Yotsuba is a strange little girl with a big personality! Even in the most trivial, unremarkable encounters, Yotsuba’s curiosity and enthusiasm quickly turns the everyday into the extraordinary! Yotsuba&! received an Excellence Award for Manga at the 2006 Japan Media Arts Festival. In 2008 Yotsuba&! was nominated for the 12th Osamu Tezuka Culture Award and the Eisner Award "Best Publication for Kids" category, but did not win either, and was runner-up for the first annual Manga Taish? award.
That was all that was needed. Off I went to find the manga and I've greatly enjoyed reading it.
Yotsubato! is one of those mangas where you aren't entirely sure who it is aimed at as it appears to be aimed at pretty much anyone except those with the hardest of hearts. It is about a five year old girl named Yotsuba who often thinks she's six. She's just discovering the world and her capabilities and the manga is all about the joy in life she finds. She does all those things you wish you could still do without severely hurting yourself, like the above, and many things besides. There's a natural impulsiveness to her actions and words that makes nearly everything about Yotsubato! ring true. The only aspect that may not is the sheer level of joy she maintains. Only the entry of an 'arch enemy' into the story and the occasional tantrum from exhaustion or an inability to have her wishes met provide the balance of emotion you've probably come to expect as an adult.
Yotsuba has a life that is a little split down the middle. She was abandoned as a baby and her soon to be adoptive father found her and just continued to care for her, making her is daughter. With her adoptive father comes an almost uncle in the friend Jumbo, a man so tall he's often drawn partially out of frame. And it is on this side of her life that she gains a new friend/enemy who is almost as childish as she. He's another one of her father's work associates and soon takes on an essential role in her life. Every little girl or boy needs an enemy who's always friendly in their opposition to them. On the other side of Yotsuba's life though, is the family next door, which comprises of three girls of varying age who become her Yotsuba's fast friends, their mother who becomes a mother of sorts to Yotsuba and a distant but friendly father. Even so, Yotsuba develops connections between them all, encouraged by her boisterous enthusiasm and penchant for finding trouble.
There is a warmth and familiarity to Yotsubato! that can make almost anyone smile and remember what it was to be a child. There's an easy flow to the story that is matched by the illustrations. The warmth of the illustrations is mainly created through the eyes and expressions of all the characters, which make potential dramas into comedic events as well as accidents and pain into tests of strength and courage. Care has been taken to show both the adult and child's position on everything and much of the comedy is produced by comparing the two. Just note the eyes in the 4 frames above and you can see what I mean. Otherwise there is an easy flow to the illustrations, produced through a close attention to the significant points of comedic action more than anything else. This helps make Yotsubato! an endearing and delightful read.
The quality of manga readers can vary. The uploads are often done cheaply or as a serious hobby by a collective. Be aware that sometimes licence hasn't been given but the sites noted above, Manga Fox in particular, are extremely careful about adding and pulling mangas according to license agreements. So you shouldn't have to worry too much about the material being pirated. There are also translated works and non-translated. Amongst the translated works you will find that the quality of translation may vary according to the skills of the translators. Usually the works are perfectly readable anyway, with only a few added or dropped words or a word in the incorrect tense or with/out plurals. But sometimes the text becomes gobbledygook. In which case, either seek another version or give up and buy an official copy once a printed translation comes out. The other issue of note is you may need to expand the screen to read the text easily as sometimes the scans are minimised a little.
I find that if a page doesn't download properly or some other issue occurs (too slow or someone ordered the pages incorrectly etc.) with one reader then skipping across to another reader and picking up where I was is quite easy and rarely annoying.
Otherwise, enjoy and watch out you don't get too addicted you forget about the necessary things in life.