It’s arguably the most iconic moment in all of Dragon Ball: on March 19, 1991, in chapter 317 of the manga series published by Weekly Shonen Jump, Goku turned Super Saiyan for the first time to fight Frieza. With the insane boost to his power level, Goku was able to bring down the evil villain once and for all. That’s all well and good, but one question remained after the initial transformation: why the heck did Goku’s hair turn blond in the process?
Well, Weekly Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Hiroyuki Nakano revealed the reason for the blond hair on Japanese TV (via Kotaku) and it basically comes down to efficiency. Nakano explained that coloring in Super Saiyan hair, with all its spikes and waves, is “tough work,” especially when you’re working on a weekly publishing schedule, so Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama devised a plan to make his workload a tiny bit lighter.
Toriyama “wanted to eliminate the time spent coloring in black [hair]” so he simply left Goku’s Super Saiyan hair uncolored in that original reveal to save himself some time.
“For a serialization that’s published weekly, each minute and every second is precious,” Nakano said. “Even trimming only a little bit of time means more time can be spent on the story and drawing cool art.”
When the black and white manga was adapted for the anime, Goku’s white hair translated to blond on the small screen. That’s it. No hidden meaning or big complicated answer. Toriyama just didn’t want to spend so much time coloring in all that goddamn hair.
Since Goku’s fight with Frieza, the manga and the anime have found new ways to boost Goku’s power level, which has only grown increasingly ridiculous through the years. In the Dragon Ball: Battle of Gods movie, Goku reached Super Saiyan God level, which actually turned Goku’s hair red. Recently, Dragon Ball Super introduced fans to Ultra Instinct, Goku’s latest transformation. We assume it will not be the last.