Honey for your thoughts?
Yotsuba&! is a heart-warming manga written and drawn by Kiyohiko Azuma, the creator of Azumanga Daioh. Perhaps if you read my blog you would know this already.
What makes Yotsuba&! great is not so much how it celebrates life, but that it does so with its own style, and it’s a great style. Channeling proverbial fundamentals of life and everything through the focus of a child is something that is frequently done in American comics–the ones you can find in the newspaper. The shtick is nothing novel. But rather, I think, what makes Yotsuba&! distinct is how cute it is. And this is not the sexualized, contextualized cute that Japanese pop culture is famous for.
To elaborate, reading Charles Schultz’s Peanuts (or something similar) can often result in the same mental and emotional response. It paints a slightly different picture of childhood and a different perspective of the world. That’s good–we want competing worldviews embodied in shared experiences as different works. It isn’t how charming or pathetic, but both positive and negative feelings, that we get from reading these works that defines them.
Seeing a grown-up problem with an adult’s perspective of a child versus the perspective of a child looking at a grown-up’s world is a scale that I propose where we can understand the appeal of these kinds of works. Sinfest is easily my favorite take about adults looking at adult problems, but pining for that childlike idealist feel. On the other hand the popular Calvin & Hobbes paints sophistry while giving deference to a child’s perspective over an adult’s. Yotsuba&!, I think, is akin to a child’s takeover of an adult’s world.
And it won’t take no for an answer.
I think the magic behind Azumanga Daioh was similar. Both had a rejuvenating effect. It takes you back to a past that you never had. You lived through the characters and their hijinks. It’s got a powerful kick to it.
It reminds me of Huck Finn. Only if Twain was equally funny; alas, it’s not his fault that there were no pop culture to speak of back then.