At a Glance: Yotsuba &!
From Kiyohiko Azuma, who was also the author of Azumanga Daioh!, comes a comedy of everyday life shenanigans surrounding a whimsical, carefree little girl named Yotsuba. The manga starts with Yotsuba moving to a new house, where she befriends three sisters who live next door named En, Fuuka, and Asagi. Asagi is the oldest and prettiest, Fuuka is teased as plain and is a nice teenager, and En is closer to Yotsuba's age.
Yotsuba has numerous misadventures having to do with her childish misunderstandings of things people say and do. For example, when one of the neighbor girls tells her she doesn't use the air conditioner much because it contributes to global warming, Yotsuba freaks out, interpreting this to mean that air conditioners are evil and the enemy of Earth, and only bad people use them!
Yotsuba's endearing nature is what really pulls you into this world. She's bold and emotional, and her misunderstandings are cute and whimsical. This is a real-world manga, but it's still wonderfully creative.
ASCII Manga Works (Japan), Yen Press (English)
Slice of Life, Comedy
Spinoff called "Nyanbo!"
Yotsuba &! is hyperactive, fun, energetic, silly, and hilarious. I really had fun reading this one, and I often find reading manga to be a cumbersome task, preferring anime. The main draw of this is Yotsuba herself. She's not obnoxious or mean like many "sassy" kids in Western media; she has a pure innocence that's really cute. So, although she often messes up or misinterprets what people are saying or doing, you don't get annoyed with her they way I tend to become annoyed with sassy brats in a lot of other stories. This is a character for the reader to feel like a protective big sister or brother for. Through this manga, you come to love Yotsuba in that way.
The story is like Shin Chan (the original Japanese version with less vulgarity), but without crude bathroom humor. It's similar to the creator's other work, Azumanga Daioh!, but without that work's focus on school. It kind of reminded me of another comedy anime I like, Jungle Wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu. Because they even think Yotsuba is from some kind of foreign island, not a Japanese native, because she has such a wild spirit. What I like about this is that it's funny without demeaning insults, verbal punches, or vulgar jokes. It's just fun in that carefree way we experienced fun when we were children ourselves. It's healing.