball GT. Gohan was not only able to master the Super Saiyan transformation but was able to go beyond and achieve the much stronger Super Saiyan 2 which means Pan easily cleared the raw power requirement necessary to unlock the form. The only other necessary factor for the Super Saiyan transformation that is mentioned in the series is a great need from the user to gain the extra power afforded by the new form and Pan was shown to be in danger of being killed multiple times through all sorts of dangerous villains, much stronger than herself, yet she never became a Super Saiyan despite meeting this requirement as well. To make things even more confusing, Pan was later shown to have a grandson named Goku Jr. who was able to turn into a Super Saiyan despite seemingly never having been in the kinds of peril Pan was put through beforehand. This has led to widespread speculation on behalf of fans and (aside from just electing to ignore Dragon Ball GT since it is now considered non-canon) the most common response is to simply assume that female Saiyans cannot become Super Saiyans, which seemed to hold water… until now.

Last week’s episode of Dragon Ball Super saw the female Saiyans Caulifla and Kale achieve Super Saiyan forms, giving fans their first ever look at Super Saiyan women (aside from the non-canon supplementary material) but also once again raising the question of why characters like Pan were unable to achieve the form in the past. Luckily, there is indeed a plausible answer.

The most sensible explanation is that the ability to go Super Saiyan is simply a recessive sex-linked characteristic. For example, the reason most colorblind people are male is because the gene that gives this condition is found on the X chromosome so if a woman’s second X chromosome doesn’t have the colorblind gene, then that chromosome dominates the trait, and the woman will not be colorblind. Men only have one X chromosome, so if it has that gene on it then they will be colorblind seeing as they will have nothing to counteract it. The point is that the Super Saiyan ability might be like that. To illustrate this, let’s look at the Son family’s possible genotypes. The Y chromosomes will naturally be represented by a Y and the X chromosomes will be represented by an X with an S representing being inable to go Super Saiyan and s representing being able.

Goku: X^s Y

Chi-Chi: X^S X^s

Now if Goku gives his Y chromosome to his son Gohan and he gets an X^s chromosome from Chi-Chi, then obviously he will be Super Saiyan compatible. Of course, this requires Chi-Chi to have a gene we would only think is attainable for aliens, but it should be noted that humans and Saiyans can have similar genes like this because they are from the same species. If Saiyans were not humans then they would not be able to produce fertile offspring with people on Earth, which they clearly can. Besides, this is Dragon Ball. Much weirder things than a character from Earth having a recessive gene that is found in people from another planet have happened. Perhaps this could even be evidence of convergent evolution and races on Earth are in the early stages of evolving in a way that will allow them to be Super Saiyan compatible. So after Goku and Chi-Chi we have their son, Gohan and his wife Videl.

Gohan: X^s Y

Videl: X^S X^S

These two have a daughter, the previously mentioned Pan.

Pan: X^S X^s

Pan is a super saiyan gene carrier, however, she is not super saiyan compatible herself because Videl’s non-Super Saiyan gene dominates the Super Saiyan gene she received from her father. Pan can, however, pass on her Super Saiyan compatible gene to her child, who we will say for the sake of argument is a girl.

Pan’s daughter: X^S X^s

Pan’s daughter still won’t be able to become a Super Saiyan, but it is possible she could carry the gene like Pan did, which means she could give it to her son, Goku Jr., later.

Goku junior: X^s Y

And thus the Super Saiyan mystery has been cracked. This is, of course, all firmly in the realm of speculation and fan theory and as such it should not be interpreted as fact within the Dragon Ball canon, especially not know seeing as most of the fans of today agree that GT is non-canon. With that being said, there will always be a place for fan made explanations and justifications for plot holes and contrivances in fiction and many people find it fun to ruminate on gaps in information in their favourite stories. Do you agree? Did this explanation change your view on the Dragon Ball franchise? Let us know in the comments and look forward to more Dragon Ball and general anime content on AniRoute.

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Will Bertazzo Lambert
Will Bertazzo Lambert has recently risen above doing nothing but watch anime all the time and has now taken up talking about it on the internet. He hopes you will listen too, since he intends to talk for a long, long time.
  • Nagichan

    Very interesting theory. I will admit it’s not something I thought of. But it’s presented in a plausible way.