The Saiyan arc quite literally split The Dragon Ball into before & after (albeit more due to circumstance than anything else.) Raditz’s introduction moves Dragon Ball away from its roots and instead places an emphasis on sci-fi action. Along with revealing that Goku happens to be a Saiyan, Raditz reveals that his two Saiyan companions are much stronger– and on their way to Earth.
Planet Earth and Son Goku are left with less than a year to prepare for the Saiyan invasion. While Nappa is a major threat who ends up killing most of the Dragon Team all on his own, Vegeta is the real star of the show. An Elite Saiyan, Vegeta represents the Saiyan race at its purest: a barbaric tribe that values raw power above all else.
7. King Vegeta
The patriarch of Planet Vegeta at the time Frieza takes over King Cold’s empire and the third of his name, King Vegeta never actually appears in the manga. He’s mentioned in the Namek arc, and one can presume he exists as Vegeta refers to himself as the Prince of all Saiyans often enough, but Toriyama never flashes back to him.
Virtually everything surrounding King Vegeta’s imagery– from his cape, to his goatee, and even the Saiyan royal crest– originate from the anime. King Vegeta is most often depicted as hotheaded with a bark worse than his bite. He puts on a tough act, but he will be fully subservient to stronger powers.
6. Prince Vegeta
It’s hard to believe Vegeta wasn’t introduced as a Prince given how ingrained into his character it’s become. Vegeta’s Elite Saiyan status directly contradicted him with Goku, but the royalty added into the Namek arc seems to contrast him with Frieza. The latter has his own empire, whereas the former had his empire stolen from him.
Saiyan pride is something Vegeta speaks about often, but he doesn’t have pride for the individualistic Saiyans– more the concept of the culture and what it represents. Vegeta has absolutely no love for his parents or his people, going so far as to kill Nappa when he’s disgusted by his lack of strength.
Goku’s oldest friend, Bulma enters Dragon Ball the series’ co-lead. While this only lasts for the very first story arc, Bulma never loses her relevance. She’s reintroduced in the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai and never leaves the main cast from then on. She’s one of the few supporting characters to consistently be given focus in the Buu arc, as well.
It’s worth pointing out that Bulma in the original Dragon Ball is often framed through her friendship with Goku specifically and not her marriage with Vegeta. This isn’t to say their marriage isn’t incredibly important and instrumental in their growth as characters. Vegeta and Bulma play off each other surprisingly well with great chemistry.
Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!!! Was a 2008 film that reunited the Dragon Team in-universe for a party. While there was action, the stakes were low (with Frieza-tier enemies in a post-Buu arc setting) and the focus was more on allowing the audience to catch up with the series’ cast after so long.
Perhaps speaking to how three-dimensional Vegeta had become by the end of Dragon Ball’s run, the special introduces Tarble, Vegeta’s younger brother who was banished from Planet Vegeta for not being as strong as the pack. Vegeta is essentially forced to come to terms with who he was and who he’s become in a drama-free environment. It’s honestly one of the better depictions of Vegeta, and Tarble’s meek attitude plays off his brother’s brashness hilariously.
3. Future Trunks
Vegeta is killed by Androids 17 and 18 before Trunks can ever get to know his father in the future timeline. As such, Future Trunks grows into a wildly different young man than his main timeline counterpart. Trunks only have stories of Vegeta to go off of, and it’s implied Bulma has been keeping some of Vegeta’s nastier qualities to herself.
Trunks understands that Vegeta wasn’t the kindest man before going back in time, but he still expects something resembling a father’s affection. Instead, he’s given scorn, rejection, and outright contempt. While Trunks and Vegeta’s training in the Room of Spirit and Time is glossed over, it’s suggested the two did some bonding during that year.
By contrast, the main timeline of Trunks’ relationship with Vegeta isn’t half as terrible. While Vegeta is still a distant father, he at least spends time with Trunks and trains alongside him. Trunks also has a clear respect & love for his father that would suggest the two do get along fairly when (even if Vegeta is colder than he should be.)
Even though Vegeta is still a stick in the mud, he does make an active effort in Dragon Ball Super to be a better father for Trunks. The anime’s second episode even has Vegeta fulfilling the promise he made to take Trunks to the park all the way at the start of the Buu arc. Trunks is not as humble or polite as Future Trunks, but with Vegeta as a present father, how could he be?
Bra is introduced at the very end of Dragon Ball as little more than a mini Bulma and a cute check to the fact that Bulma & Vegeta are still raising their family. Dragon Ball GT doesn’t use her too often, but a now aged-up Bra appears frequently enough to have a defined personality. She’s a spoiled brat, but Vegeta has a massive soft spot for her he doesn’t with Trunks.
This is reflected through the baby Bra in Dragon Ball Super as well. Vegeta was more than comfortable missing the Tournament of Power completely if it meant he got to be by Bulma’s side while she gave birth. With all his faults, Vegeta loves his children.