Throughout the various Dragon Ball series, a number of intergalactic threats have set up camp on Earth with wild plans to take over the globe and/or destroy the pesky planet. As hyperbolic as the property’s villains have gotten over time, there’s something to be said for the simpler era in Dragon Ball’s lifespan where the biggest obstacle Goku had to worry about was a very enthusiastic army. The Red Ribbon Army becomes the primary antagonist for Goku relatively early in Dragon Ball’s run, but it’s an organization he’s dealing with for nearly 70 episodes.
You might be an expert when it comes to villains like Cell, Frieza, or even Emperor Pilaf, but in spite of the Red Ribbon Army being around for so long in the series, they can still manage to be an mysterious entity for some. Yes, all the soldiers are named after colors, but beyond that, what do you really know about these guys? Now’s the time to get the debriefing, with 15 Things You Didn’t Know About the Red Ribbon Army.
15 It Was Briefly Called the Black Ribbon Army
For a hot second, the Red Ribbon Army goes through a particularly vain name change. This re-branding takes place within the very final moments of the Red Ribbon Army’s moment in the sun. When Officer Black gets frustrated over Commander Red’s claims of wasting countless soldiers as collateral damage in order to achieve his goal, Black shoots Red, effectively taking over his position.
With Black now calling the shots, he reaches out to Goku, asking him if he’ll join the ranks of the new “Black Ribbon Army” with him. Goku unsurprisingly isn’t interested in world domination, leading to the two fighting, and Black even busting out a pretty cool mechanical battle jacket in the process. Black doesn’t survive his battle with Goku, so word of the Black Ribbon Army doesn’t really get a chance to spread, but for one glorious moment Black had a good thing going. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way that Red Ribbon Army does, anyway.
14 Commander Red Was Going to Use the Dragon Balls to Become Taller
There have been a number of outlandish, wasted wishes that the Dragon Balls have granted. Wishes that we're sure Shenron was rolling his eyes at while he made them happen. The Red Ribbon Army might have talked a big game about world domination, but Commander Red actually had a selfish little secret that he had in mind for those balls. Commander Red is not exactly the tallest character in the Dragon Ball universe. He probably ranks somewhere between Oolong and Krillin’s height. Throughout the series we see that height is a constant sore spot for the Red Ribbon Army leader. He hates to be standing around taller individuals, which is particularly tricky because his second-in-command, Officer Black, is kind of a damn giant.
These feelings of inadequacy become so mounting that Red was in fact going to use the Dragon Balls to wish to be taller and solve all of his alleged problems. While this wish would have certainly been a bummer to the army, they were already doing a pretty decent job at slowly dominating the world just as a military organization. Red’s selfishness might have even pushed them all to world dominate even harder.
13 The Red Ribbon Army Makes an Appearance in Toriyama’s Dr. Slump Remake
Akira Toriyama is all about crossing over his worlds. A Dr. Slump crossover just took place on Dragon Ball Super; the recurring character, Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, has pretty much been absorbed into Dragon Ball. When Toriyama was remaking his successful Dr. Slump series, it only seemed natural to him to have Goku make an appearance with Arale and company. However, Toriyama didn’t stop there and actually had some Red Ribbon personnel making the trip, too.
In episodes 56 through 59 of the series, the Red Ribbon Army makes their appearance, mostly in the form of Ninja Murasaki and his brothers. Murasaki’s appearance begins as just simple Goku reconnaissance, but it’s not long before he’s actually recruited King Nikochan and his servant Nikos into joining the army. What follows is kind of beautiful: Murasaki and the Nikos team up to steal Dragon Balls from Goku and Arale (with a weird fake doctor scheme) that actually works…until Goku and Arale turn on the physical violence. The Red Ribbon Army also seems to have a strong reputation in Penguin Village, with many people being intimidated at just the mention of them.
12 The Red Ribbon Army Broke Toriyama’s Trend of Keeping Color Names for Pink
Toriyama is a stickler for names and has a number of curious rules and restrictions relating to them. You’ve no doubt noticed the naming scheme in place for the Red Ribbon Army, but you might not have been aware that this is actually the second time that Toriyama has dipped into the color palette for inspiration. In 1982 Toriyama wrote a one-shot manga entitled Pink. The manga (and later, a film) follows the story of a desert bandit named Pink who survives by stealing water from the Silver Company who are making a heavy profit through this drought by selling their water at ridiculous prices. Beyond the mentioned Pink and Silver, the story also features a Cobalt Blue, Black, Purple, White, and even a Rainbow.
As Toriyama was developing the Red Ribbon Army, he broke his trend of exclusively saving color names for Pink and ended up loosening up on his name requirements in the process. While a lot of the same names are turned to in Dragon Ball, it’s interesting that colors like green or orange don’t make an appearance in either series. Although I do kind of wish that we got a Sergeant Rainbow in Red Ribbon.
11 A Parallel Faction, the Red Pants Army, Also Exists
In the MMORPG Dragon Ball Online, an anthropomorphic animal named Bon goes about reviving the efforts of the fallen Red Ribbon Army, giving it the slightly altered name of the Red Pants Army. Bon ends up bringing Commander Red back to life as a newly formed Android 9, who in turns ends up finding a clone of Dr. Gero in his secret laboratory. Gero goes about building three Android 16 replicas to join their team, and soon this very ragtag association is off to the races. It’s interesting to note that a major sticking point for the Red Pants Army—much like the original Red Ribbon Army—is the inclusion of the weird anthropomorphic animals that populate the Dragon Ball universe. It feels like those guys are always getting overlooked.
However, while Android 9 and company are trying to populate and bring the Red Pants Army to power, the cyborgized Tao Pai Pai X also happens to be trying to rebuild the original Red Ribbon Army, with a number of the original members in tow, including General White. These two parallel factions exist in the game, warring against each other while trying to assert control.
10 10. There Are Female Members in the Red Ribbon Army
Despite popular opinion, the Red Ribbon Army isn’t purely a boy’s club. Yes, there might be an overwhelming amount of men in the organization, but even with General Blue’s rampantly misogynistic opinions, a few females do make it through. Albeit a minor character, Colonel Violet is most certainly a female member of the army. She’s actually even kind of bad ass by sacrificing teammates a number of times in order to gate out of situations alive. She manages to rob Red Ribbon before taking off and escaping too, making her own of the few members of the army to actually still be alive and out there somewhere. It’s worth noting that Colonel Violet only appears in two panels of the entire Dragon Ball manga, in which she’s handing a Dragon Ball over to Commander Red.
While not an official member of the army, the organization does hire the mercenary and assassin Hasky to do their bidding, who also happens to be female. So it’s not like they believed that you had to be a man in order to kill someone.
9 The Red Ribbon Army’s Typical Dress Code is a Red Bandana
An army is nothing if not organized and a following a standardized model of uniformity. Granted, the Red Ribbon Army might fall off the rails in protocol procedure a number of times, but damn it if they don’t look impressively uniform while they do so. The main accessory for most leading Red Ribbon Army members is a red bandana that’s either worn around the neck or tied around the arm. While admittedly not every single member adheres to the bandanna rule, what does at least carry over is the Red Ribbon insignia on some article of clothing. This level of branding even goes as far as Dr. Gero’s androids all also brandishing the Red Ribbon symbol on themselves. Even less canonical androids, like the models from the film Super Android 13, all have a Red Ribbon stamp, whether it’s on their bowtie or their trucker cap. Super Android 17 from the contentious Dragon Ball GT actually has a specially made Red Ribbon gold belt that he conceivably fashioned himself. Hey, appearances are everything after all.
8 A Newly Formed Red Ribbon Army Fought the Z Fighters
In the Nintendo DS RPG, Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans, a new iteration of the Red Ribbon Army is introduced when the Z Fighters arrive at Muscle Tower. With this game spanning the Saiyan Saga of Dragon Ball Z, this encounter takes place after Goku’s death with Raditz and the Z Fighters racing to find the Dragon Balls. General White and company act as your obstacle after they’ve gotten possession of the 4-Star Dragon Ball and certainly don’t want to see Red Ribbon’s Most Wanted get brought back to life.
It’s interesting to get a glimpse of the Red Ribbon Army during this time of revision since it takes General White and other surviving members of the group and shows that not only are they still alive, but up to their same old tricks. It’s also a smart idea to have a bunch of characters that have never encountered these people before be the ones that need to do battle with them, rather than this just being a grown-up Goku against his old enemies. It’s a smart way to use his absence.
7 The Red Ribbon Army Has Teamed Up with the Frieza Force
In a teaser trailer for the Dragon Ball Z film, Resurrection ‘F’, a certain marketing technique is used to make the teaser resemble a recruitment film of sorts for Frieza’s army, the Frieza Force. As this trailer speaks the many praises of the all-powerful Frieza and his army, a number of benefits are also listed if you too in turn decide to join Frieza’s army. While it’s surely just a fun little Easter Egg for the teaser to include, it does mention that at some point in time the Red Ribbon Army happened to align with the Frieza Force, turning it into some super organization. Of course, in such a brief reference it’s impossible to determine if some sort of arrangement was fostered between Red Ribbon and Frieza, or if Frieza merely overpowered the army and took it over in the process.
It’s kind of inspiring to think of the Red Ribbon Army broadening their scope and trying to extend their reach to outside of this planet. They of course are entirely out of their league, but if they focused more on operations that weren’t on Earth, they’d at least not have as bad of a Goku problem.
6 Most Major Members of Red Ribbon Reflect a Different Country Or Culture
The Red Ribbon Army might have the despicable plan of world domination on their mind, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t at least be equal opportunity employers when it comes to different countries and honoring minorities. This decision is likely done as a means of further differentiating each member of the army, but it also does provide a fun little flair for just how varied the group’s makeup is in the end. For instance, Officer Black is African-American, Commander Red is Scottish, General White is Russian, Captain Yellow is Australian, General Blue is German, Major Metallitron is Austrian, and Colonel Silver is presumably American. As you can see, a lot of these choices feel like fairly simplistic regional stereotypes, but they’re distinctions that work and give Red Ribbon much more of a personality in the process.
Granted, a lot of these regional choices are only in place for Funimation’s dub of the series, but it’s still worth highlighting as an example of just how eclectic this army is meant to be. It’s also a healthy reminder of just how far Red Ribbon’s forces reach and how much of the globe they’ve covered.
5 Many Red Ribbon Members Actually Go to Hell and Back
Dragon Ball GT is a series that likes to play a lot with past canon while breathing fresh life into classic characters in the process. One particular arc in the anime sees Dr. Gero and Dr. Myuu conspiring together in Hell to create the perfect android that is capable of finally taking down Goku. Their plan involves fusing together two Android 17s, but in order to pull this off, they first have to open a dimensional rift to get these two androids in the same place. By opening up this rift, the boundaries between Hell and Earth disintegrate in the process with basically all of the past villains from the series escaping and wreaking havoc.
As this legendary jailbreak goes down, some of the old familiar faces that we see are Officer Black, General Blue, Major Metallitron, Captain Yellow, Lieutenant Dark, and even Android 19. Practically all of these Red Ribbon members are sent back to Hell after being defeated by Pan (with the extra salt in the wound of a girl defeating them not being lost on anyone). There’s even a fan service filled battle set in Hell that sees Red Ribbon teaming up with Nappa against Piccolo!
4 A Red Ribbon Army Member is the Model for Android 16
There’s an interesting tidbit that gets dropped that reveals that Dr. Gero’s relationship with Android 16 is in fact much more personal than how he connects to the rest of his creation. While Gero’s experiments all vary in their ratios of synthetic materials and human components, Android 16 is comprised with more of the former as he is actually modeled after Dr. Gero’s dead son. Not only that, but Gero’s son was actually a faithful soldier in the Red Ribbon Army who was felled in the line of duty by an enemy bullet.
It’s fascinating to realize that Gero’s son and such specific ties to Red Ribbon are responsible for Android 16 turning out the way that he did. It’s even likely to suggest that 16’s penchant for humanity and pacifism is actually a result of him dying in battle and being against the whole concept now. Even Dr. Gero’s whole plan with the androids could have been somewhat prompted by the grief of losing his son in a Red Ribbon battle.
3 Red Ribbon’s Uniforms and Weapons Are Based on Real Military Groups
The Red Ribbon Army’s top ranking staff all feature uniforms that are based on real military faction outfits. General White's attire is very close to that of Soviet Russian soldiers, Colonel Silver's unit dresses like Nazi Germany's Afrika Korps, General Blue's men dress like Nazi Stormtroopers. An exception takes place here with Captain Yellow’s unit, who more so resemble miners, yet Yellow’s overall design is meant to be reminiscent of the mercenary group The Flying Tigers. This idea is even extended into how Red Ribbon's weapons and artillery are also based on real life equipment from various operations like the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and WWII.
There is also of course the general idea that the Red Ribbon Army is largely a Nazi analog that parallels not only the Nazis quest for world domination, but also their fascination with occult relics. The Nazis sending out the Thule Society and Ahnenerbe to search for these artifacts is very similar to Red Ribbon’s search for the Dragon Balls. Hey, maybe we’ll even get some Man in the High Castle-esque “What If?” one-shot that shows what the world would be like if the Red Ribbon Army did win.
2 The Red Ribbon Army Has Various Sub-Divisions and Units
We touched upon the warring factions of the Red Pants Army and the Red Ribbon Army that crop up in Dragon Ball Online, but even before that there was some fairly intricate structuring going on with Red Ribbon that many people are not aware of. This evil entity was far from being just one big group, with Red Ribbon’s operations actually being set up all over the planet to better service their needs. General White had his White Corps. sub-division set up as a warfare base in the Arctic. General Blue’s Blue Corps. was a naval and marine base that kept their eyes on aquatic operations. Taking the opposite field was Colonel Silver who established his Silver Corps. as an aerial division that would take to the skies for battle. There was even the Brown Squadron, which was mentioned, but never actually seen, but one could presume that it might have been some sort of mountain terrain or jungle-based endeavor.
By splitting themselves up in such a matter, the Red Ribbon Army figured they would be ready for any sort of attack. Unfortunately, no sort of Saiyan Prevention Corps. was in motion.
1 The Cell Saga is Actually a Sequel to the Red Ribbon Army Saga
One of the biggest revelations of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z is that DBZ’s Cell Saga is actually an elaborate extension to the work that began so long ago in Dragon Ball’s Red Ribbon arc. It's not entirely obvious, but impressive when you figure it out. In short, Dragon Ball was even teasing us with androids with their introduction of the humane Android 8 long before they would make an appearance in Dragon Ball Z.
It’s revealed that Dr. Gero, the evil scientist responsible for creating the androids, was actually Red Ribbon’s chief scientist (presumably working with—or more likely, manipulating—Dr. Flappe). Once Red Ribbon saw dismantling, Gero went into hiding with the goal of creating the perfect warrior with the express purpose of taking down Goku. This of course leads to his creation of the androids and Cell, and it’s all because of wanting revenge on Goku for taking down his old stomping grounds.
But what about you? Do you have more intel on the Red Ribbon Army than we do? Maybe you know the name of Commander Red’s cat? Sound off in the comments below!
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