The two most beloved sagas of Dragon Ball Z are undoubtedly the Frieza and Cell sagas. In fact, there’s sort of a divide amongst the fandom over which is the better story arc. Regardless of which camp you’re in, there’s no denying that the Frieza saga had a much bigger impact, and thus is arguably more important to the franchise as a whole. The Frieza Saga not only marked the first appearance of the Super Saiyan form, it was also the beginning of Vegeta’s path towards being a better person. It also has one of the greatest fights in the franchise, and in all of anime in general.
The entirety of the Frieza saga is often considered the peak of Dragon Ball Z in terms of story, intensity and stakes, and many quote it as their favorite in the series. But how much do they and the rest of the Dragon Ball Z fandom actually know about it? What anecdotes about the inception, characters and behind-the-scenes events lie beyond the surface of one of the best sagas of the Dragon Ball franchise? We dug deep through the history of Dragon Ball Z to bring you 15 things you probably knew about the Frieza saga.
15. FEARS, NIGHTMARES AND… REAL ESTATE?
There is no Frieza saga without the titular villain, so let’s start with some background on the galactic tyrant himself. While coming up with Frieza, Akira Toriyama has stated some very specific inspirations that led to the character’s inception. The first thing that Akira Toriyama drew from was his own psyche, stating that Frieza was created from his worst fears and childhood nightmares.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Toriyama also added another element into Frieza’s personality and background. It was stated that Frieza was based off of real estate speculators during the time of the Japanese economic bubble, whom Toriyama said were the “worst kind of people” because they made a killing off of the devastating market inflation. It’s not hard to see the comparison with how Frieza created his empire by conquering and selling planets.
14. FIRST DEATHS
Death might not have that much meaning in the world of Dragon Ball Z, seeing as the dragon balls can resurrect anyone, but the Frieza saga did a good job of making character deaths matter, specifically those of Krillin and Vegeta. Prior to Z, Krillin had died once before in the King Piccolo saga of Dragon Ball. However, his death at the hands of Frieza was much more notable, both because it was his first death in Z, and because it was what gave Goku the anger to go Super Saiyan.
Vegeta’s death also had a great impact, not least because it was the first time he died in the series. The second reason is because, in the previous saga, Vegeta was seen as being incredibly powerful and hard to beat, so seeing him die at Frieza’s hands served to show just how powerful the galactic tyrant was.
13. WHERE Z SHOULD HAVE ENDED
Some fans might know that the Frieza saga was intended to be the end of the Dragon Ball franchise. Some fans might also know that this could be said about pretty much every other saga of Z, since Toriyama constantly wanted to end the series, but his editors urged him to continue due to its popularity. Regardless, the Frieza saga definitely seems like it would have been a fitting conclusion had the manga ended with the villain’s defeat.
We say this for two reasons, the first being that the new concepts that had been introduced at the beginning of Z — the Saiyans, their death, the concept of a Super Saiyan, Vegeta, etc. — came to a definitive close as Goku got revenge for the death of his people. The other, more interesting reason, is that Toriyama’s editor at the time stated that it would have been the perfect end to the series.
12. AMERICAN CENSORSHIP
There was a lot of censorship in the original American broadcast of Dragon Ball Z, most of which was applied to the Frieza Saga. Though there were parts of the Saiyan saga that were edited and censored for a younger audience, the Frieza Saga was by far the worst offender of graphic content. Everything from the death of Namekians at the hands of Frieza, his men and Vegeta to the graphic battles with the Ginyu force had to be worked around for the American release.
Any time a character was killed or attacked in a graphic way had to be censored, like when Guldo was decapitated. It was also implied that Namekians who were attacked by Frieza’s men were just badly injured, as moans and breathing were added to shots of their bodies to imply as much.
11. GOKU CAN READ MINDS?
Goku has shown the ability to use a large variety techniques throughout the entirety of the Dragon Ball franchise, most of which became go-to signature moves. There are, however, a few techniques that were lost to history, and one in particular that was only used once. The Frieza saga marked the only time that Goku used the technique of telepathy.
Goku used this technique on Krillin to learn everything that had happened on Namek that he had missed. By placing his hand on Krillin’s head, Goku viewed his friend’s memories, and it was the only time he used the technique. Perhaps the reason for this is that the power was used as a quick plot device to catch Goku up without wasting any time. Regardless of the reason, Goku’s telepathy was only seen in the Frieza saga.
10. THE LONGEST FIGHT IN ANIME HISTORY
Now this is an interesting one. Did you know that the fight between Frieza and Goku lasted a total of 18 episodes? Even without filler content, the entire fight took up three and a half hours of screen time. This is not only the longest fight in the entire Dragon Ball franchise, it is also the longest fight in all of anime. Now that’s impressive.
What makes this long fight even more impressive is the countdown that Frieza gives Goku until Namek will explode. Frieza stated that the planet would explode in five minutes, but those five minutes actually lasted eight out of the 18 total episodes of the fight. With how intense and long Frieza and Goku’s fight lasted, it’s no wonder the saga had such an impact on fans.
9. MAKING HEADLINES
Dragon Ball Z is violent, there’s no way around it. Despite the censoring made to the original American broadcasts, the violence was still absurdly present. Because the series was aimed at a younger audience in America, many criticized the battles for being too violent for a kids show. In fact, the violence actually led the American release to make the news.
In the December 8 issue of the Florida paper, “The Ledger,” an article commented on Dragon Ball Z, claiming that it was too violent, using examples from the Frieza saga to prove its point. The article said that Frieza’s actions throughout the saga are far too dark and violent for kids, since the villain was seen strangling Vegeta and piercing Krillin through the chest with his horn.
8. THIRD FORM SCREEN TIME
Dragon Ball Z villains are notorious for having multiple forms, each stronger than the last. Frieza was the first character to exhibit such a trait, brandishing four different forms in total. Out of these four, Frieza’s third form had the least amount of screen time in the Frieza saga, but why was this? Toriyama took inspiration from Alien for the design of this form, which is why it was so frightening looking, and it was also the reason it had the shortest run.
When Toriyama was drawing the Frieza saga in the manga, he was dissatisfied with the third form, as it was incredibly complicated and hard to draw, so it was quickly discarded in favor of a much sleeker, streamlined form. This is the reason that Frieza’s final form is so simple-looking, because it was easier to draw and saved Toriyama a ton of time.
7. KEEPING THINGS FRESH
Lots of Dragon Ball characters are named after food — it’s easily the most common naming convention of the series. One of the best examples of this comes from the Ginyu force, who are all named after dairy products. Gaptain Ginyu’s name is derived from the Japanese word for milk, Guldo’s is derived from yogurt, Recoome is derived from cream, Burter is derived from butter and Jeice is derived from cheese, though in America, it is more derivative of “Juice.”
What is the reason for the themed names of the Ginyu Force? Well, since Frieza’s name is a play on “Freezer,” Toriyama decided to name his elite henchmen after food that has to be refrigerated in order to be kept fresh. Thus, they were all named after dairy products.
6. A MORE EVIL DODORIA
The Dragon Ball Z anime was known for making some changes to the manga. Everything from adding filler to tiny canon adjustments were riddled throughout the series. One such change was seen in the saga when Frieza and his soldiers attacked a Namekian village. During the commotion, a Namekian child by the name of Cargo loses his life, and the person that killed him is different depending on if you are reading the manga or watching the anime.
In the original manga, Frieza killed Cargo with a death beam as he was running away. However, in the anime, Frieza’s right-hand solder, Dodoria, had a bit of a larger role; thus, more was done to depict him as an evil character. This is why Dodoria was the one to kill Cargo using a mouth energy wave attack in the anime.
5. THE DUB’S CANCELLATION
When Dragon Ball Z first aired in America, it was licensed by Funimation, dubbed by Ocean and distributed by Saban entertainment. This version of the dub ran for 53 episodes before it was cancelled in 1998. The reason for the cancellation was because Saban had begun cutting down on the syndicated programs they distributed, which led to the dub going unfinished.
The dub ended in the middle of the Ginyu Force saga, which was one of the sub-sagas of the Frieza saga. Think about that for a second, easily the biggest saga of the series was only half-broadcast in America before the dub was cancelled, leaving many fans without a conclusion to the show. But, all hope was not lost, since good news would come only a year later.
4. THE DUB’S REVIVAL
Though the original American broadcast of the series, nicknamed “The Ocean Dub,” had been cancelled due to Saban dropping out in 1998, production of the English dub would resume a year later. Instead of outsourcing the voice acting and distribution, Funimation decided to dub the rest of Dragon Ball Z using an in-house cast after seeing the popularity of reruns on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block.
Thus, production resumed in 1999, leading to what would become the definitive voice cast of the American dub of Dragon Ball Z. The in-house Funimation dub of the series marked the debut of both Chris Sabat taking over the role of Vegeta and Sean Schemmel’s Goku, though he originally auditioned for the role of Captain Ginyu (whom he mistakingly thought was much more important).
3. VOCAL CONFUSION
Speaking of voice actors, Frieza was originally voiced by a woman in all iterations of the character up to Dragon Ball Z Kai. You might be asking what’s so interesting about this, since it’s not uncommon for women to voice male characters in all forms of animation. You’d be right in that assumption, but the fact that Frieza was voiced by Linda Young is part of the reason that Frieza, and by extension, the Frieza saga was criticized.
Violence wasn’t the only reason the Dragon Ball Z caught some flak during the American release, as Frieza’s androgynous appearance also caused some controversy. Combined with his female voice actress, Frieza’s appearance — specifically his mouth, which looked to be decorated with lipstick — was said to cause gender confusion that earned the series some criticism. It’s definitely a silly reason for controversy, but it happened nonetheless.
2. FRIEZA’S NU METAL SONG
Have you heard of Japanese nu metal band, Maximum the Hormone? No? Well, if you’re a fan of Dragon Ball Z, then you should look into them. Why, exactly? Because they have a song dedicated entirely to the Frieza saga of Dragon Ball Z. The song, titled “F,” uses Frieza’s acts and makes mentions of his empire and subordinates as a means to reflect real-world oppression.
This tale of inspiration actually came full circle when it came time for the Dragon Ball Z film, Resurrection F. Akira Toriyama came up with the title for this movie after listening to and being inspired by the song, which was also used in promotional videos for Resurrection F and is featured in the film itself. Interesting facts aside, you should definitely listen to “F,” it’s a real banger.
1. RETCONNED EMPIRE
Aliens and other sci-fi concepts were first introduced to the world of Dragon Ball in the Saiyan Saga, but the universe was really expanded by the Frieza Saga. As Frieza was introduced, we learned of all the planets he had conquered and added to his empire, which not only showed just how big the world of Dragon Ball was, it also illustrated just how dangerous, powerful and frightening Frieza was. He ruled his empire with an iron fist and was thought to be the strongest being in the entire universe.
However, all of the world building that was established in the Frieza saga was completely retconned at the beginning of the androids saga. When Frieza showed up to Earth as a cyborg, he brought his father, King Cold, along with him. Wait what? Frieza was supposed to be the ruler of multiple galaxies, but all that time he served under his father?
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