Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 49

Yotsuba&!

by Kiyohiko Azuma
Genre notes: comedy, daily life, children
13+ vols
ISBN: 0316073873 (Amazon)

Yotsuba&! is a source of deep magic for me. And, I suspect, for a great number of others as well. Kiyohiko Azuma’s series is an unexpected pleasure. Even if one approaches the work with the knowledge that Yotsuba&! bubbles forth as a fountain of joyfulness, this little girl’s nature and adventures will still surprise in how purely they deliver one into this momentary Other Place.

Four-year-old Yotsuba’s sense of wonder in the way she approaches an environment with which she apparently has had no experience is astonishing in its guilelessness. Yotsuba brims with enthusiasm and the pleasure with which she takes on each new experience leaves us breathless as that enthusiasm spreads. Her father is consistently amused by her naïveté and her neighbours are never certain what exactly to make of her. And yet, she really does inspire affection in everyone she encounters.

My descriptions can only serve as a diminishment to what pleasures are actually found in the book. I am entirely out of my depth to sound out Yotsuba&!'s charms, but perhaps we should just leave it at this: whenever a new volume arrives in the mail, I curl up comfortably with my wife, finding the best lighting possible under such snuggly conditions, and I read each chapter to her aloud, trying to muster in my own voice the clear enthusiasm in Yotsuba’s own.

And then we both smile a lot.

The following pages are from Yotsuba&!, volume 10. This is one of my favourite scenes in all comics. There's this moment that eight years ago would have meant nothing to me.

Yotsuba's lied to her father. He knows this totally in the way that parents do.

Also because kids suck at telling believable lies. In any case, he knows. And because he's a dad of a little girl he completely loves, he gives her another shot. An opportunity to back out. And she interrupts this chance to rectify the breach in their relationship by crafting an even more fanciful and ridiculous lie.

The entire scene is played through the eyes. There's dialogue, sure, but the wonder of the scene is in the looks. We know the hearts, the souls, of each of these characters wholly by way of Azuma Kiyohiko's storytelling through their eyes.

Again, eight years ago, I would have laughed at the scene (as it is pretty comical), but having my own daughter (and now add a son) who has been Yotsuba's age—that's given these pages an incisive sort of life I could never have imagined. Really, eight years ago, all of Yotsuba&! seemed funny and ludicrous, the adventures of a young girl who could never truly exist. Now though, the series might as well be straight-up non-fiction. This is my daughter's story had only she lived in Japan with a single father and been a bit more outgoing than she is.

There may be more visually outstanding moments, more heartrendingly beautiful moments, more aesthetically pleasing moments—but for me, in this time, my most beautiful moment in comics is this beautiful moment, because though it may illustrate something negative, it does so with a sacred kind of veracity.

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