The tragic passing of Chris Ayres at the age of 56 earlier this week sent shockwaves through the anime voice acting community — and the anime fan community in general.
Best known as the English voice of Frieza in Dragon Ball since 2010, Ayres’ legacy is not only one of an impressive body of work, but also one of the joy and laughter he brought to every interaction he had. The stories that have been shared by his colleagues, friends, and family show what a positive light he brought to the anime world.
To celebrate his life and career, here are some of our favourite moments from Chris Ayres’ time in his most iconic role: the evil space real-estate developer, Frieza.
Trunks vs Frieza
When Frieza arrived on Earth in search of Goku, it had the entire cast understandably nervous. After all, it had previously required a once-every-thousand-years legend to be fulfilled to beat him the first time and the planet the fight took place on was destroyed in the process. So it sure was lucky that this new, mysterious Super Saiyan showed up to take care of the problem.
This fight might not have been the prolonged encounter that the Namek fight had been, but Chris Ayres’ barely restrained quality to Frieza set it apart from before. He is more impulsive and his emotions are more raw than they were before, which registers perfectly in the way Frieza is voiced. To this day, I have no idea how Ayres made that noise Frieza makes when he is cut in half.
Revealing Frieza’s Final Form
It was a moment that teased us for weeks as we watched the show. The heroes are barely holding it together against Frieza as he cycles through his weirdest forms. No one is able to keep up with him in his third form, but he goes ahead and announces that he has yet another level of power to display. Piccolo, Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta can do nothing but watch in fear as Frieza powers up and finally reveals his final form.
This moment displays the unrelenting cruelty that Frieza embodied. He didn’t need to transform again nor does he benefit from doing so, but doing so inspired terror in his enemies and that was reason enough to do it. Chris Ayres brought that unashamedly cruel side of Frieza out while giving the villain an aura of control and dignity that seemed at odds with his actions (but really wasn’t if you know your Dragon Ball).
Dragon Ball Super: Broly
There are too many amazing moments from Frieza in this movie. In truth, Chris Ayres steals the show as the space tyrant, but that isn’t anything new. For me, it is knowing the story behind his performance that really drives home what a titan of his craft Ayres was. This was the final time he would voice his most iconic role and he was nowhere near his usual form. By most accounts, he recorded his lines at around 50% lung capacity, requiring oxygen between takes.
Still, even with that holding him back, he put in the work with the screams, grunts, and power-ups that the Dragon Ball series has always been known for, to the point that you wouldn’t be able to tell he was sick from listening to him. This was one of the best performances Chris Ayres gave the Dragon Ball fandom, and he did it while he could barely breathe.
Chris Ayres’ passing is an opportunity for all of us in the Dragon Ball community to mourn — but also to celebrate the man’s life. Throughout his life, Ayres sought to be a beacon of light to both fans and colleagues, always making time to make everyone feel special. He leaves a legacy summed up by the simple phrase he would use to sign off emails and texts:
“Love and Laughter, Always.”
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