Dragon Ball: The Path to Power (ドラゴンボール 最強への道, Doragon Bōru: Saikyō e no Michi; lit. "Dragon Ball: The Path to Ultimate Strength") is the seventeenth Japanese animated feature film based on the Dragon Ball manga, following the first three Dragon Ball films and, at the time, thirteen Dragon Ball Z films. It is a re-telling of the original Dragon Ball anime series such as Goku first meeting Bulma, Master Roshi, Oolong and Yamcha. It was produced by Toei Animation to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Dragon Ball franchise. It was originally released to theaters in Japan on March 4, 1996, between episodes 4 and 5 of Dragon Ball GT. It was dubbed into English by FUNimation Entertainment and released straight-to-video in the U.S. on April 29, 2003.
Goku is a monkey-tailed boy living all alone on Mount Paozu. One day, after he catches a large fish to eat, a girl in a car (being Bulma) almost hits him. He mistakes the car for a monster and throws it on its side, and gets shot by Bulma in return. He thinks she is some kind of demon, but she ends up convincing him she's human, even though she does not have a tail. He invites her into his house since his dead grandpa always told him to be nice to girls. When they go in the house, Goku shows Bulma an orange glowing ball that he thinks is his grandpa. All of a sudden Bulma comes to life and asks if she can have the ball. When Goku protests, she brings out two more "grandpas", and explains to him the legend of the Dragon Balls and the Eternal Dragon. She offers to let him feel her up to get him to come along, but when that does not work, she tells him it will help him get stronger. He agrees, and they head off.
Later, in the forest, they are forced to stop because of a bull/ox in the road, who demands the girl. Goku ends up fighting the creature, which turns into a robot, and then a bat. Unfortunately, by then, his five minutes are up, and he turns back into Oolong, the pig. There is no time for apologies though, because Yamcha attacks. He demands all the capsules and money they have, but not before Puar recognizes Oolong and yells at him for his perverted antics at Shapeshifting School. Yamcha fights Goku, and appears to have the upper hand, until Bulma wakes up. This puts him into a state of shock and he is forced to retreat with the help of Puar.
Bulma, Oolong, and Goku are driving northward towards the next Dragon Ball, only to discover a huge metal tower in the distance. (Yamcha and Puar, who have been following them, stay in a cave nearby to keep warm.) Soldiers come out and "welcome" them to Muscle Tower, and Goku takes them all head on. He manages to enter the tower, only to face Sergeant Metallic. He finishes him off quickly though, and discovers (to his shock) that Metallic was a robot. General White of the Red Ribbon Army orders the remaining forces toward Goku, but he plows through them all, up into White's room. White then activates the tower's deadliest creation, Android 8. The android nearly strangles Goku, but refuses to kill him when ordered. As a result, White threatens to detonate the android, but Goku intervenes and saves him. The two make quick friends, with Android 8 explaining that he does not believe in fighting or killing. Goku complains that his name is weird, so he nicknames him "Eighter" for short. This ends in a snowball fight between the two while the tied-up forces (including White) look on.
Some time later, while driving in Oolong's house-wagon, they almost run over (and then almost fall off a cliff because of) Turtle. He explains that he is quite lost, and needs help getting back to the sea. After they bring him there, he says he has a reward which he will bring back with him the next day. So, Oolong, Goku, and Bulma spend the night on the beach. Goku wakes up early in the morning and tries to sleep in Bulma's lap, but freaks out when he removes her panties and discovers her lack of male genitalia. That morning, Turtle comes back bearing his "reward", the Turtle Hermit Master Roshi. Roshi first tries to summon the Immortal Phoenix for them, but when that fails (it apparently died from food poisoning, ironically), he calls forth the Nimbus Cloud. Goku is the only one of the bunch who can ride it, so it becomes his. Meanwhile, Yamcha and Puar watch the gang with interest.
While Goku's off on the Nimbus, Bulma discovers that the old man has a Dragon Ball. He offers to let go of it only if she shows him her underwear. She agrees, not knowing she does not have any on, and both Roshi and Oolong are pleasantly surprised. She is horrified after she goes in to change and finds her underwear still inside. There is no time for an explanation though, because General Blue of the Red Ribbon Army attacks with a fleet of battleships. When the situation seems just about hopeless, Roshi decides to use his legendary Kamehameha. He decimates the entire fleet with it, but Blue then orders his army of submarines to attack. Goku however, manages to learn the Kamehameha himself and destroys a good deal of the subs with it. But just as their situation is looking up, Goku is knocked out by a missile, and Bulma, Oolong, and Roshi are all captured by a battered Blue and his soldiers. Yamcha attempts a rescue, but gets caught along with Puar due to his phobia of girls. The five are carted off to prison near the Red Ribbon Army Headquarters. The next morning, Goku awakens to the beeping of the Dragon Radar. Finding himself alone, he sets out in search of the other six Dragon Balls (Blue, having missed the one on Goku's person, is executed for his failure). Goku fights through legions upon legions of Red Ribbon soldiers, while in the meantime, the others try to make their escape from the prison.
Eventually, they make it out, to discover Goku (carrying a pile of tanks) there to greet them. As Goku fights his way into Red Ribbon Headquarters, Commander Red and Staff Officer Black retreat with their six Dragon Balls to their last refuge. But when Black hears about Red's true wish to become taller, Black shoots him and swears to make the Black Ribbon Army ruler of the world. He brings out the Army's greatest weapon, a giant robotic suit called "Battle Jacket". The robot's Laser Blast destroys a huge swath of territory in its path, and nearly kills Goku, until he manages to knock it on its stomach and detonate the cannon. Black in his Battle Jacket is not out yet though, and Goku is eventually knocked out.
Luckily, Android 8 shows up. He puts everything he has into keeping the robot from killing the boy, but it is pretty clear that he is no match. Parts start to fly off of him, and he lands in a crumpled heap, next to Goku. Goku comes to, only to see the android die.
Saddened and enraged by Android 8's sacrifice, a new world of power suddenly awakens within Goku, as the ground shakes with his tortured screams. Black makes the mistake of egging him on, and Goku finishes him off with a gigantic Kamehameha. After the dust settles, the Eternal Dragon Shenron is summoned forth, but Bulma and Yamcha realize they do not need their wishes anymore. Goku then offers his own wish instead: to revive Android 8 and remove the bomb inside of him.
The Path to Power was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1998 in Japan. In 2006, Toei Animation released The Path to Power as part of the final Dragon Box DVD set, which included all four Dragon Ball films and thirteen Dragon Ball Z films. These were presented in a new widescreen transfer from the original negatives with a 16:9 aspect ratio that was matted from the original 4:3 aspect ratio.
Funimation released the The Path to Power on VHS and DVD in 2003 in both edited and uncut forms. In 2005, the movie was re-released on DVD both individually and in a box set with Sleeping Princess in Devil's Castle and Mystical Adventure. This 3-disc box set was reissued in a thinpak variety in 2008.. This 3-disc box set was then re-released in a thinpak variety in 2008. In 2011, FUNimation re-released all four Dragon Ball movies in a new thinpak DVD collection.
Comparison to the anime
- Goku does not wear his all-blue gi or the traditional orange one. Instead, he wears one identical to the one he wears in Dragon Ball GT (blue top, white obi, yellow pants, pink wristbands, black kung fu shoes, white stockings) which resembles his all-blue gi. However, he does wear an all-blue gi during the beginning of the film, only to change into his GT outfit before departing with Bulma.
- Bulma, like her original manga counterpart, has purple hair instead of turquoise. However, her hair is somewhat using Trunks' hair color. Her dress is yellow instead of pink and her scarf is green instead of purple.
- Oolong is first encountered by Goku and Bulma in the desert, rather than terrorizing a village with his shape shifting abilities.
- Emperor Pilaf and his minions are not featured at all.
- When Goku first uses the Kamehameha in the anime, it was only big enough to destroy Bulma's car. In the movie it was large enough to completely destroy all of the Red Ribbon's ships.
- General Blue is not killed by Mercenary Tao (as Tao was not in the movie).
- The Muscle Tower is bigger and more futuristic. Also, Ninja Murasaki does not appear.
- Android 8 makes his debut in the movie by pummeling Goku. Whereas in the anime he never even thought of it.
- The Red Ribbon Army has some cosmetic changes: General White is a young Italian rather than an older Russian man, Major Metallitron is black and a little smaller, Commander Red has a smooth hairstyle, and Staff Officer Black appears to be Native American and actually has hair (similar to Commander Red's).
- The Red Ribbon Army base is by the seaside, rather than in the middle of the forest.
- Goku raids the army base to rescue his friends (Bulma, Yamcha, Puar, Oolong, Master Roshi, and Turtle) in the movie. In the anime, Goku does it to get the Dragon Balls that the army has.
- In the movie, Commander Red is shot in the side and falls over to his doom. In the anime, he is shot in the head.
- The first wish to Shenron was to bring Android 8 back to life. In the anime, Oolong used the first wish for a pair of ladies' underwear (thwarting Pilaf's attempt to use it during the Emperor Pilaf Saga). The wish made after the Red Ribbon Army Saga in the anime was to bring Bora back to life.
- Goku, Yamcha, and Android 8 have slightly darker skin tones in this movie.
- The Super Kamehameha GT Goku performs in Dragon Ball Z: Infinite World is similar to the gigantic Kamehameha Goku uses in this movie.
- When Yamcha falls on top of Bulma, they accidentally kiss. However, in the English dub, Yamcha was given speaking lines during the moment.
- This marks the only time in the franchise that "Dan Dan Kokoro Hikareteku", the opening theme for Dragon Ball GT is used as closing credits music, and not in an opening sequence.
- This is the first DB feature to use computer animation, as noted in the ending credits.