#1 A spiritual succesor to Azumanga Daioh
Azumanga Daioh was a 4-panel manga that featured in the monthly magazine Dengeki Daioh from 1999 to 2001. The series was later adapted into a 26-episode anime by J.C. Staff, which become a pivotal moment in anime history. Azumanga wasn’t just influential; it kickstarted anime’s fascination with low-stakes slice-of-life comedy and became so iconic that some of its effects on anime pop culture continue to be relevant to this very day.
The manga variant is a straight 10/10 for me and J.C. Staff’s adaptation is honestly not far behind. The kind of stories writer Kiyohiko Azuma tells, the way he draws his characters, it all has this special, wholesome appeal to it that absolutely clicks with me. Yotsuba is a spiritual sequel that both leaves behind the 4-panel format, as well as the familiar high school setting that featured in Azumanga. Instead we find ourselves in the Koiwai household, consisting of just Yousuke Koiwai and his adopted daughter Yotsuba.
The awkward thing about saying something is a 10/10 is that it leaves no room to go any higher. I really, genuinely feel that Yotsuba is yet another step up from the already fantastic Azumanga.
#2 Yotsuba is absolutely adorable
The story, as the title implies, mostly centers around Yotsuba. She is a five-year-old kid living with her dad, who has just moved to a small city after living in the countryside for a while. She is hyperactive, quirky, but most importantly: undeniably adorable.
Each story has her taking on a new adventure with her dad or the girls living nextdoor. This can range from just playing outside, to going to a swimming pool, to seeing a hot air balloon race, or attending a festival. Despite already counting 13 volumes with a 14th just about ready to come out, none of this ever gets boring because Yotsuba is such a great protagonist. You just keep wanting to come back to this manga to see what she’ll do next.
#3 Character designs
Adding to the cuteness factor is Azuma’s beautiful art, which has improved a lot now that he isn’t constrained to small, 4-panel boxes anymore. What I find most interesting is that the character design is mostly grounded. Yotsuba may be a green-haired weirdo, but characters like the Ayase family look so normal.
Characters like the Ayase girls, Jumbo, Yasuda, and even Yotsuba’s dad look “normal”, but Azuma succeeded in turning them into iconic characters. It’s all in the little details; the expressions, their posture, the clothes, it all conveys so much of their personality.
I am particularly fond of Yousuke because more and more I am beginning to resemble the dude. He’s a work-from-home guy with a laidback personality, so he gets unkempt hair, small eyes, and mostly wears plain T-shirts. When they introduce Yasuda later in the story and you see how he contrasts against Yousuke, you instantly get a feel for what kind of guy he is.
#4 Enjoy Everything
A quote that really describes the manga for me is: “That kid always finds enjoyment in everything. Nothing can ever get Yotsuba down.” This, along with the tagline “Enjoy Everything”, suits the series perfectly. It’s all about characters having fun together as friends and family; something that’ll put a smile on your face even on the toughest of days.
I have long since lost count of how many times I have re-read the manga. I read all of it every time a new volume comes out, I read it whenever I am feeling down, and still it hasn’t lost its magic. Yotsuba is an infinite source of joy for this miserable universe that we live in.
#5 No anime adaptation available
So this blog is called “Reasons to Anime” and I use the blurb “Why would you watch that?” in my banner, yet the perceptive among you have probably noticed that this is not a review for an anime. While I would rank Yotsuba among the very best manga ever produced, to date no anime adaptation has ever been attempted.
While a spin-off in the universe exists in the form of some animated shorts, an anime does not exist and probably never will. Azuma himself has repeatedly stated that he feels Yotsuba doesn’t lend itself well to animation and I can kind of see where he’s coming from with that. So yeah, if you want to experience the absolute joy that is Yotsuba, you have no other option but to read it.