Whew. It was a releif to see Yotsuba&! Vol. 6 on the shelves this week, after almost two Yotsuba-less years following ADV’s announcement that they would be refocusing on the anime portion of their business. Yen Press picked up the North American license, and Wednesday saw the release of not only the sixth volume of the series, but new editions of the first five as well.
The creation of Kiyohiko Azuma, the manga-ka previously responsible for Azumanga Daioh, Yotsuba&! follows the day-to-day adventures of Yotsuba Koiwai, a rather ordinary five-year-old girl, as she gradually learns about the world of older kids and grown-ups.
It doesn’t actually sound all that unusual in synopsis, but then, that’s a large part of the serial’s charm—Azuma is so skillful at depicting many of the absurdities of society when seen from Yotsuba’s outsider’s perspective that even the most ordinary and mundane activities become thrillingly dramatic. Like, the fact that there are two eclairs in the refrigerator, for example, doesn’t sound like something one might want to read a whole chapter about, but, man, remember being five-years-old? And finding an exotic treat in your house?
Azuma skillfully moves between Yotsuba’s view of the world and her father’s, so that the reader is constantly seeing things as exciting and bewildering, and then laughing at the fact that so much can be perceived as exciting and bewildering.
But then, you’ve probably experienced all that for yourself already, right? Because you like comics, and have therefore already been reading Yostuba&!, one of the most original, charming and all around funniest things you can find on the racks of your local comics shop.
The sixth volume is quite naturally in keeping with the first five. Big events in this volume include Yotsuba getting her first bicycle and learning to ride it, and, in a few stories that made me feel a little uncomfortable, Yotsuba misbehaving and disobeying her father (in one instance, spectacularly so).
The main change between this volume and the previous ones is the publisher, and while the contents are pretty much the same, and the format so similar it likely won’t cause any freaking out (the logo and spine design, for example, are different, but not radically so, and while I could tell it had changed, I wasn’t sure how much until I went to shelve the latest volume next to the last ADV one).
The biggest change I noticed was that Yen aggressively used footnotes under the panels to translate Japanese words, sound effects and occasional cultural notes, which are over-used to the point that they can be a little annoying. For example, in one scene Yotsuba’s neighbor Fuka has a T-shirt that says “15 years old” in Japanese on it, and there’s a footnote translating the shirt not only after the first panel, but in every panel which it appears.
That is literally the worst thing about the book, though, and maybe the only bad thing about it. I got over the inconvenience pretty quickly, anyway, and it’s well worth putting up with in exchange for getting more Yotsuba&! volumes in English.