Okay, I am generalizing here, but bear with me. Girls who read manga enjoy shojo titles like Fruits Basket while boys enjoy Shonen titles like Naruto. So what do grown ups read? Yotsuba&!
That’s an answer will probably surprise a lot of publishers, but every Yotsuba&! fan I have met, online and in real life, has been an adult. And most of them have been men! I can’t think of a manga title that’s been pushed on me more often than this one, and often by guys who know a lot about comics.
What so strange about that? Yotsuba&! (the ampersand and the exclamation mark are both a part of the title) is an all-ages comic that tells the day to day adventures of green haired little girl, a pre-schooler who lives with her dad and spends most of her time playing with the three sisters next door. We don’t know much about her. She isn’t Japanese. Her father, a translator, adopted her while overseas. It’s never explained where or what happened to her and that fits the spirit of the comic. Yotsuba lives entirely engrossed in the present. No sooner does an idea enter her mind than she’s off making it a reality. When she’s told bus rides are free for kids her age, she’s on one before anyone can stop her. When she decides to go cicada hunting, she soon presses friend and neighbour alike into her adventure. If that doesn’t pique your interest, don’t worry, these aren’t plot driven stories. Their humour and their charm derive from the books star, whose innocence gives her an audacity that comes without ulterior motives.
I have read the first five volumes. All of them charming and fun. (There may be a sixth out there, but I haven’t seen it yet and the sources I’ve checked online aren’t clear.) There has been little in the way of story development, with everything taking place during the same summer vacation. I don’t know how the Japanese school system works, but if Yotsuba were in Canada she’d at least be heading to kindergarten soon. I can see a lot of comic possibilities in her being let loose in a larger social structure, but for now I hope that creator Kiyohiko Azuma can keep her free of it. She seems to belong to the summer and its limitless possibilities.
Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma. Published by ADV Manga.