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"I don’t care what my enemies do. I’ll just kill them all."
Do you guys remember the first anime/manga character that truly got your attention? I sure did. I want to share my experiences growing up with my first favorite anime/manga character, Vegeta, of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series. Arguably one of the most popular characters in the whole series and a character that served as an inspiration to a very popular meme, Vegeta was someone who I patterned myself off of when I was younger before Dragon Ball (and anime in general) made it big in America. His pride & arrogance was something new to me at the time.
I first heard of Dragon Ball around 1992 at the age of 10. I remember seeing a picture of Son Goku in the cover of a Chinese magazine and read about one of the Dragon Ball Z Super Famicom (SNES) games in an issue of Nintendo Power. One day, I finally watched a Chinese-dubbed episode of Dragon Ball Z on a VHS tape (Yes, I’m that old) at a friend’s house. It was an episode from the Freeza Saga, where Vegeta, Krillin, Gohan, Piccolo, & Dende went against Freeza on Planet Namek. Vegeta stood out to me because he didn’t act very heroic. The way he yelled at Krillin to shoot him to near death was a big WTF to me.
I started watching more of Vegeta during the Cell Saga when he acted very confident on his chances of beating Cell. There was something about his swagger that I liked. I felt a sense of connection with him. He preferred to do things alone & trusted no one for the most part, like I do at times. We were both lone wolves. Vegeta also looked amazing in his armor suit. The suit was perfect for his look and behavior. You don’t want to know how much Vegeta-related merchandise I bought during my childhood.
I got a poster which showed off the first three sagas of DBZ and I found out Vegeta was originally a villain first. I didn’t understand why Vegeta became a good guy at all. I asked my Chinese friends who watched the show. They didn’t explain it to me well. It wasn’t until the proliferation of the Internet that I found out he became a good guy mostly because he wanted to kill Goku himself and not let anyone else do it.
I understood why Vegeta felt that way, but he resorted to living on Earth with people he normally doesn’t like. Pride makes people do crazy things, doesn’t it? I think Vegeta taught me to not listen to what everyone says and do what you think is right. As a kid, I was pretty much an outcast to a certain degree. It became more apparent during high school, which was also the time DBZ made its American debut. I was loosely part of the in-crowd/Asian cliques to some degree.
Vegeta seemed to be looked down upon a lot, mostly because of his pride. At the same time, he’s still well-respected as a fighting genius. I think I was searching for that myself. Something to be respected for, even though I won’t always try to fit in. You can also say that I had a few anger-management issues like Vegeta does. The scene where he goes ballistic against Cell after Trunks got killed greatly reflected how I felt at times when things turn tragic & sour.
Speaking of Trunks, I enjoyed the relationship between the two. It was the first view I had of people, who seem bad, develop compassion for others, but never truly display them. His distraction against Cell to help Gohan kill him was another great moment. It said to me, that even badass loners can be true heroes too. I want to help others out in my own way.
The Majin Buu saga was very interesting as Vegeta tried to become evil again to beat Goku. But, he realized he can never truly be evil again. For some reason, I didn’t like Vegeta’s armorless look. I thought he lost something over the time span between the Cell Saga & Buu saga. Granted, I was still interested in him and when he realized that his family was important to him, I was touched. Another moment of a badass with a soft heart. I learned some family psychology from that at a very early age.
When Vegeta came back to help Goku once more in the final battle with Buu, I found his admission of Goku being the strongest to be pretty shocking. People really do go through many phases in life as they get older, I thought. It was scary to see Vegeta actually care about protecting Earth. I still don’t know what to think of it. When I think of Vegeta, I think of an anti-hero who probably only cares about his family and that’s about it. What do you guys think?
All-in-all, Vegeta was the first animated character that I ever saw who went through a complete personality change throughout an entire series. He went from villain to hero, which was an anomaly to me as a kid. It was refreshing and at the same time, there was a sense of relatedness to the character. We’re both full of pride, sadistic, intellectual, cold, angry, and outcasts.
More importantly, we are both true to ourselves. Vegeta never gave up his morals & values, despite all the changes that happened to him. Although he’s 100% good now, he’s still the proud prince of the Saiyan race. I’ve changed a lot myself over the years, but I still have that loner personality (which people respect). It’s funny because I was once called “Vegeta” by a friend back in high school.
I’m happy to say that I enjoyed Vegeta’s character a lot and his personality has helped shaped me into the person I am today. Thank you, Akira Toriyama, for creating a worthy rival to Goku and a man whose anti-hero tendencies made me realize that being bad can be good.
So, who was your first favorite anime/manga character and did he/she have any impact in your life? Feel free to share your memories on the comments section.