*Yotsuba&! Book 8 — Best of 2010

Review by Ed Sizemore

Yotsuba is a five-year-old girl who is the embodiment of Van Morrison’s admonition to live with a sense of wonder. This volume has Yotsuba delighting in acorns. She also gets to attend her first high school cultural festival and her first local shrine festival.

Yotsuba&! Book 8 cover
Yotsuba&! Book 8
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Yotsuba, both the character and the series, is a wonderland of innocence and joy. The greatest appeal of the series is how Yotsuba reminds us there is magic in the seemly mundane world around us. She is able to take pleasure in the simplest things that we adults overlook.

There is no grand narrative to Yotsuba&!. No profound insights into human nature. The theme is stated in the series’ tagline, “Enjoy everything.” Yotsuba reminds us that there is immense satisfaction in living in the moment. We don’t have to go to exotic locales for adventure. We simply have to be open to see what is right in front of us with fresh eyes. We shouldn’t take anything for granted but rather treasure even the most minute objects and encounters. It would take a lifetime just to master that insight alone.

Azuma has populated this manga with a marvelous cast of characters. The series wouldn’t have half its charm if the people around Yotsuba weren’t as good-natured and accepting as they are. Yotsuba’s dad and her neighbors give her the room to express herself, yet they are able to give gentle guidance when she gets a little too enthusiastic. Together with friends like Jumbo, they create a warm, nurturing environment for Yotsuba to grow up in.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments in this volume. In the opening chapter, after drinking a glass of milk, Yotsuba points to her father and says he’d like a glass of milk too. She pours a glass, then proceeds to drink it herself. Later in a restaurant, she combs her hair back and tucks a handkerchief in her shirt collar. She explains it’s what you do at a fancy restaurant. Finally, before the local shrine festival, Yotsuba discovers that everyone who helps pull the god’s cart gets candy. She declares, “Now, that’s a god for you!” She may be the world’s first sugar-centric theologian.

Azuma’s artwork is just as delightful as his storytelling. He uses a simplified character design. Like Charles Schulz, Azuma is able to convey every conceivable emotion with the minimum number of lines. Yotsuba’s exuberance jumps off the page. What’s surprising is the amount of detail put into the backgrounds. Azuma anchors this series in a very realistic world. By dong this, he emphasizes the message of taking pleasure in the world around us.

Yen Press is missing a golden opportunity by not having extensive translation and cultural notes at the end of each volume. Yotsuba&! is steeped in Japanese culture. Yen Press could educate young readers, and those new to manga, about Japanese society. Adding an educational component would increase the marketability of Yotsuba&! to schools and parents. Yen Press should be doing what it can to get this series into as many hands as possible.

Yotsuba&! is the perfect end-of-the-day read. The stories have the ability to wash away weariness and cynicism. Without question, Yotsuba&! is the best all-ages manga currently available. I love this series with all my being. Everyone needs to read this series and reawaken your sense of wonder.

20 Comments

  1. Yotsuba&! is one of those rare series that are so good-hearted they put you in the same mindset as the characters in the series and there are plenty of laughs to be had. Every volume has been golden.

  2. I like the series a lot. I think it’s a sign of how well-made it is that no on ever mentions how formulaic each volume is.

    Well, until I did it just now. :D

  3. Yokihana, I’m glad you love the series as much as I do.

    William, Could you elaborate more on that. Is it formulatic because there is always a happy ending? Take for example the school cultural festival chapter. It’s true that school cultural festivals are standard in anime and manga, but what happens in that chapter is new and original. So I wouldn’t call that chapter formulatic.

  4. The formula as I’ve seen it:

    1 Yotsuba discovers something for the first time and obsesses over it.

    2 Dad and/or Yostuba performs some sort of daily activity.

    3 Yostuba brings the weirdness to the neighbors.

    4 Something involving Jumbo and/or Yanda.

    5 Events leading up to “Fond childhood memory”

    6 “Fond childhood memory.”

    These same beats play out in more or less the same order over most all of the volumes. I’m not sure when it started, my earlier volumes are sitting on a shelf back in Canada, but I think it was pretty early in.

    The comic is so well done you normally don’t pick up on it. I didn’t until I picked up Vol. 9. As far as manga formulas go it’s not as if it’s a bad one. Sure beats the heck out of “Martial artist of the week”.

  5. William,

    I see what you’re saying now. Given the theme of Yotsuba, “Enjoy Everything”, I think it being a little formulaic is be expected. As you point out, the series doesn’t suffer any from it. Thanks for your insight.

  6. […] Nation) Sean Gaffney on vol. 8 of Yotsuba&! (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Ed Sizemore on vol. 8 of Yotsuba&! (Comics Worth Reading) Susan S. on vol. 3 of Ze (Manga […]

  7. Yen Press’s translation is very confusingly inconsistent. On the one hand, they hardline towards not translating a joke name with Danbo/Cardbo, but for Shimau they concoct Miss Take as an English equivalent. Ena’s Happy/Happi joke is punch-lined with “It’s a lie” which doesn’t make any sense at all and should probably be something like “I was making a joke.” Sometimes Yotsuba sounds very young, while others she delivers lines which sound way too adult (where there is no joke about her having picked up a large word or phrase from some other place and is clumsily applying it) such as “Now that’s a god for you!”

    I compared with some scanlations, and I may just stick to those. They were much funnier (even though it was my second time reading the same chapters) and more natural.

  8. Krill,

    I’m sorry the Yen Press translation doesn’t work for you. I liked the translation in volume 8 myself. I’m heartbroken to hear that anyone would continue to read scanlations when a legal license version of the manga is available. I’d rather you not read the series at all than read a scanlation. I hope you will give Yen Press another chance.

  9. My friend handed my Yotsuba and told me that if I had a soul I’d like this series. Since I didn’t like Azumanga Daioh that much (by the same mangaka) I was fully expecting to dislike this series and having to admit to having no soul. But I LOVE this series SO MUCH! I don’t mind if there are some criticisms in how Yen Press translated the manga, I’m just grateful that someone picked back up this series.

  10. I really enjoyed this volume a lot, though I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the personalities of the other characters, particularly the neighbors, are finally firmly established?

  11. I’ve always enjoyed Yotsuba but nowhere near as much as I enjoyed Azumanga Daioh, that changed with volume 8. I don’t know what it is but I found myself either smiling or laughing throughout all of the volume (like I did when reading Azumanga Daioh). Hopefully volumes 9 and onward will be just as good.

    I’d also like to recommend Bunny Drop to everyone who likes Yotsuba. Bunny Drop has a more serious tone overall but it’s very heartwarming and has the same humor as Yotsuba.

  12. Setre,

    I find I like both series equally. They each satisfy a different
    taste. I’m glad that Yotsuba vol 8 finally clicked for you.

  13. Finally got around to reading this volume recently, and I have to agree with Krill in that the Yen Press translation just isn’t as strong as it could be. Also agreed with you about the translation notes, which are equally inconsistent – there’s exhaustive details about the kanji on the characters’ shirts in the shrine festival chapter, but nothing explaining what the festival itself is about. All in all, I still prefer the old ADV localization, as well as how their handling of translation notes.

    This is the first Yen Press-published series I’ve read, and it’s one I’ll stick with since I love the source material, but if this is representative of their translation work, I won’t be buying anything else from them in the future.

  14. […] the Manga Moveable Feast is focusing on kids manga. As a play on words, the theme is to discuss Yotsuba & one other kids manga. Several distinguished bloggers have pointed out that Yotsuba is […]

  15. […] and Erica compare notes on such series as Lucky Star, Yotsuba&!, and Strawberry Marshmallow, among others, as well as discussing what moe means in terms of […]

  16. […] take on daily life that serves as a terrific getaway is this series, the continuing adventures of a young green-haired girl who is almost supernaturally […]

  17. […] us what event or location you’d like to see Yotsuba visit. She’s been to a farm and a school festival — where else should she go? Or dream big, with a trip to Disney World or Big Ben. Use your […]

  18. One of the things I’ve wondered about Yotsuba! is if it’s even funnier in Japan. The impression I have (which may be wrong) is that Japanese culture is more concerned with manners and politeness than US or UK culture. If that’s so, then there’s another layer to the comedy of the charming little girl, who doesn’t know the rules.

  19. That seems plausible, since the US has more of a tradition of the strong individual, while the impression I have is that Japan is more about fitting in.

  20. David,

    Politeness and proper manners are very essential in Japan. You’re right the more you know about Japan, the more you get out of the humor. That’s why I keep begging Yen Press to put cultural notes in each volume.

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