A classic gag manga and anime by Akira Toriyama
, Dr. Slump
chronicles the misadventures of Senbei Norimaki, a semi-competent inventor, and his latest invention, a Robot Girl
named Arale who appears to be an ordinary human... aside from her superhuman strength and space cadet behavior.
Said misadventures usually involve another of Senbei's inventions going awry, Senbei trying to woo Arale's teacher, the lovely Midori Yamabuki, or Arale and her friend Gatchan (an androgynous baby who hatched from an egg with wings, antennae, and a tendency to eat cars) interacting with the other bizarre denizens of their hometown of Penguin Village. Said denizens include the town police force (which includes a guy in a Star Wars
Stormtrooper helmet, a trigger-happy lady cop, and two officers who keep getting their car wrecked by Arale), Suppaman (a short, pudgy, dim-witted Superman wannabe who supposedly gets his superpowers from pickled plums), King Nikochan (a goofy, would-be space pirate
stranded on Earth) and Dr. Mashirito (Senbei's rival in mad science who happens to be a caricature of Kazuhiko Torishima, the editor for the Dr. Slump
The original manga ran from 1980 to 1984 in Weekly Shōnen Jump
magazine, comprising 236 chapters. It also spawned an animated adaptation, as well as several sequels and a remake. These include:
- Dr. Slump — Arale-chan: The animated adaptation of the original manga, running from 1981 to 1986 on Fuji TV, comprising 243 episodes. It generally follows the plot of the original manga, though it introduces much extra material. Like the manga, it gets a three-episode-long cameo in the Dragon Ball anime, which aired in the same time slot after it ended. The first five theatrical movies of the franchise (which premiered while the show was still airing) are based on it.
- The Brief Return of Dr. Slump (Chotto Dake Kaette Kita Dr. Slump): A full-color sequel/partial reboot to the original manga, written by Takao Koyama (series organizer and scriptwriter for Dragon Ball Z) and illustrated by Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru (character designer for same). It ran from 1993 to 1996 in V-Jump, and was collected into 4 volumes, which are now out of print. Set several years after the end of the original series (but with some differences, such as Dr. Mashirito being inexplicably alive), it has more wacky hijinks in Penguin Village and also introduces Nitro, the young daughter of Senbei and Midori first glimpsed in the manga's "future". The four movies released in 1993–1994 are based on this continuity.
- (New) Dr. Slump: An animated remake of the original manga, airing from 1997 to 1999, taking the timeslot of Dragon Ball GT. Character designs are updated to Akira Toriyama's mid-'90s design sensibilities (though he himself only designed the new version of the Norimaki family's house), the voices are all different from the first anime, and Arale has brown hair. A single movie based on this version was released in 1999. A manga adaptation (scripted by Takao Koyama & Yoshimi Narita and drawn by Tadayoshi Yamamuro) ran concurrently in V-Jump, and actually included several plot lines not used in the anime.
- Dr. Mashirito — Abale-chan: A one-shot sequel to the original manga (and the only one written by Akira Toriyama himself) that ran in the April 2007 issue of Monthly Shōnen Jump. It's set about a year after the events of the original series. Dr. Mashirito's son attempts to exact revenge by designing an Arale-lookalike with an "evil" personality, but she turns out merely to have a bad attitude. This was more-or-less immediately made into a 5-minute animated short that accompanied the One Piece movie The Desert Princess And The Pirates Adventures In Alabasta, released the same month.
The first animated adaptation in particular was spectacularly popular, and kicked off what's been called "Toriyama Time" on Fuji TV — Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. were held by either a Dr. Slump
or Dragon Ball
series from 1981 to 1999, a period of over 18 years. (And then that
was succeeded by the first 63 episodes of One Piece
, extending its status as a "Shōnen Jump
Anime Block" to nearly 20 years.) There have also been several novels, as well as a radio show starring the keyboardist from the band Southern All-Stars, but we'll leave things here for now.
This series features examples of:
- Accidental Marriage: Yes, this was how Senbei finally got Midori to marry him. He practiced proposing outside the can while she was inside. She overheard, next thing you know, the two are hitched. Heh, lucky guy.
- Accidental Pervert: Obotchaman had landed in a bathtub while Mrs. Tsun was still in it. Their reactions were both of shock.
- Adult Fear: One episode had Turbo build a robotic duplicate of himself that accidentally wandered into town. Said robot caused panic among everyone wherever it goes as it would be very dangerous for a regular baby.
- Aliens of London: Nikochan speaks in Nagoya dialect, despite being from another planet. Even more confusingly, his lackey doesn't.
- All Cloth Unravels: In the anime adaptation of The Story of Donbe, Aoi Kimidori is seen talking to Kurikinton Soramame when Donbei ties a thread of her dress to a car which takes off and unravels her dress in front of him causing her to get embarrassed and slap Kurikinton.
- Amusing Injuries: Like in any Tex Avery short, nothing seems to be able to kill anyone, not even a direct shot to the forehead.
"It'll heal again"
- Art Evolution: Arale was initially drawn like a proportional early teenager, but gets progressively rounder and shorter in the space of a few chapters. When one reader pointed it out in an "ask the author" section, Toriyama Handwaved it by showing Arale's original appearance as one of multiple bodies she can use.
- Art Shift: As a running gag, Senbei turns much taller, manlier and handsome whenever he's having a "cool" scene. Later, is revealed that he can Art Shift himself at will, but just for a moment.
- Author Appeal: At the end of the series there is a bike trophy story arc that lasts many chapters. Toriyama lampshades this by having his avatar character remark he got very interested in motorbikes and didn't have any other ideas for the story.
- Author Avatar:
- Toriyama jokingly inserts himself as a robot with a gas mask. If not, expect to see a bird with glasses or a man with a surgical mask. At least once he inserted himself as a xenomorph.
- He showed up in Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow as a CPU party member, and even gets a bit of metafictional backstory—the robot isn't really Toriyama, but a robot based on Toriyama, who died several years before the story took place, and stipulated in his will that a manga-drawing robot be created in his image as his successor.
- Toriyama's assistants Hisashi Tanaka ("Hiswashi") and Takashi Matsuyama also appear as straightforward caricatures of themselves.
- Badass Adorable: Arale obviously, but also Gatchan, Obotchaman and Turbo Norimaki.
- Baseball Episode: Episode 155-156 has an improvvised Penguin Village's baseball team (consists of all the youngest characters of the show, included naturally Arale and Gatchan) invited to a challenge against the big city team.
- Beauty, Brains and Brawn: The three girls in Arale's group of friends. Tsururin is the Beauty (being considered pretty by the boys), Akane is the Brains (street smart, usually the leader and the one who comes up with all the ideas), and Arale is the Brawn for obvious reasons.
- Belly Buttonless: In an early chapter, Arale is worried because she lacks a navel and her classmates find that weird, so she wants one. Except Senbei thinks she wants something a bit lower, which he's never seen because of Japanese censorship. Hilarity Ensues.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: King Nikochan's species have ears for feet and butts on top of their heads.
- Bowdlerize: The Harmony Gold dub of the first episode had some scenes altered. (Cutting out Senbei dressed as a school girl when shopping for Arale clothes, and Arale slipping a grenade in Senbei's mouth was changed to a "hot pepper in tabasco sauce.")
- Brainy Baby: Turbo becomes this after being killed by aliens and then revived by them, gaining Psychic Powers and a genius-like intellect in the process.
- Breath Weapon: Arale's N'Cha Cannon.
- Bungling Inventor: There's a reason Senbei has the nickname "Dr. Slump".
- Butt-Monkey: Senbei himself is the most obvious example, but other characters also fall into this from time to time, especially the two police officers who always get run over by Arale while driving their car.
- Calling Your Attacks: Arale's N'cha Cannon.
- Cameo: P-man, the main character of Toriyama's earlier manga Wonder Island, appears in one panel, and later re-appears when Senbei and Arale go to said Wonder Island.
- Canon Discontinuity: As much as the series as a whole employs Negative Continuity to clean up Arale's messes, the '90s anime in particular goes quietly ignored by both the fandom and the creators. All merchandise (and the lone new chapter) released afterwards is based on the original series and its iconic style. Possibly the only place you'll find the '90s characters is in the Dragon Ball Heroes manga, which is set in a far future (and potential AU) of Dragon Ball.
- Catch-Phrase: Arale has several: "N'cha!", used as a greeting; "Bye-cha", used as a farewell; "Ho-yo-yo!", used as an exclamation of surprise; and "KIIIIIIIIN!!!", said when she's running. She also uses "cho" instead of kudasai or chōdai when making requests.
- Clark Kenting: Suppaman dresses as reporter Kuraaku Kenta. He doesn't even bother to act differently or to be less of a Jerkass.
- Cloudcuckooland: Penguin Village is definitely this.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Arale. Justified as she's a robot without social programing.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Some characters often serve as this to Arale. Most frequently Senbei and/or Akane.
- Creator Cameo: So often that it's not exactly a cameo anymore.
- Crossdresser: Senbei ends up crossdressing many times due to Rule of Funny, like playing the female lead in parodies of Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. Even the first chapter has him briefly Disguised in Drag.
- With Dragon Ball. The Red Ribbon Army story (particularly the latter half of the General Blue section) arc has Goku landing in Penguin Village and meeting the Dr. Slump cast. The two series are thus said to take place in the same universe, although this fact has virtually no effect on either of them aside from the one story arc. However, it does mean that Arale has appeared in several of the DB fighting games (since they count that arc).
- Many years later, Arale appears in Dragon Ball Super, having a brief cameo in Episode 43 before a proper crossover story in Episode 69.
- Cute Bruiser: Arale, a tiny Robot Girl who's more than able to punch adults of all kinds without any efforts.
- Demoted to Extra: Some characters are much more involved in the original series than in the remake, such as Akane's sister Aoi, Tori-bot and the other Toriyama's Author Avatar caricatures, or baby Turbo who becomes a Last Episode, New Character in the remake, while he's introduced earlier in the original story.
- Denser and Wackier: Subverted. While the 90s remake is still wacky, it comes off as tame compared to the original anime which is much more absurd and crazy in comparison.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Well, Arale once hit God with a palm tree. To be fair, he was not "The" God, but a silly divinity who looked and acted exactly like old master Muten from Dragon Ball, minus the sunglasses.
- Distant Reaction Shot: Arale can punch so hard, the Earth cracks and splits in half.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Penguin Village. Subverted because no penguin actually ever appears in the series (except in one of the latest chapters when we discover that the mayor is a penguin).
- Everything Talks: Particularly, the Talking Poo.
- Evil Counterpart: Obotchaman was built by Dr. Mashirito to be this, but he ends up being too well mannered and polite to be evil. Abale-chan from the movie special "Dr. Mashirito and Abale-chan" is a more straightforward example, who is essentially Arale in punk gear.
- Extreme Omnivore: Gatchan can eat anything except rubber.
- Face Fault: In chapter 44, a zoo worker is annoyed that he keeps face-faulting at Arale and co.'s antics and makes various attempts at having them do one.
- The Faceless:
- One of the contestants in the bike race at the end is a boy who never ever removes his helmet. He's also nameless.
- The policeman with a Stormtrooper helmet may also count, both for Faceless and Nameless.
- The Face of the Sun: Here the sun is a living entity who smiles, talks and even sleeps. We even see it rising from the ocean horizon with a snorkel.
- The Family for the Whole Family: One chapter of the manga has Arale and friends meeting a group of yakuza which acted like little kids, playing with cards and so on.
- Midori provides several moments.
- During a baseball game, Akane's pants fall down without any input at all.
- Fartillery: Arale can fly by farting in one chapter.
- Fiery Redhead: Akane in the 1997 remake.
- Five-Man Band:
- Flanderization: Arale starts out looking more like a normal 13 years old girl instead of the small chubby little kid everyone remembers (she even manages to pass herself off as Akane for a while). She's also less of a Cloudcuckoolander in early stories.
- Foreign Sounding Gibberish: In the bike trophy mentioned above, one of the contestants is a German biker called Kibalt Skurzen, which doesn't sound like any actual German name.
- Foreshadowing: Some characters, like Suppaman, shows up as background characters before they're properly introduced.
- Gag Series: The fun is just watching their off-the-wall antics without regards to continuity.
- Genius Bruiser: Arale. Strong enough to split the earth in two with one punch and smart enough to solve advanced math problems.
- Genius Ditz:
- While Arale is usually hopelessly naive and clueless about everything, she's by far the smartest student in her class and particularly a math prodigy (her math skills are a Running Gag). She also can remove a frog's appendix and build a sexy spare head all on her own.
- Senbei himself can be considered one. All his silliness aside, he can build androids, spaceships, a time machine and all the craziest inventions he can think of. Unfortunately he seems to create gadgets at random, with most of them being less useful than just using a more mundane item.
- Genki Girl: Arale, with a dose of Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids and definitely Cloudcuckoolander. She's as energetic as she is powerful.
- Groin Attack: At the start of the series, when Senbei has finished building Arale's body, he tells her to raise her hand to test out her body. She raises her hand in a fist... and guess where said fist hits. Ouch.
- Hot Teacher: Arale's teacher Midori is the most desired woman in town, and Senbei falls for her immediately, remaining in love with her to the point of obsession.
- Identical Stranger: Nonko and Anko, two girls from the city that look like Akane and Arale (Nonko has a different hairstyle while Anko is a brunette). When Anko loses her lens (after being shocked seeing a living poop), she is obliged to put on her glasses and is mistaken for Arale by Senbei that takes her to the Norimaki Residence. While searching for her friend, Nonko meets Arale and mistakes her for Anko. Nonko realizes that Arale is not Anko only when in the plane back to their home.
- Invisible Streaker: In an early chapter, Senbei turns himself invisible, then starts removing his clothes to complete the process...but then decides to leave his underwear on, just in case. This results in a pair of floating boxer shorts running around the town.
- Involuntary Shapeshifting: Tsukutsun Tsun turns into a tiger whenever touched by a girl; he changes back if touched by a guy.
- The Kiddie Ride: Arale-chan on a time machine. It appears to be a very early ride by Banpresto.
- Landing in Someone's Bathtub: In "Gatchan You're Great", Obotchaman falls in Tsuntsunodanoteiyugo's bath.
- Lightning Bruiser: Arale's powers include Super Strength and Super Speed.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: While Arale is always the main focus, we see her interacting with all the crazy residents of Penguin Village. There are over 50 recurring characters, with most of them getting their spotlight episodes. This without even mentioning the countless Living Props, animals, talking objects, etc.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Senbei. Tsuruten Tsun was even worse than him.
- Made of Iron: Arale, literally, though Senbei was once woken up with a live grenade exploding in his mouth, and only lost a couple of teeth.
- Mad Scientist: Senbei is a more benign version. Mashirito, on the other hand...
- Meganekko: Arale. In fact, her glasses became such a distinguishing feature that in Japan, she was the inspiration behind the phrase "Arare Megane" (Arale Glasses).
- Nice Guy: Obotchaman. His politeness is pretty much what keeps his character going.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Kurikinton, the village barber and Taro and Pisuke's father, looks a lot like Clint Eastwood. Lampshaded when it is revealed that he once was a policeman.
- No Fourth Wall:
- One chapter involves an invention that can make something on a page real. Arale and Akane fool around with it until Arale casually cuts out the page they're on and puts it inside the machine, creating a space paradox. If that's not enough, character refer to and sometimes interact with the author...
- In another chapter, the characters acquire a camera that takes pictures of the future, wherein the subject would be aged several decades in the picture. At the end of the chapter, Arale takes a picture of the reader, and the picture shows the skeletal remains of the reader holding the magazine that the manga was originally serialized in commenting on how dumb the manga is.
- Non-Indicative Name: Penguin Village. Averted in the last story arc when we discover that the mayor is an actual penguin and the only one that appears in the series.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: In the Dragon Ball Super crossover in 2016 all the characters look exactly the same as 20/30 years ago. Justified with Arale because she's an android, not so much with the rest of the cast. Made worse by the fact that there was already a crossover back in the first Dragon Ball series where Arale and Co. meet Goku as a kid.
- Obvious Pregnancy: Midori gets so big so fast after it's revealed she's pregnant that Senbei actually gives her a medical examination to try and deduce a cause.
- Off with His Head!: A Running Gag is that Arale keeps pulling her head off, annoying Senbei.
- Official Couple: Senbei and Midori is one, hooking up midway in the series. Also Arale with Obotchaman, where it was shown in the future that Senbei had built a baby robot for the both of them. And the secondary couples like Taro/Tsururin, Akane/Tsukutsun, and Pisuke/Hiyoko are all confirmed to be Happily Married in the future.
- Older Than They Look: Pisuke is actually 13, even though he looks like he's around 7 or 8. It's even worse for him when they take a hold of the camera that views the future mentioned above: we discover that he will look like that even at 30 (complete with the same cat-ears hat!), but with a Hitler mustache!
- Only Six Faces:
- Lampshaded in an early chapter where Akane is able to impersonate Midori. Toriyama curses his ability to draw only one female face.
- Suppaman, Bubibinman (the fly-man from space), and Parzan (Tarzan parody) all look the same. This sometimes is commented upon.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: One night, Arale eats a cricket in her sleep. The next morning, she's become studious, calm, well-behaved, and much smarter. The entire village freaks out.
- Panty Shot: Midori on different occasions. Subverted in a chapter where Senbei setting up a chain reaction involving many animals to end making a wind to blow her dress up to see her panties when passing by his house, but ended up failing twice because the first time she wore pants and the second time a farmer got in the way (Double Subverted in the remake with the grandpa of Senbei to replace him).
- People Puppets: Tsururin used her powers on Taro to beat up a thug at school at one point.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Arale is so strong, she can split the Earth into with one punch. Same with Obotchaman.
- Relax-o-Vision: How the Malaysian dub of the show censors nudity.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: When Turd, Arale's dog, was hit by a fighter jet/car hybrid and subsequently kicked by the driver, Senbei lifts up the vehicle and destroys it.
- Robot Girl: Arale. One of the earliest (and youngest) examples.
- Robot Kid: Arale and Obotchaman.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Meek and well-mannered Robot Kid Obotchaman is the male counterpart to hyperactive and mischievous Arale.
- Sdrawkcab Name:
- Toriyama came up with the name of Dr. Mashirito, Senbei's Mad Scientist rival, by reverting the order of the syllables in his editor's surname, Torishima.
- Makusa, who runs the takoyaki stand / sweets shop. He's a caricature of Akira Sakuma, who collaborated with Toriyama on his Crappy Manga Laboratory series.
- Self-Deprecation: The Author Avatar writer jokingly calls himself and the manga stupid quite often.
- Shout-Out: Quite a few.
- The show satirizes and pays homage to a lot of things, including Superman, Kinnikuman, Star Trek, Space Invaders and Ultraman, just to name a few.
- A pudgy, dumb, incompetent, violent, mean and revengeful version of Superman named Suppaman lives in the village. He does not get along with Parzan.
- One of the cops of Penguin Village is a Stormtrooper.
- In the first page of a chapter shows up a chibified, googly-eyed Gundam RX78-2 flying after a butterfly with a bug-catcher. This is particularly interesting because Toriyama drew it before "SD Gundam" was even a thing.
- Dr. Mashirito's first robot was a mix between Mazinger Z, Astro Boy, and Tetsujin-28go.
- Spock is one of Arale's classmates. Replaced in the remake with a boy that resembles a human version of Freeza.
- Godzilla, Gamera, King Kong and other kaijuu make regular appearances.
- Sigil Spam:
- Any given thing is practically guaranteed to have its name spelled out in gigantic letters, made all the more ridiculous for the fact that they live in a small village where everybody knows each other and there's only one of each business to begin with.
- Car logos are everywhere, on everything. This has less to do with any particular meaning and more to do with the simple fact that the author loves cars. You might think that the word "ABARTH" accompanied by a scorpion on a shield has some hidden, cryptic meaning... but nope, it's just the name of a company that makes and customizes cars. Toriyama even bought his own Autobianchi A112 Abarth during the series' run.
- Small Name, Big Ego:
- Senbei, who claims to be the most brilliant scientist in the world and also considers himself handsome, despite being short, fat, and unattractive.
- Suppaman, an Affectionate Parody of Superman...well, maybe not so affectionate, given how he's portrayed as a Jerk Ass with no real superpowers.
- Stealth Pun: Arale is riding a pig, and a bystander exclaims "Biker Gang!"
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Arale, a robot that can split the earth with a single punch, and was built just because Senbei could.
- Take Over the World: Dr. Mashirito.
- Take That!: Whenever Toriyama shows his editor, Kazuhiko Torishima in the Omake, he just happens to look exactly like the Mad Scientist Dr. Mashirito.
- The '90s: The 1997 remake is this writ large, which is perhaps why it feels more dated than the first series, despite being much newer. The original anime (and manga) just feels timelessly bizarre, even though it leans quite a bit on '70s and '80s pop culture.
- Time Travel: Thanks to one of Senbei's inventions, the Time Slipper. This is actually how they found Gatchan.
- Toilet Humour: A lot.
Mai: (as Pilaf wonders where could be the seventh Dragon Ball) If it's between that hunk's [Yamcha] legs, I'll be pleased to get it.
(Pilaf and Shu stare blankly at her)
Pilaf: I told you before, I hate these dirty jokes.
Mai: (suddenly holding said Poop on a Stick) Yes, I'm sorry.
Pilaf: And I mean that filthy thing you're holding too!!! Can't you see that the author is trying hard to make a decent, high-standard manga?!
- King Nikochan and other members of his species have their butts on top of the head, so they have to avoid farting or else they'll end up suffocated by the smell.
- Bubibinman, a fly-like alien, picks a nearby piece of dog crap up and eats it ! Needless to say, the other characters (except Arale) were disgusted.
- Tournament Arc: A very brief and hilarious one near the end of the manga's run. It is even called "Sekaiichi Tournament", foreshadowing Dragon Ball's own Tenkaichi Tournament.
- Touched by Vorlons: Turbo, Senbei and Midori's son. Accidentally killed, then resurrected by aliens. Ends up with Psychic Powers as a result
- Tranquil Fury: In one chapter, there is a surprisingly serious moment where a bear that Arale and Senbei had freed from captivity and released into the wild was shot by two hunters. Arale, in one of the few times where she is genuinely angry, calmly picks the two assholes up and throws them far away.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Senbei does manage to win over Midori, and he's as surprised as the rest of the cast, given how he proposed pretty much by accident.
- The Unintelligible: Gatchan.
- Verbal Tic: "No, yes!"
- Villain Song: Dr. Mashirito was given one in Hoyoyo Space Adventure. It starts ominous at first, but it changes to a very cheesy 80's rock song.
- Weapons-Grade Vocabulary: Arale's boisterously loud "HOWDYA DO!" comes out as solid words and is capable of knocking people off their feet.
- Widget Series
- Written Sound Effect: Arale even unknowingly weaponizes it.
- You Don't Look Like You: In the remake. The most notable examples are Taro, Akane, and Midori.
- Younger Than They Look: Senbei, who is only 28 despite looking like he's in his mid-thirties.