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Monday, August 30, 2010
Yotsuba&! is a series by Kiyohiko Azuma, who also did Azumanga Daioh, which I really enjoyed so picking up Yotsuba&! was a no brainer for me. Did I enjoy the series? Hit the jump for my review and find out.
Yotsuba&! Vols 1-3
Written by Kiyohiko Azuma
Art by Kiyohiko Azuma
Adaption by Amy Forsyth and Stephen Paul
Yotsuba&! is one of the most charming comics I've ever read. Although the premise sounds simple, the series chronicles the daily adventures of five-year old Yotsuba Koiwai, as always, it comes down to the execution.
What makes Yotsuba&! such a great series is that Azuma manages to capture the child-like wonder that Yotsuba has during her adventures and convey in such a way that it's as if you are almost reliving your own childhood, which is what makes the series so endearing.
Yotsuba&! is a comedy series and Azuma has a fantastic handle on that. The humor also translates well and very little of it is based on material that would only work in Japanese though some of it is situational to Japan but easily explained with a few translations notes. The comedy is very enjoyable and covers mostly everyday and mundane situations though it can tend towards the more absurd at times, which does help to create some variety.
The cast is another thing that makes the series so wonderful. There are a lot of diverse personalities among them so they each play off Yotsuba, as well, in different ways. The characters all have their own unique quirks which not only help with the comedy but give the series some depth as well. This makes the series more than just a gag series that relies on jokes to carry it since the characters are developed well enough to be interesting in their own right. This also allows Azuma to tell jokes that are built up because of the character's familiarity with each other and not just having to rely on more one-note gags that he would be restricted to using with less developed characters.
Azuma's art shares all the qualities that his writing has. Comedy is a hard thing to pull off in comics at times but Azuma handles it with such grace and ease. He also perfectly translates Yotsuba's enthusiasm to the art, which is what makes many of the scenes work. His comedic exaggerations and flourishes also help in this regard and are some of the most interesting and visually engaging ones I've seen but, like a lot of the series, they are not terribly different from what you might normally see in any given manga but his level of craft is so high that it takes it to another level.
One thing that stands out to me about his art though is that the backgrounds are almost photo-realistic, though they still look drawn, which contrasts against the characters, who are drawn in a more cartooning style, which makes them jump off the page and seem as though they are alive.
Verdict - Must Read. Yotsuba&! is a charming and delightful series with an engaging cast and a wonderful sense humor that can appeal to anyone.