Dragon Ball is a weird franchise. And I get it. In the end, it’s a fighting anime involving various alien races spanning multiple universes. In hindsight, an entire race of aliens named after vegetables with monkey tails and anger management issues isn’t exactly the weirdest thing we’ve encountered so far. And, according to what we know, that tail is pretty important. But then, why does the most famous Saiyan of all time, Son Goku, have his tail missing in later episodes?
The fallen Saiyan Race is one of the most ‘humane’ alien races mentioned in Dragon Ball, but all that humanity is to be taken at face value. Because in reality, the Saiyans are a cruel race, bloodthirsty and cold. They only look humanoid, except for the curious monkey tail all Saiyans seem to possess. However, the appendage is more than just an aesthetic choice on creator Akira Toriyama’s part. It was often rumored to be a source of power for Saiyan warriors.
So, when Goku had his tail go missing initially thanks to Puar, it was a cause of concern. But since then, Goku has lost his tail multiple times and, well, it hasn’t posed as a problem since. And it isn’t just Goku who got rid of his tail permanently. The former Prince Vegeta, his rival-turned-ally, had the same happen to him. And as time went by, their kids respectively skipped having a tail altogether, being born without them. So, what exactly gives? Why are the only surviving Saiyans missing such an important attribute of themselves?
Curiously enough, we do have answers for all of these questions, thanks to Toriyama-san himself. Turns out, there is a lot of lore out there regarding the Saiyans on the whole. Specifically, on why Goku is missing the Saiyan trademark. So, let’s analyze what’s going on.
Where Does the Tail Even Come From?
It’s no secret that the tale (heh, get it?) of Dragon Ball is inspired by The Journey To The West, a 16th Century Chinese folktale that is considered the most popular literary work in all of East Asia. The protagonist of this story, Sun Wukong, possessed the body of a monkey at one point.
Akira Toriyama picked attributes from Sun Wukong like the tail, and hence, Goku nee Kakarot was born. And apparently, it was a point of contention between him and his editor, as in the initial sketches Goku was an actual monkey, not an alien! When his editor told Toriyama-san that Goku needed a more distinguishing trait, he added the tail.
Why Is The Tail So Important Early On?
Every Saiyan born in Universe 7 out of all the 18 universes we know has been born with a long brown monkey’s tail. This tail is a power source for all Saiyans, warriors or not. It is the reason they can access their great ape powers, coming alive under the full moon. The tail lends a Saiyan massive strength instantly by transforming them into a giant ape-like monster known as an Oozaru. But the risk is just as much of a gamble, as you lose that newfound strength if the tail is squeezed.
But apart from the power-up, the monkey tail also acted as a third arm for Goku. It definitely came in handy during Goku’s martial arts training, but he could use it as a mobility aid to swing or complete tasks like grabbing things. But in later years, it’s proven that most Saiyans don’t even need the tail, especially when they become warriors of a certain power level.
Like once you reach the likes of Goku and Vegeta, the tail is merely a hindrance. The Super Saiyan powers replace it completely as a source of power, so there is no need to keep it around after that.
Why Did Goku Lose His Tail?
Long answer? It’s because the tail served no purpose after all the power-ups the last Saiyans start gaining towards the latter half of the story.
The ape powers are nothing compared to Super Saiyan powers such as Super Saiyan God Mode. And considering Saiyan kids such as Goten and Trunks achieve Super Saiyan in their childhood, the tail is left as a mere recessive trait of the Saiyan genes, completely missing in later generations altogether. However, Gohan was an exception to this, as he was born with a tail like his father, Goku.
Goku lost his tail multiple times. When Goku first turned into Oozaru, wreaking havoc upon Earth during the full moon, he has thwarted thanks to Yamcha and Puar. And then, to Kami-Sama, who wanted to restore the moon as he enjoyed the view but didn’t want to endanger the world on Goku’s behalf so poof it went!
Short answer? Because Akira just grew tired of drawing tails! It’s true, in later interviews he complained about how tedious it was to draw the tails on all the characters and just eventually phased them out.