Yotsuba&! Vol. 1, by Kiyohiko Azuma

Nothing much happens in the first three volumes of Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&!. The series features a preschool-age heroine with green hair, boundless energy, and a blissfully innocent attitude. Entire chapters are devoted to things like moving a TV, doing the laundry, or visiting a department store. As plots go, this series is about as complex as one of the less action-packed Dick and Jane stories—but a mere plot summary couldn’t hope to convey the charm of Yotsuba&!’s completely adorable characters and art, or Azuma’s uncanny knack for portraying the affection, squabbling, and dorky in-jokes that so clearly mark people as family.

The artwork in Yotsuba&! isn’t elaborate, but it is remarkably effective, particularly when it comes to conveying emotion. Every thought in Yotsuba’s head is naked on her face, and the expressions of the people that interact with her (usually some variation of “totally confused”) are priceless. With the exception of Yotsuba’s hair, which is tied up in four green pigtails, Azuma’s artwork features little of the bubbles-and-flowers cuteness common in manga (and if you’ve ever seen a single dad try to fix his daughter’s hair, even the hairstyle isn’t that implausible).

Yotsuba’s world is a small one. She lives with her adopted father, a translator and stay-at-home parent who spends most of his time dressed in boxers and a t-shirt, muttering at his computer. At the beginning of the series they have just moved into a new house. Jumbo, Yotsuba’s dad’s enormously tall best friend, drops by occasionally, and there is a family of three older girls who live next door, whom Yotsuba, never beset by shyness, immediately begins to treat like older sisters.

There is some mystery about Yotsuba’s background. The blurbs on the back covers of the books half-jokingly suggest that she might be an alien, and the only explanation provided thus far is that her father found her somewhere abroad and decided to raise her as his own. I’m not sure whether this puzzle will become a larger plot point later on, or if Azuma will just steamroll past it. I hope it’s the latter, but regardless of which route Azuma decides to take, Yotsuba&! is a story that celebrates the innocence of childhood and the (periodic) joys of parenting with tremendous sweetness and humor.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


The Angry Carrot
The Angry Carrot
30 May, 2006 05:06 AM @ version 0

I LOVED this series. And I LOVED "Azumanga Daioh". But when is the next one coming out, damn it?!?

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