Akira Toriyama Created Vegetto
in Response to Gogeta
(Though perhaps not in the exact way you might think!)
While most fans are aware of the two types of “fusion” used in the Dragon Ball franchise, the precise timeline of how Gogeta and Vegetto came to be is a bit more nuanced — and interesting! — than one might otherwise think.
The idea for fusion in the Dragon Ball series was suggested by Masakazu Katsura, fellow manga artist and friend to Akira Toriyama, who was struggling to find a new way to once again power-up his heroes beyond the (by then) standard Super Saiyan transformations. This story is recounted by Toriyama in his Daizenshuu 6 “Super Interview”:
The concept of fusion is also a form of leveling up. How did that concept come to be?
If I remember correctly, I was talking about how, as a concept, “there’s nothing stronger than a Super Saiyan”, and Katsura-kun (Masakazu Katsura-sensei), who I usually just joke around and say idiotic things with, said, “There’s no choice but for them to fuse, then.” So I said, “Whoa, sometimes even you say something good. It’s the first time you’ve ever made yourself useful.” (laughs) That’s how that plot point was born.
Goku first mentions the idea of fusion in chapter 469 of the manga, originally serialized in May 1994. Gotenks — a fusion of Goten and Trunks — then finally debuts in chapter 480 of the manga, originally serialized in July 1994.
The twelfth Dragon Ball Z film — The Rebirth of Fusion!! Goku and Vegeta, written by Takao Koyama and directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi with character designs by Tadayoshi Yamamuro — debuted in March 1995 featuring Gogeta, a combination of Goku and Vegeta using the same dance-fusion method as Gotenks (who likewise also appears in the same film).
Due to this usage of fusion in the film, Toriyama once again struggled with what to do in the manga, ultimately using the Kaiōshin earrings — up to that point simply drawn as decoration — as another fusion method:
What about the concept of the Potara?
That was simply, since Fusion was a plot point that was already taken by one of the movies, I was wondering what I should do; I had always been drawing earrings [on Kaiōshin], so I thought, “perhaps I can use these”…
Had you drawn them from the beginning, thinking that you’d use them as a fusion item?
No, not at all. They were just for decoration.
So they were just a fortuitous coincidence, then.
I’m always crossing perilous bridges like that. (laughs) But, just as I’ve been driven into a corner, it’s like my brain waves go taut, and some sort of idea bubbles up. Also, I’m good at forcing things to stretch. (laughs)
No, it really isn’t. Even I’m always in suspense. In the previous chapter, I’ve already written “something incredible is going to happen,” so I think, “I have no choice but to do something incredible.” It’s so painful. (laughs)
From this, a different version of a Goku and Vegeta fusion was created, debuting in chapter 503 of the manga in January 1995. Promotional splash text at the bottom of chapter 503 in its original Weekly Shōnen Jump serialization states that the reader would see “Gogeta” (ゴジータ Gojiita) in the following chapter:
…though the character explicitly names himself “Vegetto” (ベジット Bejiitto) in the next chapter:
Why the Name Change?
It is unknown whether this initial “Gogeta” reference in Weekly Shōnen Jump was a misprint or perhaps a last-minute name change decision. Said text is present in the original Weekly Shōnen Jump 1995 No. 7 issue as well as volume 18 of the Dragon Ball manga’s “Digest Edition” (Sōshūhen) re-release from January 2017, but is removed in most general compilations such as the tankōbon and kanzenban — not because of its content specifically, but because almost all splash text like this is removed for those kinds of collected volumes.
You may ask, though: January 1995 with Vegetto is before March 1995 with Gogeta, so how could Gogeta come “first”…?
In order to bring a film to life, there is a whole process of pre-production (writing, storyboarding, etc.) and then actual production (animation, voice acting), which meant Gogeta was in the works long before January when Vegetto debuted. As the author of the series and someone regularly consulted for various character designs and general sign-offs, Toriyama would have been — and concretely was, by his own account — aware of what Toei had in the hopper, and adjusted his manga content accordingly.
SOMETIME APRIL 1994 OR EARLIER
Masakazu Katsura suggests fusion to Akira Toriyama
MAY 10, 1994
The concept of fusion is introduced in Dragon Ball manga chapter 469
JULY 26, 1994
Gotenks debuts in Dragon Ball manga chapter 480
BETWEEN MAY 1994 AND BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR
Production begins on Dragon Ball Z Movie 12 incorporating fusion with Gogeta
JANUARY 25, 1995
Vegetto debuts in Dragon Ball manga chapter 503
MARCH 4, 1995
Gogeta debuts in Dragon Ball Z Movie 12
While not specifically related to the original creation of the character, it may be worth mentioning that Vegetto’s return in the “Future” Trunks arc of Dragon Ball Super was not originally in Akira Toriyama’s story outline — it was a suggestion and addition by Toyotarō:
[Merged] Zamasu actually wasn’t all that strong of a character in the original draft I received from Toriyama-sensei. Though immortal, his strength was such that two Super Saiyan Blues were more than enough to take him on. It’s precisely because of this that in the original draft things unfolded so that his “immortality” and “Potara time limit” became key, and Goku and Vegeta took turns fighting him. Goku and Vegeta didn’t fuse in the original draft. Their personalities made any fusion after the Majin Boo arc impossible. However, I wanted to meet the readers’ expectations… And so, I made a scenario where “even if they shouldn’t really fuse, now they have absolutely no choice but to fuse.”
I think it was good!
While it’s almost certainly obvious and known to most current-day Dragon Ball fans, it’s worth wrapping up with a nod to the fact that Toriyama added Gogeta — as well as another popular movie character! — “to the Dragon Ball official history” with the 2019 theatrical film Dragon Ball Super: Broly.
It sure seems like the “Gogeta vs. Vegetto” question is one that will never end…
… but at least we know how they came to be in the first place!