Yotsuba&! Vol 1 (and Vol 2)

Reading time ~8 minutes

My daughter insisted I read this. I couldn’t find a book for when it was my turn to choose the club, so plumped for this and made the other dads read it too. It turned out to be a really pleasant surprise.

AUTHORS NOTE: This has sat on my laptop for many, many months so I’m putting my notes from the night out there for this writeup with as little editing as required. Removing anything offensive or embarrassing. We’re 4 cantankerous men in our 40s. It’s very likely. So here are the review notes, in as raw and awful state as I can present it. My own review however is written 6 months after the fact, as I never got round to it, so it’ll be brief.

Arrival

Dan

First impression: little book, cheap, cool £1.27 from eBay! Not precious about it - quite nice. 2 bits… First 3 stories, upto Global Warming and at that point my first impressions were “WTF is this???”. The dad was seriously weird. The treatment of Yotsuba is weird. No handle of who she was? Some nice casual sexism in there. Almost an upskirt panty shot of neighbour which is weird. But ok it’s manga.

Short skirt. But Tom points out another artist would have drawn the exposed pants.

The dad is a waste of space as far as I can gather.

Neighbours who are the plain one, you’re the boring one and generally ranking them by attractiveness.

Thought not sure I can get through to the end of this… Then I read the rest of it and I think I found some kind of rhythm and probably go so far as to say I probably enjoyed the rest of it. Some proper LOLs at the last 3 or 4 chapters. No real grip on the characters. Still don’t understand the dad and the kind of relationship. Established somewhere else?

My first impression was it was a book taking the piss out of a kid with learning difficulties(!). Why doesn’t she know what a doorbell is?

It was just bizarre.

Went past quite quickly and didn’t really have a problem with it. Not necessarily an earthbound orphan just from “somewhere else”. Liked that it didn’t really say anything about it. Found it a bit annoying that they won’t tell me where she came from but not curious enough. I’m left with this “Oh look at the green haired weirdo child”. Just kind of extrapolate with the question of “What’s wrong with her”?

The rest of it is just manga stuff. I said to someone else I know who reads quite a lot of mange that I’d never seen the blank eyes blank mouth thing. Other person said that it is a thing and not unusual as I seem to think it was.

Quality of finish, there were some quite nice things (pg 191). I liked Boxer Man when the dad became a dad. Dan got the feeling that he didn’t know what to do with her and is bemused by someone who’s completely nuts. Other than when he was making her food he got the impression that he was kinda out of his depth.

Boxer Man

It was a weird thing. I don’t have any desire to read anymore. The translator’s notes is interesting. I think I enjoyed the fact that it felt like a thing. Hon read 2 pages of it and went “No”. Though I (Kelv) think it’s because Dan gave it to her.

Won’t buy multiple volumes but definitely didn’t loathe it. And I really did like the format and enjoyed not feeling precious of it.

Really interesting.

:star::star::star:

Not awful but not going to go buy tons more.

@dandineen

Tom

I’ll quickly mention the right to left thing: it’s the first time I found it easy. Perhaps because it’s fewer words crammed into the balloons than Gundam. (Yay!) Not a problem at all on this 3rd manga choice which can only bode well. I found it hard to write anything bad about it because I didn’t want to offend her. She’s so nice. Found it odd that it immediately mentions that she’s strange. I found it more that she wasn’t being strange but maybe as the father of intense daughters. He’s obviously happy to write about teenagers (having seen the ad for Azumanga Daioh). If I were to write a story about P it would not be dissimilar to this. I liked her reactions to things. Like her arm waving out the window. Waving to everyone. That tickles me.

But having said that by the end of the first book I was burned out by her continual one level reactions to everything as it’s kind of intense but I still ordered the 2nd one. It started to put some flesh onto the bones and introduce maybe deeper themes on where the story can go. The last chapter was just about the neighbouring family. A bit like Sandman did. But the wiki page states this the only story that’s not about Yotsuba.

As far as the art’s concerned it’s incredibly consistent. Always question if there’s a studio involved (I point out they have assistants). Probably the lightest casual sexism that it could ever be. Dan says they just can’t seem to escape that cultural expectation.

So many modern US artists are influenced by manga. I think there was a time they were trying to get people to draw in this way because that’s what they thought people wanted but now I think they’re employing people who just want to draw in this way.

Shows friend Dani’s pic and seems influenced and thought Yotsuba was exactly like it, but actually it’s much more toned down.

I enjoyed it but had enough, even though in 2nd volume there were hints of more.

:star::star::star:

An enjoyable read that hit some of the right buttons but exhausting as my own daughter is exhausting already.

@tomwe

Jake

I had no idea what to expect. Looked at the picture and thought it was a brave choice following John Blake which had been attacked as a children’s book (aw Jake!), with this one being a much younger one. A bit like Dan found it strange and not quite what I expected. It’s the way the kid was treated and the schoolgirl outfit.

A horrible relationship with the 16 year old girl? I was really worried. A strange relationships book that I didn’t want go near? But then it moves away from that and Yotsuba comes into her own. An alien? A robot? He’s created her? Or acquired her from somewhere?

I liked how it’s about nothing. Super mundane stuff and no particular pay off. Some funny jokes but nothing building. Her emotions are on a higher level than others which is nice. Similar to My Naughty Little Sister from 50s, and Lotta by Astrid Lindgrom about a pre-school girl with older sisters. And Charlie and Lola. Something appealing about pre-school girl with wide-eyed innocence and anarchy. With boys it feels kinda bully-ish but with girls it loses that edge.

By vol2 more depth, focus, funnier. One story that made me laugh all the way through - the sleeping dad and drawing on his face!

Drawn face

I get what Dan says about the casual sexism but by book 2 the characters are more fleshed out and the interplay is quite interesting. The pretty older sister isn’t just a princess, she’s kind of odd in her own way. She’s aware she’s pretty and it’s a real relationship. The sisters are a bit nasty to each other but with love. It feels realistic. The mother’s introduced and she’s not mother-ish. She had authority. The relationship is interesting. A dad mentioned but not there.

Quite interested to see how it continues.

I loved all the exclamations. Like Tom the right to left didn’t get in the way and that was pleasing. Liked the translation of the SFX. That was useful. The detail’s great - goes to town on the backgrounds like the temple countryside, the bugs. Contrasts to the the pop art surreal-ness. “Nice to meet you” (page 50). It feels like a nice thing in this format. Feels like the right place for it. You don’t long for something larger. The intro/outro thing is great. It lets the story flow.

C read it but said “I want a quest dad”.

I really loved it. Probably one of my favourite things we’ve read so far in the club.

:star::star::star::star::star:

Giving it a 5 because it’s Yotsuba and she thinks that everything is brilliant.

@tygertale

Me

I bought this pack of pre-owned volumes from Orbital Comics for my eldest daughter. She loved them so much and kept telling me that they were so good, and insisted that I read them too. I just never had the time. Making it a Comic Book Club choice was a good excuse to do it. I am so glad I did. She binged on these books and asked for more for her birthday (she has volumes 6 and 7 as well now). It is a hilarious book, happy, innocent, beautiful book. I don’t mind that there is no “quest” or a story. Many cartoons are like this. I think we probably missed that this likely started as a weekly serial.

Swing

What really surprises me about the creator of Yotsuba&! is that he is also a Hentai artist (DON’T google it!) yet can come up with this really quite sweet and… purely good story.

I’ve read volumes 1 to 5 and would love to read the newer volumes that I got for my eldest. I just don’t seem to have the time…

:star::star::star::star::star:

This book gave my daughter pure joy and that adds to my own enjoyment of it.

@chao_xian

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