Synopsis: Mummy Man can't shake the feeling that there's something really imposing about Goku despite his size, but Baba urges him to hurry up and get the show on the road. Left with no choice but to just go for it, Mummy Man rushes in and lands a mighty blow on Goku, sending him into the air before kicking him into one of the demon statue's faces and back to the ground in a heap. His friends are all shocked to see Goku go down so easy even if Mummy Man is really strong, but Mummy Man is pleased to see that he was worrying over nothing.
Baba says that losing consciousness is the same thing as a loss, so she asks Goku to speak up if he's still able to. Surprising everyone, Goku gets back up and says it's his turn now, and begins to approach a stunned Mummy Man. Roshi is surprised to see Goku get up after such a vicious assault, and notices that Goku doesn't even appear to have taken any damage at all from it. Outraged, Mummy Man punches towards Goku again, but Goku merely ducks under the larger man's fist, and slams his own punch into Mummy Man's gut, knocking him out in one blow.
Baba is shocked, and Goku says that Mummy Man seems to be knocked out, so he wins right? Baba confirms this, and Goku celebrates and says he'll move Mummy Man now so he's not in the way for the next fight. Kuririn and Yamcha can't believe Goku just defeated such a strong foe in one attack, and even Roshi says that it's hard to believe Goku could become so powerful, and says it's possible they've never seen the likes of him before – it's beginning to make more sense now how he was able to decimate the entire Red Ribbon Army all by himself. Kuririn thinks Goku doesn't look any different from before though, so what in the world did he go through since they saw him last?
Goku says that he only needs to beat two more people to get Baba's help, and Baba tells him it's too soon to smile. From inside one of the statues, Baba's remaining fighters – a devil-looking man and a man wearing a fox mask with a curious halo over his head – discuss how strong Goku seems to be. The masked man simply laughs, but the devil thinkgs that even though nobody has ever made it this far before, the boy's luck has run out now that he'll have to deal with him. Baba calls out her next fighter, and the devil – Devil Man – steps out onto the tongues. Goku is surprised to see yet another weirdo take the stage, but Roshi is even more surprised as he knows this one. Devil Man was usually his sister's right hand man and the final of her five fighters, meaning she must have found someone even more incredible to save for last this time.
Baba declares the match's start, and Devil Man instantly uses his wings to take to the air, something that Bulma calls out as unfair. Devil Man asks Goku if he'd like to visit where he came from, Hell, and rushes towards Goku with his claws out before him – only to get kicked away by a quick-moving Goku. Baba, Goku's friends, and especially Devil Man are taken aback by Goku's ability.
Review: So, if you couldn't tell by my tease last time, we've officially hit the point of no return in regards to Goku's power far outstripping his friends. Sure, the gap isn't as wide now as it's going to become later, and there are still new future allies we've yet to meet that will be far closer in strength (at least at first if nothing else), but make no mistake – it's at this point that Goku is set on a pedestal that the others just aren't ever going to truly be able to reach.
That's not to say the rest of the series doesn't find continually creative ways to be exciting, but we're definitely reaching the beginning of 'Oh man, Goku's amazing!' and 'If even Goku can't beat this guy, then...?!', and that's a little bit disappointing. As much as I love this franchise, it can't be denied that power creep is one of it's biggest writing issues, and a big factor of that is just how badly Goku ends up leaving everyone else in the dust. This chapter starts us down that path in spades, with Goku taking no damage from an opponent that just beat up a character we know to be fairly good in a fight, and then taking out said opponent in just ONE hit, only to go on to immediately be at an advantage against another opponent even stronger than that.
But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Before we get to that last part, let's take a final look at poor Mummy Man. I mentioned before that he seemed to display quite a bit of humanity for someone that might be a monster, and that he didn't want to kill Yamcha even after the former outright tried to kill him. Nothing in this chapter takes away from that surprising humanity, but we do get to see that he doesn't like being shown up, especially not by someone else that he assumes is being cocky. It's just his bad luck that Goku can actually back up anything the former takes as empty bravado.
At the end of the day, I'd say Mummy Man was probably the best of Baba's fighters thus far. He managed to feel like an actual threat rather than just a gimmick to be overcome, and what little bit of personality we got out of him wasn't tied to his theme either. I can't say I went into these chapters expecting him to be one of the highlights of this arc narratively, but damn if he didn't surprise me.
With Mummy Man's defeat, we're actually shown the next two fighters outright rather than only when they step out into the arena, something that's a big change compared to how we were introduced to the previous five. Unfortunately, that sort of undercuts the threat that we're meant to be feeling from whoever steps out next, because we already know what the person beyond them looks like. It was already pretty much a given that we'd get to see all five fighters anyway, but this just seems to take away from the mystery a little bit. I think Toriyama knew this though, because he then tries to build the mystery back up again in a different way. Roshi tells us that Devil Man was usually his sister's best fighter, the one she held in reserve just in case someone strong enough to get through her other fighters came along. For a fighter like that to get demoted even one slot is pretty telling – whoever this new fifth fighter, the man with the mask and the halo, is, they must be incredibly strong. So basically, we're exchanging any sort of menace we would have felt from Devil Man, so that the next guy beyond him can get hyped up even more. It's an interesting tactic, and it does serve to change things up at the tail end here, but it does feel a little unfair to Devil Man, poor guy.
Speaking of, Devil Man and the as-of-now unnamed final opponent both slightly break the trend Baba's fighters had going until now. As mentioned before, a vampire, the Invisible Man, and a mummy are all classic pulls right out of the classic Universal Monsters catalogue. We already essentially had Frankenstein's Monster via Android 8, but it would have been a safe bet to predict the other two fighters would've completed this roster by being the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Wolf-Man. Instead, we're treated to a Devil and whatever the masked man will turn out to be. I know of course, but the chapter itself doesn't spell anything out about him just yet, and for first time readers, I wouldn't be surprised if people thought the final fighter must be an Angel of some sort. The halo, and being a fighter that surpassed a devil would certainly hint in that direction in some capacity. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it however.
Until next time!
Next Time: A technique that could conceivably end almost every other fight in the franchise after this point in one blow, so of course we're never gonna see it again.
Synopsis: As Yamcha remarks that he never expected a mummy to be so fast, Mummy Man asks him if this is the best he can do. With his friends cheering him on, Yamcha goes on the attack once more, trying to hit Mummy Man with his Rogafufuken, but it's no use as Mummy Man simply kicks his feet out from under him before landing a solid knee strike to Yamcha's gut.
With Yamcha down and seemingly out, Mummy Man asks him if he won't just surrender, but Baba wonders if the boy is even still conscious. Yamcha surprises them all however by swiping Mummy Man's legs out from under him, sending the fighter falling off of the statues' tongues and heading for the acid. Yamcha asks for Mummy Man's forgiveness, but the mummy isn't out of the fight just yet – using his bandaged wrapping, Mummy Man grabs hold of one of the tongues and rebounds off of the wall just above the acid, launching himself back up to the arena.
Everyone is surprised, especially Yamcha, and Mummy Man laughs and says Yamcha is the type that will stoop to any trick, so now he'll have to pay for it. The fight begins anew, with Mummy Man quickly overpowering Yamcha once again, eventually holding him up by the front of his shirt over the acid. Mummy Man asks him again if he'll surrender or if he'll have to toss him into the acid, and Yamcha at last relents, surrendering the fight.
Battered and beaten, Yamcha returns to his friends, with Bulma saying she can't believe he got beaten up by someone wrapped in bandages, though Kuririn says he's pretty sure those aren't because Mummy Man is hurt. Roshi says they may need to reevaluate what they're up against here, and Baba says that they're down to their last fighter now, Goku. She asks if the boy is ready to fight, and Goku happily says he is. Upa asks Goku to reconsider, saying he's done enough for him already, but Goku tells him not to worry and rushes down onto the tongues.
Goku tells Mummy Man he's ready whenever he is, but Mummy Man laughs in disbelief that the last fighter is a little boy. Kuririn asks Roshi if Goku has any chance against this opponent, and Roshi says that the Goku they knew before probably didn't, but with the training he's undergone since they last saw him... Goku again tells Mummy Man he's ready to go, but if Mummy Man would like, Goku can make the first move. To Mummy Man's surprise, Goku stands completely open, not even taking a fighting stance, and yet, there aren't any openings in his guard at all.
Review: Oh, Yamcha. You aren't eating dirt as hard as Kuririn did in his fight, but you're still getting a pretty good taste of your own hubris now, and you really don't have anyone to blame but yourself. While this fight basically exists just to give Yamcha a more proper showing against Mummy Man, rather than getting things to Goku right away, it does end up presenting a couple of interesting facets of the characters we're currently dealing with here.
Since I'm already talking about Yamcha, let's keep the spotlight there and start with him. Through the course of this fight, Yamcha throws everything he has at Mummy Man – and, okay, yeah, what he has is really just one move at this point (man has he already been ill-used since his introduction) – but nothing he tries is working. He expected to at least have a leg up on the brute in terms of speed, but Mummy Man has quickly proven to be not just stronger than him but faster too. The match ends up going so poorly for the former bandit in fact, that he resorts to a cheap trick to try and win the match, one that had it been successful would have resulted in Mummy Man's death. Yamcha seems to feel some regret at this course of action, but he still made it of his own volition, so he can't be feeling THAT broken up about it.
Now contrast that with Mummy Man. He's been pretty happily wailing away on Yamcha for the course of this fight, but that is what happens in a fight after all – one person tries to hit the other. Some of Mummy Man's strikes have been fairly brutal, but there hasn't really been anything that seems particularly like a cheap shot or like he's trying to radically injure Yamcha. No, he seems like he wants to just force Yamcha to realize he's bitten off more than he can chew and to surrender. Hell, even AFTER Yamcha tries to straight-up murder him, Mummy Man still offers him the chance to surrender rather than get thrown into the acid bath below. I hate to say it, but Yamcha's the bad guy in this situation. For as much as Baba's fighters are themed around movie monsters, they're surprisingly human...which, come to think of it, fits that inspiration even more.
Oh, and can I just say, I love the ridiculousness of Mummy Man just Spider-Man-ing himself back to safety? It's a brilliant use of the character's design even if nothing before or (to the best that I can recall) after this suggests he can control his bandages like that.
With Yamcha taken out of action, that leaves only Goku left on our heroes' side, and three fighters left on Baba's. The odds couldn't be more stacked against Goku, right? ...Well...
Until next time!
Synopsis: Yamcha is happy to see that Bulma and Roshi have arrived, but Bulma is annoyed that they're all fighting instead of asking her where the last Dragon Ball is, prompting Kuririn to explain exactly what's going on. Once they're filled in, Roshi comments that his sister is as greedy as ever, surprising everyone. Baba says her brother doesn't seem to have changed a bit either based on his perverted outburst earlier. Kuririn says that if Baba is Roshi's sister than couldn't he ask her to help them out for his sake, but Baba scoffs and says she only lives for two things: money, and fights.
Yamcha proclaims that he's okay with this as it gives him a chance to train and fight more, and Baba praises him for being so bold before announcing they'll be changing arenas now. She starts to lead them inside, and Roshi asks her how much money she has now, only for her to refuse to answer him. Bulma introduces herself to Upa, but Kuririn cautions him that she's a bad influence, with Bulma saying he has no room to talk. Once inside, Baba says they'll be fighting in the Devil's Cesspool next, and Yamcha asks Roshi if he has any advice, with Roshi telling him simply not to die. Baba sends Yamcha in through a door, before leading everyone else further upstairs to a viewing area.
Stepping into the arena, Yamcha is surprised to see the true appearance of the Devil's Cesspool – a pair of giant statues of demons sitting on toilets (complete with a toilet paper roll on the wall), with their tongues extending out from their mouths and meeting in the middle. Baba says that they'll be fighting on top of the tongues now, and that both Yamcha and her fighter should be careful not to fall into the bubbling acid below – she drops a steak into it as an example, and its instantly dissolved. Baba says that this is their last chance to call off the match, but Yamcha nervously claims he lives for battle. Impressed by his spirit, Baba calls out her third fighter – Mummy Man!
Yamcha remarks about the theme going on here with Baba's fighters, and thinks that the mummy looks like the type of fighter who bowls opponents over by pure strength, so he should be alright if he uses the narrow field to his advantage and fights with speed. He rushes at Mummy Man, only to be caught by surprise when the Mummy rushes at him with equal or greater speed. Mummy Man leaps into the air and lands behind Yamcha, attacking him with a series of vicious strikes, causing an onlooking Roshi to comment that the mummy is incredibly fast. To his surprise however, Goku doesn't think he's moving that fast at all.
With a quick chop to the neck, Mummy Man knocks Yamcha off of the tongues, shocking everyone as he almost falls into the acid below. Yamcha barely manages to hold onto the edge, and as Baba laughs, Mummy Man tells him to climb back up – it's no fun if the match ends this quickly.
Review: This is another of those chapters that both feels like it has a fair bit going on it it, but also not at the same time. We get a good couple of reveals – well, one reveal at least, and one tease of upcoming events – and as such, the chapter is more focused on setting the stage for the following chapters of the arc than it is doing great things within it's own page count. In all fairness though, that's fine really. We just had a successful Yamcha fight with the previous chapter, and as a fan who knows well where the character and the series overall are going? It'd be foolish to really hope for much more than that.
The big reveal of the chapter of course is that Baba is Roshi's sister, which certainly explains some things like how he knew about her (though it's not impossible for him to have just heard about her, even being a hermit), and why he recommended they go see her. It's funny though, because outside of this confirmation and their brief interactions here? We'll barely ever see them together ever again. Baba doesn't seem to get the same invites to hang out that the rest of the gang gets, and there will barely ever be a reminder of their relationship, so it's almost like Toriyama just threw this connection out on a whim. Bulma does have a quip about what their parents must have been like, which is a pretty fun thing to think about, especially considering how wacky her own parents are.
The real star of this chapter if you ask me is the new locale for this and the next two fights as well – the Devil's Cesspool is hilariously entertaining to look at, and I'm disappointed it's not a stage in more series fighting games. Actually...I don't think it's in ANY games that I'm aware of. What the hell, Bandai Namco – give me a Devil's Cesspool stage in FighterZ or something! You can't tell me it doesn't get much more unique than fighting on top of the tongue-kissing tongues of two demons on their toilets.
...Actually, this presents a lot of questions about who, how, and why these statues were made, presumably at Baba's request no less, so...maybe we should leave sleeping dogs to lie after all.
Then there's the reveal of Mummy Man, and three fighters in, it's really not that surprising to see him pop out at all – even Yamcha's getting wise to the gimmick now, which is actually kind of funny as this is sort of the end of the gimmick. The next two fighters don't really fit the theme in the same way (though they do fit the general horror vibe, they lack the Universal monsters theme that was going on with the first three). I'd rank where I'd put Mummy Man in terms of interest compared to the previous two, but we're not quite through with him yet, so I'll hold off on that for the moment.
The most interesting part of the chapter has to be the tease right at the end of it with Goku not thinking Mummy Man is that fast at all, despite him wiping the floor with Yamcha who is known to be a speedy fighter himself, and even Roshi being impressed by the mummy. Longtime fans will probably recognize this as being a very similar turn of events as something that happens way later in the DBZ era...but more on that once that 'twist' is revealed.
Until next time!
Synopsis: With Dracula Man's defeat, the gang is overjoyed and think everything is back on track now, but Baba warns them that each champion will become progressively stronger. Yamcha is still confident he can handle whoever is next though, and steps into the ring after telling Upa and Puar they can rest now. Baba laughs and says she thought they learned their lesson about expecting only two remaining fighters to be able to take her remaining four, but Yamcha insists he can probably get the job done all by himself, much to Goku's objection as he wants to fight too. Yamcha says they're keeping him in reserve though, and tells Baba to bring out the next fighter. To Yamcha's surprise however, Baba says they're already here.
Everyone looks around to try to find this new fighter, and Baba laughs and says it's natural they can't see him, as the next fighter is Invisible Man. She declares the match's start, and to Yamcha's surprise, a voice speaks from out of nowhere in front of him before he's hit by a series of unseen strikes. Yamcha bemoans that this isn't fair and tells the coward to show himself, but Invisible Man simply continues to attack Yamcha, with Yamcha unable to land a blow in return. Yamcha curses, and Baba asks him what happened to all that bravado he had moments before.
Goku asks Kuririn why Yamcha is fighting all by himself, but Kuririn quickly tells Goku to go get Roshi and Bulma and bring them here quickly. Goku leaves to do so, and Baba remarks that the boy has a kinto'un, prompting her curiosity about him further. Yamcha continues trying to fight, deciding that he'll have to try and figure out where his opponent is based on minute air movements from his opponent's movements, and in doing so he's able to just barely land a kick on Invisible Man. Yamcha thinks he's figuring out how to fight him now, but the Invisible Man laughs and says it won't be that easy. Suddenly, Baba starts to sing, drowning out any sounds of movement Invisible Man would make, and Invisible Man resumes beating Yamcha viciously. Baba asks Yamcha if he'd like to surrender, and Yamcha laments that this fight would be easy if he could just see his opponent.
Just in the nick of time, Goku returns with Roshi and Bulma in tow. Bulma demands to know what Kuririn needed them for as she was just about to head home, but Kuririn says he just wanted them to watch this match for a little while. As Yamcha continues getting beaten, Kuririn positions the two of them how he wants them to watch, with Bulma standing in front of Roshi and Roshi looking at her with his head raised up. Kuririn keeps them positioned that way until Yamcha and, presumably, his opponent come in range...and Kuririn yanks down Bulma's top, giving Roshi an up close view of her breasts. Roshi's nose sprays blood out, splashing all over the Invisible Man, allowing Yamcha to see him at last, and with the fighter's advantage gone, Yamcha is able to quickly beat down the Invisible man who promptly surrenders.
Goku and Kuririn are overjoyed at Yamcha's victory, but Bulma hits Kuririn hard in the head and asks him what the hell he thinks he was doing. Kuririn insists it was all to save her boyfriend, but even Roshi says he could have been given a hemorrhage over something like that. Kuririn says he didn't know what else to do, and Roshi slyly tells him it's okay and he can pull something like that again anytime he wants, as Bulma scowls at both of them. Baba praises their clever tactic, but thinks it'll take more than cleverness to defeat her next three fighters.
Review: At long last, Dragon Ball has hit it's first 100 chapters, and as inappropriate as the scene itself may be (especially given Bulma's age still), I think we can all agree that it makes total sense that Toriyama being Toriyama, the chapter just so happens to be the first one with blatant female nudity in a long, long while. More on that in a bit though.
Despite how humbled the gang became in the last chapter, it looks like they're really not paying a lot of attention to lessons they should be learning, because they revert right back to being overconfident and thinking that only Yamcha and Goku will be needed to deal with the rest of Baba's fighters. The fact that they're right and are primarily right just due to how strong Goku has become now is really a mute point, because man are their egos getting out of control here. Yamcha, you're supposed to be the smart one, you should really know better than this.
Yamcha's opponent this time, an invisible man, is like-wise inspired by old Universal monster movies just like Dracula Man was, and he's even more blatantly named. Unlike Dracula Man though, Invisible Man is handled a lot better in my opinion. While, yes, the entire gimmick of the character is tied to what he is just as Dracula Man's was, and it really only has one utilization compared to the multiple vampire tropes tossed into the previous chapter, this one just feels like more fun is had with the idea.
Dracula Man was a fairly tough opponent since Kuririn couldn't deal with him, but Invisible Man, despite Baba's claim that each fighter gets tougher? Really doesn't seem that tough – he just has a seemingly “unbeatable” gimmick. It also helps that, despite Yamcha's overconfidence being similar to Kuririn's, he still gets to show off some intelligence by deducing that he can follow the sounds the Invisible Man makes when he moves, making this fight seem a little more balanced and not played entirely for laughs. It still leans pretty heavily into comedy of course though, what with Baba's awful singing voice.
Kuririn's suggestion brings Roshi and Bulma back into play as well, and alright, let's talk about THAT scene. Dragon Ball, by this point in time, had fairly largely moved away from the sex jokes that were so prevalent at the start of the series. I'm not entirely sure what caused this change, as it's clear that Toriyama is still a big fan of such gags, but for whatever reason, we hadn't really had anything quite on this level in some time – hell, the last nudity in the manga, while just a few chapters ago, was Goku's junk being on display because he didn't know not to just strip in the street. While still nudity, that's played quite differently from the nudity on display here with Bulma's breasts. It's also hard to really say what prompted the return of this type of humor and fan-service either – was Toriyama just itching to do this sort of thing again? Was it just something that seemed to further help alleviate the seriousness that the previous arc had delved into? Was it actually a big celebratory thing in his mind for reaching 100 chapters? Was it a combination of all of this? As far as I know, nothing is ever said one way or the other, but one thing is for sure – this scene is pretty famous to fans that have read or watched the original run of Dragon Ball, especially if you were a younger male fan when first coming across it, and I don't think there's any mystery as to why that is. Toriyama, you sly, pervy dog you.
Until next time!
Synopsis: Yamcha confirms with Baba that if they defeat her five fighters, she'll give them a divination for free, a task that he thinks sounds easy but Baba thinks it'll be impossible for them. Everyone agrees to the terms, though Upa and Puar ask I they can just watch, so Goku says just the three of him, Kuririn, and Yamcha will take care of her fighters, causing Baba to laugh at their over-confidence. Yamcha asks Baba what the rules are, and Baba says you lose if you beg for mercy or fall into the lake surrounding the arena.
Kuririn decides to fight first and steps into the ring, boasting that he may even take all five fighters down himself. Baba calls for her first fighter, 'Dracula Man'. Kuririn is confused by his name, until a bat flies out of Baba's palace and promptly transforms into a more humanoid vampire form. Kuririn is freaked out but thinks he still has this in the bag, and launches a flying kick at Dracula Man as soon as Baba starts the match. Dracula Man avoids Kuririn's attack by leaping into the air before returning to his bat form. He flies around Kuririn, disorienting the smaller fighter, before eventually returning to his humanoid form, grabbing him from behind, and biting down on Kuririn's head and drinking his blood.
Kuririn runs around the ring, trying to shake Dracula Man off, but only succeeds when he leaps backwards and tries to slam Dracula Man's head into the floor – Dracula Man leaps off, leaving Kuririn to slam his own head into the floor instead. Dracula Man compliments Kuririn for having 'good taste', and Baba asks the boy if he'd like to give up now, but Kuririn stands ready to fight. Unfortunately, his eagerness causes blood to spurt from the new holes in his head, and when he tries to calm himself down to staunch the bleeding, Goku and Yamcha snicker at how the blood makes it look like he has hair, making Kuririn get even more worked up and woozy. Dracula Man takes this opportunity to strike Kuririn with his knee, sending the young boy into the lake and ending the match.
After Kuririn is saved by a quick blood transfusion from Baba's assistant ghost, Goku asks him how he could lose so easily, and Kuririn tells him it's his fault. Baba asks them who's next, and the group discusses it before ultimately asking if all five of them can fight after all, and if it would be okay if Upa and Puar fought at the same time since they're small. Baba asks Dracula Man what he thinks, and Dracula Man thinks it's fine. The match begins with Dracula Man rushing towards the pair, but he's warded off by Upa's stinky garlic breath. Dracula Man turns into a bat to try and evade the stench, choosing to go after Puar now instead. He transforms back into his humanoid form to bite Puar, but Puar turns into a porcupine, resulting in the vampire getting a mouthful of quills instead. As he writhes on the floor in pain, Dracula Man looks up to see Upa standing in a T-pose. He asks the boy what he's doing, and Upa says he's the vampire's worst enemy, a crucifix. Dracula Man freaks out and tries to flee in bat form, but Puar turns into a giant hand and slaps him into the water.
Dracula Man is rung out, and Upa and Puar are declared the winners, as Kuririn snidely compliments them for a job well done.
Review: I'm not really sure how much I like this chapter if I'm being honest. There's nothing outright bad in it, but I'm just not sure how much of it was really needed, at least as far as what presents itself here goes. There's definitely an argument to be had that the series needed a moment of levity following how dark the preceding chapters got (basically everything since Taopaipai's first appearance has been a continuous train of death, really), but I dunno, I'm just really not feeling a lot of this chapter.
First of all, while it's nice to see Yamcha not be the narrative's butt for a change, it's a little sad that Kuririn gets an immediate loss here as well. It's his own fault for being super cocky – seriously, did you learn nothing from your loss at the Budokai, kid? - but it just feels unneeded in a way. We already saw him lose there, we saw him lose against Blue as well (which actually makes him being cocky about having done well in a previous fight a little weird come to think of it – he should already know well that there are tough people out there, even more so than Goku), so seeing him just immediately lose again here feels off to me. I guess that could be the Kuririn fan in me talking though, poor guy.
I think a bigger part of it though is that I just find Dracula Man really underwhelming. There's a lot of fun potential for a vampire character in this series, but it sort of feels like Toriyama's heart really isn't in it, as it basically just reads like a big list of vampire tropes. And trust me – I'm about as far from a big fan of vampires as one can get, but even I well recognize everything Toriyama throws out here just as a given. So while seeing Puar and Upa “fight” is kinda fun, I'm a little thrown off by Upa just randomly having garlic breath.
I do however absolutely love Upa standing with his arms out and saying he's a crucifix though. That's just dumb. The kind of dumb that's hilarious.
Until next time!
Next Time: Chapter Boobs! Er, I mean, Chapter 100!
Synopsis: As they fly through the sky in their plane, Goku asks Kuririn if he thinks the person they're going to see can really tell them where the last Dragon Ball is. Kuririn is certain they can, as he says Roshi is barely ever wrong. Yamcha asks Goku if he really wants to go ask for help stinking as badly as he does and wearing such tattered clothing. Goku says it's the only set of clothes he has, so Yamcha decides they should stop in a city somewhere first and get Goku new clothes, lest Baba turn them away before they can even ask her anything.
Once landing in a town, Yamcha and Kuririn take Goku to a clothing store, and put him in a rather dapper but silly looking outfit that Goku objects to immediately as his friends laugh and say that maybe Baba will feel sorry for him if he looks like that. The tailor asks Goku how he likes the clothes, and Goku says he'd rather have something like what he always does, so the tailor says he'll recreate that same pattern for him. Goku makes sure to tell him to include the Turtle kanji on the front and back, as well as leaving a hole for his tail, and Yamcha tells him to make sure he uses his cheapest fabric. The tailor says it shouldn't take him anymore than an hour so while Yamcha and Kuririn decide to kill time in a nearby saloon, Goku decides to head out and get Upa so he can tell him how close they are to getting all of the Dragon Balls and wishing his father back to life.
Goku returns to the land of Karin and calls out Upa's name. Upa is overjoyed to see that his friend is alive after all, and Goku tells him how he beat up the Red Ribbon Army and almost has the Dragon Balls. Goku takes Upa away from Karin on kinto'un, and the boy says he's scared because he's never left home before. Goku tells him it'll be alright, saying he never left his home until recently either, but that there's a whole bunch of really fun things out in the world. Upa asks Goku if he thinks he could ever get as strong as him, and Goku doesn't see any reason why not, suggesting he have his father train him once they revive him.
Back in the small town, Yamcha tells Goku his clothes are ready and Goku introduces Upa to his friends, with Kuririn slyly tells Goku that he thinks Upa's a pretty cute girl. Goku asks Upa if he's a boy, and Upa confirms, causing Kuririn to scowl and Goku to brag about how he's finally getting better at telling boys from girls just by looking. Goku changes out of his ruined clothes right there in the street, even scratching his privates, causing Yamcha to loudly chastise him. Once changed into his clothes, the group sets out once more.
The group has trouble finding Baba's palace from the air as all they can see is desert, but eventually Kuririn spots a group of biuldings to their right. The group lands and immediately notice they're not the first ones there, as a large group of people is already standing in line outside of the palace. A ghost suddenly floats over, and Goku asks it if this is the “Ball-Seeing Crone”'s house. The ghost corrects Goku, and instructs them to get in line and asks if all five of them are together. When Yamcha confirms this, the ghost seems pleased for some reason, and tells them that it'll call for them when it's their turn. Yamcha wonders why everyone in the line looks so tough, but Kuririn thinks they're probably just friends that train at a martial arts school together. Not everyone in the line seems tough either, as a rich older couple soon exit the building, pleased that Baba was able to tell them where their gold pickling stone was left. The ghost leads the way for the group just ahead of Goku and friends, and a short time later, cries of pain can be heard coming from further into the palace. The group returns, beaten and bandaged, as they leave the palace, much to Yamcha and Kuririn's horror.
The ghost tells them it's their turn now and doesn't answer when Yamcha asks what happened to the previous guys. They're eventually led to an inner building, with Upa saying that he's scared. They're then introduced to Uranai Baba, a tiny old lady floating on a crystal ball, who comments how young they all are. Goku asks if she's the “All-Seeing Bone”. Baba angrily corrects him that it's “All-Seeing Crone”, and Goku says that's a weird name, outraging Baba who says it's her job, not her name. Goku asks if she can tell them where something is, and Baba says she will for ten million zeni. Yamcha and Kuririn are taken aback by the large amount of money, and when Baba realizes they don't have it, she tells them to follow her.
Baba leads them further in to another outside area, where a small attached fighting ring is surrounded by water. Baba explains that she's going to have them fight her five champions one by one. If they win, they get to fight the next champion, but if they lose, one of their companions has to try. If they manage to defeat all five of her fighters, she'll tell them where their lost object is, free of charge. Yamcha and Kuririn feel more assured now as they realize the previous group must have been beaten in a fight, and Kuririn smugly brags that the three of them did pretty well in the recent Tenkaichi Budokai. Baba laughs and says this should be fun then.
Review: It's been so long since we've really seen Goku in a situation that calls out his complete and utter lack of social norms, so it's entertaining to see that make a big comeback in this chapter. Granted, I wouldn't want to wear the outfit they initially put him in either, but at least I don't run around naked and scratch myself in public. Not anymore, anyway.
A good half of the chapter is spent on the interaction between the characters in this way too, and it's really enjoyable to just see the characters hanging out together again when they haven't been together in so long now. I also get a laugh out of Yamcha asking the tailor to make sure he uses cheap material – guess he's footing the bill on this one, and Bulma didn't give him much of an allowance.
It's nice to see Upa again too, as this storyline could have very easily been carried out with him only being seen again at the end when things were resolved, but thankfully Toriyama decided to throw the kid a bone. This unfortunately might lead new fans to think the character is going to be a bigger part of the ensemble cast, but...not really. And pour one out for the pat-pat gag, as it seems to have been laid to rest by this point, with Goku being able to tell boys and girls apart without it. You'll be missed, inappropriate touch joke. In it's place we get the brief reign of potentially bisexual Kuririn, something else the series never sees fit to really delve into – though in all honesty, it was probably just meant as a throwaway joke without any real implications about Kuririn's sexuality. It is Toriyama, after all.
There's a fun reoccurring gag with Goku consistently getting Baba's title wrong, very similar to how he usually gets the Turtle's name wrong. He eventually has to be corrected by Baba herself that it's not even her name but her title. Huh...a character more well known by their title than their name...that sounds very familiar for some reason...
And that finally brings us to Baba herself. She's a fun character design for sure, seemingly being even shorter than Kuririn and spending almost all of her time floating on a crystal ball, but it's her powers and her personality that make her a fun addition to the world of Dragon Ball. Psychic powers are something we've only seen delved into once so far with Blue (I'm not counting Turbo since he's a character from Dr. Slump originally), and there it was used in an entirely different manner. Baba's abilities seem to fall far more firmly into the support category. Her personality is far less benevolent than our heroes would have hoped for as well, with her only using her powers for large amounts of money or if you can defeat her warriors. I'd imagine this could have all been resolved way quicker if they went back and got Bulma as I'm sure she's good for it, but that'd be less fun. Fighting it is!
Until next time!
Next Time: Kuririn, Upa, and Puar V.S. Edward Cullen
Synopsis: With the Red Ribbon Army defeated at last but one final Dragon Ball left to find, Goku checks the radar again to see where it could be, only to find out something surprising when he does. Elsewhere, Yamcha and the others have finally arrived outside the Red Ribbon Army's HQ and land outside of it. Lunch asks why they're landing so far away, and Yamcha explains they'll get shot down if they land too close to it – their only chance is to storm the place without getting seen first.
Yamcha prepares to lead the charge, but Roshi stops him and says they can't head in somewhere like that without a plan first. Oolong wishes them all luck, but Bulma tells him that they're so desperate they'll even need his help and she and Lunch force Oolong to come along despite his whining. As the gang discusses various plans of action ranging from Bulma taking her clothes off to distract the soldiers and Roshi attacking from the left, Kuririn spots something in the skies above them. Bulma shouts for Puar to quickly return their plane to capsule form so they can hide, and Yamcha hopes that they haven't already been spotted. As they watch the object get closer though, they soon realize that what they've spotted is Goku on kinto'un.
Goku curses his luck as the radar seems to be broken once again, leaving him no choice but to go back to Kame House and have Bulma fix it again, but he has no idea where that is from here. Suddenly, he hears everyone shouting up at him from down below on the ground, and zooms down to join them, asking what they're doing all the way out here. Roshi says that Goku must've thought twice about attacking the base after all, and Kuririn tells Goku they came because they heard of the crazy thing he was thinking of doing. Yamcha says it's a good thing Goku didn't attack the Red Ribbon Army after all, but Goku surprises everyone by saying that he did attack them, and now that they're beaten, he has six of the Dragon Balls.
Kuririn asks Goku if he really beat the entire Red Ribbon Army by himself, and Goku says that he beat everyone except for the ones that ran away. Yamcha sends Puar to check out the base, and Puar returns to confirm that it's empty and destroyed. Everyone is in disbelief that Goku managed to do what even the police and army weren't able to do, but Goku shrugs it off by saying he just got stronger. He tells Roshi that he did it to, referring to Karin's tower, and Roshi is surprised to hear that Goku has climbed it and trained with Karin as well – Roshi chooses not to mention that it took him a full three years to get the water from Karin, compared to the much shorter time in which Goku did it.
Goku tells Bulma that the radar is broken again and asks her to fix it, and Bulma is surprised that Goku's found six of the seven balls but still doesn't have his grandpa's four-star ball. Goku explains the situation with Upa, and Roshi is proud of his student's kind aspirations. Bulma says she can fix the radar but they'll have to go back to Kame House for her to do it. As Goku flies on kinto'un, everyone else gets back in the plane and talks about how amazingly strong Goku has become. Roshi surprises them by saying that Goku might even be stronger than him now – he can't say with any certainty that even he would've had the stamina to take down the entire Red Ribbon Army, and he suspects that Goku has it in him to get even stronger than he is now. Yamcha says this probably means that if any of them planned to enter the next Tenkaichi Budokai, they'd probably better give up hoping for first place now, with Roshi confirming that's a wise idea. Yamcha can't believe how strong Goku has gotten, when it hasn't been that long since they were roughly even...he decides to go with Goku to find the last Dragon Ball so that maybe he can get some training in as well, with Kuririn thinking of doing the same thing.
Once back at Kame House, Bulma is surprised when she takes a look at the radar. It doesn't appear to be broken, but the last Dragon Ball isn't showing up on it at all. Oolong suggests that maybe it flew into space, but Bulma says they shouldn't be able to fly that far. Goku even says that until recently they did all show up on it, so Bulma theorizes that someone or something may have swallowed it, and the signal the ball gives off is being blocked by biological matter. Goku frets that he'll never find it at that rate, with Yamcha grossly suggesting that maybe it'll get pooped out.
Roshi suggests that there might be one way they can find the last Dragon Ball, by visiting the palace of Uranai Baba, the “All-Seeing Crone”. Yamcha seems to have heard of her, and Roshi explains that she has the power to divine the location of any lost object. Goku is overjoyed and asks where she is, so Roshi uses a map to show them where her palace is. Goku, Yamcha, Puar, and Kuririn board the plane to go see her, with Oolong and Bulma planning to head home via another airplane capsule while everyone else stays behind. Yamcha thinks this should be some great training, though Kuririn thinks it can't be that dangerous to go see an old lady. As the group flies off, Roshi says that with Goku's strength, they should be able to get Baba to help them...at least, he hopes so...
Review: And so begins the Uranai Baba arc, one of (if not the) shortest arcs in the series. It's brevity is understandable though, as the scope of what it's trying to do is fairly simple. Unlike the first search for all seven balls, the Tenkaichi Budokai that brought forth a contest against a handful of strong opponents, and the second search for all seven balls that lead to a conflict with an entire Army, this time Goku's just looking for one more Dragon Ball and can't find it. This simple scenario, it's brevity, and it's ties to the previous arc (the wish being needed to revive Bora after he was killed by Taopaipai) are all reasons that a lot of people consider this to actually be part of the Red Ribbon arc rather than being one of it's own. Honestly, I can see an argument for that really – the Red Ribbon arc started as a search for the Dragon Balls that wasn't complete by the time the Red Ribbon was dealt with, so it makes a certain amount of sense that that story doesn't end until the search is finished and a wish is made. At the same time, everything in this arc other than the ultimate wish feels very much like it's own thing, with no real connective tissue to the previous arc. There's really no other arc in Dragon Ball that's as curiously placed as this one, so it's fine either way really, but I personally choose to look at this as it's own arc that serves as a bit of an epilogue to the previous one.
Goku's friends being entirely surprised by Goku crushing the Red Ribbon serves as a final reminder of just how far the boy has come since we first met him. All of them by this point know of his previous run-ins with the militia, as well as them all knowing (personally in the case of everyone except Yamcha, Oolong, and Puar) exactly how dangerous the army can be too, so seeing that Goku apparently took them on head on and own is mind-blowing for them. Roshi's comments on the subject especially end up highlighting the two big questions we have now in regards to Goku – just how strong is he in comparison to his friends when they're used as a previous measuring stick (especially Roshi, who fought Goku in the final round of the previous Budokai), and how much stronger is he going to become in the future?
The latter is an ever growing answer, even nowadays, but the former is something that I think both Kuririn and Yamcha are thinking a lot about and why they decide to go with Goku wherever he ends up next. Kuririn doesn't seem to have made many strides in growing stronger since the Budokai, and that goes double for Yamcha who hasn't even appeared in this arc until now and was already a good few steps behind both of them in the first place. The idea of being left that far behind by their friend and rival is undoubtedly bugging them, so it's nice to see them want to try and catch up before it's too late (ha...haha...ha...)
And as crazy as it may seem, it's not even that wild for Roshi to assume that Goku may have surpassed him at this point. Considering how close Goku was to matching him before, and the fact that Goku has climbed Karin tower and received further training (and beaten Taopaipai, though Roshi is unaware of that fact), it's entirely possible Goku has far outstripped the old man in pure power, not even having to come down to the stamina of youth versus old age. Roshi too is likely thinking about this in his own way, though it'd be somewhat different from how Yamcha and Kuririn are feeling about it.
If we were to consider this part of the Red Ribbon Army arc however, I think it can be agreed upon that the true villain of this entire part of the series is that damned radar not working. It's been broken at least twice, an entirely new one has been built, and it still manages to end up not being useful yet again. Just like real life technology, we love it when it works, but when it doesn't, we're tempted to see how far we can throw it (and I'd bet Goku's got one hell of a pitch by this point). Of course, this time it turns out the radar isn't broken at all, it's simply not picking up the last ball's signal, meaning it's being blocked somehow. Everyone's theories on what this could mean are interesting, but I especially like the idea of someone eating it being brought up. That's just such a crazy idea that they haven't encountered yet, I love it.
Goku and Upa's only hope turns out to be an old psychic lady that we haven't met yet, but even with everything that Roshi was surprised to hear about from Goku earlier, Roshi's still not 100% certain that they'll be able to get her to help. Just who IS this Uranai Baba anyway?
Until next time!
Synopsis: With Goku seemingly able to be hurt after all, Black laughs and says he'll use this robot Battle Jacket to make him the first casualty of the reborn Red Ribbon Army. Black uses the machine to fire a laser at Goku, which Goku narrowly dodges only to be caught in the Jacket's hand. Black throws Goku hard enough into a nearby wall to send him flying through it, and Black follows after, bursting through the roof and telling Goku not to worry – it'll all be over soon.
Black fires another laser at Goku, seemingly connecting this time and leaving a giant hole in the ground where Goku was. Black begins to celebrate his victory while Goku watches overhead from a nearby roof, noting that Black doesn't seem to know about how fast he is. Black comments to himself that it's a shame the other Dragon Balls were destroyed along with Goku, but he receives a shock when Goku lands on the Jacket's cockpit and starts sticking his tongue out at him. Enraged, Black sends a powerful punch from the Jacket's fist towards Goku, but Goku leaps out of the way, leaving the fist to break through the cockpit and hit Black. Goku laughs at the man's misfortune, and Black angrily jets off higher into the sky as Goku lands on another rooftop.
Seeing that there's no other choice, Black prepares to deploy the Jacket and the Army's most powerful weapon – a missile that will kill Goku as well as destroy the entire base. The Battle Jacket turns over in mid-air and fires the missile at Goku, who recognizes it as another one of those 'bomb' things the Army keeps using. Leaping into the air, Goku kicks the missile, re-routing it's trajectory into a nearby mountain. As Goku recovers from his hurt knee and laments the loss of such a nice looking mountain, Black is mortified at just how strong Goku really is. He begins to fly away in the Battle Jacket, vowing to kill Goku someday, but Goku spots him and says he doesn't let bad guys get away. Leaping after him, Goku crashes into and through the Battle Jacket, causing it to explode and kill Black in the process.
Having landed on kinto'un, Goku heads back into the Red Ribbon HQ's tower and retrieves their two Dragon Balls, leaving only one more to go before he has all seven! Up in the skies above, Yamcha and the others have finally arrived in their aircraft and swear that they're going to save Goku.
Review: And so, the Red Ribbon Army arc comes to it's conclusion, and just like I warned, it's a little bit on the abrupt side all things told. The payoff was already achieved in the last couple of chapters, so this one really basically just serves to finish the fight between Goku and Black so that the story can start moving onward in it's next direction. As such, I can definitely see why a lot of people wouldn't be fond of this ending or even this arc as a whole as a result of it. For me though, this is definitely a case of the storyline's highs far outweighing it's lows.
And it's not as if Toriyama's not trying to make this finale as impactful or as exciting as it can be under the circumstances, due in no small part to the Battle Jacket and it's feats of strength. Not only do we see that being hit with it actually throws Goku for a loop, it's able to fire lasers that leave craters in the ground, and even comes packed with a missile that blows up an entire mountain. It might not quite be Roshi blowing up the moon, but that's definitely one hell of an impressive showing for a mere machine, and does set the stakes fairly high for Goku to win against this thing. All that aside though, it's clear that Goku wasn't ever really in too great of danger here, and Black is taken down...pretty easily, really. Poor guy has just had one hell of a bad day, hasn't he?
The Red Ribbon Army arc is unique in that it's the easiest one to further divide into a number of smaller story arcs that aren't entirely based around who the lead villain is at the time, but also by location and supporting characters. There's the opening snippet introducing us to the Red Ribbon Army by way of Colonel Silver, with Goku all on his own; there's the snowy village where Muscle Tower resides and Goku meets Suno and her family as well as Android 8; there's General Blue, that sees Goku through various locales such as a pirate cave and Penguin Village (along with familiar ones like Kame House), as well as a variety of old friends and even a crossover experience; there's the run-in with Taopaipai in the land of Karin; and finally there's this final assault on Red Ribbon HQ itself. If I were to personally rank each of these sections, it would probably go something like this – first would be everything with General Blue, just for it's great variety of characters and locales, plus I'm a sucker for Dr. Slump; second would be this finale, for bringing everything together into a conclusion that while lackluster in some ways, was entirely unexpected and enjoyable overall; third would be dealing with Taopaipai, as he makes for a great tonal change for the series as a whole; fourth would be Muscle Tower, which also gave us a fun variety of challenges for Goku to encounter, but could feel a little tedious in places; and dead last would be the opening bit with Silver, which is just dull and unfulfilling as an introduction can get. The Red Ribbon Arc really had nowhere to go but up, but I'd say it went as high as at least halfway up Karin's tower before it was through.
The Red Ribbon Army arc is also unique in that it's conclusion...really doesn't conclude very much. Sure, the Army has been dealt with and won't be a problem anymore, but there's still the problem of that last missing Dragon Ball to contend with. Hmm...
Until next time!
Synopsis: Goku continues to beat down Red Ribbon soldiers that get in his way, but a pair of them think they've finally beaten the boy by launching a rocket at him. Their joy is short-lived however as Goku reappears from the cloud of smoke and uses a nearby table to shove them hard into a wall. Seeing the boy survive a point-blank rocket, the remaining soldiers choose to flee rather than keep fighting.
Seeing his men flee via a security screen, Red curses them as disgraces, saying that Goku is just one brat so this shouldn't be happening. Black tells Red it appears they were too late in realizing just how strong this brat was however, so they've been left with no choice but to abandon the balls and retreat themselves. Red defiantly says he doesn't want to give up the Dragon Balls, but Black asks him if he feels that strongly about it if it's between them and his own life. Red continues to grumble, saying that he was so close, and if he had just a little longer, he could have been “tall”.
Black is taken aback by this, and asks Red that surely they weren't gathering the Dragon Balls just to make him taller. Red asks him if he has a problem with that. Black says he thought they were surely after world domination, and Red insists that they'd get to that in the fullness of time. Red claims that a conqueror has to be charismatic and impressive, and laments that 'no chick looks twice at a midget'. Black is mortified that it was for something as petty as that that he and the other soldiers have suffered, but Red scoffs and says that tall people has no idea how short people like him feel. Red says that ever since he was a kid, he's been ridiculed and laughed at for his height. Black says the only reason he's done so much and put up with so much was to advance the Army's mission of world conquest, but Red belligerently says that he's the Commander so he gets to say what they do. Black argues with him once more, asking him if he realizes how many soldiers have sacrificed their lives for as stupid a goal as making him taller, but Red doesn't care, saying that they only died because they weren't trained better and that he should think before talking back to his commander like that. Unable to take anymore, Black shoots Commander Red in the head, telling him that he's not competent to be the Commander anymore, and that he'll rebuild the army under a new command, that of Commander Black.
Just then, Goku breaks through a nearby window, looking for the Dragon Balls that his radar says should be around there somewhere. Black speaks to Goku and Goku asks if he's the boss, with Black saying he is as of just a minute ago. Spotting the Dragon Balls on the table, Goku says he'll be taking them, but Black offers him a proposition first. He asks Goku to gather the Dragon Balls together with him, and together they'll be able to rule the world. Goku isn't interested, and says that he needs the balls to revive a friend's father that was killed by one of the Red Ribbon's men. Black alters his offer – he says he'll let Goku use the Dragon Balls to wish back his father's friend, and after that Goku can join him in conquering the world anyway, saying that with his strength, it'll be easy. Goku objects again, saying he has no interest in even being friends with bad people like him. Black sees that there's no choice left but to fight after all.
Black warns Goku that it won't be as easy as before and goes on the offensive, but Goku is easily able to dodge all of Black's blows and lay him out with a single elbow strike. Black realizes that Goku is indeed far stronger than they thought, and Goku tells him to give up. Undeterred, Black pulls a capsule from his belt and tosses it out, leaping into the cockpit of the large robot suit that appears there. Piloting the suit, Black strikes Goku across the face with it's fist, sending the boy flying into the wall. Goku holds his head, seemingly actually hurt from this attack.
Elsewhere, Yamcha and the others continue heading towards Red Ribbon HQ, desperately hoping that Goku's still alive when they get there.
Review: If the previous chapter began my truly favorite section of this arc, then this chapter furthers it towards that conclusion. We get a little more of Goku just beating down soldiers, ultimately leading to them just giving up trying to fight him altogether, but it's Red's breakdown and Black's reaction to it that really make this chapter – and storyline – for me.
We've been dealing with the Red Ribbon for some time now. This arc first started back in chapter 55, and it won't conclude until the next chapter, making for a storyline that has lasted 42 chapters in total. In comparison to that, the first arc in the series (the Search for the Dragon Balls) lasted 23 chapters, and the second (the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai) lasted 31. That makes this arc longer than either of them and really only a handful of chapters shorter than both of those combined. It's even longer when you consider that the Budokai didn't even really get started until 9 to 12 chapters into it's run. No matter how you slice it, this arc is the longest one in the series thus far, and it's definitely the longest one with one continuous goal (find the four-star Dragon Ball and then the rest of them) and one continuous foe (the Red Ribbon Army). As a result, the ensuing final conflict between Goku and the Red Ribbon Army has been one that's been building up for a long time by this point.
That of course leaves the question of how exactly to resolve that conflict, which is where Toriyama could potentially have run into a problem. See, after Goku defeated General Blue, the Red Ribbon Army hit a wall and called in outside help in the form of Taopaipai. While this resulted in a great wall for Goku to overcome, it's also left the narrative with a problem – if the Army was already out of it's best men and had to call in the assistance of someone stronger, then that means that after Taopaipai's defeat, there's nobody else left for Goku to be challenged by in this storyline. If the Army had someone else stronger than Taopaipai left, they wouldn't have needed to call him in at all. As such, the story was bound to go out with a bit of a low after it's previous highs (and my own bias towards it aside, it could certainly be argued that it does just that). Even the foreseen threat of Goku being overwhelmed by there being just too many soldiers with guns to contend with turned out to be a moot point, so how in the world does Toriyama wrap this storyline up without it feeling like a big letdown?
He does it of course by going back to his roots and one of his greatest strengths: he plays it for laughs, and in pure Dragon Ball fashion, it's laughs based around some decidedly darker material. The reveal of Red's true ambitions haven't really been hinted at prior to this, but the build-up for the joke has definitely been laid in prior chapters. The Red Ribbon Army has been described by every character that was already familiar with them as an evil, destructive entity bent on world domination and one willing to stop at nothing to achieve that goal. It's also been mentioned at least once prior that nobody in the army, not even the higher level generals like Blue, truly know what it is Red wants to wish for once he gets the Dragon Balls. The natural assumption anyone would make with all of this information is that he must be planning to wish to rule the world, same as Pilaf before him. As it turns out however, Red is something of an inverted Pilaf – whereas Pilaf was a goofy character with a rather dire goal in mind, Red is a serious character with a really stupid wish in mind. Seriously, just think about everything we've seen the Army do, all of the terrible things they've done and been behind, how many times they've tried to kill our heroes...and in the end, it wasn't even for anything you'd expect the Army to be after, no, it's all been because Red hates that he's short and wants to use the powers of a wish-granting Dragon to give himself a few inches (no, not that way, you filthy people). That's just utterly hilarious in a really, really dark way, and I think it's what Toriyama had planned all along due to the previous build-up, rather than it being something he came up with on the spur of the moment when realizing he'd written himself into a wall.
Of course, it's only darkly hilarious for us because it's fiction and we're looking in from the outside. For Black, it's horrifying, and rightly so. We have no idea what this character's backstory is prior to joining the Red Ribbon Army – even Red's belated reveal here gives us some idea of what he's been like for some time now – but his reaction indicates someone who has dedicated their entire life to a cause. For better or worse (and likely worse given, you know, world domination and all), Black was all in on what the Army was doing and what he perceived their goals to be, and Red betrays all of that in a moment of outraged weakness. He's whining about not getting to be taller and telling Black how good they've all had it, and completely dismissing the pain and even the deaths of his men that this entire ordeal has caused. Red was the type of leader that killed soldiers for failing him, and even though Black doesn't seem to have batted much of an eye at that, he seemingly at least believed those deaths were always for something greater. Now that he finds out it's all been for nothing, and that Red doesn't even care about what those men sacrificed in pursuit of is own petty gains? Black's had enough and puts an immediate end to Red's madness.
It's this twist of fate at the hands of a punchline that makes Black a memorable character in my opinion. His design and frankly his name both give some cause for concern, but ultimately, he elevates himself from a background attendant character of almost no note, into the final villain of this entire arc, in only a few pages. And don't get me wrong, he's as evil as anyone else in the Red Ribbon Army was, but he at least believes in their goals rather than putting up a front as Red had done. Sort of similar to a certain mad scientist survivor from this arc that we'll be learning about way, way down the line...he must have tuned out by this point, or it's almost surprising he doesn't just put Black Ribbon logos on his creations instead.
Black also makes for an interesting opponent for Goku as he's the first of only a handful to try to coax Goku over to his side rather than fighting him. In most latter cases it's more of a recognition of Goku's skill and thinking he'd be of some use however, whereas here it's because Black already suspects that he's not going to have an easy time against the kid. That and, well, the Army's pretty much decimated at this point, so Black has just proclaimed himself the Commander of nothing really, so having a force like Goku on his side would certainly be a good starting point to rebuild from. Unfortunately for him Goku's not the type to be interested, so Black decides to fight...despite earlier having planned to just leave and survive. ...Huh. Look, I said he was interesting, not smart. Let's chalk it up to how rattled he was by everything he just found out from Red.
It's hard to really say how good of a fighter Black is, but it's pretty unlikely that he's anywhere near as good as Taopaipai, and even if he was, Goku's already beaten that far stronger assassin, so as stated earlier, this arc is somewhat set to go out on a whimper. Toriyama seemingly knows that too, and has tried to bolster it a little by giving Black a giant robot suit that we haven't seen before, one that actually seems capable of hurting Goku a little bit. Will that be enough to salvage this final fight?
Until next time!
Next Time: Black's promotion is short-lived.
Synopsis: Goku charges head-first into Red Ribbon HQ on kinto-un, shocking Red and Black who watch from their security screen. Red doesn't understand how Goku can even be here, and Black says that it must mean, improbable as it sounds, that Goku defeated Taopaipai. Red orders his men not to let Goku set even one toe inside their facility, but it's too late – Goku has already landed on a building's roof, and following that, proceeds to follow his radar, heading towards the two Dragon Balls the Army has and plowing through any and all soldiers that get in his way.
Eventually the Army realizes that Goku is indeed headed straight for their Dragon Balls, much to Red's outrage. Black asks Red to evacuate into their underground bunker just in case, but Red finds it ludicrous that he'd need to hide from a child. Black reminds him that this is a child that defeated Taopaipai, but Red insists that their army is unstoppable. It seems to be Goku that's unstoppable however, as even a direct shot from Red Ribbon sniper fails to do more than make him mad. As he storms his way into the tower his radar is pointing towards, a soldier informs Red and Black that they've already lost half their forces at this point, outraging Red who says he and Black will go to the tower themselves.
At Kame House, Yamcha has finally arrived with an aircraft and is picking up Lunch (still in her blonde form), Bulma, Roshi, and Turtle to take with him, Oolong, and Puar, to go rescue Goku. Bulma and Oolong object once aboard, saying this is a job for experienced fighters, but Yamcha says they're going to need all the help they can get – besides, Goku has saved the lives of everyone on the plane at least once. When the Turtle asks how he can help, Yamcha asks Roshi where Kuririn is, and Roshi says he went swimming to another island to get some groceries since they no longer had a vehicle. The gang looks to the water below to keep an eye out for him, as Yamcha thinks he's more than strong enough to be a big help.
As Red and Black get to the tower, Red swears that he won't let anybody touch his Dragon Balls. Black cautions him that things don't look very good, as Goku has proven to be powerful beyond belief, and they've already lost most of their top operatives to him even before this point.
Yamcha and the others have finally found Kuririn, who is in disbelief over what Goku is doing. Lunch says her trigger finger is getting itchy, and Kuririn asks her to please not transform back to her kinder, blue-haired form, as for once they actually need her like this. Yamcha asks Puar about how long it should take them to get to Red Ribbon HQ, and Puar says about 40 minutes.
Back at Red Ribbon HQ, Goku continues to tear his way through soldier after soldier, having now made his way to the tower. The radar tells him the Dragon Balls are further up, but he can't find any stairs anywhere (not even recognizing a nearby elevator). Goku simply leaps from the floor and breaks through the ceiling to get to the next floor, catching the guards who had been waiting and watching the elevator off-guard. Watching this via another security screen, Red scowls and says he refuses to let the Red Ribbon Army be defeated by a brat that doesn't even know what an elevator is.
Review: This chapter right here is why I love this final section of the story so much. It's short-lived, even more-so here in the manga, but I absolutely love the imagery of Goku, a little kid (even one that we already know well to be absurdly strong), just absolutely tearing through an evil armed force. It manages to be powerful and striking even though we've seen Goku tear through similar mooks before, because this time the level to which he's outnumbered is completely absurd. Granted, we never get to see exactly how many Red Ribbon soldiers are left at this point, but if they're as terrifying a force as the story has lead us to believe? There's bound to be hundreds, possibly even thousands, of these guys. And Goku just runs right through all of them. Absolutely amazing.
These sections of the chapter are punctuated by commentary by Red and Black who cannot believe what they're seeing, which makes for a fun counter-balance to Goku's friends – in this scenario, it's Goku's enemies who have a much better idea of what he's capable of than his own friends do. As amusing and enjoyable as this is though, this does mark the beginning of Goku starting to pull so far ahead of his friends that the chances of them ever catching up becomes incredibly unlikely, and that is a shame in it's own way. The gap will only get further and further with new training regiments from here forward, and considering how relatively uninvolved the core cast has been much of the time, it's even sadder. Ironically, they'll all start to get more screen time and involvement in the story overall once they're completely eclipsed in strength – weird how that works, isn't it?
As good as this chapter is, it really doesn't give me a lot to talk about sadly, as a good chunk of it's pages are dedicated to imagery of Goku mowing down Red Ribbon soldiers – but when it's so enjoyable to read, it doesn't really matter if it's not too deep on this occasion. Go read this chapter for yourself and just bask in the glory of it all, you absolutely won't regret it.
Until next time!
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