Dragon Ball: 10 Best Transformations, Ranked By Design | CBR – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Dragon Ball’s transformations are normally cause for celebration, but some have made more of an impact than others – especially aesthetically.
Every year marks the debut of hundreds of new anime, but it’s incredible to see how older classics, like Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, can still generate just as much excitement. Dragon Ball has remained at the forefront of the shonen genre since the 1980s and carefully pushed its characters and story forward in a way that meshes with modern anime series.
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Dragon Ball continues to turn to new ideas in attempts to rejuvenate its formula, but one constant that’s become a defining feature of the franchise is the copious transformations that characters resort to in order to grow stronger. Dragon Ball‘s transformations are normally cause for celebration, but some have made more of an impact than others, especially when they’re judged on an aesthetic level.
Dragon Ball has grown considerably since the series’ first trek to Planet Namek, but this important period is responsible for introducing some crucial enemies. Zarbon is one of Frieza’s trusted henchmen and a character who truly embodies the adage of “beauty and the beast.” Zarbon’s standard form is quite stylish and sleek, which makes his crude transformation come as a major surprise. All of Zarbon’s class and elegance is erased for this monstrous form that isn’t easy on the eyes, but is considerably stronger. Zarbon’s transformation still pales in comparison to Vegeta, but it’s a fascinating change when it happens.
Dragon Ball regularly features villains who cycle through transformations. It’s become a solid practice to assume that an antagonist’s initial look will be wildly different by the time they reach their full power. Cell has several distinct forms – Imperfect, Semi-Perfect, and Perfect – that are triggered by his absorption of the Androids. Cell’s initial look is so frail and creepy that it’s quite impressive to see how much power he confidently commands in his perfected state. This boost in power, in addition to the memorable way in which he activates these transformations, is still significant.
Dragon Ball has featured a number of unique species and creations throughout its many journeys across the universe through multiple series. Machine Mutants are a more obscure sect of robots that receive a lot of attention in Dragon Ball GT. Machine Mutants contrast in nature, but they all experience a similar transformation that turns them into seriously more dangerous machinery.
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Mutchy, Luud, and General Rilldo all exhibit transformations into more intimidating creations. Dr. Lychee’s Hatchiyack gains a Giant and Super form in the Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans OVA, and gains another transformation in Dragon Ball Heroes.
Dragon Ball has reached a place where many of its powerful transformations are more restrained in nature and the general design of a character doesn’t completely change. One of the earliest transformations that’s been present in Dragon Ball right from the start is the Oozaru form that Saiyans transform into when they witness a full moon. The Great Ape form has been somewhat taken for granted at this point, but it’s a serious surprise in the original series. The advent of a character becoming a gigantic, ferocious ape is one of the craziest things that Dragon Ball does.
Janemba is a demonic threat who gets introduced in the Dragon Ball Z movie, Fusion Reborn, as a worthy adversary for Gogeta. Janemba’s initial form doesn’t inspire much confidence and he almost resembles a less competent version of Good Buu’s rotund form. Janemba has important ties to the Demon Realm, which don’t become clear until he transforms into Super Janemba. This new form is an improvement in every regard. Not only does he gain a deadly sword, he gains a devilish design that makes Dabura look cuddly.
Transformations have become a staple in Dragon Ball, but it’s Frieza who really kicks off the tradition in a substantial way. He’s the first character in the franchise who exhibits such radical transformations.
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Frieza’s fourth form is by far the sleekest of the lot and trims the fat from the previous transformations. It’s not until much later that Frieza attempts to prove his powers and achieves a stronger transformation, Golden Frieza. This Golden form is more or less a palette swap to its predecessor, but there’s true reverence felt when Frieza first transforms and the Super Saiyan parallel is appreciated. 
Each new Super Saiyan transformation is a momentous occasion in Dragon Ball, but it’s fair to say that the process can get repetitive at times, especially when more golden hair becomes the dominant signifier. Dragon Ball Super attempts to amend this with the shift towards Super Saiyan God. This transformation isn’t that different in concept, but it greatly benefits from the swap to red hair, pupils, and aura. This is continued with Super Saiyan Blue, and these different colors make such a strong visual difference in battle.
The newest transformation to enter the Dragon Ball canon is Ultra Ego, Vegeta’s alternative form to Goku’s Ultra Instinct. Ultra Ego is described as a staple of Gods of Destruction and it’s a more rage-fueled power as opposed to the Zen-like calm that’s necessary for Ultra Instinct. Ultra Ego also contains quite the striking transformation, which pushes Vegeta to territory that’s more Neanderthal-like in nature and feels reminiscent of Super Saiyan 3, albeit without the excessive hair. Increased strength and an intimidating aura make Ultra Ego a worthy new transformation for Vegeta, but it feels like it truly changes him.
Dragon Ball GT still receives a lot of criticism in the Dragon Ball canon. Dragon Ball Super has forged its own path and introduced its own subsequent Super Saiyan stages that occur beyond Super Saiyan 3. GT takes a different approach with its big Super Saiyan 4 reveal. This transformation is by far the most extreme of the different Super Saiyan designs. SS4 abandons the golden hair and instead covers the Saiyan’s body with animalistic hair, almost like they’ve internalized their Great Ape roots. It’s a look that’s not popular with everyone, but it takes some ambitious risks.
Goku has been obsessed with perfecting Ultra Instinct ever since he first brushed up with the transformation during the Tournament of Power. Goku initially taps into unstable versions of Ultra Instinct and it takes him some time for him to properly understand how to tame this transformation. Different stages of Ultra Instinct exist, all of which are highlighted with a striking white aura, but it’s Perfected Ultra Instinct that has the most to offer. Not only does this final transformation make Goku look like a deity, its incorporation of a giant avatar for battle makes it truly exceptional.
NEXT: Dragon Ball: Every Main Character’s Strongest Transformation
Daniel Kurland is a freelance writer, comedian, and critic, who lives in the cultural mosaic that is Brooklyn, New York. Daniel’s work can be read on ScreenRant, Splitsider, Bloody Disgusting, Den of Geek, and across the Internet. Daniel recently completed work on a noir anthology graphic novel titled, “Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Noir: A Rag of Bizarre Noir and Hard Boiled Tales” and he’s currently toiling away on his first novel. Daniel’s extra musings can be found @DanielKurlansky on Twitter.


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