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Recap / Dragon Ball Red Ribbon Army Arc

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The Red Ribbon Army Arc is the third story arc in the Dragon Ball series

Short Summary

After the tournament concludes, Goku heads off to find the four star ball. However in the midst of his search, he runs afoul of a military corporation called The Red Ribbon Army who are searching for the Dragon Balls as a means of World Domination and trampling over anyone to do it. Not surprisingly this leads to many confrontation against the young warrior.

Main Summary

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Due to the length of this arc, it is divided into several sections.

With the World Tournament over with, Goku prepares for the next step of his training; but Master Roshi tells him that he and Krillin need to go out and experience the world in order for further develop their skills. While Krillin decides to hang around Kame House (Much to Master Roshi's annoyance- he wanted alone time with Launch), Goku realizes that a year has passed and that the Dragon Balls have regained their power. Taking the Dragon Radar, he flies off on the Flying Nimus to find the Four Star Ball that belonged to his grandfather.

Silver Corps

The Radar leads Goku to a clearing that a group of soldiers are searching. He finds a Dragon Ball, but it's not the Four Star. The soldiers try to take the Ball, but Goku defeats them all. The leader of the platoon, Colonel Silver, blasts Flying Nimbus out of the sky with a bazooka and fights Goku, only to get defeated. With his cloud apparently destroyed, Goku finds a robot belonging to the soldiers, who helpfully agrees to use a plane and fly him to the next Dragon Ball. The minute they leave, Silver recovers and reports what happened to his leader, Commander Red of the Red Ribbon Army. While Red is furious to hear that Silver was beaten by a kid, his Adjutant Black wonders how a single boy managed to find a Dragon Ball when their own forces all over the world have yet to capture one.

White Corps

Goku's plane crash lands in a northern climate due to his robot pilot literally freezing up. He's found by a girl named Suno and taken to her village. He learns that the Red Ribbon Army has occupied the area, and are forcing the men to look for the Dragon Ball. They're even holding the mayor in their base, Muscle Tower. Goku decides to save the mayor and take down the soldiers led by General White. He attacks Muscle Tower, a Trojan Gauntlet of Red Ribbon weapons and elites. After defeating White's forces, he finds that his Dragon Radar broke, and decides to go to Bulma's home to get it fixed. The villagers tell him that Flying Nimbas can't be destroyed by mortal means, and Goku is able to fly to West City.

Blue Corps

After some hi-jinks in the big city, Goku finds that his friend is the heiress to Capsule Corp, the company that makes those incapsulated tools. With her relationship with Yamcha on the rocks, Bulma forces herself along on the Dragon Ball hunt. The repaired Radar takes them to the sea, at a point too deep for Goku to swim. Goku realizes that Master Roshi's island is nearby, and decides to ask if he has a submarine to use. They get the sub, and Krillin to help out. Meanwhile, a scout for the local Red Ribbon base headed by General Blue follows after them. He reports his findings, and the leaders of the Red Ribbon Army conclude that Roshi made the Dragon Radar, and decide to kill two birds with one stone; General Blue will take half his forces to follow Goku's group to steal the Dragon Ball, while sending a squad to capture Roshi.

While Roshi mops the floor with his would-be captors, Blue chases and tries to kill Goku and co at the location of the Dragon Ball- an abandoned pirate's lair. Although the kids are able to escape with the Ball, Blue follows them to Kame House and uses his psychic powers to subdue and steal the Ball and Dragon Radar, leaving a bomb to kill them. Luckily, Launch is able to free the others, allowing Goku to stop the bomb and chase after Blue.

The two fighters crash-land in the very weird town of Penguin Village, home to such characters as Arale, the super-powerful robot girl, who sends Blue packing with her trademark headbutt. However, Blue still had the Dragon Radar, so Goku's search has ended...until Dr. Senbei's psychic son Turbo makes a new Radar. Meanwhile, Blue may have stolen the Radar, but seeing as he's been punched into the desert, it'll be a while before he can return to Red Ribbon HQ...

Karin Sanctuary

Goku's search leads him to the Karin Sanctuary, where Colonel Yellow and his squad are trying to steal the Dragon Ball belonging to Bora, a powerful Native warrior. Yellow tries to get the Ball by holding Bora's son Upa hostage, but Goku shows up to ruin everything. It's then revealed that Bora's Dragon Ball has four stars...the same number of star's that the one Goku's grandfather had!Frustrated by the failures of his troops, Commander Red decides to hire Taopaipai, a ruthless mercenary killer, to take Goku down and Take the Dragon Balls. Taopaipai proves his worth by killing General Blue (Having shown up at that moment), and sets out to track Goku down.Goku learns about the legend of the Karin Sanctuary, a giant pole where a hermit supposedly lives with a magic potion that will increase your strength when Taopaipai arrives. The assassin starts out killing Bora when the warrior gets in the way, and then utterly crushes Goku. Not even the Kamehameha does more than ruin Tao's outfit. Taopaipai finishes Goku off with his own Ki Attack, the Dodon-Pa, a finger-sized beam that strikes Goku's heart. With his task apparently done, Taopaipai takes Goku's backpack and leaves. But instead of going to the Red Ribbon, he goes to a tailor shop for a new outfit. When calling Red about his delay, the Commander tells him that their own Radar shows a Dragon Ball still at the Sanctuary...As it turns out, the remaining Four-Star Dragon Ball was kept on Goku's person, and blocked the full brunt of Taopaipai's attack. However, Bora is still dead. Goku decides that he use the Dragon God's wish to bring Bora back to life, but will need to retrieve his Dragon Balls. Knowing that Taopaipai will return, Goku decides to climb the pole and drink the hermit's magic water. After days of climbing, he reaches the Sanctuary, and learns that the hermit is a talking cat named Karin who only allow Goku to drink the water...if he can steal it! Furthermore, it took Goku's teacher Master Roshi three years to do it! But after three days of chasing, Goku manages to get the flask. However, it turns out that the water isn't magic at all. It was the exertion of running around in a thin atmosphere that increased Goku's strength. Embolden, Goku returns to the ground just in time to save Upa from Taopaipai. Their next battle is a turnaround from the last one, as Goku utterly pulverizes Taopaipai. He can even catch the Dodon-Pa now! The battle ends when Taopaipai's usage of grenade blows up in his face...literally. With the assassin beaten, Goku checks his Radar and learns that two Dragon Balls are in the same place. Realizing that it must be Red Ribbon's HQ, Goku decides its time to take the fight to the "Army of Evil"!

Red Ribbon HQ

Goku takes off towards the Red Ribbon Base. Along the way he encounters a flying probe of sorts, another invention of Bulma's. Bulma realizes that Goku's flight path takes him towards the Red Ribbon, so the rest of the Dragon Ball gang decide to band together to save Goku.

Meanwhile, Goku begins his assault on the Red Ribbon Army. Despite their weapons and numbers, none of the enemy soldiers can touch Goku, and it isn't long before those who aren't beaten flee. Furious at the failures of his men, Commander Red grumbles at how close he was to become tall- Wait, what? Adjutant Black is outraged to learn that the intended wish of the Dragon Balls- That the Red Ribbon Army has sacrificed so much for -was for Red to wish himself taller! Red claims that it'll be easier to conquer the world if he has an imposing height, but it becomes apparent that his Napoleon Complex is all he cares about. Black puts a bullet into Red's head and promotes himself Commander, just in time for Goku to arrive.

Black attempts to negotiate with Goku, offering that We Can Rule Together, but Goku isn't interested. Black whips out a Humongous Mecha from a capsule and tries to fight, but, like so many officers before him, fails to do anything. Goku destroys the mecha and Black in one shot, and successfully defeats the Red Ribbon Army.

Meanwhile, Goku's friends are just reaching the Base...

The Red Ribbon Army arc has the following tropes

  • Adaptation Expansion: General Violet's role in the anime, as she only appeared in two panels in the manga. The Mercenary Tao section is also expanded as Tao himself climbs Korin's tower during his second bout against Goku. Silver's role is also larger than it is in the manga where he was only involved in two chapters; here he also has a section competing against both Goku and Pilaf to get one of the Dragon Balls.
  • Agent Peacock: General Blue. Fairly campy. Very dangerous.
  • All for Nothing: Black is not happy to learn that all the soldiers that risked, and gave their lives, especially to Goku, who was storming their base, for Commander Red's ambition - and it turns out to be getting Red taller. He kills him soon after finding out.
  • Always Someone Better: Goku fights General Blue in Penguin Village, and is nearly killed, when Arale quickly drop-kicks him into the air, and does a leaping headbutt which Blue disappears into the sky. Goku expresses amazement that there are people (or robots) that are that strong in the world.
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  • Armies Are Evil: The Red Ribbon Army don't care who has to get hurt in order to get the Dragon Balls.
  • Attempted Rape: Two Red Ribbon Army soldiers attempt to rape Bulma. When she figures out what they have in mind, she tells them she's only sixteen. They don't care. Thankfully, Goku shows up and quickly deals with them.
  • Blatant Lies: Recently "promoted" Commander Black tells Goku that he wants peace, and wants to help him find the Dragon Balls. This is while he's standing next to the body of the dead Commander Red, who had a bullet into his head. Goku doesn't buy it for a second.
  • Blob Monster: Buyon.
  • Breather Episode: The anime adds in a 2-part story where Goku, Bulma, Yamcha, Puar, and Oolong visit a theme park in between the Muscle Tower and General Blue sections of the story arc. Commander Red employs a professional thief named Hasky to go after them and recover the Dragon Balls that Goku has collected, but she ends up having little success.
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  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: By the time Yamcha, Krillin, and the others arrive at Red Ribbon Army HQ to lend Goku a hand, Goku has already toppled the organization and the remaining soldiers have fled for their lives.
  • Crossover: The final part of the General Blue section has Goku and Blue land in Penguin Village, home of the cast from Dr. Slump.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Adjudant Black is outraged when he learns that Commander Red was going to use the Dragon Balls to make himself tall.
  • Doppleganger Attack: Parodied. Ninja Musasaki uses a technique that supposedly creates an illusion of him splitting into five, but he really just has four other identical siblings.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: At one point the Red Ribbon decide that Goku must have gotten his Dragon Radar from somewhere else, and decide to follow him when he apparently veers away from the next Dragon Ball. They quickly assume the genius behind the Radar is Master Roshi.
  • Evil Is Petty: Commander Red eventually admits he wanted the Dragon Balls so he could grow taller first before attempting World Domination. His assistant, Staff Officer Black, is not pleased when he hears this.
  • Pirate: Goku, Bulma and Krillin wind up in a abandoned pirate base while searching for one of the balls, with a very much still active robot guardian.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: Tao Pai Pai proves he's earned his rep by killing General Blue with his tongue.
  • Foreshadowing: Commander Red's desire for his true wish is foreshadowed several times throughout the arc. When he hires a painter to hang a new portrait in his office, he's pleased to see himself taller than Black. Much later, when he's playing a golf game, Black tells Red about his excitement about the Army ruling the world. Red doesn't say anything.
  • Irony: Commander Red hiring Mercenary Tao to kill Goku ended up destroying the Red Ribbon Army since Tao killed Bora, which made Goku go after all of the Dragon Balls. Before then, Goku was only interested in the 4-star ball.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: After realizing Goku's outmatched him in their rematch, Tao Pai Pai pulls this, offering to change his ways before throwing a live grenade at Goku, who responds by kicking the grenade back in Tao's face.
  • Just a Kid / Just One Man: The Red Ribbon frequently expresses shock and disbelief that Goku is steamrolling them. "B-But it's just three kids!" "Just one of those kids decimated Silver Corps. and White Corps.! And now I've just learned that Squad B was defeated by the old man and the woman! And they didn't even have to unleash the turtle!"
  • Magic Feather: Goku receives a task from Master Karin to take his Sacred Holy Water from him, which is said to grant whoever drinks it great power. After three whole days, Goku manages to seize the water from Karin, and drinks it. The drink is ordinary tap water; it was exertion from Goku's efforts to take the jug from Karin, along with climbing the tower in the first place is what improved Goku's speed and strength.
  • Meaningful Name: Suno sounds like "snow". And the village she lives in is indeed surrounded by snow.
  • The Napoleon: Commander Red.
  • No-Sell: Tao Pai notably literally shrugs off Blue's psychic hold, and in his first fight against Goku, he didn't so much block his Kamehameha as allow it to glance over his body like water.
  • Psychic Powers: General Blue possesses psychokinetic abilities which he uses to freeze his opponents in place, while he attacks them.
  • Psycho for Hire: Tao Pai Pai.
  • Putting on the Reich: A few of the General, particularly Blue, sport this on their outfits.
  • Shock and Awe: Buyon can fire electricity from his antenna.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Red Ribbon Army shares a LOT of similarities to several military dictatorships (at least two could be named): The Nazi regime is referenced by their MO (heck, one of their members, General Blue, is clearly designed to resemble a Sturmabteilung officer, heavily resembles the ideal Nazi soldier in both physical appearance as well as abilities, and has several... quirks taken from Ernst Röhm, the former leader of the S.A., and even spoke German at one point), and the Soviets were mentioned via a similar name, as well as via General White, a high ranking officer who is implied to be of Russian descent.
    • In the Viz translation of the manga, of all places. His English nickname, "Eight-Man", is a reference to the manga of the same name.
  • Skewed Priorities: Tao Pai Pai contacts Red Ribbon HQ to inform them that he's eliminated Goku, but they ask him whether he's retrieved the dragon ball in his possession. He replies no, but also tells them that he'll do so in three days because he's waiting on a tailor to make his gi. Tao has clearly demonstrated that it wouldn't take even an hour to travel to Karin Tower even from Red Ribbon HQ, so from his location it wouldn't be hard to head over there. More so, he believes that he's killed Goku, so taking the ball from his corpse, and again, returning to HQ shouldn't be a problem. Curiously, Red is completely fine with this, reasoning that Goku isn't a thorn in the Red Ribbon's side anymore. Amusingly, when Tao finally heads over, Goku turns out to be not quite as dead as he believed.
  • Storming the Castle: Twofold. Goku storms the Muscle Tower during his search and helps liberate the village they've enslaved and in the climax he invades the Red Ribbon HQ and completely decimates them.
  • Take Over the World: Why Red Ribbon Army are after the dragon balls. Commander Red's real goal is just to become taller.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: General Blue is afraid of mice, and one appearing when he was using his psychokinetic powers to hold Goku still broke his concentration, allowing Goku to move freely and easily defeat him by knocking him into a wall with a single punch.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Tao Pai Pai; Before, Goku pretty much steamrolled his way through the other Red Ribbon squads. General Blue took a bit more effort thanks to his psychic powers, but suffered from Eek, a Mouse!! and then got sent flying by Arale. But when Tao No Sells the Kamehameha, Goku only has a few precious seconds to realize how screwed he is. He survived the encounter by sheer luck, and it's the first time he's ever lost to such a degree.
  • The Worf Effect: Tao is introduced easily shrugging off Blue's attacks - including his 'freeze ability' and kills him in short order, demonstrating that he's seriously bad news. He later defeats Goku easily, although with training from Karin, Goku returns the favor three days later.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Blue determines that Goku must have had some special weapons that allowed him to beat Silver and White Corps.note 

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