‘Nappa isn’t bald,’ says Akira Toriyama! Read my exclusive translation of an article where Toriyama talks about the origin of Saiyan hairstyles.
The Spanish magazine titled Dragon Ball: El Manga Legendario (Dragon Ball: The Legendary Manga) was a 50-issue series that was published in 2008 in Western Europe.
The contents of the magazine were first produced in Japan by Shūeisha and its affiliates in 2007. They were then translated and published in Spanish, French, Italian, and Greek, in their respective countries by different publishers. The Spanish edition was published by Editorial Salvat, in Barcelona.
The magazine was never published outside of these countries, including Japan.
Most of the content in each 20-page issue consists of simple facts and trivia that astute Dragon Ball fans are already aware of. For example, different names of techniques, characters, and locations in the series.
But within each issue were two pages written by Akira Toriyama!
Toriyama uses these pages to discuss different subjects he cares about, from his personal life, to his home, favorite drawing tools, pets, movie collection, and thoughts on characters and story developments in Dragon Ball.
I’ve acquired all 50 issues of Dragon Ball: El Manga Legendario, and I have translated the Akira Toriyama pages!
There are many incredible surprises!!
To start off, here in this article I’ve published my translation of one page of Issue 48, where Toriyama discusses the origin of the Saiyan hairstyles and colors.
Among the revelations is that Nappa isn’t actually bald, and that Vegeta is wrong about a Saiyan’s hair never growing!
Akira Toriyama’s Words About the Saiyans
Note: The original article was in Spanish, and I translated and set the type in Photoshop for the above image. The words here are the quoted words on the page.
- Toriyama-sensei reveals to us, among other surprising curiosities, that the Saiyans can be considered the central axis of Dragon Ball.
“I’ve already talked about the Saiyans. I said that they were characterized by having black hair, although I decided it’d be that way because Goku had hair that color. This type of ‘on the fly’ characterization isn’t without its charm, and as I have said on other occasions, the truth is that I don’t like to tie loose ends up because it allows me to have a certain range of movement when it comes to taking the story in one direction or another (laughs). I remember when I decided about the black hair of the Saiyans it was right before Vegeta and Nappa showed up. Of course, they had been preceded by another Saiyan, Raditz, but I hadn’t thought deeply about this feature of their race.
For all practical purposes, Raditz had black hair simply because he was Goku’s brother. At one point in the story, Vegeta says that a Saiyan’s hair never grows. Although, of course, anyone could tell by looking at Raditz that it does. So let’s say that a Saiyan’s hair and beard grow slower when compared to Earthlings.
By the way, Nappa didn’t have hair on his head, but it’s not because he was bald, but rather because he had shaved his hair (which, in a way, protected his head) as a test of courage and with a defiant attitude. Speaking of which, Saiyans can also suffer from alopecia (laughs). The Saiyans are a warrior race and the reason for characterizing their hairstyle the way I did was to make it easy for readers to understand that everyone who had come to Earth had incredible strength, and by looking at them you could tell they must be a warlike race. For myself, I never thought, for example, of the existence of ‘Saiyans’ [as a society]. Having never drawn chapters that portrayed Saiyan society in depth (only their warrior side is revealed), I didn’t have the need to consider their female version either. I suppose that, had I done so, there would have been no distinction of roles between the sexes. Dragon Ball is a manga in which anything can happen, although if the story isn’t outlined by making certain decisions on the fly like those I’ve mentioned, then the characters would be restrained and making a coherent narrative would take much longer. As it isn’t a rigid setting, it isn’t necessary to take stylistic notes, and that gives me the freedom to develop the story inside my head with a certain margin of improvisation. I imagine other manga-ka use a similar technique.”
Nappa Isn’t Bald!
There you have it. Akira Toriyama says that Nappa isn’t bald, but instead shaves his head to be a better warrior.
And yeah, shaving your hair off is a kind of bald, but it’s not the same as being bald. One is a decision you make, the other happens when you don’t want it to.
What’s the correlation between shaving your head and being a better warrior?
Warrior’s shaving their heads goes back thousands of years as a form of discipline.
It was performed by the Masai warriors of Africa, Mongolian warriors, some Native American tribes, and the modern US military.
Vogue magazine describes the latter thusly: “Picture the meatheads in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987)—the shaved skull becomes a mark of the hard man, part of the tough-as-nails bravado you need to survive military and prison life.”
Shaving your head is also often done as a form of religious monasticism. For example, every Buddhist monk shaves their head, and this is what inspired Krillin’s shaved head, as he’s inspired by the Shaolin Buddhist monks of China.
And that’s what we have here with Nappa. Akira Toriyama says that Nappa shaved his head “as a test of courage and with a defiant attitude.”
So that means Nappa could have kept his hair long, but chose to shave it in order to have a stronger warrior mentality.
What did his hair look like before being shaved?
The History of Bardock TV Special (1990) gives us an example of Nappa with hair.
Here we see a flashback to a young Nappa, and he has a number of locks on top of his head.
Toriyama didn’t write the screenplay for the History of Bardock, so there was no way to know if Nappa’s design in this special is what Toriyama intended Nappa to look like prior to shaving his head.
But then in 2018, Toriyama wrote the screenplay and designed the characters for the Dragon Ball Super: Broly film. Here we see another flashback with a young Nappa, Vegeta, and Raditz. And his hair style looks the same as in the Bardock special.
So whether Toriyama did in fact design Nappa’s appearance in Bardock or merely thought it was acceptable to use again in Broly is a moot point.
In any case, the fact Nappa shaved his head also means he could let his hair grow back out.
Saiyan Hair Growth
As Toriyama points out, “Vegeta says that a Saiyan’s hair never grows. Although, of course, anyone could tell by looking at Raditz that it does. So let’s say that a Saiyan’s hair and beard grow slower when compared to Earthlings.”
It’s here where Toriyama contradicts the words of his own character, Vegeta. It’s not that a Saiyan’s hair never grows, it’s that it “grows slower when compared to Earthlings.”
In addition, Toriyama points out that Raditz’s hair grew to be as long as it was when he premiered on Earth and fought Goku. He wasn’t born with hair that long. He let it grow that long over the course of his life.
That sounds obvious in hindsight, but fans have always thought it must have been that way from birth because Vegeta said a Saiyan’s hair never grows.
Now we know that it does.
We see Toriyama play with this idea in Dragon Ball Super when he gives Goku and Vegeta beards after a long session of training.
Of course, you have to wonder why their hair never grew longer when training in the Room of Spirit and Time during Dragon Ball Z, or at any other point in their adult lives when they spent months or years away from a razor or scissors.
Likewise why Gohan and Trunk’s hair would grow longer in the Room, while Goku and Vegeta’s didn’t change at all. Yes, they have half-human genetics so their hair grows longer, but isn’t a year a long enough time for a full-blooded Saiyan’s hair to also grow out?
So all we can presume is that the full-blooded Saiyans had been cutting it this entire time.
But then why not also cut the kid’s hair? Ehhhhh.
Maybe it’s like some fans theorize, that ‘Full-blooded Saiyan hair doesn’t grow after a certain point.’ So adult Saiyans have a hairstyle that grows to a specific length and then it doesn’t grow any longer, so it doesn’t need to be cut.
Nevertheless, we come to the following conclusion: When and if Nappa turned into a Super Saiyan, he could have long and flowing golden hair!
So the last several decades of fans around the world declaring that Nappa is permanently bald are wrong.
Akira Toriyama revealed that Nappa shaved his head back in 2007. But we didn’t know it because nobody ever talked about this article or translated it until now.
Among other revelations is Toriyama admitting once again that he made the story up on the fly.
I discuss Toriyama’s writing style in great detail in my Dragon Ball Culture book series. He made most of the chapters up week-by-week. And here we have another example of this coming to light.
To summarize: Raditz only had black hair because Goku had black hair, and the entire Saiyan race only had black hair because Raditz had black hair. So Toriyama would go on to decide the hair color of the entire Saiyan race out of convenience!
And perhaps all of the comparisons made by fans over the last three decades to Saiyans being Asians because they have black hair and black eyes was just because Raditz was Goku’s brother and Toriyama didn’t want to think too hard about it.
Gender Equality in Saiyan Society
Also noteworthy that Toriyama talks about gender equality in Saiyan society.
“Having never drawn chapters that portrayed Saiyan society in depth (only their warrior side is revealed), I didn’t have the need to consider their female version either. I suppose that, had I done so, there would have been no distinction of roles between the sexes.”
How do you feel about Toriyama’s words here?
Have you read Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Minus manga, or seen Dragon Ball Super: Broly?
In these stories we see Goku’s mother Gine working at home and chopping meat while her husband Bardock has been depicted elsewhere as a warrior. But is Toriyama saying that there are no actual gender roles among the Saiyans, because they are all warriors? Could Bardock just as easily have been depicted as the one to prepare the meals?
That’s something to think about!
It flies in the face of the macho bravado of Saiyan warrior males being ultra-masculine death machines without a single iota of sentimentality or femininity.
We see a similar contrast between the original Broly and the new Broly. Instead of him being a one-dimensional character with limitless power and a bipolar mindset, the new Broly is almost as equally powerful, but has a genuine ability to connect with other people, and thus potential for redemption and the possibility of becoming Goku’s friend.
Many fans prefer one over the other, and they take sides about which character is better.
On a similar note, would you prefer Saiyan society to be like the anime staff writers depicted them, or do you prefer Toriyama’s vision? Is it okay for the Saiyan genders to be equal?
Maybe Toriyama always wanted the genders to be equal, but he never depicted Saiyan society in his manga, so we never realized it.
Or perhaps Toriyama’s mindset has changed with the times?
Now that he’s told us a bit more about Saiyan society, and we’ve seen his works in Minus and Broly, we have different perspective into Toriyama’s mindset and the characters he created.
How do you feel about these new revelations?
Leave your comments!