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Dr. Slump Volume 8

Written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama
Viz Media
200 pages, $7.99
ISBN-10: 1421506327
ISBN-14: 9781421506326


Read excerpt from right to left. Arale meets Poop-Bot in this sequence from Dr. Slump Vol. 8, ©2008 Akira Toriyama.


In their hilarious, brutally honest book, Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma had the following to say on the principal appeal of children's manga:

Kids have to be interested in a manga if it's going to be a hit. Kids' interests can be divided into the following:

  • Excrement and the lower body (crap, butt)
  • Magical worlds (ghosts, monsters)
  • Shiny things (fire, explosions, trucks)
  • Candy (chocolate, gum)

Because elementary school children are still in what Freud called the anal phase, they love crap and butts. Also due to the fact that they aren't bogged down in everyday existence, they gladly welcome ghosts and monsters or other beings from alternative universes. All in all, if you depict a filthy, abnormal world children will love it!

Long before the various Dragonball series made Akira Toriyama filthy rich, he first came to prominence as a cartoonist thanks to his landmark comedy series for elementary-school boys, Dr. Slump. It could be argued that Dr. Slump perfected the formula offered by Aihara and Takekuma.

The story centers around inventor Senbei Norimaki — the titular "Dr. Slump" — his indestructible, rambunctious robot daughter Arale, and the denizens of Penguin Village, a small town where Superman wannabes and incompetent invading alien beings rub shoulders with talking pigs and beautiful schoolteachers whose panties are an eternal source of speculation among the town's pervier residents (read: Senbei Norimaki). Readers trained by other manga to expect some kind of overarching storyline should look elsewhere, as the above is really little more than an endless series of gags involving mayhem, funny inventions and devices, the impotence of authority figures in the face of unstoppable childhood will-to-power... and poop jokes. Lots of poop jokes. This isn't to say that stories aren't told, but they're episodic and short, taking just enough page space to explain why a given chapter's insanity happened to be strung together in just that way. Multi-episode storylines occur, but only to extend gags until every last ounce of comedy has been wrung from the material.

Volume 8 finds the Toriyama manga machine running like a well-oiled engine. The stories involve, in order: a sweet-potato loving miser whose hoarding leads the kids of the village to announce their intention to invade his mansion and steal his potatoes; a rampaging robot maid; a wild four-part race through town; a visit from two well-meaning outsiders with no idea how dangerous their vacation destination can be; wannabe highway bandits trying to jack a car with Arale in the back passengers' seat; and a supervillain's attempt to capture Penguin Village with his new, Arale-proof robot. There's just enough meat on these storytelling bones to move the events forward, but not so much to get in the way of the resulting comedic anarchy. Since everything is invariably reset at the end of a given tale, Toriyama has endless room in which his characters can rampage around and destroy things. The results are predictable after a while, but since these stories were written for readers with short attention spans and an endless desire for fun things, an adherance to formula is really no drawback to entertainment. Plus, there's robot poop. Let me repeat that: There's robot poop. If this isn't the perfect kids' comic, I don't know what is.


This essay appeared on the then-website of The Comics Journal sometime between 2006 and 2008.


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