Naturally, there's a new Chronicles of William Bazillion. I like how blithely Wiener and Darryl switch teams when presented with a new arrogant kid adventurer to follow. It's so hard to find good sidekicks.
Okay, Overlooked Manga Festival!
Actually, this manga isn't too overlooked. Bloggers talk about it, anyway, and if you can't trust bloggers to have their fingers on the throbbing pulse on America, who can you trust? But it's worth discussing in the OMF, and besides, I like doing things that might entertain Anne Maloney.
Yotsuba&! is a fiendishly cute manga by Kiyohiko Azuma, the one palatable moe artist. Azuma's previous comic, the four-panel gag strip Azumanga Daioh!, was the cutest thing on God's green earth until he started drawing Yotsuba&!, which immediately unseated it. I recommend Azumanga Daioh!, too. But I chose this one to highlight on the OMF, because, you know. Yotsuba.
Yotsuba is a tiny, hyperactive green-haired girl who lives with her easygoing adoptive father in a quiet Japanese neighborhood. As the manga opens, she and her dad have just moved into town from parts unknown (when asked where she comes from, Yotsuba points in a random direction or says, "Left") and are getting to know the three older girls who live next door. For the rest of the manga, they all have adventures. Little adorable adventures.
Yotsuba is wide-eyed and inquisitive like any little kid, but to a cartoonish degree; everything from swingsets to doorbells to telephone poles to fireworks freaks her out hardcore and inspires a barrage of insane questions. It's almost like she comes from another planet, and maybe she does. She also possesses bottomless enthusiasm for each and every new discovery.
And that's it. That's the comic. In each chapter, Yotsuba encounters something new (hence the title, which is reflected in the chapter titles: "Yotsuba & Cake!" "Yotsuba & the Elephant!" "Yotsuba & Global Warming!") and enjoys the hell out of it, with her dad, her dad's very tall friend Jumbo, and the neighbor girls dragged along for the ride. Sometimes the adventure gets a little too intense for Yotsuba, like when she tries to feed goats at the petting zoo. I think we've all been freaked out by this moment.
It's those weird sideways pupils! Goats are so unsettling!
But for the most part the adventures are happy ones, and Yotsuba's enthusiasm for her sunny little world and its treasures is infectious. Like recent OMF pick Aria, Yotsuba&! is ultimately about enjoying the simple pleasures in life, stopping to smell the flowers. Yotsuba seems to live in an endless lazy summer day, which Azuma draws with fondness and care.
It's also a funny manga, with a great sense of character humor and comic timing (Azuma is a master of the beat panel). And, as you can see from these pages, it's almost terrifyingly cute. The first volume is pretty cute, and each subsequent volume gets cuter and cuter as Azuma's art develops. I'm almost afraid to pick up the next volume, for fear that my teeth will rot out of my head the moment I open the covers.
There's something almost un-manga-like about Yotsuba&!, something that transcends cultural trappings and approaches the universality of a good comic strip. Maybe it's the characters (where else in manga do you see a laid-back single dad who hangs around the house in his boxers?); maybe it's Azuma's simple but intensely charming artwork. Whatever it is, Yotsuba&! could be a good manga for people who don't usually like manga, as well as manga fans who need an extra cute buzz. Just try not to think too hard about the fact that, in Japan, it runs in a magazine for twentysomething men. Just don't.
Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Your and My Secret
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Anywhere But Here
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Flower of Life
OMF Special Event: Top Ten Lines from the Excel Saga manga
OMF Special Event: Jason Thompson Presents the Top Ten Best Worst Manga, Part One
OMF Special Event: Jason Thompson Presents the Top Ten Best Worst Manga, Part Two
Comics Underground Japan