Every anime fan remembers the moment that this diabolical alien tyrant made his debut in the acclaimed series Dragon Ball Z, and, since then, he has risen to become one of the most terrifying and awesome characters in the show. With his glinting eyes, devious smile, and near-androgynous appearance, Frieza is a unique and powerful character who is a volatile mix of all classic baddies from science fiction fame. Like the Joker, he lusts for chaos. Like Lex Luthor, he worships power. And like General Zod, he rules with an iron fist.
But what specifically makes Frieza so intimidating and memorable?
Let’s take an inside look at Dragon Ball Z’s infamous overlord and see why he might easily be the best villain in the entire series.
Influential Villain: Prince of the Universe and Destroyer of Worlds
“I doubt I need an introduction, but, just in case, I am the mighty Frieza. And, yes, all the horrible stories you’ve heard are true.” (Frieza, “Namek’s Defense”)
A petulant spoiled brat with a thirst for destruction, Frieza is the heir-apparent to the Seventh Universe and the designated ruler of the Planetary Trade Organization, an intergalactic dictatorship responsible for the wholesale of entire worlds and the enslavement of powerful alien civilizations, and this tempestuous tyrant has continued to prove himself worthy of his violent, war-mongering title. Throughout the course of the series, Frieza has singlehandedly murdered countless races (Namekians and Saiyans, notably) and destroyed thousands of planets including Planet Vegeta (homeworld of protagonists Goku and Prince Vegeta).
So, it is obvious that Frieza is not only the most authoritative villain in the series, but also the most influential. With a single flick of his finger (quite literally), he set the events of the entire Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z story lines into motion. Out of pure hatred for the growing Saiyan rebellion and a paralyzing fear of a Super Saiyan emerging from their midst, Frieza, in an act of cold-blooded rage, plunged the entire civilization into oblivion and left the series’ protagonist Goku fatherless and utterly alone. Much like the Sith Lords from Star Wars, Frieza resorted to mass murder in an attempt to change his fate, only to have the intended victims return in full force.
However, our nasty friend Frieza is not without his limits. After all, as Prince Regent of the Known Universe, he has to answer to his all-powerful father, King Cold, an elegant and refined dictator whose arrogance has clearly rubbed off on his temperamental son. Despite the brevity of their interactions, Frieza and Cold share a unique on-screen chemistry that is very fascinating and (at times) humorous, and we can almost connect with them because of it. In a sense, when we witness the strong father-son bond shared between these two powerful beings, we catch a rare glimpse at the sincerity of Frieza and his internal struggle to rise above his familial ties.
Strangely enough, this makes Frieza relatable. Almost…
Ostentatious Overlord with a Diabolical Personality
“Now that you realize your precious speed is of no use against me, that feeling of helplessness I was hoping to inspire must be settling in nicely. Let’s see if we can add some terror into the mix…” (Frieza taunting Piccolo in “Frieza’s Second Transformation”)
A neo-Shakespearean scoundrel of epic proportions, Prince Frieza is a flamboyant, eloquent figure with a larger-than-life personality, boldly accentuated by his devilish humor and hateful bloodlust. Do not let his diminutive appearance fool you. Although he might appear weak and restrained, resting in his advanced hover-pod for a majority of the series, Frieza possesses a superhuman intellect and strength that is both terrifying and awe-inspiring, even making his strongest enemies quiver in unadulterated terror. According to the warlord himself, Frieza’s very presence reduced King Vegeta (father of Prince Vegeta) to a sniveling coward before his subsequent murder at the hands of the tyrant.
Another aspect of Frieza that makes him so delightfully entertaining is his morbid sense of humor. No matter what situation he finds himself in, this egotistical maniac always takes great pleasure in taunting his enemies and inflicting limitless destruction. While chaos does feed Frieza’s hunger, however, he always retains an air of dignity and elegance, even if he does fly off the handle every so often. Also, his impressive vocabulary sets off his egotistical refinement, lending him the predatory edge of a Bond or Disney villain, which only makes us love him even more.
Even if he does wipe out planets in his spare time.
Living Nightmare: The Perfect Monster
“I tried to warn you. It’s hard work…keeping such raw power tied to a leash…tends to get away from me. But I suppose that’s the nature of the beast when you’re trying to hold back a power level of one million.” (Frieza, intimidating Vegeta, Gohan, and Krillin in “A Nightmare Transformation”)
Every Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z fan can tell you that shape-shifting is a core element of the entire series, especially where the villains are concerned. We all remember those horrifying moments when Cell and Majin Buu (artificial life forms created for the sole purpose of destruction) gruesomely absorbed their victims’ entire bodies and evolved into stronger, more terrifying versions of themselves.
Frieza, however, takes this terror to a whole different level. While the other villains must feed off living beings to transform, Frieza simply uses this superhuman ability to keep his volatile energy from “running amok,” a pretty terrifying thought seeing that he has blown up planets and evaporated organic life forms in mere seconds. As stated by series creator Akira Toriyama, Frieza was purposefully created to be the essence of a living nightmare, an amalgamation of all things the author feared as a child, and the alien tyrant’s formidable powers and intimidating appearance certainly reflect this truth.
Enveloping himself in a cloud of black and red energy, Frieza contorts and stretches his body to fill out his new forms, each handpicked by the tyrant to match his registered energy level, and these scenes are completely agonizing to watch. Beneath the cracking bones and bulging veins, Frieza screams in acute agony as he forcefully transforms his body, making us cringe with fear and revulsion along with his adversaries, who are forced to watch such horrific displays.
There is no doubt that this horned alien is the perfect monster. For proof, look no further than his lineup of alternate forms.
First Form: This is the body used most often by Frieza, who considers it the strongest safeguard against his raw energy. Diminutive and intimidating, the little tyrant resembles a childlike demon, boasting a set of obsidian horns and a spiked tail, but his youthful appearance only serves as a distraction for his enemies.
Second Form: In this form, Frieza resembles a more mature version of his first form. Here, he gains more muscle mass and height, and his horns sharply curve upward, adding to his demonic appearance and making him far more intimidating. In addition, Frieza experiences an increase in psychic abilities and endurance, and can easily square off against stronger combatants including the Namekian warrior Piccolo.
Third Form: By far the most monstrous shape, Frieza’s third body is the least humanoid, and closely resembles H.R. Giger's designs for the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. With his elongated skull, beak-like mouth, and spiked shoulders, Frieza becomes more savage and brutal, and his speed and strength increase exponentially.
Fourth and Final Form: While he does not appear physically capable in this new skin, Frieza definitely packs a punch in his fourth and final form, which is the most terrifying and powerful of them all. According to the warlord himself, this is his original form (in which he was born), and it is nothing short of inspiring and awesome. Here, Frieza is strikingly beautiful and boasts more feminine features, including a slender frame, curved waist, and full lips. Additionally, his body is less muscular and deceptively fragile, which almost makes him look fetal.
With such a wide array of forms and immense levels of power, it certainly becomes clear why Frieza supersedes the other villains in this arena.
Awesome Voice: Christopher Ayres (Dragon Ball Z: Kai)
To bring an awesome bad guy like Frieza to life, you need to find an equally awesome actor to portray him.
Aside from his original voice, provided by Japanese film and stage veteran Ryūsei Nakao, this alien overlord has also been portrayed by several English actors including Pauline Newstone (Ocean dub) and Linda Young (FUNimation original). However, while Nakao always executes this role with great expertise, Newstone and Young’s performances actually contributed to a very humorous gender debate about Frieza. For years, fans of the series speculated whether the alien warlord was male or female, given the bizarre “old lady voice” provided by both women in the original US airings. There is no doubt that these actresses worked very hard to dub this character’s lines, but, for me, their voices do not closely match the raspy sneer and contagious sliminess Nakao emanates in the original Japanese version.
No. For me, the best artist who has portrayed Frieza is Christopher Ayres, a longtime voice actor and director at FUNimation Studios. And his performance as the character might be one of the rare exceptions where the English dub is just as good as, if not better than, the original Japanese.
Starting in 2010, Ayres served as the voice for Frieza in Dragon Ball Z Kai and related material, and his portrayal in the popular #animation is nothing less than fantastic. With his venomous tone and arrogant dialogue, Ayres invokes the essence of Mark Hamill in his legendary performance as the Joker in Batman: the Animated Series. For proof, just watch the clips of Ayres and Hamill's performances below. To quote Frieza, I believe the end result will shock you.
While Frieza is definitely not the DBZ version of the Joker, his evil nature definitely coincides with Hamill’s infamous criminal mastermind.
In addition to his delectably devious vocabulary, Ayres also has an incredible vocal range, which I can only compare to the likes of Andy Serkis or Steven J. Blum. With seemingly little effort, he transitions between a high-pitched, nasal whine to a deep, guttural growl as his character takes on different forms.
However, his voice has still been met with scrutiny. Fans are still polarized over the vocal choices for Frieza, with some groups regarding Young and Newstone as the better voices. After all, the original is usually better, at least for those who grew up with the first English dub, and this is completely understandable. Plus, as an interesting bit of trivia, it must be noted that, while Linda Young’s voice had to be deepened via digital effects, Ayres actually performs every single vocal change himself, which is quite a remarkable feat even for a voice actor.
Nevertheless, the true deciding factor in this debate is the actors’ performance in the transformation sequences. Linda Young definitely gives the impression of discomfort or frustration. But Ayres? His screams of agony and grunts of pain make it sound like these physical changes really, really hurt. And it is enough to send chills down your spine.
In the end, everyone has their opinion. But I will always believe that Ayres’ voice is one of the main reasons that Frieza is such an awesome villain from the DBZ universe.
Frieza versus Goku: Clash of the Titans
Frieza: "This is going to be quite the epic battle, my old nemesis."
Goku: "Sure as hell won’t be an easy one..."
(The Final Fight, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F)
Without a noble hero to counterbalance their nastiness, memorable villains cannot exist within a story line, and the heated conflict between Prince Frieza and the Saiyan warrior Goku is one of the most memorable and long-lasting in anime history. Much like the legendary contest between Batman and the Joker, these two rivals are polar opposites that continuously clash in a never-ending cycle of chaos and destruction. Frieza is literally the antithesis of all that Goku represents, and this all-powerful tyrant will not rest until that pesky “Saiyan ape” is completely obliterated from existence.
Aside from being one of the lengthiest fight scenes ever, the battle between Frieza and Goku is also considered one of the bloodiest and most brutal. With fists flying and energy blasting, the two combatants attempt to destroy each other in an epic melee that results in the destruction of planet Namek as well as the gory bisection of Frieza. After throwing an energy blast, the alien warlord is left unguarded as the disc slices through his midsection and tail, yet even this does not kill him. Rebuilt by his father’s engineers, Frieza returns as a cyborg to wreak vengeance on Planet Earth, only to be stopped once again by another Saiyan warrior: Vegeta and Bulma’s son Trunks (as a grown man from the future).
Dissected, vivisected, blown apart, and evaporated, the alien warlord still manages to return to the Dragon Ball Z universe from the depths of the underworld thanks to his popularity with fans, and if Resurrection F is any indicator for the future of the saga, then Frieza doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Do you think Frieza is the greatest Dragon Ball Z villain? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out more Dragon Ball Z News here on Moviepilot!