To say I am fond of Yotsuba&! is a bit of an understatement. When a new volume of Yotsuba&! reaches my hands, I tend to drop everything else I am reading and immediately dive into Yotsuba’s latest adventures. By this point in the series, I no longer have much doubt that any new installments will be good reads. The real question is whether they can possibly live up to my overwhelming expectations of excellence.Fortunately, the seventh volume of Yotsuba&! proves to be a very satisfying read, even for someone with expectations as high as mine. While none of the individual chapters are true standouts along the lines of, say, the parody of The Professional in volume 2, they are still extremely funny. The volume is nicely bookended by a family trip to a ranch, but it’s still very episodic fare. Familiarity with the previous volumes will make some of the jokes more enjoyable, but a new reader would have no problem starting the series here.
Because Yotsuba&! is rated for all ages, people often automatically assume that it’s intended for kids. I do see kids at my library checking out the books, but I think the series is most appreciated by teens and adults–anyone who has just a little distance and perspective on being Yotsuba’s age. I was reminded of this while reading volume 7 because, compared to some of the earlier volumes, we see less of the Ayase girls and more of Koiwai’s friends; consequently, some of the jokes seem particularly aimed at older readers.
One feature of Yotsuba&! that doesn’t always get discussed in reviews is the art. Reviewers always mention the comedy and the pitch-perfect depiction of childhood, but Azuma’s art sometimes gets forgotten in the mix. This is a shame, I think, because the art makes everything else work. Azuma’s style doesn’t draw attention to itself, but it is superbly well-crafted. After all, the art is behind the pacing of those great jokes; those reaction shots that make me laugh out loud are set up by Azuma’s illustrations and layout.
The manga also has a strong sense of place thanks to Azuma’s art. This is easy to overlook, because Yotsuba&! isn’t set in an exotic locale or time period. But Azuma really brings everyday places to life as Yotsuba runs around her house and her neighborhood or navigates the aisles of a convenience store. Again, this is the sort of craft that’s often invisible while one is reading. But when that sort of detail is absent, as is often the case in more amateurishly drawn works, it’s very much missed.
I really can’t recommend Yotsuba&! enough. Volume 7 may not be the absolute best in the series thus far (the only reason I didn’t give it an A+), but it is still a wonderful read. Don’t wait to buy or borrow a copy for yourself!
Review copy provided by Yen Press.
Review originally published at MangaLife.com.