Dragon Ball Unpacks Goku and Vegeta's Rivalry in New Study

Dragon Ball has thrilled fans for decades with the rivalry (and friendship) between Goku and Vegeta; well, now that Dragon Ball has chiseled out its mainstream foothold in the pop-culture zeitgeist, Goku and Vegeta's rivalry has joined that of Batman and Superman as an official subject of scientific study! Nobuyuki Ota is an Associate professor of Graduate School of Contemporary Education at Chubu University, as well as a Doctor of Educational Psychology at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Nagoya University.

Ota has published several studies that including "Psychology of Rival Relationships", and he was interviewed about his perspective on Goku and Vegeta's rivalry in the Dragon Ball franchise. Ota starts out by claiming that calling Goku and Vegeta's relationship a rivalry may be something of a misnomer if it's only one-sided: 

"Actually, one-sided rivalries are rather common," Ota explains. "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... so it's common for just one person in such a situation to be thinking, 'That's my rival'."

To Ota's point: Vegeta has been the only one to outright identify Goku as his "rival." Goku simply loves the sport of fighting, and Vegeta is always a willing participant in that sport. For Vegeta, however, his intense focus on Kakarot as his "rival" actually serves an important psychological purpose: 

"The biggest merit to having a rival is to give yourself a sense of purpose" Ota says. "If you have someone that you want to win against at any cost, it is easier to give your all...  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."

(Photo: Shueisha)

Dragon Ball Super's latest story arcs have seen Akira Toriyama and manga head Toyotaro actually incorporating a deeper psychological underpinning to how Goku and Vegeta's powers (and rivalry) are evolving. Vegeta has given up his quest to simply surpass Goku – and has arguably become more like his rival, in terms of psychological outlook, developing his own new power set (Ultra Ego) independent of Goku's (Ultra Instinct). 

"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," Ota says. "I believe that for Goku, the focus is less on defeating his foes and more on the desire to improve himself.


Ota's assessment is certainly on point. Goku's quest for improvement has led him to develop new forms of the divine technique that is Ultra Instinct; meanwhile, Vegeta's thirst for destruction and conquest in battle has caused him to develop Ultra Ego, a new form that actually rewards his thirst for battle with unparalleled power. 

Dragon Ball Super releases new manga chapters online; the new Dragon Ball movie is in theaters overseas.