Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Yotsuba&!, vol. 3

As mentioned previously, I'm reviewing the ADV release of this series, as opposed to the new re-release by Yen Press.

The story: When Asagi gives Yotsuba a tasty gift, our green-haired heroine goes on the hunt for a suitable souvenir for her neighbor. Later, Jumbo's job is revealed and his father is introduced. When Yotsuba and her dad come into an abundance of flowers, courtesy of Jumbo, Yotsuba decides to go play "flower cupid" and gives them away to strangers. In between, Yotsuba learns the fine art of badminton and reciprocal gift-giving. At volume's end, a summer fireworks show and festival make for more memorable moments between Yotsuba and her friends.

Reaction: There are some hilarious one-liners in here, particularly when Yotsuba yells "I don't need your pity!" to a carnie who offers her a free prize when she doesn't win. There's also a lot of innocence on display, whether it's on Yotsuba's part or whenever Jumbo interacts with his best friend's female neighbors. Although he's a large guy, Jumbo seems pretty inexperienced when it comes to the ladies, young and old. And, while you'd think he'd know a thing or two from hanging out with the tiny and strange Yotsuba, he continues to make the same date-related mistakes.

Deep thoughts: This volume makes mention of Japanese bon festival (alternately known as obon), where the living remember the spirits of their ancestors. During the three-day festival, families honor the dead by visiting and cleaning their loved ones' grave sites. Interestingly, it's held during different times of the year in different regions, depending on whether they follow the Gregorian, lunar or solar calendar. The celebration is very similar to Mexico's Dias de los Muertos.

Artwork: It seems odd to say this, but there's a lot of "life" in this volume -- from the bouquets of flowers to the animals at the zoo, there's a lifelike amount of detail built into each panel. And while I haven't noticed it before, I really felt that there was an amazing sense of place in this volume. Whether it's Yotsuba's neighborhood, or the aforementioned zoo, Kiyohiko Azuma take great care in immersing the reader in Yotsuba's world.

The verdict: Required reading. This is consistently one of the most entertaining series I've read in some time. No matter what, I can always count on Yotsuba and gang to bring a smile to my face! Yotsuba&! is available in the U.S. from Yen Press.

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