The mighty Kaio-Ken is one of Goku’s most trusted techniques and for a time one of his most effective. However for a technique that has played such a pivotal role in the series past and will likely continue into the future with Super it is a surprisingly misunderstood one. A misunderstanding that has continued to play a detrimental role in Western Fans understanding of Dragon Ball.
I bring this up as I have been watching Dragon Ball Super recently and something a little strange and annoying is starting to pop up. The mistranslation of Kaio-Ken into “World Kings Fist” on the Crunchyroll release of the series. This is rather confusing, as to date no release in Dragon Ball history had the technique translated as such. This is due to the fact “Kaiōken” has never been literally translated in any dub.
While the Kaio-Ken has never been translated, it is often mispronounced as for years Western fans (including myself) have actually been mispronouncing the name depending on the dub one was watching. As an example for years I pronounced the technique “Kay-o-Ken”. As it was stated in the infamous Ocean Dub that introduced the western world to Dragon Ball. Over time as the dub shifted to a new production company an improved but still incorrect pronunciation of “Kai-O-Ken” was introduced. Where finally the Funimation Dub brought about the proper “Kaio-Ken” with the proper soft “o” transition.
Interestingly despite being the proper pronunciation of the technique “Kaio-Ken” is actually further from the intended name based on its origins. You see in Japan “King Kai” the creator of the technique is known as “Kaio Sama” with the technique matching his name. As such with the English translation a proper but less literal translation should be the second “Kai-O-Ken”.
While the above is clearly mere semantics and in a series that translated Makankōsappō or the Demon Impaling Light Killing Gun to “Special Beam Cannon” and the Kienzan to “Destructo Disk” it is small fry. Even if quite interesting to nerds like myself. That being said at no point was it ever literally translated to “World Kings Fist” as it seems to have been in Dragon Ball Super the first direct mistranslation of the technique.
However while the Kaio-Ken’s name was never that far off, its powers or more specifically its limitations have been put into question due to many different factors. Most notably non-canon sources and the annoying habit of Akira Toriyama to not explain things.
As we know Kaio-Ken is a power multiplier: Kaio-Ken doubles the power of its user, x3 triples it, Kaio-Ken x2 is not a thing despite being used in the dub, ect. In exchange for this power up the user puts incredible strain on his or her body, furthermore due to nature of the technique one needs perfect Ki control or the Kaio-Ken can rip the body to shreds. Which is why the Kaio-Ken is considered so dangerous in battle, without perfect control the user could destroy themselves.
One question many have is regarding the upper limit of the technique, namely what is it? In canon sources the upper limit of the technique is the twenty times multiple Goku uses to fight Frieza. This is the highest seen in the manga and anime, however following this fight Goku forgoes using Kaio-Ken in favor of the superior Super Saiyan transformation which provides a fifty times multiple with less deadly drawbacks. As such what is Kaio-Kens ultimate multiple is an open question. In short, we just don’t know as it was never pushed beyond twenty times.
What we do know however is Kaio-Ken cannot be used (effectively) with the Super Saiyan transformation. This is because the Super Saiyan form is in and of itself hard to use and produces an erratic and wild ki. As one can see with the wild golden aura of ki literally exploding from the Saiyans body. Coupling this with the dangers of the Kaio-Ken would likely rip the Saiyans body apart in the process.
However, you must be asking but Goku did use “Super Kaio-Ken”. Which you would be right, in the filler Other World Tournament Arc Goku used the technique as a Super Saiyan. However due to it being filler it is non-canon to the manga, which is why the powerful technique was never used in the subsequent Buu Saga. Furthermore it would be massively outclassed even if it did exist by Super Saiyan 2.
Now you are obviously thinking why does Kaio-Ken make a return in Super if it “can’t” be used with Super Saiyan? This is because Super Saiyan Blue is a different beast entirely then the regular transformation. Blue requires the user to exercise total ki-control blending both their natural and godly ki together to achieve the form. Due to this control while Blue, Kaio-Ken is compatible, though still as dangerous as before as we saw in the Universe 6 Tournament.
Anyways I feel that this is enough on the Kaio-Ken technique for anyone and more detail would be overkill. However, I always did find the story of the technique and the technique itself to be one of the most entertaining stories of the Dragon Ball canon. As such I hope you enjoyed reading the article as much as I had writing it and if you have any questions pertaining to the mechanics of Dragon Ball let me know in the comments.