Thursday, June 09, 2016

Yotsuba! Volume 13

Volume 13 of Yotsuba! revolves mostly around a visit from Yotsuba's grandmother. It marks the first time we've seen any of Yotsuba's family other than her father. This presents Yotsuba with the chance to learn a few things about cleaning, and making bread. (Remember to read right to left with the images below).

Which, I know, does not sound terribly exciting. But part of why it works for me is that it's reminiscent of when my grandmother would come to visit (or I'd go visit her). Not so much the cleaning and making bread specifically, but that there are certain rituals and activities we always did, that were just part of a rhythm we had. Also, my grandmother could be very stubborn about doing something if she felt it needed doing, no matter how hard you might try to convince her otherwise, and the same is true of Yotsuba's.

Yotsuba! is still a comedy though, and there were a lot of good laughs in it. Yotsuba matches my general idea of what a child that age would be like, though I don't know if that's accurate or not. And it's a pretty good age for the main character to be, because she's young enough things that are mundane to me are new and unusual to her, and she's quite open about expressing her astonishment. The peculiar tidbits she's picked up here and there, like black being fashionable, or the idea of a "breakthrough". She's clever enough to recognize adults will make up lies about cleaning being fun to trick her into doing it (see above), but not clever enough to recognize it's still a trick when Grandma tells her cleaning is fun if you take it seriously. Interactions between Yotsuba and her father's friend Yanda are still a high point in each volume for me, given their gleefully antagonistic attitude towards each other. Yanda's willingness to sink to taunting a little kid the way she'd taunt him is great, but still makes him enough of a jerk it's hilarious when Yotsuba gets the chance to return the favor.

I guess people from the Kansai region of Japan are noted for having a different dialect, and that's also true of Yotsuba's grandmother. And the translators did a good job of writing her dialogue in a somewhat different form of speech than the other characters (she uses "'em" for "them" for example, and shortens other words, like "sittin'"). There's also a different cadence to some of her sentences, although could be meant as an age thing compared to all the relatively young people in the story.

Azuma gives her a more detailed, lined face than any of the other characters, which does make her look older, but also means she doesn't get the exaggerated comical expressions - usually surprise - everyone else gets. Even when she does get very surprised (by a memory foam pillow Yotsuba puts out for her to sit on) you don't see her reaction, more the speech balloon expressing her astonishment. Maybe just because she isn't the type of character who would show visible surprise. Yotsuba describes her to Fuuka as not being mean, it's just how her face looks. Yotsuba, in contrast, will have an expression created by maybe a half-dozen lines on her face, total, but it works perfectly. She's largely an open book with what she's feeling, so there doesn't need to be much, and her stern or stunned expressions can make me laugh.

Azuma is still fond of doing two or three silent panels, usually setting up a funny scene, but it works really well. I can tell exactly what's about to happen, but it's being drawn out to where I really want to see exactly how everyone is going to react, and it usually doesn't disappoint. Which is impressive work, since comedy seems like a tough thing to get right consistently.

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