Dragon Ball Z is one of the more well-known manga/anime to come out of Japan, and certainly the most well known of its creator, Akir Toriyama. The sequel of the manga/anime Dragon Ball, it follows the chronicles of Goku as he defends the universe from all things evil with his fists, and massively unnecessary explosions. While the series has its ups and downs, one cannot deny that it has some of the most entertaining and terrifying villains ever created, even if they can sometimes look ridiculous (See Majin Buu). This week is none other than the tyrannical overlord known as Frieza.
In the series, Frieza and his army travel to the Planet Namek in order to find a group of mystical objects known as Dragon Balls, which when gathered together grant three wishes to the summoner. Once there, he lays waste to the native inhabitants, collecting most of the balls before the arrival of our heroes, Krillin and Gohan, and the anti-hero/villain Vegeta. For the majority of the series, he is content to stand by and allow his subordinates to handle the dirty work, even as they are slaughtered around him. Eventually, however, he is forced to enter the fray himself, showing himself to be powerful beyond imagination, effortlessly disposing of the main characters of the series, but never quite finishing them off. It is not until the arrival of Goku that Frieza finds himself a worthy challenger. Though he survives a move that should have destroyed him utterly, he is eventually defeated by Goku after Frieza kills his friend Krillin, unlocking Goku’s latent powers, and finds himself on the brink of death. His father, King Cold, finds and revives him with technology, but though he is stronger than ever, when they travel to Earth to destroy Goku for good, he is dispatched immediately by another hero named Trunks, ending his reign on the mortal coil for good.
Akira Toriyama has mentioned before that when creating Frieza, he imagined the monsters from his childhood as his inspiration, and Frieza certainly seems that way. He has the ability to transform, and each of his stages are scary in different ways. His initial form is demonic, with horns and a tail, his second form is giant-esque, as he grows in stature and build, his horns growing larger than before. In his third form, his skull becomes elongated, and his horns change, becoming smaller and part of his skull, and he bears a striking similarity to the Aliens from the Aliens movie series, albeit in a much more muscular and anthropomorphized manner. His Final Form is actually much different from his others, as he breaks out of his shell, revealing a very short creature that seems a mix of a lizard and human. The tail is still present but the horns have completely disappeared and his body has become more streamlines, resembling actual skin rather than armor. Not very threatening, a deceiving look for his most powerful form, which leads me to his personality, wherein lies the scariest aspects of his villainy. In his first three forms, Frieza is rather talkative and witty, and revels in sadistic tendencies, torturing his victims to death, enjoying their pain and terror. He shows no concern for any creature other than himself, a ruthless and cold-hearted being, all with a maniacal grin on his face, and speaking in a very high-class manner. This is only increased in his Final Form; he loses his talkative and overbearing nature, for all intents and purposes becoming nothing more than a killing machine. He shows no emotion whatsoever until it becomes evident that Goku might be able to beat him in battle, at which point he completely loses his cool, shouting and screaming, and blowing up the very planet they were on to ensure that Goku would die.
Of course, his truly terrifying visage and personality would have been for naught if not for the actions that resulted from them. While we don’t know his entire background, we do know that Frieza’s empire comprised of the entire Nothern Quadrant of the universe at the peak of his power, controlling at least 79 planets with an unknown number utterly destroyed. He committed genocide upon several races of which we know, including the Namekian people, though they were later resurrected using the Dragon Balls, as well as almost the entire Saiyan race, as he destroyed the planet along with its inhabitants, and based upon certain movies and other episodes, we know that he regularly hired mercenaries such as the Saiyans and the Ginyu Force to wipe out the inhabitants of planets so that he could sell them to others. He has a tendency to violently murder his subordinates for little to no reason at all, especially when brought bad news. He is prideful, powerful, and arrogant, a combination that, while deadly, also caused him to severely underestimate his opponents, eventually leading to his downfall at the hands of Goku.
Frieza is the last natural-born villain in the Dragon Ball series, all the subsequent villains having been either created or summoned in some manner. But he is also probably the most easily recognizable and memorable. A power-hungry narcissist and sadist, whose insatiable lust for control led him to annihilate numerous races and enslave countless others, Frieza is definitely deserving of the title of Villain. His personality matches his actions, and ignoring the fact that aliens don’t exist (at least, that we know of) and space travel hasn’t been invented (yet), Frieza is a highly believable and interesting character, and frightening to boot. There’s even a song written about him, named “F” by Maximum the Hormone, which just goes to show how popular and well-known he is. Though the series has its detractors, and rightfully so, Frieza remains one of my favorite villains from my childhood, deliciously evil in every sense of the word. Let’s just hope he never decides to become real, or we’re all gonna die.
Next week: The Joker, from Batman: The Dark Knight