Dr. Slump is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama. It was serialized in Shueisha’s anthology magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1980 to 1984, with the chapters collected into 18 tankōbon volumes. The series follows the humorous adventures of the little girl robot Arale Norimaki, her creator Senbei Norimaki, and the other residents of the bizarre Penguin Village.
The manga was adapted into an anime television series by Toei Animation that ran on Fuji TV from 1981 to 1986 for 243 episodes. A remake series was created thirteen years after the manga ended, consisting of 74 episodes that were broadcast from 1997 to 1999. The series has also spawned several novels, video games and eleven animated films.
Dr. Slump launched Toriyama’s career. It was awarded the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen and shōjo manga in 1981 and has sold over 35 million copies in Japan. The manga was released in North America by Viz Media from 2004 to 2009. Discotek Media released the first five films in North America in 2014.
Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from issue No. 5/6 on February 4, 1980 to No. 39 on September 10, 1984. Its 236 individual chapters were collected into 18 tankōbon volumes under the Jump Comics imprint. It was reassembled as a 9-volume aizōban edition in 1990, a 9-volume bunkoban edition in 1995, and a 15-volume kanzenban edition in 2006. Viz Media licensed the series for North America in 2004, and published the first volume on March 3, 2005 with translation done by Alexander O. Smith and some censorship. All 18 original volumes have been released in North America as of May 5, 2009.
After Dr. Slump ended in 1984, its characters returned for an extended cameo in Toriyama’s next series Dragon Ball, in which Arale and Son Goku briefly team up to defeat General Blue during the Red Ribbon Army storyline. A Dr. Slump follow-up manga was written by Takao Koyama and illustrated by Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru, with supervision by Toriyama. It was serialized in V Jump from February 21, 1993 to September 1996 under the title The Brief Return of Dr. Slump. It was collected into four tankōbon volumes.
To promote the release of the first Dr. Slump – Arale-chan anime DVD box set, Akira Toriyama illustrated a special one-shot colored spin-off manga titled Dr. Mashirito – Abale-chan published in the April 2007 issue of Monthly Shōnen Jump. The story centers around an evil counterpart of Arale created by Dr. Mashirito Jr., named Abale.
As of 2008, the collected volumes of Dr. Slump had sold over 35 million copies in Japan alone. Only a year after its debut, the series was awarded the 1981 Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen and shōjo manga. Viz Media’s North American release of the first volume of Dr. Slump was nominated for the 2005 Quill Award in the Graphic Novel category. The first anime adaptation of Dr. Slump was also popular, holding the coveted Saturday 6pm timeslot for five years. With a 36.9% average household rating, its December 16, 1981 episode is the third most watched anime since the television ratings group Video Research began keeping track on September 26, 1977. In 1982, it was voted the 13th Favorite Anime in Japanese magazine Animage‘s fourth annual Anime Grand Prix. In 2001, Animage ranked it number 48 on its list of the Top 100 Anime. TV Asahi released two Top 100 Anime lists in 2005, in the web poll Dr. Slump ranked number 34, while a nationwide poll of multiple age groups named it number 29. The following year, a list created from polling 100 celebrities had it in the 25th position. A running gag in Dr. Slump that utilizes feces has been reported as an inspiration for the Pile of Poo emoji. Ian Jones-Quartey, a former producer of the American animated series Steven Universe and creator of OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, is a fan of Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump, and uses Toriyama’s vehicle designs as reference for his own. He also stated that “We’re all big Toriyama fans on [Steven Universe], which kind of shows a bit.”
Mike Toole of Anime News Network called Dr. Slump “the greatest manga of all time”, filled with “parody, gags, and fart jokes that everyone from toddlers to grandparents can enjoy together”. Jason Thompson referred to Dr. Slump as the best series Toriyama has created, claiming it is better drawn and more creative than Dragon Ball. He also reports that it is considered “the last non-manufactured hit” by many in the Japanese manga industry, particularity among Weekly Shōnen Jump titles. In their review, Publishers Weekly stated “Toriyama has created his own demented sitcom, and his fantastic imagination and comic invention never let up”, “The [English] translation is a bit flat, but the uncommonly good storytelling more than makes up for it.” Eduardo M. Chavez of Mania Entertainment summarized Dr. Slump as a “quirky slap-stick comedy entirely based in fantasy.” He thinks that while Toriyama’s usual art style uses “SD” characters, Dr. Slump also shows hints that he can draw realistic. He noted that “little nuances”, particularity puns, are lost in translation from Japanese to English and expressed disdain for Viz’s censorship, saying it took away from the honesty of the series. Chavez feels that what the characters do never crosses the line into inappropriate; “The jokes might not be wholesome, but they are genuinely funny and harmless”; and went on to say that the series fills the void for “all ages manga” in bookstores and libraries.
Reviewing the first five movies, Carl Kimlinger of Anime News Network summarized Dr. Slump as “random silly adventures […] delivered with a lot of surreal nonsense humor, only the most basic sense of continuity, and not a whiff of substance or seriousness.” He felt that much of the humor comes simply from the visuals; stating that the vintage hand-done art and animation provide a “warmth” and “raises Slump’s visuals above” other anime. However, he called the background music “non-descript” and stated that the films are only for viewers who are familiar with the series, as they provide no exposition.
Dr. Slump is set in Penguin Village, a place where humans co-exist with all sorts of anthropomorphic animals and other objects. In this village lives Senbei Norimaki, an inventor. In the first chapter, he builds what he hopes will be the world’s most perfect little girl robot, named Arale Norimaki. However, she turns out to be in severe need of eyeglasses. She is also very naïve, and in later issues she has adventures such as bringing a huge bear home, having mistaken it for a pet. To Senbei’s credit, she does have super-strength. In general, the manga focuses on Arale’s misunderstandings of humanity and Senbei’s inventions, rivalries, and romantic misadventures. In the middle of the series, a recurring villain named Dr. Mashirito appears as a rival to Senbei.