Comic Book Spotlight of the Day: Yotsuba&! vol. 1 – September 2009 (Yen Press)

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TITLE: Yotsuba&! vol. 1

RELEASE: September 2009 (U.S. Release)

COMPANY: Yen Press

Story & Art by Kiyohiko Azuma

When it comes to manga, I have discovered that anything created by mangaka Kiyohiko Azuma, I will more than likely purchase.  For the slice-of-life manga series, “Azumanga Daioh” was a lot of fun as each character was wild, crazy, airheaded or just vibrant.

While “Azumanga Daioh”was presented as a series of vertical four-panel comic strips (yonkoma), I always hoped to read a manga series by Azuma that was chapter-based.  And so, when I heard that a comedy manga series titled “Yotsuba&!” was being created and will be published by MediaWorks in Japan in 2003, I was wishing it would be released in the U.S.  And thankfully, here we are with the first volume of “Yotsuba&!” courtesy of ADV Manga.

The series has received critical acclaim and is a big seller in Japan.  And while “Azumanga Daioh” was made to an anime series, Azuma has said that he has no intention of wanting “Yotsuba&!” being made into an anime series.

“Yotsuba&!” is a manga series that is unusual but so much fun!  It revolves around a five-year-old girl named Yotsuba Koiwai, who lives with her adoptive father Mr. Koiwai.

Both have moved to a new town and for Yotsuba, she is very naive to a lot of things she sees around in the city. We are introduced to Mr. Koiwai’s good friend (who is 6 ft., 11 inches) named Takashi “Jumbo” Takeda, who helps them with the move.

Yotsuba eventually meets her new neighbors (who find her weird), the Ayase family which consists of 20-year-old sister Asagi Ayase (a.k.a. “the pretty one”), 16-year old Fuka Ayase (a.k.a. “the one who is not pretty”), 10-year-old Ena Ayase (a.k.a. “the small one”) and their mother Mrs. Ayase (which Yotsuba had started calling her “Mommy”).

The following chapters of “Yotsuba&!” vol. 1 are summarized without spoilers:

  • Chapter 1 – Moving – Yotsuba and her father move into a new neighborhood and meets her new neighbors, the Ayase family.
  • Chapter 2 – Manners – Yotsuba escapes from the bathroom window after the lock breaks and Fuka goes to look for her.
  • Chapter 3 – Global Warming – When Ena tells Yotsuba that she doesn’t like to use the A/C because of global warming, Yotsuba thinks her father is bad because he wants to use the A/C.
  • Chapter 4 – TV – The Ayase family wants to give their old TV to the Ayase family, so Mr. Koiwai and Jumbo go to the Ayase’s home to pick it up.
  • Chapter 5 – Shopping – What happens when Mr. Koiwai and Yotsuba go shopping.
  • Chapter 6 – Cicadas – Jumbo takes Yotsuba and Ena to catch cicadas.
  • Chapter 7 – Rain – Fuka asks Mr. Koiwai about Yotsuba being adopted.

I absolutely love the work of Kiyohiko Azuma and reading “Yotsuba&!”, for those who read his previous work “Azumanga Daioh” and remember the character of Osaka, from her naivety to her being an airhead, with Yotsuba, she’s a young girl, almost like a little child who is curious about their surroundings and wants to experience it. She’s full of life but because she is so unfamiliar with so many things that are normal to most people, some people look at her as very weird.

For example, the first chapter when she sees a swing and not sure what it is. Or when she gets on the swing and keeps making herself go higher and higher and not knowing what to do. It’s so interesting to see life through the eyes of young Yotsuba and what makes the series so exciting are its characters. The Ayase sisters bring an interesting component to the series, almost similar to how the other characters did so with “Azumanga Daioh”, each are different types of characters but putting them together and exciting and fun things happen.

But the series is a slice of life manga series with each chapter about the daily lives of the character and the things that Yotsuba discovers and is fascinated by.

It’s a quirky anime series but a storyline that is so addictive and enjoyable that you can’t help but want more!

Unlike “Azumanga Daioh”, Azuma’s artwork is much more detailed. In “Azumanga Daioh”, rarely do you see backgrounds but in this case, he puts details in the vehicles, the building structures and areas where Yotsuba and others interact with.

But what he does bring over from “Azumanga Daioh” is the character facial expressions, may it normal to something so unusual and crazy, but you can’t help but laugh.

This is only volume 1 and the chapters are pretty much introductory but I really enjoy this manga a lot and I can’t wait for volume 2!

“Yotsuba&!” is one of the best manga series that I am reading right now and because of its’ quirkiness, its humor and unique style…it’s one of my favorite manga series that I have read in 2005 thus far!

Kiyohiko Azuma’s “Youtsuba&!” Vol. 1 is highly recommended!


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