Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Review: Dr. Slump

Continuing my look at only-from-Japan manga reading from last weekend:

On the nearly completely opposite end of the manga spectrum from Project X: Cup Noodle is Dr. Slump vols. 1 & 2 (Viz, $7.99 ea.). Created in the early 1980s by Akira Toriyama (who would later go on to produce the ultra-popular Dragonball manga), the basic premise of Dr. Slump is that scientist Senbei Norimaki creates Arale, a girl robot. Hilarity ensues.

The art, plot, characters, etc. in Dr. Slump all point to it being a comic for ten-year-old boys, which in fact was its target market in Japan. So why does Viz rate it as T for Teen? Cultural differences. Despite a certain amount of editing, there are still plenty of scatalogical and sexual references at a level that can be appreciated by ten-year-old boys but which certain segments of American society think they shouldn't be exposed to. For instance, the plot of one early chapter involves the fact that Senbei failed to provide Arale with a vagina, since he has no idea what one actually looks like.

That's not to say that Dr. Slump is all sex & poop. There's plenty of other wacky hi-jinks and flights of whimsy, puns and pop-culture references, and even an occasional insight or two. The characters in Dr. Slump are also frequently aware that they are characters in a manga and provide some meta-commentary. One favorite episode in vol. 2 has Senbei creating a reality machine: any picture placed in the machine is turned into an actual thing. Akane--one of Arale's friends--decides to place a photo of the universe inside the machine. Then Arale cuts off a page of their own manga and places it in the machine too.

As I mentioned, Dr. Slump is a manga that appeals to ten-year-old boys; but then we all have a ten-year-old boy inside of us. I'm not sure I'll want to read more than a couple of volume before it gets old, but it's a good way to regress.

Rating: 3 (of 5)