Yotsuba&


Ah, the sweet memories of childhood – the endless days, playing in the playgrounds, climbing up telephone poles and pretending to be cicada…

Eheh.

No I haven’t finally gone tonto, I was just typing about Yotsuba&, the newest series from the peculiar mind of Kiyohiko Azuma, creator of the surprise hit series Azumanga daioh.

The series, which like Azumanga, was originally released in the manga magazine Dengeki daioh in 2003, and released in the west first by ADV manga, and now by Yen press, follows the adventures of yotsuba kowai, a fairly average, five year old girl –if five year old girls normally have green hair and four ponytails – as she moves to a new town with her father, and the adventures she has, both by herself and with Ena, Fuka and Usagi Ayase, who, willingly or otherwise, always seem to get drawn along for the ride. Finally we meet, jumbo, who definitely lives up to his nickname – seeming to be far taller than any of the cast – not that yotsuba seems to mind!

As to be expected of Azuma’s work, the background details of Yotsuba& are highly detailed, thanks in some cases to his use of photographing and transposing the background perfectly. But it’s the artistic style that Azuma has chosen that’ll surprise many of his fans – gone is the four panel, newspaper strip style of Azumanga daioh, and instead he uses the full page that is traditionally used in comics, allowing him to expand his ability to deliver his script – and I believe this was necessary, as the series has so many nuances, and subtle details, that a 4 panel strip could never be able to transmit to the reader.

And it’s the script that is the main reason this series has won me over. In a world of cynicism and doubt it’s touching, almost enlightening to see the world through the eyes of a 5 year old, to only see colour and light in a world of darkness, to see innocence and joy in a world of hate and prejudice, and it’s this innocence, and her ability to see the world in this way that’ll make you think, and maybe even reread the book again, to see this world of yotsuba’s.

Childhood never ends….

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia

Every school has its ghost stories – in mine there was a story about a schoolgirl who had fallen off the top of a three story flight of stairs only three years earlier – the fact that seemed to always seemed to be “three years earlier” for every older student seemed irrelevant to the case.

The problem for Niiya Teiichi, the protagonist of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, is that one of these stories happen to be true!
The ongoing series, whose name roughly translates to “Dusk Maiden of Amnesia ”, is created by the elusive author/artist “Maybe” and is currently being published in square Enix’s “Monthly Gangan Joker” magazine, and follows Niiya, a junior high student at Sekiou high school – a school composed of different buildings and annexes added onto the main building over many decades, which has resulted in many long abandoned rooms and corridors.
Its this same layout which results in a number of that traditional staple of Japanese schools – the ghost stories and legends that also haunt Japanese schools – in particular the legend about Yuuko san, the mysterious ghost of a schoolgirl who was murdered there long ago, and whose spirit still haunts the school to this day.
Not that Niiya doesn’t know about this already – for one thing, thanks to an accidental discovery, he now has Yuuko herself following him around.
Add to that Yuuko san, when she’s not acting “friendly” towards Niiya seems also to take a leaf out of Haruhi Suzumiya’s book and decides to set up a paranormal investigation club [with herself as president of course!]But yet theres still a gnawing shadow – why cant she remember her past prior to becoming a ghost, and what happended to cause her death in the first case?
The artwork and the writing of this series also captures the mood of the setting with the artists, managing to switch between humour and drama with a veritable flip of a switch, while the artwork managing to make a seemingly normal scene look morbid and tense. Addetionally as the series progresses the question of Yuuko herself and the cause of her death is a plot arc that is regularly delved into, with connotations that only seems to raise more questions for Niiya and Yuuko than answers.

And speaking about the characters, The core cast members themselves, even in their first volume, managed to feel so developed and realistic to feel like the series has existed for decades, rather than for the 3 years that it has been running.
Mercifully the writer has also taken the move to keep the cast small – along with Niiya and Yuuko there is fellow club member and [albeit unable to see Yuuko] schoolgirl Okonogi Momoi, who joins them early on into the series.

All in all the series managed to pull off a surprisingly gripping supernatural story without resorting to gore for gores sake that this could have degenerated into. Additionally with its well developed characters and plot lines, I’m sure that we’ll be seeing this series in west in the not too distant future.