Manga-ka: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: All Ages
Release Date: April 2010
Synopsis: “The ranch wasn’t fun, huh? But maybe festivals will be less funner?! (Yotsuba’s playing opposites, ha-ha!) Yotsuba got uninvited to Fuuka’s school for a culr…a clart…a cultural festival! And she didn’t promise Yotsuba there wouldn’t be CAKE! Yotsuba doesn’t want a cake as biiiiiig as Jumbo, nope!! You wouldn’t either, now would you?! Ohhh! And then, and then! There ISN’T gonna be a great big festival for the whole town to go to! And Yotsuba isn’t gonna work hard and help out there with Ena and Fuuka, nuh-uh! Not even for candy, nooooo way!”
For whatever reason this eighth volume of Yotsuba&! didn’t quite hit the same chord as those recently before it – and believe it that in a series as consistently entertaining as this it’s difficult to find specific flaws. Volume seven though was easily one of the strongest to date so volume eight does come on the heels of some tough-to-beat material. Nevertheless, this is Yotsuba&! so the jokes are still funny and the antics still loveably quirky, even if they didn’t seem to hit those consistent laugh-out-loud levels.
But, don’t get me wrong, there’re still plenty of fun times to be had. This volume offers up some new situations for Yotsuba and readers to explore. This include, but are most certainly not restricted to, a short-lived typhoon, a vast local festival (Yotsuba sees a man wearing a fundoshi – how could hilarity not ensue?) and a game of ‘reverse’ that gets a little hairy when dictated by the attention span of a five year old.
This volume’s most outstanding moments however involve Mr. Kowai – the often present but not always remarkably involved Father of our favourite little clover-leafed child. From defending his adopted daughter from a demonic onslaught, to engaging Mother Nature in a moment both hilarious and inspiring, volume eight offers up plenty of reasons to step back and be reminded that hey, this guy raised Yotsuba and that’s gotta mean something. He really is an endearing character, both as a caring Father and an oddity all on his own.
Moments were we get to see the next-door-neighbour girls immersed in their own lives instead of merely being a part of Yotsuba’s is also interesting. Fuuka is a notable example – it’s easy to see her as comic relief and merely the butt end of others’ sarcastic wit (though she returns it all with gusto) as she interacts with Yotsuba and co. but it becomes almost humbling when reminded she is a confident, intelligent and popular young woman who holds not only the friendship but admiration of her peers.
It was also lots of fun seeing young Miura, often noted as the tomboy, participate in the volume’s grand festival chapter. Adorned in beautiful robes and performing a ceremony among others her age, the show was both eye-catching and impressive. The same can be said for much of the chapter, which not only offers up the anticipated amounts of moments for Yotsuba to be her charming childish self, but is also chock full of skilfully detailed artwork that really brings their town and its celebrations to life.
This volume of Yotsuba&! isn’t the series’ strongest but even that still makes it only marginally less fantastic than the rest of the books so far. Maybe it’s that Yotsuba seems a little bit calmer, or that the accursed Yanda’s involvement is a little bit shorter, but while readers may not laugh out loud as often, or quote as many scenes as giddily, it’s still another book well worth running to your local manga shop for. Yotsuba&! remains one of the most easily recommended set of books out there right now so if you haven’t partaken already, don’t let yourself be the last to learn why.