Yotsuba&!, vol. 1
by Kiyohiko Azuma
ADV Manga, $9.99
Truth be told, I had been reluctant to read Yotsuba&!, for a couple of reasons: first, much has been made from all the promotion that Yotsuba&! is by the creator of Azumanga Daioh, a comic that I had a lukewarm at best reaction to; and second, so much praise has been heaped on Yotsuba&! that it couldn't possibly live up to the hype, could it?
As it turns out, yes it can. Yotsuba&! is a delightful, charming series that can be enjoyed by all. It's also at times very, very funny.
The premise is simple: Yotsuba and her dad move in to a new neighborhood and interact, mostly with the family next door. What makes this comic a winner is the personality of Yotsuba herself: bubbly and fearless, and often wrong, and scarily like a real four-year-old. (In fact, there were frequntly things that Yotsuba would say or do that I could see my own nephew doing.) Yotsuba is exploring her world and her boundaries, trying to make sense of it all. Yotsuba hasn't yet developed a self-censoring mechanism (in Freudian terms, she's all ego & id, without a superego) and says exactly what's on her mind, although mostly her heart is in the right place.
Azuma has a gift for deft characterization, and that extends to the supporting cast as well: Yotsuba's dad, a single parent trying to keep everything together; the older neighbor girls, who take an immediate liking to this strange girl who moves in next door; and Jumbo, the family friend, who is also at a stage of arrested development, showing how what is charming in a four-year-old girl can be disconcerting in a grown man.
Have I mentioned yet how charming Yotsuba&! is? Yes, I have, but I probably can't say it enough. Reading Yotsuba&! will keep you smiling from cover to cover, and help you to rediscover your comic book soul.
Rating: 4.5 (of 5)