Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yotsuba&!, vol. 4

As noted in previous posts, this is a review of the ADV release of Yotsuba&! and not the newer release by Yen Press.

The story: It's summertime and the livin's easy for Yotsuba and her pals! From punishing games of rock, paper, scissors and summer fishing trips to a grocery-shopping trip and the pain of heartbreak, silly protagonist Yotsuba is squeezing every last drop of fun from her vacation. At volume's end, there's some breaking news and a major lesson learned when it comes to that signature summer pest, the cicada!

Reaction: What kid doesn't love summer? And if there's anything that exemplifies childhood, it's spending summer vacation goofing off with your friends. Of course, Yotsuba enjoys every last minute of her time with her new friends and I was happy to follow along. There were some great little moments here, my favorite being Yotsuba's roshambo with her dad, a shopping trip involving eggs and tomatoes "for kids" and the creation of the Yotsuba Times.

Deep thoughts: When it comes to humor, it doesn't always translate; what's funny to one group, might not be as funny to another (see: Jerry Lewis or puns). But, in advertising research, the kind of humor that does translate is unexpected humor, where a situation ends differently than what's expected. And that's something that you see in Yotsuba&! quite a bit. Whether it's Yotsuba saying or doing something unexpected for her age (like giving love advice to Fuka), it's a universal joke that anyone can relate to and doesn't require insider knowledge.

Artwork: There's a great visual play on words throughout this volume, involving tsuku-tsuko-boshi, or cicadas; and in another chapter, I really loved the competitiveness between Jumbo and Yotsuba's dad when they played badminton. But, the first opening pages of this volume are my favorite -- everyone's faces are so expressive as Jumbo watches Yotsuba and her dad play rock, paper, scissors. While much of it amounts to facial expressions resembling Japanese emoticons, there's also a smooth pace set along with perfect side-by-side panels showing "before and after." It's little things like this that make the reading this such a delight.

The verdict: Required reading. Another ab-fab volume from Kiyohiko Azuma! Yotsuba's earnestness, combined with the personality quirks of her father and others, makes for an entertaining, giggle-worthy diversion from the everyday. Yotsuba&! is available in the U.S. from Yen Press.

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