In the story that unfolds in Dragon Ball, you can see how characters grow by overcoming fierce battles and how the relationships between these characters deepen as a result. In a previous article we took a look at Piccolo and Gohan's master-student relationship, and this time we will be talking about two rivals who are also very popular with readers: Goku and Vegeta!
Originally debuting in Tale 204 of the manga, Vegeta and Nappa invade Earth in an attempt to use the Dragon Balls to obtain immortality. Afterwards, through multiple intense battles, Vegeta slowly but surely begins to fight alongside Goku to defend the Earth.
Goku and Vegeta are both members of the Saiyan warrior race, but their upbringings and attitudes towards fighting are very different. I asked Professor Nobuyuki Ota, who specializes in research on the subjects of competition and rivalry, to analyze the relationship of these two warriors.
Narrator: Nobuyuki Ota
Associate professor of Graduate School of Contemporary Education, Chubu University.
Doctor of Educational Psychology at Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Nagoya University. Researches interpersonal cognition and relationships inherent in rivalries and goal recognition present in competition. Also conducts studies on lecture tool implementation, student engagement, and methods for class evaluation. Author of several books and academic papers such as "Psychology of Rival Relationships" and "A Study of Rival Cognitive Process: Case Study by Semi-structured Interview".
Entertainment analyst. Author of many articles based on serious research (including data analysis and interviews) into non-serious subjects. Articles often featured on Yahoo's freelance page and the Daily Portal Z website. Has a particular fondness for music, films, and manga! Twitter：＠_maishilo_
--Despite both being members of the same warrior race, the Saiyans Goku and Vegeta start off as enemies before eventually starting to fight on the same side as the story progresses. Professor Ota, what do you think about the relationship between these two fighters?
Ota: Goku and Vegeta cooperate when necessary, but also sometimes fight to determine who is stronger. From an outsider's perspective they do indeed look like rivals.
However, it is unclear whether both of these warriors feel the same way. It does seem like Vegeta considers Goku to be his rival, but I believe that Goku is not the kind of individual who sees others as his rivals.
Goku's driving emotion is not of competitiveness, but rather an intense desire to become stronger.
--Goku and Vegeta certainly do view the world in different ways.
Ota: Actually, one-sided rivalries are rather common.
In a psychological survey, if you ask the question, "Is there someone that you consider to be your rival?", over half of the participants will answer yes. However, that number decreases significantly when you ask those same people whether they think that their rival feels the same way about them.
Just like in a romantic relationship, it isn’t normally possible to confirm what both individuals are feeling at any given moment, so it's common for just one person in such a situation to be thinking, "That's my rival".
--Goku and Vegeta started off as enemies but the dynamics between them gradually changed. Is this kind of situation common in the real world?
Ota: As the story progresses, Goku and Vegeta start to fight together because they have the same goal.
Fighting together allows them to learn more about each other and provides an opportunity for them to acknowledge each other's strength. This kind of situation normally leads individuals to develop trust, so in reality a rivalry could certainly result from this sort of situation.
--I see! So the rivalry between Goku and Vegeta is realistic from a psychological perspective, then!
--I have a question about rivals in the real world. Is it important to have a rival of your own?
Ota: The biggest merit to having a rival is to give yourself a sense of purpose. If you have someone that you want to win against at any cost, it is easier to give your all.
Try not to become obsessed with winning, though. If the pressure of having to win is too great, your mental health may suffer as a result.
--I feel like there are many scenes where Vegeta is shown obsessing over how to win.
Ota: Actually, Vegeta is rather strong mentally.
Even after seeing how strong Goku has become he never wavers in his quest to become stronger. I think that this level of mental toughness is only achievable by someone with Saiyan blood.
--Do you think that there is a way for us humans to achieve the kind of mental fortitude that Vegeta has?
Ota: Hmm... I actually don't recommend trying to become that mentally resilient. People who are too mentally strong tend to put a strain on others around them. I bet that at least some of your readers know someone in their lives who is so stoic they seem a bit distant.
Goku's wife, Chichi, and Vegeta's wife, Bulma, both have very strong personalities, and I think you would need to have their type of mentality in order to put up with someone as tenacious as a Saiyan.
--Returning to the topic of rivalries, what kind of person makes a good rival?
Ota: I would recommend choosing someone who is similar to yourself. I think that Vegeta chooses Goku as his rival because he, too, is a Saiyan.
In psychology, we use the term "social comparison" to refer to the habit humans have of comparing themselves to others in order to be able to accurately evaluate themselves. Social comparisons are easiest to do when you choose someone who is similar to yourself.
--Studies suggest that there are two types of rivalries: those where the individual aims to become as strong as someone else, and those where the individual's goal is to prevent others from surpassing them.
Ota: Rivalries where an individual wants to become as strong as someone else are the most common. This type of rivalry includes cases where both parties seem to be at near-equal proficiency levels to outsiders, but the individual considers their rival to be better than them.
For this type of individual, their rivals are usually only slightly more competent, so competing frequently leads to increased motivation levels and personal improvement.
--When you put it like that, it makes me want to find my own Goku!
--I would like to delve a little deeper into Vegeta's personality. I feel like Vegeta's strength is a source of pride for him.
Ota: Compared to other Saiyans or humans, Vegeta has a high amount of pride. In psychology, we refer to pride as "self-esteem", and it refers to an individual's sense of personal worth.
Young children tend to have high self-esteem. The reason for this is that children are usually unable to view themselves in an objective manner. Upon reaching adulthood, people become able to compare themselves to others around them, and as a result their self-esteem lowers to reasonable levels.
People who continue to have high self-esteem even into adulthood never experience this lowering of their self-esteem. In particular, individuals who happen to be exceptional at the things that they consider to be important will have higher self-esteem.
In Vegeta's case, he values strength due to his Saiyan blood. In addition, he himself is a powerful Saiyan warrior, so it is easy for him to have high self-esteem.
--Is having high self-esteem a good thing?
Ota: Excessive self-esteem can be a problem, but maintaining a certain amount is a good thing. If your self-esteem is too high, any blow that you suffer to your pride will be very stressful. Because of this, I think that maintaining a moderate amount of self-esteem is healthy.
--We have established that Vegeta has a high level of self-esteem. Does his royal lineage play a part in this?
Ota: Hmm... I imagine that since Vegeta is part of the Saiyan royal family he was raised in an environment where there was a lot of pressure to become stronger. It is also reasonable to assume that he realized he was stronger than those around him.
I think that it was this realization, along with being in a position of power where he was leading subordinates of his own, that molded his view of the world.
--Despite both being Saiyans, Goku and Vegeta have different personalities.
Ota: Yes, their attitudes towards competition are different. Vegeta's goal is to surpass Goku, while Goku's goal is to compete with others in order to become stronger. I believe that for Goku, the focus is less on defeating his foes and more on the desire to improve himself.
--Both warriors share the goal of wanting to become stronger, but their motivations are inherently different. Which reminds me, after the Z-warriors finally defeat Vegeta on Earth, Goku stops his friends from ending the invader's life and convinces them to let Vegeta escape.
Ota: More than just defeating his foes in battle, Goku is the type of person that takes enjoyment in the act of competition for the sole purpose of making himself stronger.
Because of this, I believe that Goku is mentally tough just like Vegeta.
--Saiyans really are something else!
Ota: When I look at both of these Saiyans, Vegeta seems the more human of the two. His high self-esteem and quest to prove his own strength are very relatable.
I think that one of the interesting aspects of the Dragon Ball story is that Vegeta, raised on another planet, seems very human, while Goku, raised on Earth, seems very Saiyan-like.
--I really understand why Vegeta feels so driven to surpass Goku now. Thank you so much for your time and for this enlightening conversation!
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