Hello! This is Koiwai Yotsuba, Yotsuba Koiwai...um, YOTSUBA! Yotsuba moved with Daddy to a new house from our old house waaaaaaay over there! And moving's fun 'cos people wave! (Ohhhh!!) And Yotsuba met these nice people next door and made friends to play with (one of 'em acted like one of those bad strangers Daddy told Yotsuba not to go with, but it was okay in the end). I hope we get to play a lot. And eat ice cream! And-and-and...oh yeah! You should come play with Yotsuba too!
Yotsuba&! is a manga series written and drawn by Kiyohiko Azuma of Azumanga Daioh fame.
The manga follows the everyday adventures of Yotsuba with her Dad and the family next door. The book is divided up into chapters with each title called Yotsuba & Chapter Name!,which explains the rather odd title of Yotsuba&!
Yotsuba is of course the main character, a young girl for reasons unexplained is weird (also naÔve). She hasn't yet grasped concepts a girl her age should have such as what a door bell is. Her lack understanding of the world around her is the main premise and cause of comedy.
You can certainly see similarities between Yotsuba and Azumanga, with similar character design and facial expressions. It also shares that whimsical slice of life story telling style. Where it differs from Azumanga is the length, instead of being a 4 panel skit, each of Yotsuba's encounters is a chapter long.
Yotsuba is a joy to read. The artwork is lovely, the pacing of the story, the way everything flows, the viewing angles Azuma uses, it's all just right. Azuma makes it all look effortless, which shows you what a master of manga he truly is. He uses very simple character designs, they're very minimal, but at the same time the backgrounds are very detailed and realistic. This sounds jarring, but it actually works very well. The panels, accompanying layout and sequences in general have been skilfully done making it a great example for aspiring artists and connoisseurs of comics alike.
Throughout the story Yotsuba's expression is almost constantly a wide open smile, her mouth is a like a big capital D on it's side. That's how many will be when reading it too.
It's a very easy going title, and is a great introduction for people not used to manga. For those people who think manga is all blood, guts and violence this is a really good example to dispel these false myths.
The title is greatly under rated, sadly only the first 5 volumes of the series have been published by ADV Press. Luckily the lovely people at Yen Press have picked up the rights and are releasing them now. Unfortunately the Yen Press translation isn't as good as the ADV one. The Yen press translation is more literal with footnotes and familiarity suffixes, while the ADV translation feels more natural.
I really can't understate how good Yotsuba is. At the same time I don't want to over hype it. You won't really go wrong adding it your collection.