Yotsuba&! 3

by Kiyohiko Azuma

Cover image

Series: Yotsuba&! #3
Translator: Stephen Paul
Letterer: Terri Delgado
Publisher: Yen
Copyright: 2004, 2009
Printing: September 2009
ISBN: 0-316-07390-3
Format: Graphic Novel
Pages: 184

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Another volume of Yotsuba&! (よつばと!), another seven stories. As with the previous volumes, each story stands mostly alone, although here there are a few more links between subsequent stories inside the volume. Yotsuba&! 1 remains useful for character introductions and the little bit of background we've gotten to date. Other than that, the series could be read in any order.

Unfortunately, despite the strangeness of the first few stories, Yotsuba seems to be settling into acting mostly like a hyper-energetic five-year-old with a few quirks. I'm getting that wonderful sense of parallel realities less and less from the stories. Yotsuba is more frequently doing typical five-year-old things that don't, to me, seem to fit the original character, such as jumping to an assumption that she's going to get a present and then being very sad when it looks like she isn't. There are still a few moments: her completely oblivious attitude towards Jumbo's attempted courtship of Asagi, for instance, and her reaction to the owls in the zoo. But they're rare. Mostly she's a cute five-year-old.

Given that disappointment, I was in danger of losing interest, but Azuma continues to deliver just enough moments of perfectly-timed humor and exchanges of banter to keep me reading. Yotsuba feeding the goats at the zoo is the best moment of this collection, combining a nice bit of visual humor with a great bit of attempted parenting (always a dubious prospect with Yotsuba). Asagi has a few wonderful moments and remains my favorite character of the series. And there's a great interaction between Fuuka and Jumbo (over Asagi, of course) with a nice bit of banter. Not to mention Yotsuba riding a bus, or setting off fireworks.

So, rather than a series focusing on skew ideas of reality through the eyes of someone with a very different outlook, Yotsuba&! is becoming more an ensemble cast situational comedy using Yotsuba as an energy source. I'd still like more of the former, but the latter works. Azuma has a knack for making you want to like his characters. I'm also happy to see that this volume had more situational comedy and less slapstick.

The artwork continues to be quietly excellent. Every issue, there will be a few panels or "cover" pages that really catch my eye. Azuma handles backgrounds competently, but they're not horribly exciting. He excels at people. This issue introduces a friend of Asagi, Torako, and the pages where she first appears are just beautiful. Azuma draws people, not idealized figures, and I was once again struck by how well he draws people's hair. The expressive faces of his characters, even when they're not going into cartoon emotion, are much of what makes the stories work.

This is light fare, and of course comedy will be hit and miss, but I'm still reading and still enjoying.

Followed, of course, by Yotsuba&! 4.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2009-12-31

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21