From Saiyan prince, to savior of the world. Vegeta’s story is one of an unlikely hero who sets a precedent for antagonists looking to right their wrongs.
There is no doubt that Vegeta is one of the very few antagonists in anime that have come to a jarring realization of their war crimes, and willingly atoned for it. Who would have thought someone who would blow up planets in his free time would become one of Earths many saviors?
This is the same man who sold his soul to the idea of being the master of time and youthful exuberance. Yet, he would become a family man that would do anything for the good of his people, strengthening his character and moral code in the process.
What could have sparked such a drastic change in such a short amount of time? Was it purely a matter of coincidence, or was this outcome a long time coming? It could be argued that it started when Goku told Krillin to spare Vegeta in the Saiyan Saga, perhaps that was the first time he witnessed an act of mercy. No matter the cause, the planet Earth witnessed the birth of a living legend.
Vegeta never truly had a childhood.
The planet Namek arc in Dragon Ball Z revealed much about Vegeta’s youth and how Frieza played a major role in his upbringing. Due to unruly circumstance, Vegeta was stripped of his title as Saiyan prince and taken from his planet as a young boy. He was one of the few remaining Saiyan survivors that were on a mission at the time of planet Vegetas destruction. Those last four Saiyans would be Raditz, Nappa, Vegeta and Goku.
He learned everything he could from his combat experience, developing a ruthless attitude like his former boss Frieza. He was on a mission to make himself seen as the greatest Saiyan to ever exist, going to whatever lengths to achieve this accolade. Destruction was his reality, and he would stop at nothing to win every battle he fought.
Vegeta’s Namek speech embodied the pain of a boy living in delusional solitude.
Frieza had built a a lasting connection with the Saiyans, whether through force or sheer will. They all did his bidding and conquered planets that would be sold to ready and able buyers, this would lead to the Saiyan race becoming the pirates of the universe. Frieza had them under his grip, he was in a position of clear victory.
During the heartfelt final moments of Vegeta before dying on Namek, he revealed a lot about what made him who he was. As mentioned above, Vegeta had been taken under Friezas wing after lying to him about the destruction of his planet, claiming an asteroid took it out. In reality, Frieza had destroyed the planet out of fear of the Saiyans increasing strength and intelligence. He knew that if they kept honing their abilities, they would go rogue and destroy everything Frieza had worked hard to build.
It was not until Nappa revealed the revelation to Vegeta that everything began clicking together. Vegeta dismissed Nappas claim, but knew deep down in his heart of hearts that what Nappa said was completely true. Vegeta has always had his sights set on Friezas throne, but finding out about the past amplified his drive. He wanted to take back what was his even more, he would even go as far as dying for it.
By the start of the Android saga, Vegeta redeemed himself.
During this arc, Vegeta went on to achieve his goal of becoming a Super Saiyan, a goal that he has had ever since he was a young boy listening to his fathers wise tales. He had also begun settling down with Bulma and earned Goku’s trust, he even had his newly born baby boy Trunks.
The fight with the Androids put everything in perspective, he was fighting for someone other than his self. He might not have known it, but he was fighting for his family. He wanted nothing more than to create a better life for Bulma and Trunks, showing up as a father figure to Trunks and a caring husband to Bulma. But somewhere in this chain of events was when Vegeta began fighting for his friends and the safety of earth.