It’s time for the Muscle Tower part of the Red Ribbon Army arc, a relatively small part of the narrative but one that managed to stick in a lot of fans-of-the-time’s minds, as Muscle Tower itself has managed to cameo in a lot of future games released in the 2000s. Afterwards is a small collection of mostly filler material, but hey-ho, I have to include them somewhere! Let’s take a look…
Goku’s plane has crashed in the wintery North, and he’s saved by a little girl named Snow. As a thank you Goku decides to stand up to the Red Ribbon Army in the area, free their kidnapped village chief and take down their stronghold: Muscle Tower…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Awww… they’re so happy together. I can’t wait to see all the adventures the two get up to over all the various series…. *ahem*.
At its heart this part of the arc is pretty simple: Goku helps free a small village from under the thumb of the Red Ribbon Army by running a gauntlet of increasingly more difficult, or weird, foes. It works though! Snow, the little girl who helps him to start with, is suitably adorable enough that you’re on Goku’s side very quickly.
After taking down some random grunts Goku runs into a giant android named Sgt. Metallic, or Major Metallitron if you wish, who is frankly a big reference to the Terminator but with an exaggeratedly large body. Goku soon defeats it, comically panicking when he blasts its head off only to be attacked by it again. It’s finished off and Goku heads up the tower. It’s funny to note that Metallic scans Goku during this scene and the anime staff copied the computer scan text from the classic film “Alien”, which meant Goku is identified as an “alien”, accidentally foreshadowing the big reveal from the start of Dragon Ball Z before Toriyama had probably even thought of it…
Goku’s next opponent is Ninja Murasaki, and this fight is pure Toriyama humour. Murasaki tries to use various ninja tricks that keep backfiring, like hiding under water with a reed to breathe, only for Goku to empty the boiled kettle down it, or using a fake wood sheet to hide against a tree, only for Goku to randomly decide he needed to piss and … yeah. Murasaki then splits into five, but then it’s revealed that actually he’s just one of a set of quintuplets and actually each one is real. Goku defeats all of them and chases the purple-clad ninja up a set of stairs where he unleashes the deadly Android 8! … Who reveals himself to be a pacifist and sides with Goku. Murasaki is K.O’d and Goku and 8 continue up.
Despite all his failures, Murasaki’s biggest mistake as a ninja was wearing purple in the middle of a green forest…
Goku and 8 go through a few filler mazes and the like before arriving in the office of General White, the leader of the base, but before they can do anything they’re sent to the floor below via a trapdoor and have to fight a large overweight blob creature called Buyon, who they soon defeat by breaking the nearby wall the freezing it to death. They then confront Gen. White, who does lots of cowardly things including threatening the captured Village Chief and shooting Goku in the head, until Android 8 can take no more and finally acts out in violence, punching White through the wall of the tower and over the horizon. The scene is dragged out a bit too much, but it’s still a satisfying moment. Android 8 then punches the foundations of Muscle Tower until it collapses and they all head back to the village. At only six episodes it doesn’t overstay its welcome and is a good example of simple Toriyama fun.
What comes next is almost entirely filler, with the exception of Goku arriving at Bulma’s house to get her to fix the Dragon Radar and her eventually joining him. I will say though that the filler-only character of “Master Thief Hasky” (or Husky) is a fun, super-cheesy 80s rebel punk design. She’s hired to steal the Dragon Balls Goku has already collected by the Red Ribbon Army and chases Goku and Bulma (as well as Yamcha, Puar and Oolong, who tag along) around “Dreamland”, an amusement park. As filler goes, it’s a good laugh. I’ll also mention the first scene of Goku being challenged to a street fight and winning easily, a scene that’s repeated a few times with a few different characters over the course of the series.
Majin Buu’s long-lost brother, or just an entirely separate pink blob with head tentacles? You decide!
Episode 42, set right after the fall of Muscle Tower, is another case of the Dragon Ball anime team writing something that Toriyama would later reveal himself, after doing their own origin for the Dragon Balls in the previous chunk of episodes. This time we’re introduced to “Dr. Flappe” (or Dr. Frappe) the man who created Android 8. Obviously much, much later Toriyama creates Dr. Gero as the mastermind behind the RRA’s Androids, but hey-ho. Flappe is actually a nice guy, which explains 8’s behaviour, and soon removes the bomb planted in 8 after he is saved from Ninja Murasaki in a new set of anime-only comedic runarounds. It’s… filler, frankly. It’s not too bad, but it just spins the wheels and keeps us in Snow’s village for an episode longer.
There are a few moments where the slower pace drags, thanks to the anime staff stretching out the source material, as they do, but overall it’s not too offensive.
Poor regular humans, they just don’t get it…
The Muscle Tower part of the Red Ribbon Army arc is a good bit of fun, obviously still leaning heavily on the slapstick, but it mostly lands as harmless fun. Some filler drags the action to a snail’s pace, particularly the last few episodes, but it doesn’t hurt it too much. A fun chunk of episodes.