Its extraordinary to realize that before this manga Akira Toriyama didn’t have a lot of success. Before Dragon Ball came Dr Slump, but before Dr Slump he had a few one-shots that were published, but nothing major, never a popular or long running series. It is extraordinary because throughout this first volume of Dr Slump you realize this is a man who has great comedic chops, someone who is intrinsically familiar with every aspect of manga as an art form, and to boot, he is an artist that knows when to go big, when to be minimal. Let’s break this all down one at the time.
Dr Slump follows the titular character, a pervy, but also shy bachelor inventor, who one ay decides to build a robot for himself. Now, such a perv you think would probably build some stacked sexy robot. But not Slump. He builds Arale, a child looking robot who apparently looks old enough to be accepted into high school. The manga follows the hijinks of both the professor and Arale, as they navigate everyday life, weird creatures appearing suddenly and Arales school life.
Toriyama can’t help but love food puns. Just like in Dragon Ball, there are plenty of characters who are a slight variation on a food item or vegetable. Even if you see and know the jokes a mile away, they are still funny, which is a true Toriyama magic. The rest of the humor is based on formulaic sketches. Slump will invent some sort of contraption, at times for pervy things. He will try to use it, but Arale or someone else will get to it first and create all sorts of funny situations. In one chapter the doctor invented a machine that lets you look into the future. The kids get their hands on it and make each other laugh. The funniest part is when at the end of the chapter Arale turns the camera towards the fourth wall and takes a photo of the reader, with the setting set to 200 years in the future. The panel just shows a skeleton laughing and exclaiming :”Stupid Manga”. There are jokes that are really pushing the line of good taste and pedo stuff, so be warned.
Toriyama draws as freely as possible. In addition to fourth wall breaks, there are also a lot of examples where he just ignores the composition of the panels and their sizes. The art itself is usually a sort of chibi art. The heads are disproportionally large, with emphasis on a more realistic style ignoring the proportions. At times, for example, when Slump goes on a grandiose tirade, Toriyama will go all out and draw him with as much painstaking detail as possible.