From a young age, we’re taught the differences between right and wrong. That’s the idea, anyway. Naturally, these are fluid concepts and it’s not always as black and white as that, but still. That time you tried to teach your little sister that it’s the younger sibling’s official job to be the Older Sibling’s Oreo-Feeder? That was pretty darn wrong.
What we are not taught, during all of these moral lessons, is that the villain is usually much, much cooler. Guys like Captain America and Superman are amazing and powerful and all, but heck, that goody-goody thing must get a little tiresome after a while. Most of the supposed superheroes like to get down and edgy every once in a while, just to mix things up.
Grey areas like Batman, the Dark Knight himself, have much more fun. Do you know who has even more fun than them? The pure, unrestrained, one-liner-spewing supervillains.
In the Dragon Ball world, nobody pulls that look off better than Frieza. He was the series’ first major villain, in a way, and his malevolent presence has been felt throughout most the franchise’s run.
He was the destroyer of Planet Vegeta, and almost singlehandedly erased the Saiyan race from existence as a result. That’s a pretty darn high benchmark to set. Couple that with his inherent meme-ability, and you’ve got a memorable and well-respected villain. This isn’t to say that there aren’t things about him that are super shonky, though.
What is he, exactly? Why’s his brother so much stronger and… cooler than he is? What the heck was the deal with Mecha-Frieza? Let’s dive into all of these embarrassing mysteries, and a whole lot more besides.
We understand, we totally do. Much of anime is about melodramatic action, impossibly muscular warriors, energy beams, people, cities, and whole darn planets exploding. They’re like animated Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, and that’s exactly why fans dig it so much. It’s also a lot of what keeps us coming to watch Marvel movies.
Nevertheless, it is possible to lay these things on too thick. When Frieza attacks Namek, Goku rushes to oppose him, and their battle is excessive by anyone’s standards. Yes, this is the big conflict between the hero and their ultimate nemesis, and we want it to be big, but three and a half hours of the anime?
That’s right, friends. As we’ve reported before, their fight took up 19 hours of the original Japanese anime.
For the best-known and most popular Dragon Ball villain in the franchise’s history, it’s a little odd how much we don’t know about Frieza. Let’s start with one of the basics: what the heck is he?
He doesn’t seem to really discriminate, hating just about every species equally, but he’s got to come from somewhere. His own enigmatic race has been referred to as the Frost Demons, or simply Friezas, but that tells us precisely nothing about his origins.
Perhaps this is all an intended part of the character’s appeal. After all, it allows him to look completely unique to most others in the show (his family aside), as well as ensuring he’s largely free of ties to a specific home or people. All of this enhances his otherworldly threat.
Yes, we’ve used that same cheap Cooler joke twice already. Here’s the thing about that, though: we like it a lot.
Hurrying back to the point, though, it’s always a shame when your older brother overshadows you, isn’t it? There you were, trying to achieve your megalomaniac dreams of being the most feared and powerful being in the galaxy, when big bro steps up and completely ruins your day.
Cooler is much more physically imposing than Frieza. Comparable in height to Goku, he’s a good deal taller than his brother, and his vanilla form is more muscular and effortlessly masculine than he could ever hope to be. He’s the main antagonist of Dragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge, in which he does an all-around better job of the villainy thing than Frieza tends to.
Well, that’s a controversial statement for sure. In any anime/manga series, it’s tough to determine who’s stronger than who, because the goalposts keep being changed. Just when you’re sure that such-and-such could never top whatshername’s power, such-and-such transforms into Golden Super Mega Mighty Such-and-Such and swallows them whole.
Is King Cold also stronger than Frieza, then? Well, that depends. During a battle with Goku, Frieza confesses that the only other being who has ever managed to harm him in battle (besides Goku himself) was his father. Later, the Z Fighters sense Frieza’s power level and determine that King Cold’s is even higher than his son’s.
It’s another very fluid concept, of course, but regardless. You don’t want to have to call up your dad for help when you’re trying to conquer the universe and prove your unmatched power, do you? That’s for when that light keeps coming on in your car something.
It’s funny how things come about, isn’t it? Queen Victoria of Britain has become famous for her dowdy ways and grumpy recitation of the phrase we are not amused. In reality, though, there’s no real evidence that she ever said this, and she’s said to have been quite the fun-lover.
To draw a parallel between Queen Victoria and Frieza, the Dragon Ball antagonist didn’t actually ever say this isn’t even my final form. The meme’s become inextricably linked to him, though, even though the line he really spoke was this is my final form.
So, there it is. Incidentally, what do Queen Victoria and Dragon Ball’s Frieza have in common? is probably one of the most bizarre trivia quiz questions of all time. If you're ever asked that: you’re welcome.
Well, dang. This is ostentatious. This is 25 millionaire rappers rapping about how much money they have into solid-gold microphones, all together on a solid-gold stage ostentatious.
When it comes to Dragon Ball villains, the general shtick is that they have their formidable powers naturally, while Goku and his buddies must train ceaselessly to continue to match them. It’s a tough life, being a Saiyan.
What happens when Frieza finds a Mr. Motivator fitness video from the 90s, pops it in and actually decides to train for once? Golden Frieza happens, that’s what.
Unlike most of his forms (which tended to be used to suppress his enormous powers), this was Frieza really letting go and pushing himself. At the height of his powers as Golden Frieza, he was able to surpass just about anything Goku, Vegeta, or anyone else could throw at him.
It’s just a shame that it took so long for him to bother to train. The whole show could’ve been much shorter.
Of course, the mark of any good villain is not just power, but perseverance. Regardless of how many times your goodly foes think they’ve bested you, you’ve got to return again and again to spite them. Bonus points if the manner of your revival is completely absurd and impossible.
After one of his numerous defeats, Frieza returned through the old classic gather the pieces of him, Sellotape them back together, and make him a cyborg method.
While Mecha Frieza is counted as a separate character rather than another of Frieza’s forms, it could well be the weakest take on him we’ve seen. Trunks defeated the half-a-villain with little effort (although the anime and manga tell that story quite differently), before he’d really achieved much of anything.
Speaking of obscure Frieza-related trivia, let’s forget about Queen Victoria for a moment. What you really need to know is that a popular Japanese metal band have dedicated a song to Frieza and his dastardly ways.
The song begins by repeating the lines It’s power! It’s power! Power! Far too many times. Having established the fact that Frieza is indeed pretty darn powerful (after the twentieth It’s power! It’s power! Power, we picked up on that subtle message), it delves into Frieza’s assault on Namek, his ruthless program of oppression and the fate of those who try to stand in his way.
The song is simply called F and was written by metalheads Maximum The Hormone. It’s pretty darn intense, all told, and proved to be super important to the franchise. As we’re about to see.
Now, it’s not unusual for bands to write and perform songs about video games and other media. The Black Mages, for instance, were a Japanese metal group who dialed up some of the original songs of the Final Fantasy series to eleven, reimagining them in a hard rock style. It’s a thing, it definitely is.
What’s unusual about Maximum The Hormone’s effort is how influential it came to be. Series creator Akira Toriyama has stated that the song was the inspiration for the movie Dragon Ball: Resurrection ‘F,’ in which (yep, you guessed it) Frieza returned through some odd means or other and lined himself up for another eventual beating from our heroes.
That’s some pretty darn high praise for the song, right there. Can you imagine if certain fanfics became canon? It’d be a disaster.
Now, as a general rule, you’re really not supposed to be cheering for the villain of the piece. They may have edgy qualities that the heroes and heroines can never hope to rival, but they’re subjugated, crushing and destroying whole cities. Whole races. Whole planets. That’s not the sort of behavior we want to be encouraging in our children, is it now?
In most cases, then, it’s the forces of good that carry the day. For that to happen, the villain’s got to be a worthy threat, come close to victory themselves, and then just fail at the crucial moment. This has happened to Frieza time and again over the history of the franchise, and while it’s a necessary development, it really does bring his whole ‘ultimate being’ thing into question.
As we’ve established, then, Frieza is a pop culture icon. The memes speak for themselves. He was the first Big Bad™ of Dragon Ball, really, and like your first Doctor (David Tennant all the way), that sort of thing leaves an impression. He’s been a huge part of the Dragon Ball story and will always have a special place in fans’ hearts for that.
Sadly, though, his powers have been greatly exceeded by villains that appeared later in the series. This is also just a natural consequence of times changing and things having to become ever more dramatic, but there it is.
Frieza set a high benchmark, sure, but this also meant that future Dragon Ball villains had to exceed it and leave him behind somewhat.
Let’s get back to that issue with the various forms of Frieza, though. As we saw with the Saiyans, this is a common plot element used to eke out just a little more power from the main characters (Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan God, Super Saiyan Blue, and so forth). It’s a great way to keep things fresh, just when fans thought they’d seen everything.
Frieza is a curious case, though. Other than his brilliantly over-the-top Golden Frieza form, the majority of the forms he takes seem to be intended to suppress his true strength.
The fourth form of Frieza (which we see in select battles) is believed to be his original one, which makes us wonder how things would have turned out had he been able to unlock that potential straight off.
We’ve already covered some of the crucial aspects of top-notch villainy. You know, megalomania, cruelty, the power to destroy whole planets with just a motion of your finger, ambition, a steadfast refusal to accept to defeat… these are all givens.
Frieza ticks all of these boxes for sure. Another big one is a huge distaste for anything cute, love-dovey, pink and fluffy, and he’s got that going on in spades too.
After one defeat, he was briefly imprisoned in The UnWhilerld. While there, he was subjected to the constant presence of happy, singing angels, cute stuffed animals, and cheerful music, all of which he absolutely hated. It’s a funny little aside, but it’s also a clear example of Frieza as a classic, slightly clichéd sort of villain.
So, we know that Frieza has some similarly megalomaniacal villains in his own family. Being the younger one, that’s a tough example to live up to, and nobody wants to be outshined by their arrogant older brother. Perhaps this is part of the reason why he pushed his ambitions for intergalactic domination so darn far.
Here’s another factor: he’s super short, and insecure about it. In Broly, for instance, he attacks Earth in hopes of obtaining the Dragon Balls, simply so he can use them to add five centimetres to his height.
Steady on there, Napoleon. We know that your brother’s older, taller and more muscular than you, but you’re probably overreacting just a smidge there. Let’s just dial things back a bit before you shatter an entire civilis… oh, you already have. Never mind.
Following on from the whole issue of Frieza’s insecurity and paranoia, you can see how it’s made him desperate to prove his worth. To maintain his image as one of the most powerful and formidable warriors in the galaxy.
Now, there’s one thing that’s sure to dent that most powerful and formidable warrior in the galaxy image a little, and that’s making a little music video for a soft drink commercial. This may not have been Frieza’s proudest moment, but it’s one of those secret shames that’s certain to be brought up at the worst moment. You know, a Best Man’s speech or something.
We’ve already taken a look at the complex story of Frieza and the family’s origins. From everything we know, it’s clear that there’s at least an element of the Frost Giants in there, but King Cold and his children are mutants.
Cold was born of Frost Giant DNA mingling with that of another race, making them outsiders among the ‘pure’ Frost Giants. While the neighbors might be a little snarky as a result, the upside of all of this is that Cold was born with extraordinary power, a trait that he passed to his children.
All of this just muddies the issue of Frieza’s background further. Where does this other mysterious species come into the equation? As we’ve already seen in this rundown, it’s impossible to say exactly what Frieza is.
If you’re familiar with the Harry Potter franchise, you’ll know that Voldemort himself was responsible for making Harry his archnemesis. Not only because of that grim business with his parents, but by marking him as his equal and all of that.
If you know your Dragon Ball, meanwhile, you’ll know that the exact same thing happened with Frieza. As we reported over on CBR, the Saiyans’ responses to Frieza’s actions caused several Super Saiyan transformations.
Goku, Bardock, Gohan… he thought they were a huge threat to him, and in trying to counteract that, made them a huge threat to him.
Frieza even sent Bardock back into the past to combat Chilled (by accident), which set the whole destruction of Planet Vegeta in motion. It’s all getting very complicated in here, isn’t it?
Frieza is a complex little fellow. For all his megalomania and relentless cruelty, he’s also quite restrained in some respects. He’s softly-spoken and dignified for the most part, until he descends into that classic evil laugh that all true villains need to have on their resumes.
There tends to be at least some rhyme and reason to what he’s doing. That’s another grey area, though, especially in the case of the destruction of Planet Vegeta. He saw the Saiyans as an increasing threat to him, so they had to go boom. That makes perfect sense (you know, from a Bond villain sort of standpoint), but in Battle of the Gods, there’s a bit of confusion.
There, mighty kitty God of Destruction Beerus states that he dislikes King Vegeta and would like to destroy his planet. Therefore, did Frieza do so partly because it was Beerus’s will? What would this have meant for the overarching story? What’s really at the root here?
There’s a fine line between supervillain and hammy pantomime villain, isn’t there? Generally speaking, none of these guys really seem to care about crossing it. Often, the strongest villains are defeated precisely because they wanted to go overboard with the theatrics rather than simply get the job done quickly and efficiently.
Remember Krillin’s grim end? That was the sort of thing. You don’t need to engage in 19-episode-long battle-athons, when you can simply end your opponent that way. As we reported over on The Gamer, this psychic attack is almost impossible to defend against, and it’s clearly swiftly and brutally effective.
Seriously, Frieza, think of the time you could’ve saved. Yes, it would’ve meant less flashy fight scenes, but… oh, wait, you live for that stuff, don’t you?
At this point, it’s really fruitless to wonder how the heck a character managed to return again. Especially with the sci-fi bent that the franchise took later on, it was just a case of because the fans like them and we can do whatever we want, that’s why.
Even with this in mind, there’s one incident that Frieza didn’t really have any way to recover from. He still did, though.
In Dragon Ball Z: Fusion reborn, Janemba breaks the boundary between worlds, allowing warriors from the afterlife (including Frieza himself) to attack the living. When you’re defeated in the afterlife, we’re told, your very spirit is destroyed, and you essentially cease to exist in any kind of form.
Gohan utterly defeats Frieza, but the villain never got that memo and returns yet again.