“That girl’s way too strong! Only a character from an early ‘80s gag manga could have so much power!”
There’s an episode from The X-Files seventh season that’s a crossover with Chris Carter’s other series, Millennium (which is aptly titled “Millennium”). The episode exists for the sole purpose of wrapping up the loose ends of Carter’s recently canceled series.
Mulder and Scully still have a mission in the episode, but the story revolves much more around Frank Black, Millennium’s protagonist. The person who experiences the big arc here isn’t even from The X-Files. It creates a bizarre, empty feeling in the viewer and while “Goku vs. Arale!” has much more pure intentions than “Millennium,” it’s an oddly similar experience.
This isn’t the first time that Akira Toriyama’s series, Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump have crossed over before, but it’s a particularly unusual episode of Dragon Ball Super because this story is ultimately about Dr. Senbei Norimaki’s rivalry with Dr. Mashirito. Don’t know who Dr. Norimaki and Dr. Mashirito are? Well don’t worry; you’re not alone here.
I was genuinely curious if the dub of Dragon Ball Super would even include this installment because even though Akira Toriyama has a huge presence in North America, Dr. Slump does not. The manga/anime series tells the story of the robot, Arale Norimaki and her genius scientist father who live in Penguin Village.
Basically think of a more surreal Astro Boy if none of this is sinking in. Goku has visited Penguin Village before and crossed paths with Arale and company on a few occasions (they’re even a part of the cast in the third Dragon Ball film, Mystical Adventure), but even if you didn’t know who they were, they don’t feel that different than any of the weirder side characters that crop up in Dragon Ball.
However, in this case not only do Arale and Dr. Norimaki invade the series, but the chaotic tone of Dr. Slump does, too. The episode begins in Dr. Slump Land and acts like the Dragon Ball characters are visitors to theirworld. A talking pig directly tells the audience that “Arale’s arrived to Dragon Ball Super” and they better get ready. Later on a character even pulls out and references the original Dr. Slump manga at one point to remind everyone of past plot points. Meanwhile, there’s not even a “Previously On” package to ground the viewer to some familiarity. The results lead to one of the most memorable episodes of Dragon Ball Super.
It’s hard to believe that the world almost ends in this episode and that it’s a science fair of all places that brings all of these powder kegs of power together. Mr. Satan decides to collect some easy appearance money by hosting a science competition (because if there’s anything that he’s better at than fighting, it’s science) where Bulma is a natural shoo-in for first place. Vegeta and Trunks tag along for moral support, but Goku is also present because he’s the event’s security detail.
It doesn’t seem like a science fair is the sort of place that would necessarily need security, but you never know when some evil superpower could swoop in and steal this next-level tech. Having security at an event like this basically ensures that something will go wrong.
Bulma’s only real competition comes in the form of the greatest scientific mind to come out of Penguin Village, Dr. Slump’s Dr. Norimaki. Norimaki has crafted a pretty unbelievable piece of technology, the Reality Machine Number 2, which is able to materialize whatever the user is thinking about into existence (and it strangely maybe helps prove that Norimaki is a pedophile?).
As fun as all of the science showmanship and bragger is, it has to come to a premature end when a bigger problem arrives. Apparently the ghost of the villainous Dr. Mashirito has possessed girl-robot Arale with the help of Playtine-X. Oh that pesky Playtine-X, right? A well-known substance that’s always getting in the way in Dragon Ball…
Once again, if none of this makes sense, it shouldn’t. In Japan this episode is meant to capitalize on the success of Toriyama’s two biggest creations. If Dragon Ball gets a new series then of course Dr. Slump needs to stop by with an update, too. Americans didn’t go through the same pop culture experience.
Toonami never latched onto Dr. Slump, nor did anyone, for that matter. The closest parallel would be like if Goku fought Heero Yuy’s Gundam from Gundam Wing or something. This episode still works without any Dr. Slump knowledge, but it almost becomes a joke against itself and about crossovers in general. This episode is so indulgent and the most that Dragon Ball has never given a shit. “We just saved the universe from Zamasu, guys. You better believe we’re going to do a stupid meta gag episode!”
This reckless attitude is certainly freeing for Dragon Ball, but it’s going to draw a clear line down the fanbase. It makes no sense at all that Arale would be strong enough to just destroy Super Saiyan Goku and Vegeta, but the episode fully acknowledges this. Vegeta even breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience about the absurdity of this “gag character” like he’s Abed from Community.
Some people might hate all of this, but it’s a whole lot easier to just have fun with this bonkers one-off fight between overpowered franchise leads. At one point Arale literally splits the world in half and excrement plays a major factor in the episode’s conclusion. It’s crazy how enjoyable it is to see a hyper Arale go up against Dragon Ball’s serious warriors. The end of the world doesn’t always have to be a bummer.
Thereis a plot here, but basically Dr. Mashirito makes Arale go out of control and wipe the floor with Dragon Ball’s strongest heroes. It gets to the point where the fight between Goku and Arale creates such energy that it risks destroying Earth itself. Thankfully Bulma and Norimaki are able to get Beerus and Whis to show up in the nick of time (amen for food) and extinguish the threat before the planet gets a little too destroyed, but none of that really matters.
This is an episode about creating a spectacle and it does exactly that and has a hell of a lot of fun in the process. When the show is entertaining and the fight choreography is solid, what else does Dragon Ball need? “Goku vs. Arale!” might be one of the contentious episode of the series, but it acts as a strong reminder of how insane and creative the show can get when it lets its hair down.
Besides, if you think this is stupid; next week is goddamn baseball. Get pumped.