By Rumiko Takahashi. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Camellia Nieh.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this volume quite so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love UY with all my heart. But I knew we were going to get a heaping helping of Ten here, and Jariten has always grated on me. That said, as I re-read these manga chapters, he didn’t come off quite as badly as I’d expected. The thing is, Ten was SUPER popular when he first appeared in Japan – if not with the readers, then definitely with the animators of the soon-to-come anime series, which took the liberty of inserting Ten into the third episode and having him shoehorned into most episodes after that. But “bratty little kid” has always been a harder sell in the West, particularly if they’re not the ‘sarcastic adult’ kind of brat – look at the four or five failed attempts to sell Crayon Shin-chan here. So it was always hard for me to not just grit my teeth. But here, in the manga chapters written specifically for him, he’s a lot of fun.
Ten, like Mendo before him, is meant to set up a basic truth of the series. Many of the male characters are set up to be contrasts to Ataru, only for it to turn out in the end that they’re exactly the same as Ataru. Ten is a “cute little baby” to most of the women around him, which he uses shamelessly, as he notes he’s not into young girls his own age. (What age that is is left up in the air – he certainly seems very angry when someone calls his tiger skin a diaper.) But of course, Ataru never gets anywhere with any girl not named Lum, and the same applies to Ten – sure, he can snuggle in some bosoms, but he’s essentially just as much of a sad sack as everyone else in the book. He’s also naive enough to be taken in by Ataru’s really, really obvious schemes – see the chapter where he and Sakura go on a “date” that is meant to have her beat him like Ataru but doesn’t work as Ten is a x-year-old boy.
Elsewhere, Ran settles in as a main cast member, though when the focus isn’t on her, her characterization can vary – during the poetry competition, she seems like a different person! There’s a 3-chapter arc set during the Heian period… sort of, note they’re all watching TV and have electricity… which is basically there to show that the cast’s crazy adventures are timeless. Probably my favorite chapter is one where Ataru has made an “anti-teenage gang” movie for the school. It’s absolutely terrible, and Mendo tries to have it destroyed, but instead, thanks to Lum’s alien projector, the delinquents in the movie come to life and terrorize the school… then fend off an invasion by delinquents from another school. From seeing the main cast dressed up as stereotypical delinquents, to movie-Ataru’s ‘LOVE AND PEACE!’, to movie-Lum and Shinobu literally being able to fire huge missiles from under their skirts, it’s pure Takahashi hilarity.
With Ten’s arrival, we’re almost at UY’s middle period here. Takahashi has settled in and is doing what she does best – writing zaniness. Anyone who loves seeing what comedy manga was like at its peak should be reading this.