#1 A spiritual succesor to Azumanga Daioh
Azumanga Daioh was a 4-panel manga that featured in the montly magazine Dengeki Daioh from 1999 to 2001, which also released in independent volumes and a complete omnibus set. The series was adapted into a 26-episode anime by J.C. Staff in 2002 and both versions really ushered in a new age for slice-of-life comedy stories.
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, but I really do feel that Yotsuba&! is yet another step up from the already fantastic Azumanga. Kiyohiko’s art has improved even further, his stories are even more adventurous and adorable, and the characters even more relatable.
#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 The expressiveness of the characters
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 and Jumbo is remarkably tall, but characters like the Ayase family could have been background characters in any other story, yet really stand out in Yotsuba&!.
Every character is just so expressive and it conveys a ton of personality. 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 and being friends, topics that really put a smile on your face even on the toughest of days.
This is a manga all about finding enjoyment in the tiniest of things in life and Kiyohiko Azuma conveys this beautifully through his art. It’s a manga I can read over and over again, and while the jokes are great, the art and character designs alone could have carried it.
#4 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.