Manga Village

Yotsuba&! Volumes 1-6

November 11, 2009

Yotsuba is back, and this time from Yen Press. The quirky, inquisitive little girl is still romping around with her favorite pals: her dad, Ena, Fuuka, Asagi and Jumbo.

Originally reviewed by Dan Polley
Yotsuba 1By Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: All ages
Genre: Comedy
Price: $10.99

The mischievous antics start when Yotsuba and her dad move in next to the Ayase family, which includes Ena, Fuuka and Asagi, three girls. Of course, Yotsuba wanders off and Fuuka talks to her dad and agrees to find him. Yotsuba, who thinks Fuuka is a stranger and should not be trusted, runs away, and the pair almost get hit as Jumbo pulls up to the house. And that’s just the first chapter.

Yotsuba 2Another one of Yotsuba’s curiosities is her ability to not fully understand what the adults or older kids tell her. This is exactly what “Global Warming” is about when she hears “glowball warming.” Yotsuba proceeds to deem anyone with an air conditioner on as an enemy of the earth.

The young girl is full of good intentions, and that’s what leads to her getting into trouble most of the time. This is best seen in “Helping Out” in the fifth volume, when she goes next door to the Ayase family and tries to assist in a number of household chores, always ending in less-than-stellar results. Or as in “Milk” and “Delivering” in volume 6. In those stories, Yotsuba wishes to be the milkman, so when she goes to deliver the milk and sees Fuuka ride past her on a bike, she decides to follow Fuuka, who is riding to school. Plenty of trouble follows her, despite her best intentions of simply to deliver milk to Fuuka.

Yotsuba 3Yotsuba is always getting into mischief, and most of the time, that’s what provides the laughs. For instance, in “Catching Cicada,” she comes home and lets the insects out of the container, allowing them the opportunity to fly all over the house. The neighbors are less than amused.

The best tale from the first six volumes, “Vengeance,” came in the second volume. In it, Yotsuba was watching a television drama show; when it was over, she espoused the characteristics of someone seeking vengeance. It also has some of the best art, especially the one-page splash at the beginning that shows Yotsuba in a stereotypical mobster’s hat and jacket. But in the tale, Yotsuba plays out and shoots her dad and Jumbo with a water pistol. She spins and turns into another character and seeks vengeance for what was done to them.

Yotsuba 4Although they are all good, the fifth volume was probably the best. It had two of the best vignettes, “Danbo” and “Yanda.” In “Danbo,” Ena and her friend, Miura, are working on an independent study project for school. When Yotsuba stops by, Miura is dressed as a robot in cardboard boxes, and Miura prentends to be a fully functional robot. Yotsuba asks if there is a person inside and the robot, Danbo, answers no. As Yotsuba learns more, she tests the robot by punching him. And later, Ena’s mom brings up food, but Miura can’t eat, even though she’s hungry, because it would crush Yotsuba’s spirits if she learned a person was under there.

Yatsuba 5“Yanda” introduces what could be Yotsuba’s nemesis, Yanda, who is one of her dad’s friends. Their relationship gets off to a bad start when Yotsuba is home alone and Yanda wants to wait inside for her dad. Yanda offers her candy and drops it, and when Yotsuba looks up, Yanda is half-way inside the front door frame. Yotsuba rushes and shuts the door on Yanda, who is half inside, half outside. It only gets worse (or better) later when Yotsuba gets ice cream and flaunts it in front of Yanda. “Want some?” she asks, only for Yanda to take it away and steal a big bite, leaving Yotsuba furious.

The art is simplistic, but it works well that way. And it is at its best during moments of extreme emotion as those emotions are then displayed quite well on the characters’ faces, such as when Yotsuba sees Yanda steal a bite of her ice cream.

Yotsuba 6Although most of the tales in the first six volumes are one-and-done, some, including “Milk” and “Delivering,” show a continuation of themes or stories into multiple chapters. And that really helps to break up the monotony of the one-chapter stories, which can work great in a single volume, but fall flat after several volumes. The fifth volume has a three-story arc that ends the volume in a nice, touching way. And, again, it helps to break up the fact that most Yotsuba tales are stand-alone stories.

Review copy provided by publisher.

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