Ask anyone close to me. I’ve been a die-hard fan of the entire Dragon Ball series. For those of you who’ve watched the anime or read the manga. You’re probably familiar with who Goku is. He’s the star and the centerpiece of the entire franchise. Over the years Goku’s even become a staple of popular culture. Now more than ever. What I think people love about Goku is you can always count on him to be the same. He’ll always come to save the day and you can depend on him to do the same things. He’s a Saiyan with a pure heart and a bottomless stomach. His friends inspire him to reach new heights, to put it simply. Everybody loves Goku.
For years my favorite character had always been Goku. Later on, through the course of watching the series, I found myself rooting for Vegeta. Dragon Ball Z’s original bad boy and the prince of all Saiyans. He started off as the antagonist and has evolved into one of the greatest characters in the franchise. I can appreciate how much growth we’ve seen from the Saiyan Prince since his debut in Dragon Ball Z up until where we are now in Dragon Ball Super.
Vegeta’s origin story is a sad one. Vegeta is the Prince of a warrior race of conquerors. He was taught he was the best and he should keep up a level of pride in himself and his race. That all came to an end when the evil tyrant Frieza comes and absorbs his people into his army “The Frieza Force.” Frieza feared how strong the Saiyans could become. So without hesitation decides to destroy Planet Vegeta only leaving a handful of surviving Saiyans throughout the universe.
Imagine that, in your youth to have your entire race and identity stripped from you. Including the death of your father. Vegeta is then forced to work for the tyrant who destroyed his entire race. That anger and resentment built up in Vegeta. A Prince with no people until he meets Goku.
With all the pain of losing his entire race and a deep hatred in his heart. Vegeta arrives on Earth and battles one of the last surviving Saiyans, Goku. Despite being labeled the Prince of all Saiyans, and a warrior élite Vegeta loses to Kakarot (Goku) who’s labeled a lower class Saiyan warrior. This battle humbles the prideful Vegeta which begins the transformation.
This brings us to Planet Namek, where Vegeta begins his quest to kill the monster that annihilated his race. This wasn’t because Gohan and Krillin needed help, however, as Vegeta just meant to use the Namekian Dragon Balls for his own selfish gain. He eventually realizes his thoughts stunt him as well. Goku once again beat him not only in power but also in the heart with Goku defeating Frieza instead and avenging their race.
Since his introduction in the first two arcs of Dragon Ball Z. Vegeta always came up short compared to Goku. With the burden of his scarred past still haunting him. As well as not being able to avenge his race by defeating Frieza himself. Vegeta feels like less of a warrior in comparison to Goku. With most of his first-time transformations for new levels of power reached off-screen. This serves as a testament to his character as a prince and how reserved he became. What came easy for Goku didn’t for the Saiyan Price. He had to use his unwavering discipline and a burning rage to reach new levels of power.
I think we all remember when Vegeta first turned Super Saiyan before his epic fight with the Android 19 and 21. Or even his fight with Cell’s second form just as he reached a level above Super Saiyan. These significant power gains kept Vegeta in the picture. As the series continued the other characters couldn’t keep up and became less relevant as Goku reached new levels of power. But Vegeta never let Goku get too far ahead. Always just a few small steps behind him, keeping their competition alive.
Some of the best moments in Dragon Ball Z were the moments when Vegeta temporarily surpassed Goku. The only problem was Vegeta would always let his pride get the best of him. Choosing to test his powers as a warrior over saving the planet. These selfish decisions always made situations worse.
Goku also has this character flaw. Both fighters often put pride as a warrior above all else. Vegeta more so than Goku. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who yelled at the TV in my youth pleading to Vegeta to not let Cell reach his Perfect form. His pride is what kept him from reaching Super Saiyan. That coupled with his constant comparisons to Goku’s power for years let to a major shift during the Majin Buu saga.
After defeating Cell the Z Fighters didn’t get much action for seven years. Most became complacent due to the lack of an antagonist. Gohan went to high school, Goku died and remained on otherworld after saving the planet from Cell’s self-destruction technique and Vegeta trained often pushing himself using Capsule Corp technology. He saw very little growth during this period and eventually gives his “mind” over to Babidi. Vegeta felt he had gotten soft. Now a father and a husband he thought he had lost his killer mentality. Something he believes would restore his latent power. Vegeta once again challenged Goku once as he regressed to his former self.
After his fight with Goku, Vegeta ultimately decides to save planet Earth. It’s here during the Majin Buu saga where we see Vegeta choosing to embrace the “humanity” that had slowly but surely found its way into his heart. As he hugs his son Trunks one last time. His last thoughts are of Bulma and his family. He then sacrifices his life to defeat Majin Buu.
Unfortunately, Majin Buu did not die from Vegeta’s self destruct technique. This gives him a true second chance at victory when he and Goku fight against Kid Buu on Supreme Kai’s planet. It’s here where the prince finally comes to terms with the fact that Goku is stronger than he is. He decides to let go of his past, and the feelings that weighed him down for so long. The Prince was finally free which allowed him to work with Goku to defeat Kid Buu for good.
We’re now at the end of Dragon Ball Z. Vegeta is a good guy. He’s done a lot to help soften the severity of his past transgressions. The once evil prince is now beyond the reach of those ghosts. Dragon Ball Super gives us our first look at a much more sympathetic Vegeta. Bulma and Vegeta had been steadily growing closer since they left Namek and Dragon Ball Super shows us the full extent of their relationship.
At the beginning of the God of Destruction Arc. Beerus, the God of Destruction for Universe 7 had a dream he fought the legendary Super Saiyan God. This brings Beerus to planet earth where he hopes to find the rumored Super Saiyan God. Vegeta recognizes Beerus from an interaction his father had with the Destroyer God years ago. He also understands this could be the end of the earth if things don’t the way Beerus wants them to.
Bulma, who happens to find Beerus extremely rude especially during her birthday party slaps the God of Destruction. Beerus then slaps Bulma back. Vegeta instantly snaps. H “What did you do to my Bulma?!?” He yells and is willing to go toe to toe with a being he knows is far stronger than himself after seeing the love of his life, and mother of his son slapped in the face. This was definitely a reaction from Vegeta that fans weren’t accustomed to seeing and instantly became a highlight in Dragon Ball Super.
Something else worth mentioning. Goku may, in fact, be the stronger character of the two in the Dragon Ball series, but he has a major weakness. Goku seemingly loves fighting more than taking care of his family. Fans of the series often make jokes about Goku being a bad dad. We never hear those jokes made about Vegeta. The Prince of all Saiyans may still have selfish tendencies, but he always puts the needs of his family before himself.
He helped his son (Trunks) from the Future train during the Cell saga. Once again he helped his son in Dragon Ball Super defeat Goku Black. He even knocked his son out during the Majin Buu saga just so Trunks didn’t have to watch him die. These small gestures show that Vegeta has a better sense of self and others that Goku never really showed.
Even with all the changes we’ve seen in Vegeta during the Dragon Ball series, He still remains resolute when it comes to his Saiyan Pride, a trait that has fueled him for years. He may now make different choices, but the Saiyan prince still cares about his pride. He shows this during his fight with Goku Black and also during his fight with Cabba (even taking the young Saiyan of Universe 6 under his wing.) Something I believe helped him survive for so long in the tournament.
Vegeta not only fought for the survival of his universe during the tournament of power. He also finds the strength within himself his pride now coming from a sense of being a warrior fighting with a purpose. Vegeta even hoped to move Jiren with his methodology of finding pride in a new purpose other than fighting but to no avail. He now has learned to trust again and knows that even if he loses. He can rest his hopes on Goku.
With his entire universe on the line, he’s still confident in Goku and his Saiyan races’ ability to break through their limitations. Vegeta’s character development over the entire series has been masterful and in many ways makes him far more interesting than the main character. Vegeta found strength in trusting others, something that Frieza took from him a long time ago. Having the love of his family and a new purpose. He’s evolved beyond the prideful Saiyan Prince he once was. He’s the best character in Dragon Ball who’s made the most progress. He may not ever be as strong as Goku, and he doesn’t need to be.