Dr. Slump

I remember growing up with a variety of children's television programs, some of which that still exist today. Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Electric Company, Captain Kangaroo...though many childrens' shows were silly or goofy, all of them taught moralistic lessons in a way children could easily understand. In some way, I suppose you could say the same thing about Dr. Slump for Japanese children...nah! It might be intended for kids, but Dr. Slump is wacked, wacked, wacked. If you ever wondered how anime could be so crazy, all you have to do is watch the warping of fragile little Japanese minds by this show. Although some of it is mild in comparison to some anime you'll see, for a children's show, this show breaks virtually every barrier and taboo. For a show over 20 years old, it's still quite unique.

Dr. Slump is a half-hour animated TV show that revolves around Dr. Slump, a stocky, bearded weirdo who has all sorts of bad habits and quirky personality traits, and his ultimate creation, Arale, a robot that acts and appears like a 13 year old girl. With the help of his girlfriend (and eventual wife) Midori Yamabuki and her students, Dr. Slump winds up in all sorts of strange predicaments...and for children's TV, this stuff is pretty crazy. One episode I watched involves a magic camera that goes around making carbon copies of everybody, which seems like a nice idea until they all start beating up on each other. In another, Dr. Slump, a chain-smoker, goes to the doctor (a ram, of all things) to find out that his lungs are dripping with nicotine. He is determined to kick the habit, but as he leaves the office, it becomes clear that everyone else in the universe smokes...even the birds flying overhead! But these are just typical antics...in a world where the animals go around insulting the humans, the sun brushes its teeth each morning, a teacher's breasts are inflatable, and superheroes are back in grade school, nothing's off limits. And if you thought that singing, talking poo was a South Park invention, think again...it appears first in Dr. Slump. Although this show would never fly in the US, it was actually quite popular for a while in Japan, with a television run of five years and six hour-long films.

It's surprising that this show hasn't gotten a little bit more attention in the English-speaking world, as its creator is none other than Akira Toriyama, the mind behind the unbelievably popular Dragonball. However, besides the subject matter, there are a few other things holding Dr. Slump back from being released stateside. The biggest is its age. The artistic style was never all that impressive, and after twenty years, it's not looking much better. The animation was always extremely low-budget, and so you've got some issues there. The other big issue is that other shows have superseded it in terms of comedic measure. Sure, it's a crazy show, but it takes a lot to get most audiences past the outdated animation and style to get the humor. However, if you can get past that, the show holds some big belly laughs, particularly in its funniest moments. Episodes vary wildly in comedic content, but considering how rare this show is these days, you pretty much take what you can get.

So is it worth the effort to find Dr. Slump? If you can manage watching shows without subtitles and don't mind low-quality copies, it's still possible to find Slump episodes in various anime club collections. If your humor tends towards what you can find on Comedy Central and you're not offended by much, then by all means, search this out. You'll probably see a lot of the inspiration for shows that you like now, and even if it is outdated, it's still fun.

Dr. Slump -- comedic violence, potentially offensive material (particular to parents of the target audience) -- B+