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Anime / Dragon Ball: The Path to Power

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Dragon Ball: The Path to Power (known in Japan as Doragon Bōru: Saikyō e no Michi; lit. "Dragon Ball: The Path to Ultimate Strength") is a 1996 anime film based on the Dragon Ball series, celebrating the franchise's tenth anniversary, and also the final Dragon Ball film released until 2013's Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods.

The film is a re-telling of the original series, detailing Goku's meetings with his friends and battle with the Red Ribbon Army.

The Path to Power contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: Has the initial story arc's character introductions, but is otherwise based on the Red Ribbon Army arc.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Played with. Bulma suffered this trope when Dragon Ball made the jump from page to screen, with her purple hair becoming blue. Here it's switched back to the original purple, making Path to Power the first, and to date, only time Bulma has been depicted with her original hair color in animation.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Yamcha gains a noticeable tan. Staff Officer Black has a full head of hair and loses his exaggerated lips.
  • Adaptational Badass: All the main fighters except General Blue are made more powerful than their canon counterparts, but Goku, Android 8, and Officer Black really stand out:
    • While Goku is never a wimp in any media, this film amps him up quite a bit. Case in point: in the original manga and anime, his first attempt at the Kamehameha Wave only results in a small energy beam that's only strong enough to destroy Bulma's car, while in The Path to Power, said first attempt results in a Wave-Motion Gun that completely obliterates a good chunk of the Red Ribbon Army's armada.
    • Android 8. He is quite powerful in the series proper (stronger than Goku at the point they met), but his strength is amplified in the movie. He is able to fly, dash, and nearly kills Goku. He also fights a mecha that knocks Goku unconscious for several minutes and pushes it back.
    • Like most characters in the movie, Black gets a major power-up thanks to his battle mech. In the series proper Black's Battle Jacket gives Goku some problems, but is easily dealt with. Here, that Battle Jacket is now a building size mech that can fire a giant laser and tank a Kamehameha that is strong enough to wipe out an armada. It's also loaded with missiles that are powerful enough to knock out Goku. He even manages to kill Android 8 by crushing him and he's stronger than Goku. It takes Goku's losing his temper and reaching into his latent power to defeat Black.
    • Yamcha's brief fight with Goku shows him as Goku's legitimate superior in combat, at least by that point.
  • Adaptational Wimp: General Blue. In the series proper, he is the one member of the Red Ribbon Army to actually give Goku serious trouble, and in fact nearly kills him three times using his psychic powers. He also has enough martial arts prowess to handily defeat Krillin, and it takes the world's greatest assassin to finally put him down. Here, his sole claim to fame is punching Yamcha in the face, and he is simply killed by a regular firing squad.
  • Adapted Out: Being a mish-mash Compressed Adaptation of the first few story arcs, this was bound to happen.
    • Pilaf, Mai, and Shu (the series' initial villains) never show up in the movie. Instead, the threat is the Red Ribbon Army.
    • Ox King and ChiChi don't appear anywhere.
    • Krillin and Launch are also removed from the story due to the Tenkaichi Budokai arc being cut.
    • The now iconic Great Ape transformation is nowhere to be found.
    • Tao Pai Pai, a major obstacle in the Red Ribbon Army arc, doesn't show up.
    • All of the Red Ribbon leaders except Commander Red, Officer Black, General Blue, and Colonel White are gone here. Additionally, from the Muscle Tower arc specifically, aside from White, only Android 8/Eighter and Major Metallitron appear. Suno and her village, as well as Ninja Murasaki, Buyon, and Dr. Frappe, are also gone.
    • Bora, Upa, and everyone at Fortuneteller Baba's place are also cut, with Eighter taking Bora's place in the story as the friend who was killed and needed to be revived with the Dragon Balls.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Several characters in this version that were not in the original
    • Officer Black is made several shades lighter than his original manga and anime counterparts.
    • Yamcha is a darker tone than in the anime.
    • Goku is also darker to the point of being brown.
  • Animation Bump: This is one of the prettiest Dragon Ball movies with a lot of fast action sequences.
  • Bad Boss: Red is even worse compared to canon; whereas in the original he gave Blue a chance to continue his service if he could defeat Mercenary Tao, in gratitude to Blue successfully retrieving the Dragon Radar despite not retrieving any of the Dragon Balls, here he executes General Blue despite him bringing back six of the Dragon Balls because he happened to miss 1 Ball (Goku's 4-Star Ball). Black also approves of the execution, going as far as to smile about it. This actually parallels Blue's canonical introduction, when he also had a soldier dragged away and shot for simply picking his nose.
  • Badass Pacifist: Just like the series proper, Android 8 refuses to kill Goku even when threatened with self-destruction.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Android 8 is a pacifist who hates fighting and won't do anything to save his own life, like stopping General White from blowing him up. However, he charges Black's Battle Jacket when he's ready to kill Goku and knocks it down.
    • Goku is as sweet and naive as ever, and he wastes the entire Red Ribbon Army for kidnapping his friends and kills Black after he destroys Android 8.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • Red sees himself commanding an army that can take over the world and hunts down the Dragon Balls for his own vanity. He is brought down almost single-handedly by Goku and is killed by Officer Black when he learns the real reason why Red wanted the Dragon Balls.
    • Once Black kills Red, he claims that he will lead the army into a new era of greatness and take over the world. Although he performs better than his canon counterpart, he dies at the end of the movie.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Black lets out one when a rage-boosted Goku unleashes another Kamehameha, realizing that this one is actually strong enough to pierce the Battle Jacket.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Goku is stronger than everyone, able to wipe out an entire army by himself. He's also still a kid who enjoys a snowball fight with Android 8, something Bulma lampshades.
  • Call-Forward / Mythology Gag: An Android makes a seemingly Senseless Sacrifice which causes the Saiyan hero to experience a rage-induced power boost. Are we talking about Android 8 and Goku, or Android 16 and Gohan?
  • Chicken Walker: Many of the members of the Red Ribbon used bipedal walkers.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The movie takes the Pilaf arc and the Red Ribbon arc, tears out large chunks of them and stitches them together for an 80 minute movie. Several Red Ribbon officers get Demoted to Extra and we end up with someone who is a Composite Character of White and Murasaki, but it works.
  • Composite Character:
    • Android 8 dies and ends up resurrected from a wish on the Dragon Balls, much like Bora, the very first character to be revived with the Dragon Balls.
    • Ninja Murasaki’s role was merged with General White to become a single character.
  • Cute Bruiser: Goku is a cute kid who is strong enough to destroy an army by himself.
  • Darker and Edgier: It isn't the darkest movie by any means, but it has a more serious tone compared to the stories it's retelling. The Red Ribbon Army is shown as more of a threat who successfully captures Bulma, Yamcha, Puar, Oolong, and even Master Roshi and gains six of the Dragon Balls. Officer Black is able to fight off Goku and kills Android 8 in a somewhat brutal fashion. Basically, it's a Dragon Ball movie with the tone of Dragon Ball Z.
  • Death by Adaptation:
  • Death Wail: Goku screams at the top of his lungs after Eighter dies.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: The Red Ribbon Army executives are killed off in completely different way from how they die in the original anime and manga.
    • In the original manga and anime, General Blue is given the chance to redeem himself by fighting and defeating Tao Pai Pai which is also meant for Tao to prove what he is capable of. Tao kills General Blue with his tongue. Here, since Tao doesn't even appear, General Blue is executed for his failure right away by low-level privates.
    • Although Commander Red is still shot by Staff Officer Black, it plays out differently. In the manga and original anime, he is shot in the head. Here, Black shoots him in the side causing him to fall off a ledge.
    • When Staff Officer Black fights Goku in the manga and original anime, Goku kills him by punching a hole in the machine he is piloting, causing it to explode. Here, Goku kills him using a Kamehameha in retaliation over Black killing Android 8.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Officer Black had enough of Red after Red intended to essentially demolish his own army just to get taller and killed him.
  • The Dragon: Officer Black serves Commander Red loyally, until he learns that he wanted the Dragon Balls to wish for height. In the dub, it's made more questionable about how loyal Black was, given that he supposedly built the Battle Jacket in secret.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Black becomes the Big Bad for the final part of the movie after he executes Commander Red for basically ruining the Red Ribbon Army for his own selfish ends.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Goku spends several minutes laughing at Bulma's name. She isn't amused and claims that it's a family name.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Black kills Red, since the latter jeopardized the whole organization by wishing for something so useless that it caused the downfall of the group, and that he didn't care how many died to achieve it.
  • Evil Is Petty: Red wants to grow taller; understandably, Black is angry when he finds out.
  • Evil Redhead: Red, like his namesake, is a red-haired man who is the boss of the most evil army in the world.
  • Eyelid Pull Taunt:
    • Goku did this is Bulma as he refused to give his Dragon Ball to her and later when trying to defeat the members of the Red Ribbon Army in the climax.
    • Puar pulled this towards Oolong when the two clashed each other.
  • Friendship Moment: The entire scene with Goku and Android 8 having a snowball fight is to highlight their friendship and how Goku is still a kid at the end of the day.
  • Height Angst: Red was so angsty about his height that he intended to use the eponymous objects, not to complete his world takeover, but to wish himself taller.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Android 8 protects Goku from Officer Black's Battle Suit after Goku is knocked unconscious. It costs him his life, but he's revived by the Dragon Balls at the end of the movie.
  • Humongous Mecha: Black's Battle Suit is much larger than the Battle Jacket he used in canon.
  • Impossible Task Instantly Accomplished: Instead of Ox King's burning mountain, Roshi's introduction of the Kamehameha Wave is used to wipe out a portion of General Blue's navy. When Blue instantly comes back on a second wind, and Roshi reveals the blast wiped out his stamina, they all run for cover, except Goku, who just goes through the motions of the Kamehameha while the missiles explode around him, and finally fires off a Wave-Motion Gun just as big as Roshi's, wiping out the last of Blue's armada and flooring everyone. The kid learned a technique in seconds, that took Roshi fifty years to develop and perfect.
  • Jerkass: Black mocks and belittles Androids 8 after killing him in front of Goku. This pushes Goku over the edge and he kills Black with a giant Kamehameha.
  • Kick the Dog: Officer Black brags about killing Android 8 to a crying Goku. This does not end well for him.
  • Killed Offscreen: General Blue gets carried off by a firing squad and gets shot in the next room. While the sight of it is obscured, you can hear both his pleas for mercy and the shots that kill him.
  • Laughing Mad: Black devolves into maniacal laughter while staggering around in delirium after killing Red and realizing that he's now Commander of the Red Ribbon army.
  • Male Gaze: Oh, Bulma, already one of the famous Ms. Fanservice out there, the movie actually cut some of her famous moments, such as her Shower Scene and her Playboy Bunny outfit (her famous Going Commando scene is intact however and pretty much recreated shot-for-shot), almost as if to make up for the cuts, her body gets a lot more camera time, including quite a few close-ups of her legs and a fair few more Panty Shots, including a very noticeable one that lingers on her highly detailed crotch for a few seconds.
  • Manly Tears: Android 8's Heroic Sacrifice marks one of the very few times in the entire franchise that Goku ever cries.
  • The Napoleon: Red deploys the full forces of his worldwide and heavily-armed criminal organization to find the Dragon Balls... so he could be taller.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Bulma initially tries to seduce Goku into giving her his Dragon Ball, offering to show him how boys and girls are really different. Goku's response:
    Goku: I know, soft and curvy. So why are you showing me your butt?
  • Oddball in the Series:
    • Of the four movies for the original Dragon Ball, it's the only one that starts from an already retold point, starting at the same point that Curse of the Blood Rubies told. There's also the fact that the movie is the only part of the original Dragon Ball to feature some close form to Super Saiyan.
    • From an English dub standpoint, it's also the only one to feature Stephanie Nadolny as Goku. Movies 2 and 3 had Ceyli Degadillo as Goku, while Movie 1 had Saffron Henderson (Ocean dub) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Funimation dub) as the kid Saiyan.
  • Oh, Crap!: After initially laughing it off, Black has this reaction when Goku, having hit his Rage Breaking Point, blows a hole through his Battle Jacket after it previously tanked the hit. He lets out a Big "WHAT?!", and his final words as the mech explodes with him in it are a Big "NO!".
  • One-Man Army: Goku destroys the entire Red Ribbon Army by himself. Only Officer Black in his Battle Jacket gives him any trouble.
  • Pillar of Light: Goku creates one during his rage-induced power-up at the end of the movie.
  • Race Lift: Adjutant Black, originally resembling Blackface in the manga, has a significantly lighter skin tone in this adaptation, his skin being a shade of medium-brown. Conversely, Sergeant Metallic has become a black man.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Goku loses it when Android 8 is killed to the point that he breaks down into tears. He then unleashes a giant Kamehameha that destroys Staff Officer Black's Battle Jacket when before he couldn't even dent it.
  • Reused Character Design:
    • Commander Red's design in the movie is based after Mr. Borbonne from the Dragon Ball Z episode "A Girl Named Lime," which is funny as both characters in the original timeline are short and hired Tao to deal with a Saiyan.
    • Even Goku himself, switching to his redesign from Dragon Ball GT instead of keeping his look from the original series.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Red telling Black that he wanted the Dragon Balls to wish to get taller. Granted, he was in the middle of a Villainous Breakdown, but it was still stupid of him to tell Black.
    • Black mocking Androids 8's death to a grieving Goku after he has a giant power surge wasn't the brightest idea.
  • The Unfought: As a result of Black killing Red just before Goku could even meet him.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: The real reason why he wanted the Dragon Balls, Red wants to be taller.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Red loses it when he sees Goku waste the entire Red Ribbon Army single-handedly. By the end, he blurts out his real plans for the Dragon Balls to Black, which gets him killed.
    • Officer Black utterly loses his sanity after killing Commander Red. He's literally laughing mad as he fights Goku in the Battle Jacket.
  • Wasteful Wishing: Red just wanted the Dragon Balls to wish for height. The moment Black learns this, he executes Red.
  • We Can Rule Together: Black offers Goku a place in the Red Ribbon Army after seeing his strength. Goku, naturally, tells him no.
  • Would Hurt a Child: No one in the Red Ribbon Army has any problem trying to kill Goku, despite him being a twelve year old kid.
  • You Don't Look Like You: A few characters like Commander Red but most drastically with Adjutant Black. Compare his manga & TV design with his movie design.
  • You No Take Candle: Goku dips into this briefly when waking up on the house wagon.
    Goku: Table hard. Need pillow.

Alternative Title(s): The Path To Power