Dragon Ball‘s author Akira Toriyama has a surprising opinion on one of the most popular characters of his franchise. It would seem obvious for a creator to like the characters that are the protagonists of their stories – especially the key figures like Goku and Vegeta who power a franchise. However, as Toriyama reveals himself, sometimes creators actually dislike their characters, even those who are incredibly popular with fans.
In a 1995 interview published in the databook Dragon Ball Daizenshuu 2 and archived on the Dragon Ball superfan website Kanzenshuu, Toriyama pulls back the curtain on a wide range of topics regarding the creation of Dragon Ball. In response to a line of questions exploring the transition of the story’s theme away from its Journey to the West beginnings to its iconic battle tournament motif, Toriyama is asked which of his villains he prefers. Without hesitation, Toriyama singles out Demon King Piccolo as his favorite villain. Then, without a prompt, he goes on to say, “With Vegeta, well, I don’t like him all that much, but he was extremely helpful to have around“.
Toriyama’s statement about Vegeta is shocking on a number of levels. While Vegeta started off as a nasty villain, his rehabilitation became an example for countless similar storylines in manga and anime. Vegeta’s status has now grown to the point where he’s part of a wholesome dynamic duo with Goku, so it doesn’t seem like he would be a character that Toriyama would dislike. Toriyama does admit to Vegeta’s usefulness to the story, which is probably a nod to the character’s popularity among fans.
Second, Toriyama’s comments corroborate an age-old fan theory that he never liked Vegeta. This fan theory is based on Toriyama’s treatment of Vegeta throughout the saga. According to the theory, no matter how much fans want to see Vegeta finally surpass Goku, Toriyama will never allow it. Indeed, fans point to the numerous times Vegeta, after showing off his most recent power-up, gets mercilessly beaten up by the villain of the story. This trend has unfortunately continued even in Dragon Ball Super, where Vegeta reached impressive heights of strength, but was still beaten by Moro, Zamasu, and Granolah.
It should be kept in mind, however, that in 1995 (the year the interview was published) the original Dragon Ball manga had just ended, and the franchise was still on its way to becoming one of the most popular in history. It’s possible that, in the decades since, Toriyama had a chance to reevaluate his appreciation for Vegeta, considering just how popular the character is, and how much he contributed to the success of the franchise. Still, Dragon Ball fans who believe that Toriyama’s dislike for Vegeta is the reason for all the humiliations suffered by the Saiyan Prince will be quick to point out this interview as the ultimate proof of their theory.
Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Super are available from Viz Media and Manga Plus.