There are slice of life mangas that focus on building and showing the relationships between the main characters, in this case a parent - child relationship, as with titles such as Usagi Drop or Taiyou no Ie. Then there is Yotsubato!, a manga which main premise lies in narrating and displaying the daily life of the child and the different interactions with her surroundings, all represented hilariously.
The story of Yotsubato! is simple: Yousuke Koiwai, the parent, and Yotsuba, the 5-year-old child, move to a new neighbourhood, living next to them a family composed of three girls and their parents. The author proceeds to narrate different everyday life events of Yotsuba, who is a very curious girl and ignorant of her surroundings. This is displayed masterfully, in conjunction with the art style: it is presented in such manner that it makes these situations very hilarious, as well as very relatable to your own childhood or that of your own family.
One thing that I missed in the story is the fact that it hardly focuses on the characters background at all, neither on the relationship development of the other characters, beside that of Yotsuba. Little hints to the background stories and relationships are introduced slowly, which leaves the reader yearning to know and explore more about it. The mostly episodic nature of the manga makes it difficult to really convey a feeling of "continuity" to the manga, but this is nevertheless a small drawback, which at the same time enhances the narrative of it.
The characters in Yotsubato are well carved and presented. Yotsuba clearly represents childhood, which is displayed through infinite curiosity and energy, absurd lies to escape punishment, honest, direct thinking, childhood innocence, which makes it so relatable. Other element which further enhances her personality is the fact that she is clueless of most modern things, even infancy games.
The cast of characters in Yotsubato! is large, but varied. There is Youtsuba's father Yousuke, who works for an unknown job at home, his friend Jumbo the giant florist, Yasuda who Yotsuba dislikes. Then the family next door: Ena, the smart and conscious one; Fuuka, your average highschool girl, and the cool sister Asagi. Not to forget the stern grandma. As the story progresses, the author reveals how their personalities are, as well as introducing new characters.
The art style of Yotsubato! complements well with the narrative of the manga, as well as displaying through simplistic facial expressions of Yotsuba her emotional state and how the other characters are affected. The art is consistent with stunningly realistic backgrounds, as cars, houses, room designs, you name it, which really came as a surprise.
Youtsubato! was overall a very enjoyable experience, whose narrative was well presented, with hilarious gags, as well as being very relatable to the reader. The lack of character's background story, and relationship development of the side characters may be a drawback for some, but this is compensated with the heartwarming and hilarious moments the manga has to offer. There was literally no chapter in which I didn't laugh. Recommendable to anyone with an interest in slice of life or comedy genre.
Thank you for reading.