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A once "Legendary" transformation that grants the user a massive increase in power.
Super Saiyan is a transformation that occurs involuntarily when a Saiyan has reached their limit and is overcome with immense emotion and the transformation results in enhanced physical attributes such as strength, speed etc. though the transformation makes a Saiyan dramatically more powerful it however makes the user's immune system vulnerable to diseases. At first the transformation was considered legendary among the Saiyans and other races however due to the lack of a Super Saiyan appearing in many years people began to doubt the existence of a Super Saiyan and even the Saiyans themselves were in doubt and so the galactic overlord Frieza dismissed it is a simple myth however low class Saiyan warriors began to accomplish missions that Frieza's elite could not and they began to have a sudden increase in power which shocked Frieza and made him think that a Super Saiyan is emerging among the Saiyan community and so he destroyed Planet Vegeta and the Saiyan race to prevent a Super Saiyan from existing however a few Saiyans survived which included Goku (Kakarot), Vegeta, Nappa, Raditz, Turles, Tarble, Broly and Broly's father. During the Frieza Saga, Vegeta explains how the Super Saiyan is a Saiyan with limitless power and is a legend and later in the Frieza Saga he tells Frieza that Goku is a Super Saiyan, Goku transforms into a Super Saiyan after witnessing Frieza kill Krillin and is overcome with rage, after Goku defeats Frieza many believe Goku is the legendary Super Saiyan, the first Super Saiyan in over a thousand years however it was actually Broly who was the first Saiyan in over a thousand years to become one however no one except his father witnessed this event and so people believed Goku to be the legendary Super Saiyan until they fought Broly and the true story was told. A Super Saiyan was considered legendary however when Vegeta and nearly every other Saiyan on Earth were able to become a Super Saiyan the legendary status was dropped.
A Super Saiyan is seen as a muscular warrior with upright golden hair, blue/green eyes and surrounded by a golden flame-like aura while exerting power. The Super Saiyan form has slightly bulkier muscles from the previous form and at first when the user becomes a Super Saiyan they have much less mercy upon whomever they are fighting and a stern look is common on the user's face however it is said that to become a Super Saiyan one must be pure of heart whether it is pure good or pure evil it is unclear. According to Akira Toriyama as a Saiyan transforms into a Super Saiyan all of their attributes are multiplied by 50, this includes, speed, stamina, strength etc.
When Goku transforms in response to his best friend Krillin's death at the hands of Frieza, his power grossly outclasses the evil tyrant's, a feat made more impressive by the fact that, prior to the transformation, Goku was no match for him. The form is said to originally multiply the Saiyan's power by fifty times its normal amount, though it can be inferred that the multiplier decreased somewhat as new Super Saiyan levels were introduced. This was made evident by Kibito's inability to even hold the Z Sword (which Gohan in his base form could, and Goku without practice) whilst being far superior to Frieza, normal-form Goku being nearly even with Yakon, an opponent whose power was more than a fourth of Goku's Full Power Super Saiyan level, amongst other things such as base Trunks knocking Cell's first-form out of West City with a simple kiai. Despite this possible decrease in power augmentation brought on by this form, it is still shown to make the user several times stronger (and much more so in forms such as Ascended Super Saiyan, Ultra Super Saiyan, and Full-Power Super Saiyan).
In order to combat Goku's sudden burst of strength and power, Frieza released all natural bodily inhibitions and utilized 100% of his power, only half of which he used to stop Goku's Kamehameha attack even with the Kaioken multiplying his power twenty fold. Though he seemed to gain the upper hand while Goku holds back, he loses face when he realizes that his attacks are no longer debilitating, with Goku merely shrugging off his most forceful blows. This was because in his 100% final state, Frieza had gained power and speed, but also gained increased energy consumption to the point where his damaged body could no longer handle it.
Future Trunks would later arrive from the future along with the ability to transform, much to the astonishment of Vegeta and other present company, and dispose of the synthetically restored Frieza, and his father, King Cold with great ease (even taking Cold's full-force swipe to the palm without injury). In the movie Cooler's Revenge, Goku uses his Super Saiyan power to easily defeat Cooler, Frieza's older brother, thus finishing off the family and bringing the saga of Frieza to a complete close.
Some time later, Vegeta also achieves the Super Saiyan transformation, possibly due to his belief that he had pushed himself to his utmost limits without actually transforming. By his own admission, it was anger at himself that triggered the intense emotion required to transform. He also noted, that he too possessed a pure heart, only one of pure evil as opposed to Goku's good, although Vegeta wasn't actually fully evil at the time. With this new power under his belt, Vegeta confronts and overcomes Android 19 and Dr. Gero, killing the #19 with blithe. However, when the true Androids of Future Trunks' grim prediction, Android 17 and 18, arrive, they easily defeat both Vegeta and Future Trunks' Super Saiyan forms, Trunks in particular being felled in a single blow from #17, as opposed to the trained Vegeta who withstood a much longer and abashing beating.
The limits of the Super Saiyan transformation were pushed even further with the introduction of Cell. At this point, Vegeta, Future Trunks, Goku, and Gohan had all spent time in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, advancing to new Super Saiyan forms to combat the androids and Cell. The Super Saiyan's standard output of power would be outclassed by the second and third stages. Unlike Vegeta and Future Trunks who make use of these stages, Goku and Gohan work to perfect the initial transformation after deciding that it was the best form to use overall, prompting their transition into Full-Power Super Saiyan, the concept of making the Super Saiyan form no different in energy output than the basic form of the user's body. The initial transformation and its advanced grades are later rendered obsolete by the introduction of a far more powerful level, Super Saiyan 2 (which is the form used by Gohan to defeat Cell), followed by Goku's introduction of Super Saiyan 3 during the Majin Buu Saga, and finally, Super Saiyan 4, introduced during Dragon Ball GT.
Goten and Trunks, born from Goku and Vegeta respectively, attain the ability to transform at a remarkably young age, again to widespread surprise from the main cast. (Goten, who was about a year younger than Trunks' age of eight, stated that his transformation was so long ago that he didn't even remember.) Their fusion form Gotenks, seen late in Dragon Ball Z, gained the ability to transform into all three levels of Super Saiyan in the series within no more than a half-hour of training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber (although he has only ever been seen assuming the first and third forms), with the combined energies of Goten and Trunks balancing out the high ki consumption of the final transformation.
In the special The History of Trunks, Future Gohan is shown to have gained the Super Saiyan transformation long ago, most likely after witnessing the Z Fighters being slaughtered by the Androids. After he is killed, we see Future Trunks transform for the first time (only in the anime, for Trunks seemed to already have attained the transformation rather recently in the original manga), thus showing his original transformation. In the film Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan, the Saiyan Broly is also shown to harness the original Super Saiyan transformation, which is what he uses to battle Goku for a few moments. He also uses it against Goten and Trunks in Broly: Second Coming.
In the last episode of Dragon Ball GT, Goku and Vegeta's descendants, Goku Jr. and Vegeta Jr., are shown to be able to transform into Super Saiyans from a young age, as well. Goku Jr.'s first transformation in particular was shown in the Dragon Ball GT special, A Hero's Legacy, aired at around the time that episode 40 was broadcast. This heavily contradicts the Daizenshuu's explanation that Pan couldn't transform due to the minuscule percentage of Saiyan blood in her, as being a grandson of the already-1/4 Saiyan Pan would reduce his to no more than one sixteenth, making him almost completely human.
In Dragon Ball Z, the possibility of a power greater than that of a Super Saiyan is first theorized in the episode " Laboratory Basement", when Krillin and Future Trunks contemplate how Vegeta plans on retaining his dominance in power among the Z Fighters. The first of these new heights in power is the Ascended Super Saiyan stage obtained by Vegeta, Future Trunks and later, Goku. This technique (as well as the Ultra Super Saiyan technique that follows) is essentially a method of enhancing the abilities of a Super Saiyan, rather than a complete departure from it in favor of newer and more unique power. It is not until the Cell Games that this uncharted level of power makes its debut, in the form of Super Saiyan 2. Saiyan characters continue pushing their limits during the series, ultimately discovering a third, and in anime incarnations, fourth level of Super Saiyan. Two exclusive Super Saiyan stages are also featured in the Dragon Ball films.
There are nine variations of the Super Saiyan in all. The following is a summarized list of the premature and advanced levels of the Super Saiyan transformation.