Shonen anime and manga classic and modern alike are well known for using many similar plot devices, tropes, personalities and characteristics. Some of these parallels are crystal clear, while other intriguing connections can quietly fly under the radar. Such is the case with One Piece and its famed protagonist, Monkey D. Luffy.
With his happy-go-lucky nature, frequent obliviousness to common sense and strong desire to help others in need, Luffy is probably more comparable to Goku than any other Dragon Ball Z character. However, a surprising moment early in Eiichiro Oda’s story actually gave Luffy his own version of one of Vegeta’s most astonishing moments in DBZ’s “Majin Buu” saga.
Dragon Ball Z’s last major arc gave the Prince of All Saiyans some truly memorable character development. After allowing the evil wizard Babidi to infiltrate his body and enhance the darkness inside him, Vegeta’s powers grew to a new level but it came at a heavy cost. After finally getting his long-awaited slugfest with Goku which ultimately provided Babidi the remaining energy required to resurrect Majin Buu Vegeta returns to the true battlefield to finish the pudgy pink villain himself.
However, Vegeta’s son Trunks and Goku’s youngest son Goten are also on the scene and want to help him fight Buu. Vegeta, ready to atone for his past sins, knows the boys will only get in the way and would likely be killed by Buu. After a touching moment where he hugs Trunks for the first time in the boy’s life, he then knocks his son unconscious with a chop to the head quickly followed by a jab to Goten’s stomach to knock him out as well.
While the boys were too young to understand, Vegeta’s actions were taken out of genuine care and the desire to get them as far away from the upcoming destruction as possible. It’s a wonderful moment of redemption and growth for a man who had so long thought of nothing and no one aside from his own selfish goals, and “Final Atonement” remains one of the most beloved Dragon Ball Z episodes.
One Piece’s “Orange Town” arc found Luffy and Zoro desperately trying to stop the pirate Buggy the Clown and his crew’s destruction of the family-friendly town. At one point, the passionate Mayor Boodle insists on going to find the villains by himself, saying it’s his responsibility alone to defend his people’s home. Although his efforts are admirable, Boodle predictably takes a beating and is on the verge of being killed.
Luckily, Luffy shows up just in the nick of time aiming to save the day and proceeds to bash the already-injured mayor hard enough to leave him unconscious. While the action is portrayed much more selfishly in One Piece Luffy simply says Boodle was in the way while he and Zoro actually laugh in excitement for the upcoming clash knocking the mayor out was necessary to stop him from getting himself killed, just like Trunks and Goten in Dragon Ball Z.
While Luffy’s knockout moment came significantly earlier in One Piece and is far more lighthearted compared to Vegeta’s emotional atonement arc in Dragon Ball Z the overarching parallel remains the same. Both Luffy and Vegeta had to attack someone on their own side to stop them from getting themselves killed. Taking difficult actions for the greater good in a dangerous moment is a hallmark of many shonen heroes. Luffy may be much more like Goku, but he also has a bit of the Saiyan Prince inside him.