May 9, 2020

Dragon Ball And The Art Of Crafting An Anti-Hero

Dragon Ball

What’s the first thing you usually think of, when Dragon Ball is mentioned? Goku am I right? Or should I say Son Goku? He’s the lead character; he’s the protagonist and even has a monkey-like tail. Likewise, he’s on a constant search for wish-granting Dragon Balls.

This particular post is inspired by all the fantastic Dragon Ball games (including Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot) that we currently have at IndieGala during the Goku Day Sale. And despite what the title might suggest, this is not a post about Goku. In contrast, this is a post about his biggest frenemy Vegeta. Also, one of the best characters ever created, I might add. He’s a layered, complex, and intriguing character that just adds gravitas to the entire saga. He’s one hell of a character and probably the perfect anti-hero.

Dragon Ball: A blast from the past

Frankly, the opportunity to write about Dragon Ball and especially about Vegeta was a super exciting task for me. I grew up with the Dragon Ball Z anime, and this is a perfect throw-back to my childhood.

I vividly remember watching Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super on a Saturday morning with my younger sister. Both of us with our bowls of cereal, we devoured Dragon Ball in front of the TV. And to be more honest, it still has a soft spot in my nostalgic heart. I will try my best to remind myself of the saga, but my childhood was not that recent. So, bare with me.

Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot

But what’s the latest game all about? As you could certainly guess, it’s a semi open-world action role-playing game, based on the franchise with the same name. It’s developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Also, the game follows the main protagonist Goku and the Z-Fighters through the main story of the Dragon Ball Z series.

Furthermore, there are currently nine playable characters in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Starting with Goku, continuing with Vegeta, Kid Gohan, Teen Gohan, Adult Gohan, Piccolo, Future Trunks, Gotenks, and ending with Vegito.

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. Vegeta and several of my reasons why he has the best character progression of all. In short… Why Vegeta is the best. Explained to the best of my abilities in this post. Here we go.

Character progression doesn’t always mean character growth

First of all, let me start by mentioning that I adore a good anti-hero character. Whether it’s Loki in the Marvel Universe or Vegeta in the Dragon Ball universe. Even more so, than the regular good old heroes.

Anti-heroes are always more fun to watch, and I can imagine a lot difficult to create. Why? Personally, I think it’s because of the ambiguity of their character. The double nature of their intentions is always surprising and fun to watch. You never know what can happen because of that, and writers (especially the writers) explore that moral ambiguity to the fullest.

That anti-hero status can shift easily and they can easily shift from despicable to lovable if the story requires that shift. Not to mention, Vegeta is one of the finest examples of that. A fantastic anti-hero.

Sure, the guy has his fair share of flaws, but frankly who doesn’t? And the rivalry that he has with Goku is feeding those flaws as well. But let’s face it. That jealousy only makes him train harder and harder. In addition to being a proud, arrogant warrior with an inflated ego, Vegeta also has an unhealthy sense of superiority. 

He’s also cruel at times, sometimes cold and unreasonable towards others. And at times, his heroism comes from a place of self-interest. But you can see that the writers really tested waters with him. They invested in his development, as the series progressed, and it paid off.

Dragon Ball

The perfect anti-hero?

Ultimately, character progression doesn’t always equal character growth. Most importantly the character’s growth (especially for the better) is always difficult to pull off. However, when it’s done right, its pure gold. I mean, how can you successfully transition one of the cold-hearted and ruthless warriors to a caring, devoted husband and father?

Not to mention, from an adversary and rival of Goku, he’s later made to be his ally. Because of his instilled loyalty, he manages to put aside his differences. And ultimately he’s always there to lend a helping hand. Whenever he’s needed.

And frankly the same can be said about his relationship with Bulma. They started on a wrong foot (to say the least), but they’re basically like two peas in a pod. They really love each other, despite their differences, and noticeable flaws. I mean, they started as enemies, then progressed to lovers and then to spouses. Progression done right.

And most importantly, she’s not intimidated by him or his temper. You can see the character growth in his domestic life as well. Their romantic moments peppered throughout the story are true gems. And you can see that the writers really enjoy writing their arc. They’re intriguing, exciting, and unpredictable. Ultimately, they’re the perfect couple for any writer.

Anti-heroes are not easy to write (or to like)

Seems like they require the most work. Hard work. The anti-heroes certainly do. The heroes are usually one-dimensional albeit interesting characters. But the anti-heroes are exciting and thrilling on so many levels.

But the thing is… That hard work (if done properly) does wonders for the story. Anti-heroes are the most fun to watch, and can shift their story in so many directions. However, the sad truth is that not that many know how to develop them properly. The writers somehow always manage to screw them up. Thankfully, Dragon Ball has one of the best out there. Don’t you agree?

Dragon Ball

Your thoughts are highly appreciated

What are your thoughts on the Dragon Ball games? And of course on the anime series? Do you like Vegeta as much as I do? Tell us in the comments below. We’d love to know all about it.

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