Continuing on from yesterday’s post, it’s time to talk about the Dragon Ball villains that all fans know: the DBZ villains.
While the bad guys of the original series were all somewhat grounded (aside from the demons, androids and… whatever the fuck Pilaf was), Z was the series that blew the lid off of everything. Their power is insane, their motivations are simple and evil, and their designs are both unique and memorable.
The first of all of these being the trio of Saiyans: Raditz, Nappa and of course: Vegeta.
These guys are arguably the most important villains in all of Dragon Ball, each in their own unique way. Raditz cranked the sci-fi elements of the series prior and cranked them up to 20, and his arrival completely changed our understanding of what Goku is, changing him from a magical monkey boy to a fucking alien from space. He then wiped the floor with Piccolo and Goku, even managing to force Goku to sacrifice himself. He also subverts our expectations: you’d think that the brother of the protagonist would be important for the rest of the story, right?
HA HA NOPE. He’s fucking gone forever after five episodes. He becomes a measuring stick for the characters for the rest of the Arc.
Speaking of which, let’s move on to the least important of these three: Nappa. Now, don’t get me wrong when I say it: Nappa is still a great villain. He utterly dominates the supporting cast, gathering the biggest body count out of any villain so far, including: an entire city, Tien, Chiaotzu, Piccolo (y’know, the only character that could not die) before he gets his ass kicked by Goku. He also serves as a meter to measure Vegeta by: the fact that this massive hulking monster of a man that wiped the floor with our heroes with such ease is taking orders without hesitation from this little troll communicates without words which of the two is stronger.
Spoilers: it’s Vegeta. Speaking of which…
Here’s the big one. He’s the fan favorite character, the longest running antagonist/ anti-hero of the entire series, the Prince of all Saiyans, the universe’s #1 proud bastard, and the rival to Goku: Vegeta.
Vegeta isn’t just one of the best villains in all of Dragon Ball; he’s one of it’s best characters period. His character arc is easily the longest and most complex out of any character in the series, as each major saga in the show transforms the character bit by bit. In the Saiyan saga, he’s a proud and evil bastard out for immortality, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. The Freeza saga shows us just how reckless his pride makes him, and shows us a sympathetic side to his character that we hadn’t seen. The Cell saga brought him higher than ever before then forced him to fall so much further, even breaking his fighting spirit upon the death of Goku. And finally, in the Buu saga, we see the completion of his story: after making the biggest mistake of his life, he gives himself up completely in order to stop Buu and protect both his new home and family. First, he gives up his life, then later his pride, and finally his body all to defeat the most powerful villain they’ve ever faced.
It’s a truly spectacular and emotional tale, and it’s engaging from start to end. Vegeta, for many people, may as well be the main protagonist of Dragon Ball Z, as his is the story we follow the closest for the whole run. Well, his and Gohan’s.
But even with his incredible character development and conflict-causing actions, Vegeta still can’t quite surpass the #1 Dragon Ball villain of all time. That’s right folks, it’s time to talk about the one with a pointless I in his name that I refuse to place there.
While Vegeta is the most popular character in the series, there can be no doubt nor argument that Freeza is the most popular villain. Don’t believe me? Here’s a little experiment for you: go to someone you know has seen DBZ and ask him to name some of it’s villains. Do this for a couple of people, then report back.
You may notice that a good number of them named Freeza first.
While previous villains were all building up to world and galactic domination, it is Freeza who holds the title of Intergalactic Emperor. While Cell’s evil only reached as far as the Earth (and poor King Kai) and Buu was a simple planet destroyer, Freeza was the ruler of entire races and whole galaxies. He has countless monstrous but more minor villains at his beck and call, including Zarbon, Dedoria, and of course: the Ginyu Force.
These extra villains play a much similar roll to what Nappa did for Vegeta. Each of them eclipse our heroes in power completely, hell even Vegeta doesn’t stand a chance, and they take orders from Freeza without hesitation. They show a bottomless fear at even the slightest hint of his displeasure; even the Ginyu Force, a group of incredibly goofy and lovable psychotic sentai-parodies (who steal Goku’s body at one point, but that’s not super relevant) drop the fun act and tremble at Freeza’s rage.
And it’s not just Freeza’s status that sets him apart from the other villains; his personality sets him apart from the others by leagues. His condescending personality and pension for torture combined with his overwhelming power already make him the deadliest foe our heroes have faced thus far, but it only gets more terrifying when you realize that he’s hiding his true power behind several transformations. Then, when he’s finally pushed to the brink of defeat, he completely changes; he starts screaming, calling people names, and digs deep into a bag of insults to hurl at his foes. Through and through, Freeza is a spoiled brat.
One that could easily wipe you and your planet from the Universe, but still.
Freeza made such a big splash that he was never truly forgotten, neither by the fans nor the show. His Power-Level was so big that they stopped talking about them after his death, and the new measuring stick became Freeza himself, even after the Cell Saga. And in case you still doubt his popularity and impact: he got a whole movie and saga in Super about his resurrection, and then he came back for the Tournament of Power.
He was also the best part of the Tournament of Power, but that’s for another day.
I could go on and on about why Freeza is the best villain, but I think I’ll stop there. If I wanted to, I could write a whole thousand-word long post about Freeza. We do, however, need to move on to our next villains: the Androids.
(Quick side note, you would not believe how hard it is to find a picture of these three plus 19 and 20 without running into a figurine or drawing of 18’s cleavage/ ass. Not complaining, just pointing that out)
Considering how hard it’d be to follow up Freeza, these guys did a reasonably good job. Sure, the only really memorable thing 19 and 20 got was their introduction (everyone treats 20 stabbing Yamcha through the chest with his hand like it’s a big deal, but come on; it’s Yamcha for god’s sake), but 16, 17 and 18 got a fair amount.
Before, y’know, Cell swallowed them whole.
Their bone-chilling empty stares set them apart immediately, their extreme power… makes them DBZ villains (I’m sorry, but power doesn’t mean anything in DBZ anymore) and they have a reasonably interesting arc. Watching 16 teach 17 and 18 about morality little by little is interesting. That’s all they get in terms of development, sure, but it’s something dammit!
We also get to have 18 join the main cast after the Cell saga as Krillin’s wife. This is a double-edged sword: on one hand, it’s awesome to see Krillin and 18 together, as the two do have some genuine chemistry as husband as wife. On the other, Toriyama took another strong female character and put a baby in her.
This happens a lot, but again: that’s for another day.
Then, we got the next true big bad: Cell.
While Cell lacks in personality, especially compared to Freeza, he more than makes up for it both his unique design and his impact on the series. His imperfect form is monstrous, one-of-a-kind and kind of terrifying, especially with his initial introduction, and his second form is… a thing. Then, when we finally get his Perfect form, we are finally introduced to the next wall of power for our heroes to overcome.
Cell’s impact on the characters is one of the strongest things that adds to his impact. He forces Goku and Gohan to bond in order for Gohan to become strong enough to beat him, with the same going for Vegeta and Trunks. His presence forces Piccolo and Kami to finally come together and fuse. His need for 18 pressures Krillin, forcing him to choose between his budding feelings and the world. And most importantly of all, his battle with Gohan brings the young Saiyan into his own, both as a hero and as the main character of the story.
Until Goku took that torch back in the Buu saga.
Speaking of which, let’s wrap this up by talking about one of the more… problematic villains in the series.
I love Majin Buu. His Fat form is so jolly and childlike that, when combined with his devastating power, makes him a genuinely creepy villain. His lust for battle and food even make him an interesting parallel to Goku, although this is never explored within the series. We even see him develop as a character as he develops a genuine friendship with Mr. Satan, which is one of my favorite things to ever happen in the entire Dragon Ball franchise.
We then get the next form of Buu, simply called Super Buu. With this form, his childlike nature is gone, replaced entirely by a monstrous creature of pure evil. Super Buu is the next logical evolution of Buu; he transforms from Chaotic-Neutral to Chaotic-Evil. It’s a good next step…
Until he absorbs Gotenks, Piccolo and Gohan and becomes Perfect Cell but bland. The arc goes on to drag it’s feet, going on for ages before we get the final form of Buu, which goes right back to all the best parts of Buu: Kid Buu.
Unfortunately, by the time we get to Kid Buu (or Pure Buu, whichever tickles your fancy) we’re all exhausted by the saga. When Goku finally gets this fucker trapped beneath a Spirit Bomb, we don’t cheer it on because we want him to save the universe; we do so because we don’t want the story to drag any further than it already has.
Still, Buu is one of the most memorable and unique villains of the series (for the most part at least) and a good way to wrap up the series.
Until GT and Super kept it going with more bland and forgettable villains.
And that’s it. That’s all the villains of Dragon Ball Z. And I only talked about Freeza for about half of it!
As you may have noticed, I had a lot more to talk about when it comes to these guys compared to the Original series. While I do prefer the original series over all, I do think that Z had the superior villains. Easily the best the series has ever seen.
In case my long and repetitive Freeza praise hasn’t given it away already.
I’ll see you guys tomorrow for what may be the last of this little trilogy: the villains of Dragon Ball Super.
Only now, after writing that down, have I realized that I’m not going to enjoy this.