Let’s face it: Vegeta is awesome. He’s powerful, he’s flawed, he doesn’t even try to hide his arrogance, and watching his transformation from villain to anti-hero to hero make him by far the realest and most complex character from Dragon Ball Z, and certainly one of the most popular in all of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga series. While Goku will always be the hero, he doesn’t develop much through the course of the lengthy manga or anime: he remains the goofy, pure-hearted, happy-go-lucky guy who will eat whole banquets worth of food, fight and finally defeat the villain of the storyline, and well...not much else. Vegeta is in many ways Goku’s polar opposite - he’s gritty, he’s angsty, he’s tough, he’s stubborn and conceited, he murders his defeated opponents in cold blood, and most importantly, he goes through the most fascinating transformation of any character.
The Prince of the proud, fallen Saiyan race, last of the royal blood, bringer of death, and the destroyer of worlds, Vegeta was powerful even as a child. He was shown as able to effortlessly destroy several Saibamen on his own during a training session and was sent off on several planet-conquering missions Freeza during his early childhood. Following the trend of the names of Saiyans being puns on vegetables, Vegeta’s name is a pun on the word “vegetable” itself.
Perhaps his most defining characteristic is his long-standing obsession with surpassing Goku in power. Even though Vegeta is now recognized as a hero rather than an anti-hero or villain, he never gave up his rivalry with Goku. Perhaps one day the two will settle their old score in an epic battle the likes of which the universe has never seen. Until then, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite Warrior Prince.
15 He's Technically The “King” Of All Saiyans
Though he calls himself “Prince” of all Saiyans, Vegeta is technically the “King” of all Saiyans because his father, King Vegeta, was killed by the interplanetary warlord Freeza when he was a boy. This would make Vegeta the heir to the throne, but throughout the Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT series he never refers to himself as the monarch; only as the “Prince.” Though his reasons for not claiming the title are never made explicitly clear, fans theorize that Vegeta doesn’t refer to himself as the “King” out of respect for his fallen father, a refusal to admit the total extinction of the Saiyan race, or possibly because he was never formally crowned King.
Vegeta’s father was killed in an attempted mutiny against Freeza shortly before the genocide of the Saiyans. The mutiny was inspired by the forced recruitment of the young prince into Freeza’s service. Soon after, while the young Vegeta was on another planet, Freeza destroyed the Planet Vegeta.
14 Has The Highest Body Count Of Any DBZ Hero
Every fan of Dragon Ball Z knows that Goku is the main hero who always gets to beat up the bad guys of the current storyline, usually after an enormous build-up to him doing so. With all the times we’ve seen Goku defeat villains like Freeza, it’s easy to forget that he rarely actually kills his enemies. Even in his fight with Vegeta, external factors intervene that either kill his opponent or, in Vegeta’s case, render them unable to fight anymore. Goku defeated Nappa, but it was Vegeta who murdered him for his failure, Goku convinced Krillin to let Vegeta go, Freeza was sliced in half by his own attack (and Future Trunks finished him off much later), and Cell self-destructed on his own with Gohan contributing more to the final battle. It may shock you to learn that throughout DBZ Goku only kills two people - Yakon and Kid Buu.
Though Goku had a much higher body count from the original Dragon Ball series, even generously taking that into account his number of enemies murdered is nowhere near as high as Vegeta’s massive body count. For starters, Vegeta vaporized an entire planet of bug people just for fun and is shown to have conquered many planets for Freeza ever since his childhood. He killed the entire Ginyu Force, Nappa, Pui Pui, Android 19, pretty much everyone on planet Namek that wasn’t already killed by Freeza and his henchmen, and oh...all of Freeza’s henchmen too. It doesn’t stop with the main DBZ series either - Vegeta also struck the final blows on Cooler, Android 15, and countless civilians.
Say what you will about Vegeta, but it’s clear he doesn’t play around when it comes to making sure his opponents are defeated.
13 He Shares His Name With His Father and Homeworld
Vegeta was the home planet the Saiyans, the most powerful race in the universe. It was originally known as Planet Plant. Though only briefly seen in the anime and manga, it is known to possess at least ten times the gravity of Earth. The harsh environment with its red skies and sprawling deserts combined with this level of gravity gives the Saiyans a natural boost in physical strength and endurance. Planet Plant was home to two main races in ancient times: the peaceful, technologically advanced Tuffles and the primitive, war-like Saiyans, who eventually fought a war that ended in the Tuffles’ extinction. After the Saiyans claimed the planet as their own, they renamed the planet after King Vegeta, who is the father of the present-day character Vegeta.
Planet Vegeta would later be destroyed by Freeza out of fear that the Saiyans would grow more powerful and overthrow him someday. He destroyed the entire planet with a single fireball, effectively genociding the entire Saiyan race except for Vegeta and at least four others, including Goku.
12 The Popular “It’s Over 9000” Meme Was A Dubbing Mistake
If you’ve spent pretty much any amount of time on the internet, you’ve probably run into the very popular meme “it’s over 9,000,” which has become ubiquitous with the image of Vegeta crushing his scouter with his hand. But despite the popularity of the phrase, Vegeta never actually said that. In the original manga, the power level that Vegeta exclaimed just before the battle was “over 8,000.” Ocean Group changed it to “over 9,000” because of a mistake with the English dubbing.
The original 8,000 reading was also spoken in the original Japanese version of the anime. It’s not entirely clear how the mistake was made: some believe it to be a simple translation error, while others think that those in charge of localization just thought it was a better fit for Vegeta’s talking animation. The phrase became so famous that the “over 9,000” figure carried over to the FUNimation dub, though in the remastered dub for the Dragon Ball Z Kai series, they changed the line back to 8,000.
11 He Rarely Called Goku By His Name
Any fan of Dragon Ball Z knows that Vegeta refuses to call Goku by his given name. Instead, the Prince addresses the hero of the series as Kakarot, his birth name on their homeworld. Goku was named Kakarot by his father Bardock, and Kakarot was sent to Earth as an infant on a mission to subjugate the world. He was eventually found by his adopted father Gohan, who named the boy Goku. Whether it’s because Vegeta recognizes Kakarot as his true name and wants to retain it as part of their collective heritage, or simply because he doesn’t consider the Earth-given name worthy of respect, Vegeta has almost always referred to him by his Saiyan birth name.
Vegeta reportedly calls him “Goku” only eight times in the English version if you include both Z and GT, and three times in the Japanese version and manga. In both of these, it’s usually in a mocking fashion, a filler episode, or a phrasing like, “the one you call Goku.” Notably, Goku’s older brother Raditz also exclusively addresses him by his Saiyan name when he makes the journey to Earth to find his brother.
10 Akira Toriyama Says Vegeta Is One of His Least Favorite Characters
Despite all the love Vegeta gets, creator Akira Toriyama once said he didn’t share his fans’ opinion of the Saiyan Warrior Prince: in an interview featured in Daizenshuu 2, Toriyama says Vegeta is one of his least favorite Dragon Ball characters but notes that he found him “extremely helpful” to have around for developing storylines. The exact quote is: "With Vegeta, well, I don’t like him all that much, but he was extremely helpful to have around. For the recent stuff, it was fun drawing Satan. When I first brought him out, I didn’t think that I would end up making Satan that important of a character. I thought he’d just be a one-shot character."
However, in recent years it appears Toriyama may have come around on our favorite stone-hearted-killer-turned-family-man, saying he wants Vegeta to be the protagonist of a new DBZ movie. In case you were wondering, Toriyama stated in the same interview that his favorite character is Piccolo.
9 He's Probably Not As Old As You Think
When we see Vegeta for the first time in Dragon Ball Z’s Saiyan Saga after he overhears Raditz and Piccolo having a conversation about the Dragon Balls, which piques his interest and sends him and Nappa on a mission to Earth, he is 29 years old. During the Freeza Saga when he travels to Planet Namek to locate the planet’s Dragon Balls and wish for immortality to defeat Freeza, he is 30 years old. During the Garlic Jr. Saga he is 31, and when he meets Future Trunks for the first time he is 32.
During the Android Saga, Vegeta is 35 years old, turning 36 by the point where he fights Cell. Nearly seven years later when Majin Buu is freed, Vegeta is 42 years old. Finally, by the end of Dragon Ball Z he is 52 years old. Goku was born in Age 737 and Vegeta in Age 732, making Vegeta around five years older than Goku. It is stated that Saiyans don’t age like humans and we are not aware of their natural lifespan. Vegeta also spent some time in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, further confusing the issue.
8 Has A Younger Brother
Vegeta has a younger brother named Tarble who survived the genocide of the Saiyans by being exiled from planet Vegeta at the time. As the youngest child, he was banished to a remote planet by their father, King Vegeta, for not being able to fight and lacking the aggression and fighting abilities expected of a pure-blooded Saiyan warrior. Tarble was classified as a low-class Saiyan and forgotten by most of his people as an embarrassment to their race. He is married to a peculiar alien named Gure.
So far Tarble has only shown up in two specials: Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!! and Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods. Though Vegeta seems to have a low opinion of Tarble and not be particularly thrilled by his presence, he is respectful to him and his alien wife, possibly out of his respect for family ties. In Battle of the Gods, Tarble is needed as the sixth righteous Saiyan for a ritual to help Goku achieve Super Saiyan God.
7 Goku Has Never Actually Defeated Him
Ever since the two mighty warriors first faced off in the Saiyan Saga of DBZ, Goku and Vegeta have shared an intense rivalry unlike any other in anime. Vegeta’s wounded pride over the fact that a low-class Saiyan like Kakarot managed to best the Prince of all Saiyans in battle and then continued to surpass him by transforming into the legendary Super Saiyan before he did has given Vegeta a burning desire to surpass Goku’s strength by any means necessary to prove himself superior. But despite Vegeta’s obsession with surpassing and defeating Goku, Goku has never actually beaten him in battle.
In their first battle, Goku’s training in the Kaio-ken technique forced Vegeta to resort to transforming into the Great Ape form, and the epic clash of the titans only ended because Vegeta had his tail cut off by Yajirobe, and then Gohan turned into a Great Ape and crushed him, rendering him unable to fight. Other fights they’ve had throughout the series have never had a clear loser or winner.
6 He's The Only Saiyan Able To Control His Great Ape Form
One of the defining powers of the Saiyans is the ability to transform into gigantic, super-powerful ape creatures when staring at the full moon. Known as the Ozaru or Great Ape form, the tails of the Saiyans bestow upon them the ability to change into these snarling beasts, increasing their power level by a factor of ten. When Goku and Gohan transformed into the Great Ape, they went on a reckless rampage of destruction and had no control over themselves.
Vegeta, on the other hand, is apparently powerful and strong-willed enough to remain fully in control of the Ozaru form. He still behaves, thinks, and acts like himself, and was even able to talk. By maintaining his own personality in this form, Vegeta was able to use the form to its full potential and nearly defeated Goku during their first battle. The Saiyan Prince was only defeated in this form by having his tail cut off, taking away his ability to transform. Vegeta is the only Saiyan shown to be able to control the Great Ape. Notably, his tail never grew back after having it cut, even though it was established Saiyan tails regenerate.
5 He Never Reaches Super Saiyan Level 3
A more recent meme than “over 9,000” about our favorite Warrior Prince is that he never actually achieved Super Saiyan 3 form. Throughout Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta always pushed himself to the limit in order to prove how strong he was and eventually best Goku, resulting in him achieving Super Saiyan, and eventually Super Saiyan 2. By the end of DBZ, fighters such as Goku and Gotenks can achieve SS3, but Vegeta never does in the course of the series. By the time of Dragon Ball GT, Vegeta achieves Super Saiyan 4, skipping right over SS3.
Fans have noted this seems like a rather odd oversight considering Vegeta’s habit of doing whatever it takes to be the best, and the fact that he went SS4 in GT and even Super Saiyan Blue after that means he should have enough power for SS3. Some theorize that it’s because Goku spent time training in Other World while Vegeta did not, though chances are it’s simply because by the time Goku and others had already accomplished the extremely powerful form it had lost its uniqueness and didn’t serve a purpose in the story of DBZ, which was nearing its end at the time. However, it’s also worth noting that Vegeta can transform into SS3 in the Dragon Ball video games.
4 Fan Letters Begging For His Life Actually Caused His Death
Akira Toriyama received huge amounts of fan mail during the Freeza arc of the manga begging him not to kill Vegeta. As he confessed in Daizenshuu 5, this inspired him to do just that. When asked, “Do you make any use of such fan opinions in the original work?" Toriyama responded, "I do, in the sense of ‘betraying the fans’ expectations’. For instance, when I got a lot of, ‘Don’t kill Vegeta,’ I deliberately killed him. (laughs).”
Vegeta had become an increasingly popular character with fans, and watching the Prince’s tragic death ruffled quite a few feathers, especially since he met his end at the hands of the tyrant Freeza himself after a heartfelt speech about how Freeza enslaved his people, cut short by an unceremonious death beam through the heart.
There are rumors that Vegeta was intended to remain dead after the Freeza Saga in the original script, though this seems to be mostly fan speculation. But whatever the case, though his death scene is arguably one of the most moving moments in anime history, it wasn’t the last we saw of the Prince of all Saiyans. After the defeat of Freeza, a wish is made with the Dragon Balls to revive everyone killed during the battle, which of course includes Vegeta.
3 His Motives Are Not Entirely Selfish
Vegeta enters the DBZ series on a mission to gather Earth’s Dragon Balls so he can wish for eternal life. In the fights that follow, a great many of the main cast die. From what we knew of his motives back then, by achieving immortality he could fight forever and eventually rule the universe. In other words a pretty standard villain modus operandi. After the Saiyan Saga when we learn about the existence of Freeza, it turns out his motives may have been more complex and somewhat less megalomaniacal than we thought.
Vegeta continues to be a villain well into the Freeza storyline, during which he is forced to begin working with the protagonists to keep Freeza from getting Namek’s Dragon Balls. We learn that all along, even before he learned the truth about the destruction of his homeworld, Vegeta’s main goal in wishing for immortality has been to kill Freeza. Many also noted that Vegeta stops trying to wish for immortality after the Freeza Saga, despite having many opportunities to gather the Dragon Balls himself and make the wish. This would seem to imply the only reason he wanted immortality was to defeat Freeza, and by later in the series he no longer wanted to rule the universe.
While early Vegeta certainly had dreams of eventually becoming the ruler of the universe himself, it stands to reason his main motive all along was to avenge the total genocide of his people and finally topple Freeza - a rather noble goal, if you ask us.
2 He Is Probably The Most Popular Character
It should come as no surprise that fan polls numbering in the thousands frequently have Vegeta as one of the most beloved DBZ characters. As we said above, his journey from villain to anti-hero and then finally to hero is hands-down the best character development in Dragon Ball Z, and his backstory makes him easily one of the more complex characters. Vegeta was also a smart strategist, a powerful fighter, and when he killed someone they stayed dead (more than we can say for more moralistic characters like Goku).
Vegeta had the attitude and rage, and his story of being the Prince of a destroyed kingdom where his entire family and race was wiped out made you want to root for him. Whether he was a villain or a good guy, Vegeta was always fun to watch, and his character flaws made him better than the traditional good guys represented by Goku and his friends. Few characters in fiction can pull off the transition from evil badass warrior to good guy and without ever losing their edge or attitude - Vegeta is one.
1 Yet Somehow, He’s Never Been to Kame House
The Kame House has always been the main meeting place for the main characters for both planning and beachfront relaxation. Located on the tiny Roshi Island in the middle of the sea, the house was frequently visited by Krillin, Yamcha, Ox King and Chi Chi, and even became the permanent residence of several characters like Roshi and Krillin.
Vegeta has never been to the Kame House, making him perhaps the only main character to never visit there. When hanging out on Earth after becoming a full-fledged good guy, Vegeta spends all of his downtimes at Capsule Corp, with the rest of his time being spent split between random locations around the planet or in the World Tournament. It may be that he wants to spend as much time and possible with his wife or son, or it may be that the idyllic beach is more suited to relaxing and not for the strenuous training expected of the Prince of all Saiyans.