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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Manga Review: Yotsuba&! Vol. 1

There is a lot of Manga in the world today, as Japan and Globalisation have expanded the borders of this artform. One master of the medium is Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy. He made popular what Manga is today. But at the moment I'm reviewing a work by Azuma Kiyohiko, called Yotsuba&! Vol. 1.

Anybody familiar with Azuma's other work, Azumanga Daioh, and the anime series that came from it, will recognise the distinctive art style used in Yotsuba&!, In fact, some of the characters cleverly reference the appearance of the characters from Azumanga Daioh, Asagi in Yotsuba&! looks slightly like Sakaki, Yotsuba looks like Chiyo-chan in subtle ways, and Ena resembles the immature teacher Miss Yukari from Azuma's earlier work. But despite the similarities, Yotsuba&! is not a retread of Azuma's Daioh.

Yotsuba is a little girl and new in town, like Chiyo-chan from Daioh, but instead of the child prodigy Chiyo was, Yotsuba is naive, to the extent she does not know what a swing or an air conditioner is, and this series chronicles the days when Yotsuba discovers new things in the world, always with wonder and a sense of enjoyment of everything.

Yotsuba's father, an unkempt but incredibly mature young man, tries his best to raise the girl he adopted. He is one of the best characters, and one of the most intriguing. As the volume progresses, one finds out more about this mysterious man. We are not told why he has moved to a new town with his daughter, and we do not find out what his job is until later in the volume, but this allows us to speculate what might have happened to him earlier in his life to make him what he is, a sometimes irresponsible chap who strives to make sure Yotsuba grows up right.

What struck me about this Manga volume was that it actually made me laugh. I have difficulty expressing laughter, and it takes something really funny to provoke a true to life


Really, it will make you laugh. If you do not, you probably need to see a psychiatrist. The nature of this Manga is pure, simple humor. Azuma uses Yotsuba's naive understanding of the world to deliver laughs, with Asagi often taking advantage of Yotsuba's nature to get enjoyment. An example: Yotsuba finds out about global warming by having Air Conditioners explained to her, thus convincing her to think A/C units are evil. But when she finds out her Dad has installed one in the house, she is without doubt that her Dad is the "enemy of the Earth".

It's even funnier with the pictures. You need to see the expressions used in this to fully appreciate the effort that goes into every gag.

I give this Manga Volume "10 out of 10 Summer Cicadas".

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