Yotsuba&! is an ongoing manga (Japanese graphic novel) series written and illustrated by Kiyohiko Azuma. This series was one of the first to start my wonderful journey into the world of Japanese comics and animation, and is among my favorite manga. Similar to Azuma’s previous work, Azumanga Daioh, Yotsuba&! is a slice-of-life/comedy manga.
The story centers on Yotsuba Koiwai, an odd, quirky, five-year-old girl and her adventures with her next-door neighbors, her father and his two friends. Throughout the series, Yotsuba discovers many things for the first time, getting excited over everyday objects like doorbells, air conditioners and playground swings. Most of Yotsuba’s friends are much older than her, but find her unique personality cute and love playing with her. Yotsuba has fun with them and befriends many new and interesting characters throughout the series.
No matter how much manga I read, Yotsuba&! will always have a special place in my heart because of many reasons. First of all, the diverse, memorable and loveable cast of characters can make anyone smile with their antics. Secondly, even though no big changes occur in the plot, overall, the simplistic tales of everyday life with a ‘Yotsuba twist’ always keep me interested and entertained. The introduction of new characters, locations and concepts to Yotsuba as well as her reactions to them are priceless. This is also the only manga I have ever read, which makes me burst out laughing at the humor. In fact, not only are the stories funny and quirky, they have an untroubled, sunny vibe.
The joy Yotsuba finds through her adventures and discoveries spreads to me and I am happy every time I read a story from this series.
Finally, the illustrations are lovely, depicting Yotsuba in a simple, fun and easily recognisable style to portray her innocent nature, while her surroundings and other characters are drawn in a more detailed style. The art easily conveys Yotsuba’s many moods and emotions.
I’d recommend Yotsuba&! to all kinds of readers. If you are new to manga, you may find a new passion stemming from this series. The bubbly artwork and joyful story perfectly express Yotsuba&!’s motto: Enjoy everything.
Note: Since this is an ongoing manga, stories are serialized monthly in the Dengeki Daioh Magazine (in Japanese). However, 13 volumes of Yotsuba&! collecting all the stories so far have been released in English, with more to be released soon. I recommend the translation published by Yen Press since it includes translator’s notes and other interesting details.