This article contains SPOILERS for Dragon Ball Super #87
The Dragon Ball franchise has a long list of iconic villains, but only one still makes readers feel a cold shiver of fear, after more than thirty years from his debut: Frieza. The ruthless space tyrant’s recent return in Dragon Ball Super confirms that he still has one of the best character designs in the whole series.
Frieza is the first major villain to appear in Dragon Ball Z. Series creator Akira Toriyama revealed that Frieza was inspired by Japanese real estate speculators that were taking advantage of the economic bubble occurring at the time, “the worst kind of people“, according to the author. Frieza really helped in broadening the series’ scope by making readers realize that, despite all of their accomplishments, Goku and his friends from Earth were still totally outclassed in terms of power. Frieza was also the first villain capable of transforming to increase his power, a trend that would be followed by Cell and Majin Buu. Many fans consider Frieza to be the main antagonist of the whole franchise, which could be confirmed by the fact that, unlike other villains, he was resurrected many times, and made his return as one of the main characters in Dragon Ball Super, where he became even stronger and more dangerous.
In Dragon Ball Super, Frieza came back with a new powerful transformation called Golden Frieza, which he obtained after realizing that he never actually trained in his life, but always relied on his natural talent. Goku was barely able to defeat him, and then enlisted Frieza’s help to fight in the Tournament of Power, promising to resurrect him in case of victory. After scheming behind the scenes for a while, Frieza made his triumphal return in Dragon Ball Super chapter #87 – by Toyotarou and Akira Toriyama – where he debuted a new form, Frieza Black, that completely outclasses Goku and Vegeta’s most powerful transformations. Frieza’s sudden arrival on Planet Cereal is very resembling of his original appearance on Planet Namek in Dragon Ball Z, as the authors are able to transmit the same feeling of dread and impending doom.
During the original Frieza Saga, Toriyama was able to shock his readers by making Frieza’s Final Form (his most powerful transformation) look smaller and less menacing than his previous ones. However, this clever decision and the eerie design of the form had the effect to make Frieza feel instantly terrifying. Something very similar was achieved in Dragon Ball Super. Frieza’s return was teased in a preview for chapter #87, but when he actually shows up in the manga, the atmosphere completely changes. This is a villain who appeared (and was defeated) many times before, and yet Goku and Vegeta’s horrified and shocked expressions are completely believable. The scene is masterfully crafted through the use of paneling and the lack of dialogue, which creates a feeling of spectral silence that perfectly underscores the terror that Frieza’s appearance causes.
The fact that Black Frieza easily overpowered Goku’s Ultra Instinct and Vegeta’s Ultra Ego was obviously shocking, but the real impression was left by the villain’s physical appearance in the manga and the way it was constructed and presented. That a recurring character can still cause such an effect is proof that Frieza is still, without a doubt, the scariest Dragon Ball villain of all time.