Growing up in the 90s I remember cartoons being a massive part of my childhood. Cartoon Network, Toonami, Disney and Nickelodeon were the only channels I paid attention to. One of the shows that stood out the most was Dragon Ball Z. Goku was the big, powerful hero who saved the day. But I always found Vegeta far more entertaining, and I’m going to examine why he is the better character in my opinion.
As the Prince of Saiyans, Vegeta was born into a culture of violence and superiority. When his planet was destroyed by Frieza he became part of his army and his desire to be the greatest fighter in the universe grew. When he came to Earth for the first time to challenge Goku his superiority was shattered and it made him angrier. The essence of Vegeta has always been to surpass Goku, yet his character development throughout the series is astounding.
After the Namek saga, Vegeta is forced to settle on Earth and it’s at this point he shifts from a villain to an anti-hero. He starts a family with Bulma but is still obsessed with beating Goku. He sees his son Trunks and future wife as a distraction. A moment of rare emotion for Vegeta occurs when he sees Future Trunks killed by Cell. He launches a brutal attack that shows he cares, even beneath all his arrogance and distance.
During the Majin Buu saga, Vegeta allows himself to be controlled by the wizard Babidi to try and reawaken the evil in his heart. During another battle with Goku it’s revealed he was bluffing and that he truly does care for his family. In a heart-breaking moment, Vegeta hugs his son and blows himself up in a Final Sacrifice to try and stop Buu.
“Trunks, Bulma, I do this for you. And yes, even for you Kakarot.” – Vegeta, before his sacrifice.
This moment defined Vegeta and showed how much he had changed. When he was resurrected later his rivalry with Goku became friendlier. Vegeta was able to let go of his his hate and be accepted fully by the Z Fighters.
“You’ve always been like this, ever since the day I first met you, always ready to meet the next challenge. Even if it’s bigger than you are. It was the same on Namek. You had improved so much that it made Raku look like he was standing still. Your power had increased so dramatically since our battle on Earth that I thought you had done it. I thought that you had become a Super Saiyan. It tore me apart. How could a low class soldier accomplish so easily what I had struggled my whole life to achieve?”
“Then, at last it happened. I too transformed after living every moment, every day for the singular purpose of surpassing you. I finally became a Super Saiyan myself. The former prince had reclaimed his throne and fulfilled his destiny! But no matter how strong I became your power still exceeded mine.”
“At first, I thought it was your loved ones, that it was your instinct to protect them that spurred you on. Pushed you beyond your limits. But then I found myself with a family of my own and my power didn’t increase at all. I used to fight for the sheer pleasure of it, for the thrill of the hunt. I had strength unmeasurable, I spared no one. And yet you showed mercy to everyone, even your fiercest enemies. Even me! Yet you never fought to kill for revenge. Only to test your limits and to push yourself beyond them, to become the strongest you could possibly be.
How can a Saiyan fight like that and at the same time be so gentle that he wouldn’t hurt a fly? Oh, it makes me angry just thinking about it! But perhaps it is my anger that has made me blind to the truth for so long. I see it now. Today has made it all too clear. You’re better than me Kakarot. You are the best.” – Vegeta watching Goku fight Kid Buu.
In my opinion, this journey makes him the most human character in the show. Vegeta’s pride and arrogance blinded him, but he was able to look past it. He became friends with his greatest rival, learned to love his family and found a new kind of power.
Goku might be the main hero of Dragon Ball Z, but Vegeta is the guy I relate to most.