For a long time I hoped to write a sort of introduction to manga and follow it with some reviews and recommendations. I don’t feel up to the task. It’s a topic books were written on, and a great number of excellent blog posts. Having given up on this, I’m free to mention some specific mangas every now and then and treat them like just another comics.
Which is risky. Manga is an emanation of a specific culture and it takes time for a European reader to familiarise himself with different tropes and structures. Not to mention the fact that manga is drawn from right to left, like Japanese scripture, and this is usually preserved in English editions. And sensivities of Japanese readers are often… hard to understand. The amount of fanservice and sillines in otherwise serious and thoroughly researched and realistic mangas… the prevailing sexism of some of even the latest series… sometimes I read an excellent story for 10 volumes only for the immersion and enjoyment to be destroyed in a moment by something dumb or distasteful. Maybe I’ll elaborate on that some time in the future, but let me start today with something safe and unapologetically nice 🙂
So, I’ll just point to tvtropes for some basic information and introduce our heroine of the day: Yotsuba Kowai.
A Japanese comic about little girl? Wait, don’t call the police, it’s ok, it’s a series my 3(almost) yo niece safely enjoys. And so do I, partially because both the fictional and the real-life brats are similarly adorable.It’s a long (13 volumes and counting) series of a slice of live kind. That means we follow Yotsuba Kowai, her family and friends in their daily… struggles would be too big of a word. Occurrences. Nothing really happens. Some shopping, cicada-catching, baking, grandma’s visit. No plot to speak of. Yet Yotsuba manges to conquer hearts, of event the most cynical inside the story characters, and some unlikely real world readers.
True fact! Yotsuba is a mascot of 4chan, the wretched hive of scum and villainy that holds nothing sacred. With one exception, and they’re serious about it. And the similarities between their 4-leaf clover logo and Yotsuba’s hairstyle are not accidental.
She’s so cute, even the German edition I got by accident is adorable:
As long as she’s not holding a (water) gun, obviously 😉
Yotsuba is a lively, smart kid, brave and honest and serious about learning about the world around her and having fun. An orphan, but living with a loving adoptive father. Happy to befriend… most people.
I’ve always enjoyed reading about her, but now, when I have two adorable nieces, I’m a huge fan. I love reading it aloud every time little Madzia demands it, and one of my proudest moments as an uncle was when I realised she remembers the names (Asagi was her favourite then 🙂 ). I believe she understands Yotsuba’s strange logic better than I’m able to, and is able to sympathise with green-haired girl’s troubles better than I could 😉 Clashes of different perspectives, of kids, adults and teenagers are part of what makes Yotsuba so good!
For me, she’s comparable to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, albeit younger and less troublesome. I wonder if people actually raising their own children find little horrors like these two as funny as once-a-week uncles do 😉
Refreshing, straightforward like few things today, pure joy.
Yotsuba’s author, Kiyohiko Azuma, created one of the funniest mangas ever, Azumanga Daioh (see a short video from anime version). Story with a little older heroes, but better for readers somehow familiar with conventions of manga and anime. Yotsuba is suitable for everybody, all ages and cultures. If you don’t like her, there’s probably something wrong with your heart…
Not much of a review, so no score here, but hopefully someone will be inspired by this heartfelt recommendation 🙂
Oh, and here’s a quote from Wikipedia :
Volume eight sold more than 450,000 copies in 2008, making it one of the top 50 bestselling manga volumes on the Oricon chart for the year.
450K copies gave it place in top 50 of the year… crazy sale numbers 😉 And that’s just Japan, just one volume. Not impressed? Number one was over 1600K!!