"I am the Red Ribbon Army! What's good for me is good for everyone and I want to be taller! All my life, I've drawn the short straw; I've had to contend with being a mere pebble in a land of giants. It is the curse of my existence. You couldn't possibly understand what it's like...the nightmare of being a genius...yet trapped inside this ugly little body!"
Commander Red (レッド総帥) is an antagonist character in the Dragon Ball manga and the anime Dragon Ball. He is the commander-in-chief of the most feared and ruthless militaristic crime organization: the Red Ribbon Army. After discovering that his enemy, Goku, has a much more sophisticated and superior Dragon Radar, he is angered at the fact that he invested so much in his radar and takes many wary chances only to be contested by a mere child.
Red's appearance consists of an eye patch covering his right eye (the eye patch is red in the manga and black in the anime), a black suit (although on a few occasions, he has worn more detailed outfits), large white hair in the manga and ginger in the anime and, most importantly, his short height which he despises, a huge plot point in the Red Ribbon Army Arc.
Commander Red is shown to be a very terrible leader of the Red Ribbon Army, yet also a very ruthless one as well. He is often very sarcastic and insulting towards Staff Officer Black, even when the latter makes valid suggestions to him. He is also very disloyal to his own army, viewing them as nothing more than pawns for his own goals, as evidenced by his desire to get the Dragon Balls as well as his own willingness to destroy his own army to, in Black's own words, "satisfy his own vanity" to wish to become "as tall as a mountain". He is also shown as very childish and impatient and is not willing for the army to take a slight misstep in their operations to achieve his goals. As such, he was also shown to have no qualms about having many of his own men killed for even the most trivial reasons. He also demonstrates absolutely no remorse for the lives he throws away for his pointless goals of becoming taller even right before Black kills him after protesting against his goal upon learning it, which alongside his aforementioned frequency in executing his own soldiers for small offenses implies that Red was a psychopath. Owing to this, he also shows some traits of megalomania, namely by claiming at least twice that he is one and the same with the Red Ribbon Army. Red is also a chain smoker, always having a pipe or a box of large cigars close to him, smoking often. His smoking habit is retained after he becomes Android 9, although he instead uses a metallic pipe. In the FUNimation dub, he spoke with a Scottish accent during his early appearances, but dropped it until just before his demise, and even there only at various moments. He may have been somewhat lecherous, as another motive for his desire to become taller was to have various girls fall head over heels for him.
Commander Red owns a cat, which he frequently uses to attack Red Ribbon Army personnel entering his office to test their reflexes, such as Colonel Silver. It is also implied that any soldier who fails to effectively evade the cat (such as one soldier who allegedly lost an eye due to not reacting quick enough) is executed.
Ever since Elementary School, his friends often made fun of Red's size, calling him "shrimp" and even remarking that even though he is short, he has an old man's face. In addition, various girls did not want to have anything to do with him largely because of his evident dwarfism. These were the reasons why Commander Red hates being short and desires to be taller. At some point, he also loses his right eye, necessitating the use of an eyepatch.
Red Ribbon Army Saga
Commander Red is first introduced when he summons Colonel Silver to his office. As soon as Silver arrives at his office, he sics his pet cat at Silver, and then congratulates Silver for managing to have the reflexes to dodge the cat, noting that the previous soldier summoned to his office lost his eye when he attempted to dodge his cat and hints that the soldier in question was executed. He then gives Silver his mission to retrieve the Dragon Ball located in the Jungle. After Silver had failed his mission, he has Silver brought to his office, and chews Silver out on his failure, also remarking that he will be executed, as there are no second chances in the Red Ribbon Army. He then alerts General White to Goku's arrival. After White fell to Goku, he hires Hasky to steal the Dragon Balls and presumably assassinate Goku.
Shortly after Hasky fails to retrieve the Dragon Balls from Goku, as well as failing to assassinate him, Commander Red decides to give General Blue the mission to kill Goku, along with a report on Goku. Eventually, Commander Red gives Blue orders to retrieve the Dragon Balls after supplying Blue with information on the closest locations of the Dragon Balls via their own Dragon Radar, as well as retrieve Goku's Dragon Radar and to retrieve the creator of the Dragon Radar (then believed to be Master Roshi), and (in the Japanese version) also has Black arrange for the Global Dragon Radar's development team's execution for building a faulty radar (referring to how Goku's Dragon Radar was superior to their own). During this time, he also has a goat painter paint a mural of him, although he also has the painter try to make him much taller, being even taller than Staff Officer Black while painting the portrait, resulting in him telling off Black when he decides to joke about it. Afterward, when Goku manages to get to the camp General Blue's unit was occupying, Goku starts playing with a communication radio, causing Red to demand attention, and then demand if Goku knows who he is. However, the feedback static, as well as their shouting, cause both Red and Goku's ears to hurt, with the latter eventually destroying the radio.
When the Red Ribbon Army is having problems with Goku, Red plans to hire the famed contract killer named Mercenary Tao to assassinate Goku and return with the four Dragon Balls that General Blue was unsuccessful at retrieving. When Red does call in Tao, General Blue arrives shortly after also, handing Red the Dragon Radar that he managed to confiscate from Goku. Red however still proceeds to punish Blue, due to failing the exact mission given to him. However, Red offers Blue a deal: if Blue manages to defeat Mercenary Tao, he would be spared, and keep his position in the army. When the fight begins, Tao easily manages to kill Blue only using his tongue, much to Red's shock, yet pleasant, knowing that Tao was worth his money. After Tao supposedly kills Goku, he calls Red to tell him the job was done, but Tao realizes he only found three Dragon Balls instead of four. In the meantime, Red plays a bit of golf with Officer Black and later receives the Seven-Star Dragon Ball from Colonel Violet.
After Mercenary Tao fails in trying to receive the fourth, Goku heads straight for the Red Ribbon Army Headquarters, attacking in its very stronghold to collect the Dragon Balls necessary to resurrect Upa's father, Bora, who was killed by Tao. Despite Staff Officer Black's constant advice for Red to abandon the Dragon Balls and escape for safety, Red stubbornly refuses, putting them both in further danger. When it becomes clear that Goku has virtually defeated his entire army, with many escaping from the base, and coming for him, he takes the Dragon Balls and orders Black to fight him. He then runs into a secret compartment. As Black and Goku are fighting, Red uses one last trick and activates the ceiling to be flattened, in a desperate attempt to kill Goku, believing him and Black to be dead. Black becomes very lucky as he is knocked outside the window by Goku when the ceiling comes down, however, Black questions why Red would betray him in order to kill Goku, beginning to feel more negative emotions about his boss. As Commander Red returns to the room, he gloats at his victory and reveals his wish to become taller. Black overhears this and pleads that the Red Ribbon Army did so much and risked a lot for Red's stupid ambition instead of world conquest, and therefore it was not worth the risk and could lead to their ultimate defeat. When Commander Red does not listen and insists his petty desire is one that shall bring his army's legacy to true greatness, he is shot in the head and killed by Black, who then renames the army the Black Ribbon Army.
Dragon Ball Z
Main article: Androids Saga Owing to his death, Commander Red does not actually appear in the anime, although he did appear in several flashbacks depicting Goku's taking down of the Red Ribbon Army. In the FUNimation Dub, when Master Roshi relays to Maron the story of the Red Ribbon Army war as well as the connection to the then-current conflict against the Androids, the narration implies that all the backshots of Commander Red, and to a certain extent, a frontal of Red, had in fact been that of former Red Ribbon Army scientist Dr. Gero.
The Path to Power
Main article: Dragon Ball: The Path to Power
Commander Red appears in the 10th-anniversary remake, Dragon Ball: The Path to Power and has a slight redesign, but to a lesser extent than that of most of the Red Ribbon Army. He is also shown to be slightly more ruthless in the pursuit of his goals, evidenced by how Red had General Blue executed via firing squad simply because the latter had missed one Dragon Ball when retrieving them. The way he meets his end is also slightly different; although Red is still killed by Staff Officer Black after the latter discovers his true intentions with the Dragon Balls, he falls off a ledge right after being shot by Black and was shot in the side rather than in the head. In addition, how he ended up admitting his true wish was closer to in the manga where he admitted it in a state of panic over Goku's impending arrival, instead of privately admitting it after believing he had killed Goku and Black.
Manga and anime
Commander Red was not a fighter and is never seen fighting. Similar to Emperor Pilaf, he is a short and not particularly strong individual who barks orders at henchmen and tends to rely on others fight for him such as his cat and/or uses death traps to kill would be adversaries. It is implied that he is no stronger than a normal human as he is easily killed by a gunshot to the head.
Statements according to authors and guidebooks
Video game appearances
Commander Red appears in Famicom Jump: Hero Retsuden, Dragon Ball 3: Gokuden, Dragon Ball Z: Super Gokuden: Totsugeki-Hen, Dragon Ball Z: Idainaru Son Goku Densetsu, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, Dragon Ball Z: Infinite World, Dragon Ball Advanced Adventure, Dragon Ball: Revenge of King Piccolo, Dragon Ball: Origins 2, and Dragon Ball RPG: Shōnen-hen. Commander Red is seen with bandages where he obtains his fatal bullet wound on his forehead in Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 on the Dragon Arena screen, and in the video game Infinite World where he is seen in the Fighter's Road mode. Coincidentally, both those two video game modes are secret modes that have to be unlocked. Although Red himself does not appear in Dokkan Battle, he is mentioned by General Blue during the cutscene involving him, where he is called "Supreme Commander Red".
Commander Red is seen with other members of the Red Ribbon Army in the background of the Red Ribbon Army Headquarters battle stage in the arcade game Dragon Ball Z 2: Super Battle.
"A suit worn by Commander Red of the Red Ribbon Army."
— Dragon Ball Xenoverse Commander Red Costume description
In Dragon Ball Xenoverse, the Commander Red Costume is based on the suit worn by Commander Red which can only be equipped by the Future Warrior if they are a male Saiyan, male Earthling, male Majin, Frieza Race, or Namekian. As a result, it cannot be worn by female Earthling, female Saiyans, or female Majins in Xenoverse.
In Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, the Commander Red Costume returns though this time it can be worn by the Future Warrior (Xenoverse 2) regardless of gender thus can be worn by female Saiyans, female Earthlings, and female Majin. Commander Red also appears as the subject of one of the Gaccho and Wabara's Magical Majin History Quiz questions in which they ask what Command Red's Dragon Ball wish was. Interestingly, Gaccho admires Red's dedication to trying to obtain the Dragon Balls just to gain a few inches, though Wabara points out that Majins can simply stretch themselves out to make themselves taller.
- Japanese: Kenji Utsumi
- Spanish dub: Idilio Cardoso
- Latin American Spanish dub: Roberto Sen
- Portuguese dub: António Semedo
- Brazilian Portuguese dub: Luiz Carlos de Moraes
- Commander Red speaks with a Scottish accent through most of his appearances, but it later faded for the most part save for a few scenes during Goku's assault on the base where a Scottish accent is present.
- Despite being the primary antagonist of the Red Ribbon Saga, Red never once meets Goku face to face, although they do briefly interact on the radio at General Blue's Camp.
- On that note, Red is technically the only main antagonist in the franchise to actually be human (unless one counts Dr. Gero for the Androids saga).
- A running gag throughout Dragon Ball is how whenever he is not watching the radar he is playing some sort of game to show how "good of a leader he is."
- Commander Red, although being the leader, is mostly very naive as he often needs Staff Officer Black to point out what he needs to do next to stop Goku. This is sometimes seen as strange since he is able to be a great strategist, as shown when he defeats Black in chess and how he is very good at pool.
- Commander Red and Staff Officer Black look-alikes both reappear as movie makers in Dragon Ball Z (episode 205) during the Great Saiyaman Saga. They are working together on a "Great Saiyaman Film" project for Satan TV. The Commander Red look-alike is the director and the Staff Officer Black look-alike seems to be his assistant. The only notable difference between the two is that the director does not possess an eyepatch.
- His short stature and desire to take over the world militarily may be an allusion to Napoleonic complex a pejorative term describing a psychological condition which is said to exist in people of short stature and is derived from a popular misconception that Emperor Napoleon I was short and compensated for his lack of height by seeking power, war, and conquest.
- One of the medals seen on Red's uniform during the time he had his portrait painted (with exaggerations) resembled the Iron Cross.
- In the manga chapter where he dies, Red, in addition to mentioning the time people bullied him for his short height, also mentioned how the girls didn't want to have anything to do with him due to his short height. This bit was not made clear in the Anime equivalent, or at least its dub.
- For unknown reasons, despite various members of the Red Ribbon Army returning from Hell in the Super 17 Saga of Dragon Ball GT, Commander Red was not among them.
- In the anime, prior to his official debut, he was never shown directly, instead being largely hidden from view in a manner similar to various James Bond villains (particularly Ernst Stavro Blofeld).