Press Archive

Animerica November 1996 (Volume 4, Number 11)

That Other Toriyama Series

In addition to his character designs/conceptual artwork for the fantasy RPG video games Dragon Quest and ChronoTrigger and the 3-D polygon fighting game Tobal No. 1, the other big series DRAGON BALL creator Akira Toriyama is known for is DR. SLUMP, the story of an ASTRO BOY-esque inventor and the robot he creates. Unlike Dr. “Tea Water” Ochanomizu’s* “Tetsuwa Atom” child substitute, Dr. Senbe “Seaweed-Wrapped Rice Cracker” Norimaki’s super-powered “Arare-chan” or “Li’l Arare” (named, appropriately enough, after a bite-sized rice cracker) is motivated not by a humanistic desire to save the world, but by the urge, KEY THE METAL IDOL-like, to make as many friends as possible.

Like DRAGON BALL, DR. SLUMP was first serialized in Shônen Jump magazine, eventually producing roughly half the tankôbon or compiled manga volumes of DB. DR. SLUMP was Toriyama’s first hit and so, unlike DB, which was in production as an animated series almost as soon as it was published1, DR. SLUMP took a bit longer to make it to the airwaves. Once it did, however, it proved a success with both children and adults alike, chockablock with enough zaniness and toilet humor to rivet youthful audiences to the set, which more sophisticated subplots and humor caught and carried the interest of adult viewers through the series’ 243 half-hour animated episodes.

We mentioned above that, like DRAGON BALL, DR. SLUMP was first serialized in Shônen Jump. That’s why it’s even more interesting to note that no more than seven days had passed since DR. SLUMP ended its run on Japanese television in February 1986 that DRAGON BALL picked up where it had left off, taking over not only DR. SLUMP‘s channel, but its timeslot, as well (Wednesdays at 7:00 ~ 7:30 p.m.). Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, DRAGON BALL‘s Goku makes a guest appearance in DR. SLUMP, coming for a visit to the Penguin Village where Dr. Norimaki and Arare-chan and the others live. Witnessing a feat of Arare’s super-strength, Goku whistles appreciatively and makes a comment to the effect that Arare should enter the next Tenka-Ichi Budôkai tournament as a competitor. Other DRAGON BALL / DR. SLUMP points in common include a love for vehicles and gadgets of all striples, an anthropomorphic pig, even a little pointy-eared cap similar to the one DRAGON BALL‘s Mama Bulma will someday place on Baby Trunks.

Like most brilliant inventors in fiction, DR. SLUMP‘s Dr. Norimaki is a bit of a goof, ill at ease in any situation outside of his work and more than a little self-absorbed. His motivation for creating the android Arare-chan (passed off in the series as his “sister,” as opposed to the parent-child relationship of Dr. Ochanomizu and Atom) isn’t to further science for its own sake or to increase the sum of knowledge in the world, but to prove how great is his own genius. A blonde sexpot named “Midori-sensei” or “Miss Midori” plays Kasumi to Dr. Norimaki’s Dr. Tofu2, and when the two are finally married toward the end of the series, they have a little boy whom they name “Turbo” (“Turbo Norimaki… Sounds like a good, strong name.“).

One day, little Turbo is out playing when he gets run over by some joyriding aliens. Frantic that they’ll be traced back to the trime (Earth is strictly off-limits to them for visiting, never mind joyriding), they worry about how they can “fix” the lifeless child. (“We gotta do something! We gotta fix him!” “What do you mean, ‘fix’ him!?” “I dunno, just FIX him!“) So one of the aliens zaps Turbo, he’s brought back to life, and Turbo’s good as new, right? Actually, as a result of the aliens’ meddling, Turbo’s now better than new, able to not only talk, but to fly and even use psychic abilities like telekinesis…and at less than a year old (“Blood will tell,” explains a chronically clueless Dr. Norimaki).

Like we said, it’s a zany series.

* Note that in ASTRO BOY (as opposed to the Japanese series TETSUWAN ATOM), Dr. Ochanomizu is known as “Dr. Elefun.”

The following historical notes are included for the benefit of the reader as supplemental information and were not originally published in the book.

1 Not quite; while Dragon Ball‘s first manga chapter debuted 20 November 1984 in the 1984 #51 issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump, its first television episode would not air until 26 February 1986 (admittedly, though, still rather timely for the 1980s).
2 Characters from Ranma 1/2, a series readers at the time would likely be familiar with, due to Viz’s publication of both the translated manga and television series in North America; Viz was also responsible for Animerica magazine.
Transcription & Notes: VegettoEX