Dragon Ball Z was a massively popular show in Japan, and it’s credited with bringing anime to a mainstream audience (along with Pokémon) in the West. It is based on Dragon Ball, the third highest selling manga series of all time. The “Z” in the name was an invention of the anime, and it was used to signify the difference between the earlier seasons (which focused more on fantasy stories), with the later seasons (when everything became science fiction).
When the show became Dragon Ball Z, the monsters and magic of the early episodes were replaced with aliens and technology. The mystical monk-like characters were thrown into a war against an evil alien empire, the leader of whom was Frieza, one of the most powerful antagonists that the Z Fighters would ever face.
Of all of the enemies in Dragon Ball Z, Frieza was the most evil. He brought hundreds of planets under his wicked rule. He wiped out entire civilizations, and sold the empty planets to the highest bidder. Even the gods themselves (like King Kai) were too afraid to face him. He is often considered to be the true enemy of Goku, and their battle on Namek is considered one of the high points of the series. We are here today to look at the life of one of anime’s most notorious villains. From his status as the most powerful being in the universe, to the truth about the end of his battle with Goku. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Frieza.
15. Frieza Was Legitimately The Most Powerful Being In The Universe (Before All Of The Retcons)
The build up to Frieza’s first appearance in Dragon Ball Z was masterfully done. Everyone was afraid to speak his name, including his own subordinates. King Kai practically begged Goku not to engage Frieza in combat. Vegeta was terrified at the thought of having to go against Frieza (despite being an egomaniac). Vegeta’s plan to become immortal with the use of the Namek Dragon Balls was all just so he could have a fighting chance against Frieza.
This fear was well-founded, as Frieza was indeed the most powerful being in the universe.
While stronger opponents would appear in later story arcs, none were around at that point in time to oppose Frieza. The Androids and Cell hadn’t been completed yet, and Majin Buu was still sealed away beneath the Earth. Before Goku finally became a Super Saiyan, Frieza truly was the pinnacle of strength in the universe.
This fact was later retconned by other Dragon Ball Z releases. Dragon Ball GT introduced numerous other powerful aliens, who could have defeated Frieza if he ever crossed them. Dragon Ball Super has also introduced several new Gods (like Beerus and Whis), who could have easily destroyed Frieza, if they so chose.
14. He Achieved A Red Form (In A Terrifying Stage Play)
It is rare to see stage adaptations of TV shows, unless they happen to be made for kids. This is because adapting a show intended for the whole family should translate into more ticket sales. Shows like Pokémon, Rugrats, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Phineas and Ferb have all been turned into stage shows.
In 1997, there was a travelling stage show based upon Dragon Ball GT. The creators of the show decided to make it as terrifying as possible, and gave everyone giant mascot heads as part of their costumes. While that makes sense for some of the more alien characters, it is baffling when they do it for Goku, Pan, and Trunks. They could have just used actors who looked like the characters, and spared a generation of Japanese children from the sight of Goku’s dead puppet eyes.
The story of the show involves Don Kee (one of the villains of Dragon Ball GT) attacking Earth with his soldiers. Near the end of the show, both Frieza and Cell make their return, and show off their new forms. Cell’s looks very similar to his classic look, except he has some fancy new shoulder pads. Frieza on the other hand looks like he joined the Legion of the Doom (the old WWF tag team). He is now wearing spiky red armour, a pair of MC Hammer pants, and is sporting a large gold belt.
13. He Has A Son (With A Chestnut Head)
Dragon Ball was a manga series, that ran in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine from 1984 to 1995. Weekly Shonen Jump is the best-selling manga magazine in the world, and has been the home to series like One Piece (the actual biggest selling manga of all time), Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Death Note.
The price of this level of success is steep, however, as producing around twenty pages of comic book a week takes a terrible toll on the creators. While mangaka (the term given for the writers/artists of manga) make a lot more money than their western counterparts, they also live unhealthy lifestyles (due to lack of sleep), and can rarely spend time with their family. It is because of this that most famous mangaka rarely create more than a few series in their lifetime.
When Akira Toriyama finished his run on Dragon Ball, he essentially entered his retirement. Outside of creating character designs for the Dragon Quest series, he mainly just created the occasional one-shot comic.
From 1999 to 2005, Akira Toriyama created a few issues of a Dragon Ball parody, called Nekomajin. One of the villains of Nekomajin was Kuriza, the son of Frieza. The name Kuriza is a pun on the Japanese word for “chestnut”, explaining why Kuriza has a chestnut shaped head. As a character, Kuriza’s appearance is played for laughs, and he is not considered canon. He has shown up as a playable character in a few Dragon Ball Z video games, though.
12. His Fight With Goku Was 19 Episodes Long
When Frieza attacks the planet Namek, he claims that it will blow up in five minutes. It actually takes ten more episodes for the planet to explode, which is around two and a half hours of time. This means you should never hire Frieza to do any work on your house, as his estimates are slightly off.
The fight between Goku and Frieza on Namek takes up 19 episodes of the original version of the anime. This takes around 3.5 hours to watch. This battle happens to be one of the most iconic in all of anime history, and is considered by some to be the high point of Dragon Ball Z. With that being said, the fight is harder to appreciate when you are watching the show on a weekly basis. The pace slows to a crawl after Goku becomes a Super Saiyan, and the whole fight starts to feel like padding. It is also considered to be one of the longest battles in anime history.
It is the battle between Goku and Frieza that earned Dragon Ball Z the identity as the show that consisted of “two anime characters screaming at each other for several episodes”. This stereotype was a popular source of inspiration for many early Flash cartoons about the series.
11. His Third Form Resembles The Xenomorph
At the beginning of its run, Dragon Ball was created to be a parody of Journey to the West, a Chinese novel from the 16th century. Journey to the West was about a monk who travelled from China to India, on a quest to find Buddhist texts, in order to bring them home with him. Toriyama later abandoned the Journey to the West elements, as Dragon Ball began developing an identity of its own.
Journey to the West was not the only allusion to other things in Dragon Ball, as Akira Toriyama was fond of referencing movies and TV shows in all of his works. He used a recurring character based on Superman in a lot of his manga series, called Suppaman, who was mean and cowardly. In the episode where Nappa blows up the helicopters filled with reporters, one of the vessels has the registration number for a Star Trek shuttlecraft.
During the battle against Frieza, he transforms into numerous different forms. The one we see the least is his third form, which he uses in his battle against Piccolo. This form has an elongated head, which strongly resembles the design of the Xenomorphs, from the Alien franchise.
When Frieza’s brother, Cooler, appears in the movies, one of his forms resembled the mask of a Predator (from the movie of the same name).
10. His Family/Race Have A Naming Theme
If there is one thing Akira Toriyama loves, it’s theme naming. He has done it in almost every one of the works. This includes video games like Chrono Trigger, where Magus’ three generals were all named after condiments (this was changed to rock stars in the English version of the game).
Dragon Ball Z was filled with theme names. All of the Saiyans (barring those on Earth) were named after vegetables. Vegeta = vegetable, Raditz = radish, Kakarot = carrot. Bulma’s family were all named after undergarments (Bulma = bloomers, Trunks, Bra). King Piccolo’s army were all named after instruments (Piano, Drum, Cymbal).
Frieza and his family are all named after stages of being cold. Frieza = Freezer, King Cold, and Cooler were all seen in the show. Chilled was the villain in Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock. Frost was a member of Frieza’s race from another universe, who appeared in Dragon Ball Super.
9. There Is A Famous Nu Metal Song About Frieza
Heavy metal music has went through phases of mainstream acceptance in the West. In Japan, heavy metal has always been popular. Many hair metal bands that went out of fashion managed to find a home in Japan. It was there that they could wait out the nineties in safety and peace.
There exists a popular Nu metal group in Japan, called Maximum the Hormone. In 2008, they released a song called “F”, which was about Frieza and his soldiers. It would see an album release in 2013.
When Akira Toriyama decided to return to the Dragon Ball franchise, he wrote the scripts for several new movies. One of these films was Dragon Ball: Resurrection ‘F’. This new movie brought Frieza back from the dead, and made him an antagonist to Goku and Vegeta once more. Akira Toriyama said that the song was the direct inspiration for the movie, and even included it on the soundtrack. The ‘F’ in the title is a reference to the name of the song.
8. He Danced In A Commercial
If advertising has taught us anything, it’s that no matter how much money you have, you will be willing to sell yourself for a little more. Madonna has more money than a lot of third world countries, but she is still up for clowning around in a commercial for cash.
This thinking also applies to fictional characters. Frieza owns an intergalactic empire, a powerful army, and sells planets to the highest bidder. Despite this, he was still willing to dance in a commercial for Kirin Mets Grape drink. He also gets some of his soldiers in on the action, so they could pull off some Thriller style moves.
Frieza was not the only one to suffer the indignity of dancing for a soft drink. Most of the good guys from Dragon Ball Z were pimped out for Kirin Mets Orange drink. It seems that belonging to the one of the most successful anime/manga franchises isn’t enough to save you from shilling fast food.
7. He Was Inspired By An Economic Crisis
Frieza is an evil alien emperor. He owns entire galaxies worth of planets, that he plundered for profit. He leads an army of powerful alien mercenaries, who will wipe out entire civilisations on his request. For a while, he was the most feared being in the whole universe.
It might seem odd then, that he was inspired by a housing crisis. This was confirmed by Akira Toriyama in an interview for one of the Dragon Ball guide books.
In the late 1980s, Japan went through a speculator’s bubble. This means a period when people invest heavily into one economic sector, and make a lot of money in return. The bubble eventually bursts, however, and a lot of people are left with investments that they cannot sell. In Japan, the bubble in question refers to real estate sales. People were buying and selling land for a big profit, and when the bubble burst, it caused a recession.
Akira Toriyama used this as the inspiration for Frieza. The whole point of Frieza’s empire is that he finds planets worthy of settlement, wipes out the inhabitants, and sells the world to the highest bidder.
6. The Bizarre Crab/Apple Scene
Dragon Ball Z had to be heavily censored when it was brought to America. The job of editing a show filled with violence and references to the afterlife fell upon Saban Entertainment, who dubbed the show on behalf of Funimation.
The original English dub of Dragon Ball Z was filled with baffling changes, that needed to be made in order to make the show broadcast worthy. Characters no longer died, but were sent to “Another Dimension”. Beer was changed into water (with a frothy top). Gohan’s naked body had to be covered up with poorly drawn plants. In the end, 14 episodes worth of content were removed from the show.
One of the most peculiar scenes that had to be removed happened during the battle between Frieza and Vegeta on Namek. Frieza had just turned into his final form, and was beating the crap out of Vegeta. Frieza throws Vegeta into a lake, and uses his power to drain out the water. He picks Vegeta up by his hair, and notices a Namekian crab crawling on his body. Frieza eats the crab in one big bite. This scene was removed from the original English dub of Dragon Ball Z.
5. He Inspired A Popular Meme
Much like Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z was a huge hit in the early days of the Internet. As such, it was one of the first shows to have its own in-jokes among the fanbase (which evolved into memes). The most famous of these is “It’s over 9000!“, which is based on an over-exaggerated line from the original English dub of the anime. This line shows up in mainstream media from time to time, including being written on a shirt worn by Ronda Rousey, when she appeared at Wrestlemania.
One of the most famous Dragon Ball Z memes involves the battle against Frieza on Namek. During the fight, he transformed into three new forms (and a fourth, if you count the bulked-up form he used against Super Saiyan Goku). This led to the creation of a meme called “This Isn’t Even My Final Form“, which shows a picture of a disturbing object or creature. The quote is attributed to Frieza, even thought he never actually said the line in the anime (although he did say “This is my final form” at one point).
4. He Achieved A Form Similar To That Of The Super Saiyan
If Dragon Ball Z teaches you one thing, it’s that you need to work hard in order to achieve your goals. The good guys are constantly training in order to improve their skills, whilst the bad guys tend to be people who have been given their abilities from birth. The Androids & Cell were strong from the moment of their creation, as was Majin Buu.
Frieza and his family share a similar background. They come from a race that are born powerful, and do not have to train in the same way that other species do. Frieza is also a prodigy, and is considered strong even by the standards of his race. Goku managed to use this knowledge against him during their battle. As Frieza had never fought at full power before, he could not maintain the stamina required for a lengthy fight.
The movie Dragon Ball: Resurrection ‘F’ made this into a plot point. After being brought back to life by the Dragon Balls, Frieza decides that he needs to train for the first time in his life, in order to gain the strength to defeat Goku and Vegeta. Frieza ends up developing a brand new form, known as ‘Golden Frieza‘. He purposely chose the golden colour as a mockery of the Super Saiyan form.
3. Akira Toriyama Used A Similar Design In Another Manga
Although he is primarily known for Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama has had a long and varied career. In Japan, he is also well-known for coming up with the character designs for the Dragon Quest series, as well as for Chrono Trigger. Akira Toriyama also had another successful manga series before Dragon Ball, called Dr. Slump.
Akira Toriyama has created many one-off manga series throughout his career. Most of these can be read in collected volumes, like Akira Toriyama’s Manga Theater. Due to the success of Dragon Ball, a lot of these one-shots received anime adaptations. This brings us to Cashman – Saving Soldier, a manga with a protagonist who should look very familiar.
Cashman – Saving Soldier is about a police officer, who has the ability to transform into a masked hero, called Cashman. The dynamic is actually similar to Gohan, and his Great Saiyaman phase. The Cashman superhero outfit bears a strong resemblance to Frieza’s final form, and even shares the purple & grey colour scheme. It is hard to tell whether this was intended to be a reference, as Akira Toriyama tends to use similar character designs across his various works (like Crono from Chrono Trigger essentially being a redheaded Goku).
2. He Suffered A Bizarre Punishment In The Afterlife
The afterlife of the Dragon Ball Z universe has changed numerous times throughout the series. Goku originally travelled to Hell in the anime (or as it was known in the dub, the “Home For Infinite Losers”), and he had to compete against two Ogres to gain his freedom. As the series went on, we saw more of Hell, and it started to resemble the idea of what most people imagine Hell to be. The big problem with Hell in Dragon Ball Z is its revolving door policy, as numerous breakouts have happened throughout the series & movies.
In both Dragon Ball Super and Dragon Ball: Resurrection ‘F’, we got to see what Earth’s Hell looks like for the first time. Due to being killed on Earth by Future Trunks, Frieza is trapped in our version of Hell. For Frieza, his version of Hell involves being stuck in a cocoon, whilst hanging from a tree. Every day, Frieza has to sit there and listen to toys, fairies and angels happily singing to him. This eternal saccharine singing is the price he must pay for all of those civilizations he wiped out.
1. The Urban Legend Of The Final Fight Between Frieza & Goku
Ever since Dragon Ball Z was first broadcast in America, there has been speculation about how and when the series was due to end. The Dragon Ball Z anime ended with the Majin Buu Saga, and the flash-forward showing Goku meeting Uub for the first time. The manga ended at the exact same point.
It has been speculated for years that Akira Toriyama intended for the series to end at various different points, but was forced to keep going by his editors due to how popular Dragon Ball had become. The exact original ending point is usually stated to be when Goku fought Frieza. When it comes to the Frieza battle, the evidence given by fans is based around the abrupt way in which the arc ends, and how many of its resolutions are brought in at the last minute. Some fans felt that Goku being able to escape Namek at the last second was a cop out, and that Toriyama wrote it in at the last second in order to prolong the series.
While the story of Toriyama wanting to end the series with the battle against Frieza has been reported on numerous Dragon Ball Z websites, the fact is, there is no proof to suggest that this is true. While Toriyama had wanted to end the series at numerous points throughout the run of the original Dragon Ball, there has never been a reliable quoted source of him stating that he wanted to the end the series with the Frieza Saga. This was the point when Dragon Ball Z was at the height of its popularity, and the introduction of the Super Saiyan form was intended to be the beginning of something greater.