There were two and a half years—nearly 30 months—between the release of Yotsuba&!’s 13th volume and the latest 14th volume. I was left severely wanting throughout the entire span of time. Would a continuation ever be released?! But recently, it has! And coming back to it felt as if Kiyohiko Azuma’s masterwork never left my life.
Day 10 of the 12 Days of Anime 2018
This is a tad bit melodramatic, sure. But there’s a good reason for it all: Yotsuba&! is my favorite manga. Nothing else comes remotely close.
My introduction to the series was perhaps fairly typical. Back in my late teens, I was a huge fan of the anime school comedy Azumanga Daioh, enough so to become familiar with the name of its mangaka, Kiyohiko Azuma. Looking more into him, I found out that he had another manga going on, this one about a green-haired little girl. Apparently, it was really good! And during a period of time when I still thought of 4chan with some modicum of respect, it was also noteworthy that Yotsuba had become their “404 girl” and unofficial mascot.
However, I was an anime fan whose interest in reading manga was close to nonexistent. That changed one day during my sophomore of college, while hanging out with some friends at a Borders near campus (man, I still miss Borders). We were browsing the manga section, and I noticed that HANG ON A SECOND, they actually have that Yotsuba&! manga I’d been hearing about!
(I just checked the release dates for the Yen Press publication of the manga, and the first six volumes all came out September 2009—right at the beginning of sophomore year, in other words, meaning I did in fact see it right as it first came out)
I flipped through some of the volumes a bit, including looking at the front and back covers and all that—including a shot of little Yotsuba’s determined attempt to imitate the crane stance of her father and his tall friend—and was full of so much irrationally happy laughter (god, I must have been so annoying to deal with back then), that I knew I had to start reading it for myself.
Yotsuba&! was, in that way, the first series that made this primarily anime fan take the prospect of collecting and reading manga seriously. A couple of volumes soon turned into All Of The Volumes over the years; I even repurchased a bunch of the earlier volumes after my baby brother ripped up the covers and drew on many of the pages, that’s how dedicated I’ve been. Basically, I absolutely adore this series. Even more than Azumana, without question, and make no mistake, I loved Azumanga.
I don’t know if there’s ever going to be anything that captures this precise sliver of comedic slice-of-life better than Yotsuba&! Perhaps it’s a sort of slice-of-life umami: A feeling hard to describe, but rich with character. It deftly glorifies a non-glorious vision of the life and times of Yotsuba and company, every chapter like the perfectly-rendered capture of an imperfect moment in time. Yotsuba is bratty, unfiltered, generally kind of a little shit just as much as she is sweet and kind-hearted, and it makes her both hilarious and likable. Everything looks lived-in, especially the scenery and architecture, but the art is impeccable and detailed in such a way that the lived-in-ness feels warm. Every facet of the series is like this.
And coming to this moment, nine years after starting this manga, two and a half years after a hiatus with nothing new to be read, when I read volume 14, none of that has changed. Yotsuba&! is still the same thoroughly charming, funny book it always was. She’s still climbing all over her ever-patient, ever-annoyed dad. Yanda gets on her nerves something fierce as usual. She shows up Fuuka and Miss Stake at yoga. Dad and her even discover the magic of an all-you-can-eat buffet.
As long as it still goes on, I will be here for it all. Though not having to way a couple years for the next part, optional as that ultimately is, would be nice.