Shounen – Romance, fantasy, comedy, drama, tragedy
8 Volumes (complete)
With his mother deceased and his father a workaholic, Kotarou spends much of his time home alone studying for middle school entrance exams. But his quiet life is shattered when his new neighbor suddenly asks him out and then starts following him everywhere. Even more strangely, Misha claims she’s an angel.
Although the artwork can be very weak, Pita-Ten is a beautiful coming-of-age story.
Manga starring elementary elements are pretty rare. The ones that do generally are children’s (kodomo) manga with lots of comedy. Pita-Ten may have comedic elements, but it is far from light-hearted. As a one of those “shounen-that-is-almost-like-shojo”, this series features very mature sixth graders. While even the author admits she’s never met elementary students this mature, Kotarou’s and his classmates’ ages actually work really well with the context of this manga. The gang is at an awkward age: too old to be considered kids but too young to be teenagers. They know they can’t always get what they want, but they just too young to be able to fully accept this fact. While Kotarou, Takashi, and Koboshi all have different troubles, they all can be traced back to this conflict.
The first couple volumes makes readers believe it is nothing but a “young boy stalked by an angel” and sets the manga up for its romantic conflicts. Chapters are more comedic and episodic with study robots, cross-dressing, toilet humor, and lots of Misha-stalking. However, Pita-Ten is just luring readers at this time while also allowing them to get to know Kotarou and the others. The cast is pretty much set by the second volume, and by the third the darker aspects of the series are brought into the forefront.
After the weaker opening volumes, the pieces start to fall perfectly into place. Unlike so many manga where the author is making up the details on the fly, Koge-Donbo must have had a detailed plan on when, where, and how to lay out some of the hints and foreshadowing for the latter half of the series. It’s rewarding to realize later, “Oh, so that’s why!” or, “I never even noticed!” in regards to some of these seemingly minor details. While the later volumes tug at your heartstrings, the ending is steeped in emotions. It’s beautiful, and all 11 reviewers on Amazon.jp agree it is 5 out of 5 stars. Everything comes full circle (although one reference is slightly lost because of the adaptation), and the main characters have all grown.
As a protagonist, Kotarou is pretty unique because he’s not completely anti-social, but he isn’t overly friendly, either. He has his close friends, but he doesn’t aspire to become a companion to the whole class. He’s not an idiot, but he doesn’t have the brains like some of his friends. At times, he’s the tragic “I’m always alone” brooders, but he doesn’t cover up his loneliness with a smile; that is more like Takashi. Meanwhile, Koboshi may seem doomed to forever linger in the childhood friends category, but most of her jealous girl moments for comedic effect rather than a deep aspect of her personality. New classmate Hiroshi takes over much of the comedy for the second half of the series, but he is less prominent in the story. Even though he is a rich boy and annoying self-proclaimed rival, we get a couple of scenes showing how sincere he is. As mentioned before, the students are generally portrayed as more mentally mature than their ages suggest, but this is a coming-of-age tale. The main three all start to grow into the people they want to be, not who they pretend to be. Meanwhile, Kotarou’s neighbors Misha and Shia are key in Pita-Ten. Misha acts like a ditzy, hyperactive, well-meaning stalker, and Shia is like a yamato nadeshiko. Each have their own burdens, and unraveling them forms the basis for the story.
In the early volumes, Koge-Donbo’s art is divided equally between gorgeous and ugly. When Koge-Donbo’s art is gorgeous, it’s beautiful. The close-ups and full-page designs skilfully showcase the characters’ emotions. The characters’ physical beauty in these shots showcase why others are attracted to them. However, not every panel is this wonderful, especially early in the series. Ugly scenes tend to be heavily inked. Characters look short and have fat eyes and faces. It takes several volumes before the author’s art stabilizes, but the early art is rough. It’s not just because of the time period Pita-Ten was released in either; Koge-Donbo just hadn’t worked on a long-running series before, and it shows. In addition, lots of chibi characters are used throughout the series, and the overabundance of them drags down the artwork even more. Emotional shots almost always just feature one, maybe two characters; while this helps draw your eyes to the characters, it also looks like a lot of empty space. On the bright side, a lot of the effort to draw the backgrounds are switched to the characters. Misha’s main dress is a multi-layered, ruffled design with lace borders and large bunnies (who change their expression constantly) in her hair. Even during the normal flow of the story, there are too many panels with an overabundance of whitespace. Puts some trees, buildings, or streetlights in! Even some sky shots or good screentones would be nice. Some aspects of character design should just be chalked up to suspension of disbelief, most notably Koboshi’s cat ears. Overall, it’s a mix of artbook, 4-koma, and doujinshi-level quality. Once you get past the opening, it becomes much more appealing. It’s still not always great, but the last volume is artistically years ahead of the first.
Originally released in 2000, Pita-Ten‘s adaptation can be seen as either progressive or regressive depending on your tastes. Honorifics are used, but no guide is given. The text is Americanized and slangy at times, using phrases like “what a fox”, a strange comment from an elementary student. However, I do give much credit to the translation and adaptation team for their attempts to bring over the characters’ speech patterns. Misha’s “su” ending is kept in as a speech quirk. Tokyopop really played up Misha’s childish way of speaking to the point it sounds more like baby talk. Hiroshi and Kaoru sound like they are from a higher class family, and Shia speaks politely. It’s also amazingly consistent. Brand names like Tupperware and Band-Aid being mentioned, and the “r” word is used once. Sound effects and Japanese text that is part of the artwork is left untranslated (as per usual Tokyopop standards), but at least the more unusual writings get a translator’s note. Hiroshi’s nickname of “Unko” adapted to “Poops” to keep the joke.
In addition, this an odd adaptation that both feels like it needs to hold readers’ hands and explain the action yet also drops lines when either the translator or adaptor feel they’re unnecessary. Let’s cover a couple of examples. First is the original Japanese text, the next is my translation, and the last set is Tokyopop’s version.
“He’ll be fine, su. ‘Cuz I’ll make Kotarou-kun better again. You just get a good rest, Shia-chan! Su!”
“Don’t you worry! Su! I’ll patch him up good as new, okies?”
“No matter what I try, it’s no good su. I’m even looking at the book, but I still don’t know su.”
“I’ve tried everything but nothing works! Su! And this book’s just makin’ me all muddly-wubbly!”
“Misha-san? You okay?”
「じゃーん！今回は 実は ニャーちゃんおかげなんス」
“Ta-da! This time, the credit actually goes to Nya-chan, su!”
“Okay, let’s give a big hand to Nya-chan! Without him, I wouldn’t have known what ta do! Su!”
So you can see how some of the lines change. In one, Shia is touched by Misha’s kindness, but the English version has her almost chuckling. In another, a simple “tada” is rewritten with a whole sentence. Tokyopop made Misha’s casual tone childish, but it shows her individuality.
So depending on if you like honorifics, Japanese speech quirks being left in, or whether you like a more liberal or literal translation, you might think this series’ adaptation is decent or horrible. I may not like all aspects, but I really appreciate the attempt to distinguish the talking styles.
With a storyline that makes you glad you took the journey and its adaptation issues, I would love to see Pita-Ten rescued. Barring that, track it down. Although it is out of print, it is pretty easy and cheap to acquire. The first four volumes were listed recently as a Mega Deal for Right Stuf for $12 new, and the same box set can be found for around $8 used. Even the later volumes are pretty cheap, with most of the cost to acquire going towards shipping. You can even acquire the whole series for about $20 if you catch the right eBay auction. That’s the cost of a couple of movie tickets or a dinner, and I think you’ll get at least that much enjoyment out of it.
One thing you might want to be aware of is the quality of volume five. While the others’ pages are flexible and readable, this volume is very stiff and noticeably thinner. I believe Tokyopop must have changed paper quality, as this is the only book in the series where my pages show heavy yellowing. The majority of pages look as if a yellow crayon has been rubbed on them. None of my previous nor later volumes have this problem.
Tokyopop also released the three fanbooks for Pita-Ten as well as an artbook. Seven Seas licensed the light novels, but the third and final one was never released. Right Stuf announced they will release the Pita-Ten anime in 2016. It takes its cue from the beginning of the manga.
Tokyopop also released the author’s series Kamichama Karin. Del Rey then released the sequel, Kamichama Karin Chu. Viz, Broccoli, and another company published several volumes of the Di Gi Charat series; Koge-Donbo did the character designs. She also designed the characters in ADV Manga’s A Little Snow Fairy Sugar. Broccoli and Tokyopop also released a few of her single-volume series.