Pride & Atonement

Adam Reviews Season Eight of Dragon Ball Z

Okay, so last season was a bit of a disappointment but the good news is, this season is sublime. I’ve been waiting for this season. There’s so much to talk about I’m really excited to get stuck into it. So much so I’m writing this opening paragraph before I’ve even watched it. I’ve mentioned a few times in previous articles that my opinion of Vegeta has changed a lot over the years. This season has a huge hand in why. So, what happens?

First off, Vegeta gets taken under the spell of Babidi, the evil wizard, becoming Majin Vegeta. Him and Goku fight while Gohan and the Supreme Kai continue on their search of the ship to find Babidi and stop him from reviving Majin Buu. Buu is eventually revived and proceeds to beat the crap out of Dabura, Gohan and the Supreme Kai. Goku and Vegeta notice that “hey, that new huge power level must be Buu.” so they agree to pause their fight to go deal with it. Vegeta then suckers Goku, knocking him out and goes off to fight Buu alone. That’s an incredibly short summary of events and that’s only two thirds of the season. The only two thirds we’re going to talk about in this article. For good reason.

These are events that are packed with meaning in ways that are so layered and nuanced that it was totally lost on me as a kid. The first time around I just thought Vegeta had lost it. That he was always evil, he hadn’t changed at all and that Goku and the others should never have trusted him in the first place. On the surface that is kind of true, it isn’t until you appreciate the layers of why he acts the way he does that it suddenly makes so much more sense. Vegeta was the Prince of all Saiyans, he’s a proud warrior who has been forced into working for his oppressor, witnessed the annihilation of his own race and saw everything he’s ever believed in be trampled before his eyes by the villains and especially by Goku; or Kakarot as Vegeta would call him. Vegeta was raised as royalty, to believe that he was superior to all other Saiyans, to believe that he had what it took to achieve the legendary/mythical status amongst his people of becoming a Super Saiyan. It was his right, his destiny and despite living his life under the thumb of the immensely powerful Frieza he believed that one day he would achieve that goal and topple him. In the end, it wasn’t him. Kakarot, the low class nobody, didn’t just humiliate him during their battle on earth by sparing his life after beating him. He didn’t just surpass his strength and avenge their race by defeating Frieza. He became a Super Saiyan first. He did it while being gentle and kind rather than being a ruthless warrior as Vegeta was raised to believe he must be. Kakarot’s every move, every breath, his very existence cuts against everything Vegeta ever was, believed or achieved until they crossed paths.

Even when Vegeta did step up and achieve what he saw as his birth right he came unstuck. He was humbled by Android 18 as a Super Saiyan, Perfect Cell destroyed him even though he had reached a new level of Super Saiyan. Then, not only did Kakarot surpass him yet again, he didn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself to save everyone when Cell self-destructed. He watched helplessly as his son from the future was killed by the surprisingly returning Cell and it was Kakarot’s son, Gohan, who ultimately saved him from Cell. At every turn he couldn’t get ahead and stay there. Is it any wonder then, that the chance to fight Kakarot was all he wanted. To prove himself finally as his equal, or better. Goku only had 24 hours on account of being given a day release from being dead and then this nonsense with Babidi and his minions was distracting them from the tournament where they would get their chance to fight. Eating up precious time Goku didn’t have to spare. Vegeta also realised during the fights with the minions that there was a gulf between their powers that still wasn’t closed. Kakarot was dead and still he was stronger than he was. So, he turned to a power boost that would set him free from his other concerns, his attachments to his family. He turned willingly to Babidi’s magic.

The true strength of Vegeta’s character comes through right here. He gets Babidi to use his magic on him to give him the power boost he needs then fights to regain control of his magically enslaved body and overcomes the spell. Gaining the power boost but without losing control of his body and mind as the others had. He tells Babidi to get lost when he orders him to kill the Supreme Kai and that only his fight with Kakarot concerns him. It’s an incredible display and the visual cues that show the strain he’s under really underlines what he’s done. All the turmoil and anguish of his internal struggles pour out. There’s some utterly fantastic dialogue delivered by Christopher Sabbat for Vegeta in the English dub. Lines that give me chills as he faces off with Kakarot. The man who torments his soul in a way no villain could.

The fight between them is incredible but what happens after is the part that is truly impressive. Final Atonement is the truest finale to an incredible character arc that started from his introduction in the early episodes of Season One. Vegeta suckers Goku out of the fight so he can settle things with Buu on his own. Again, the young me thought he’d just lost his mind but now I understand the nuance. For the sake of his pride he has to prove that he can do it too, he can be the selfless hero who saves the world. Alone. So he ensures he gets to try without Kakarot being there to interfere. He goes and faces Buu but discovers he isn’t a match. Having to be saved at one point by his young son, Trunks and Goku’s youngest son, Goten. That’s when he knows what he has to do. He tells Trunks that he’s proud of him before knocking him and Goten out so Piccolo can take them away. He speaks briefly with Piccolo and then, knowing that this will truly be his end. He uses everything, even his life, to create an explosion that will blow Buu into nothing. To see Krillin – sceptic-in-chief where Vegeta is concerned – calling out his name, like he has done so many times before for his friends, brings a tear to my eye. As Piccolo says:

“For the first time Vegeta is fighting for something other than himself.”

For his family, the world, for Kakarot. He meets his end to destroy Buu.

For Vegeta, the selfish, ruthless, uncaring prideful warrior, to end up here making the noble sacrifice for the sake of his loved ones is simply an incredible end to a character arc. Without a doubt it is the best one in all of Dragon Ball and it might well be one of the best in any medium I’ve ever experienced. It’s so brilliantly pieced together, so fitting and so true to the character that it makes me want to cry every time I think of it. I didn’t get it the first time around, I’m not convinced I really understood it the second or third time either (I’m a bit slow) but I’m a reformed man now. Vegeta wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t a good guy a lot of the time, but he was/is a damn good character. Again, I must hand over to Totally Not Mark for a fantastic video explainer of how Vegeta’s character is constructed.

*BEWARE SPOILERS FOR DBZ AND SUPER IN THE VIDEO IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY SEEN THEM*

I wish I could say that Dragon Ball Z ended here. With a few episodes to tie up loose ends and say goodbye it would be the perfect end to DBZ. A series which is genuinely as much Vegeta’s story as it is Goku’s. At the very least it should be the end of the Buu saga with a new villain to see us through to the end, but it isn’t I’m afraid. We’ve still got Season Nine and one third of this season still to go. There’s some cool stuff still to come, don’t get me wrong and I promise I’ll take my ‘Team Vegeta’ glasses off to give those a fair shake. But there’s no denying that there’s some issues to delve into as well.

We’re speeding towards the end now, can Buu be stopped? Will Goku grow inexplicably long hair!? Find out in my next exciting article about Dragon Ball Z. And don’t forget that you can purchase the beautifully remastered Blu-Ray’s as individual seasons from Manga UK.

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Anime ReviewsArticleOpinionReviewsTVTV And Movies

Adam is a Writer, Editor & Podcaster here at Out of Lives. He casts a wide net across popular culture with video games & anime, in particular, featuring heavily in his work for the site. Hailing from a town just outside Glasgow, this Scotsman can usually be found roaming the Northern Realms on The Path or behind the wheel of a Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle-Car.
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