Manga-ka: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: All Ages
Release Date: December 2009
Synopsis: “Mooooo…! MOOOO…! Cows are neato! It’s fun pretending to be a cow! And milk comes from cows, so I bet they’re real nice too. ‘Cos milk is super-yummy, right?! Yotsuba thinks so! And milk comes in lotsa flavors, so cows must come in different flavors too. How else is there white milk and coffee milk and chocolate milk?! Then there’s the black and white cows, they’ve gotta make a super-secret special flavor, huh?! Yotsuba wants to know! Let’s go ask the cows at the ranch, Daddy!”
Paper cup phones, strawberry shortcake, a fever in bed and a trip to the ranch – that and more in this volume of Yotsuba&! – and for those who’ve already fallen in love with the title character’s forthright curiousity, comical expressions and childlike wonder, that’s all you need to hear (if for any reason the title wasn’t enough anyway).
Ever wondered where milk comes from? Well Yotsuba has and despite a less than appealing thought in regards to strawberry milk, she’s out to see herself a cow! A trip to the ranch is on their minds but alas it must be postponed because Yotsuba gets sick. No worries however because she takes it in stride, in fact if it wasn’t for her Father noting the fever and properly caring for her, you wouldn’t even know she was sick – the attitude of a child at adorable work.
And what’s this mid-way through – a new potentially recurring character? Or at least an old background character getting some spotlight. Hiwatari is a friend and classmate of Yuka, previously seen during Yotsuba’s exploration of the local high school. In this volume she’s invited over to help Yuka bake a cake. Toss the-eager-to-help Yotsuba into the mix and you know you’re going to have an interesting final result, especially when everyone’s skill level is about the same – with exception perhaps of Yotsuba’s mad egg-cracking skills. Hiwatari herself is quite likeable, (though in all fairness no one in the series has ever proven unlikeable) and it’s especially fun seeing her break into random celebratory poses. While this act in itself isn’t anything new to the fun-loving cast, it still comes off as adorably unique to her.
There are some chapter jumps in this book that feel a little out of sorts though. While abrupt endings on a pitch-perfect note has always been a strong point for the series, there were a couple here that felt more like they had pages missing then they were ending on a solid comedic note. A pittance perhaps but it does stand out. Some chapter breaks also cut directly into on-going plots but thankfully this doesn’t cause any blip to the story. It’s actually fun having these longer story arcs that require the cuts in the first place – plus it’s more adorable chapter cover artwork after all.
The final arc of the book finally sees Yotsuba visit the ranch to milk some cows. But a last minute self-invite threatens to momentarily spoil her plans – re-enter the evil Yanda! Yotsuba is generous and lets him come however, marking the beginning of another adorably hilarious outing that’s guaranteed to give readers some genuinely charming moments to laugh along with. From Yotsuba and Yanda’s constant bickering to Yotsuba versus a sheep, it’s a perfect cap to a volume that’s chock-full of people of all ages stepping back from the world of mundane maturity and joining Yotsuba in the realm of splendiferous spontaneity.
Seeing Yanda return for an extended period of time, and showing sides of his personality that keep getting more and more silly (thus more entertaining), were almost entirely worth it on their own. Collectively though there’s just something so undeniably fun about the combination itself of Jumbo, Yanda, Yotsuba and her Father all together like this. The whole ranch story is well worth rereading even as soon as you’ve finished your first time through and there’s a good chance you may find something you missed the first time through. Readers of the series up until now will also get several references to past events bound to bring up all memories of a good laugh.
Remaining as it ever was, Yotsuba&! is a must-buy, must-have, must-own and a flat out must read again and again series. If this honest, happy and outright endearingly unique little girl doesn’t put a smile on your face then… well, then you probably haven’t read it yet. Consistent recommendations may feel a little repetitive but it doesn’t make them any less worth heeding – buy Yotsuba and love it half as much as she loves exploring the world and you’ll be all the happier for it.