Four-Leaf Clover Girl – Yotsuba

YotsubaA laid back, low maintenance comedy about the adorable but naïve little girl Yotsuba Koiwai.

Manga Title: Yotsuba
Mangaka: ­Azuma Kiyohiko
Genres: Comedy, slice-of-life
Demographic: Shounen

Yotsuba is exactly the easy-to-follow sort of read to uplift you, make you chuckle and give you a truly moe kind of feel. The main character is, of course, Yotsuba (which means four-leaf clover), a five year old, innocent girl learning all about the world around her. At the start of the manga she moves to a new town with her single parent father. Yotsuba’s father apparently found her abandoned in an overseas country, deciding to raise her.

yotsuba and dad

Yotsuba and dad

Her adventures begin immediately as she starts to wander her new neighborhood, meeting her neighbors – the Ayase household – that consists of 3 daughters: Asagi, Fuuka, Ena and their parents.

Yotsuba

The Ayase Family

Most of Yotsuba focuses purely on her interactions with adults or kids slightly older than her, and the humor is most often derived from the way she reacts in an inexperienced, brash kind of way. These include Yotsuba’s father’s only friend, a giant of a guy named Jumbo, who visits occasionally and likes to take Yotsuba and her friends out.

Yotsuba

Yup, he’s huge

Yotsuba begins to see the Ayase’s as family, going over to their house frequently and unintentionally getting up to mischief. The family members also visit her and her father regularly, which creates for some comic moments.

The art is what I’d called moe in at least one of its definitions – ‘a non-sexual desire to hug, love and protect’ (from Wikipedia), which it has in buckets. Other than that, it’s mostly situational comedy with Yotsuba reacting to the happenings around her in humorous ways. It’s not ROTFL material, but it’ll have you giggling plenty.

Yotsuba

Ooops! She let the cicadas out

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What a Wonderful 3D World – Tonari no Kashiwagi-san

tonari no kashiwagi-sanManga Title: Tonari no Kashiwagi-san
Mangaka: Kinusa Shimotsuki
Genres: Comedy, romance, slice-of-life
Demographic: Seinen

The Storyboard:
High school student Sakuraba Yuto is a lover of anime and manga with a particular taste for moe art.

tonari no kashiwagi-san

Sakuraba Yuto

Although Yuto’s a real otaku he’s quite open about it, believing that if you like something you should just say it. In his spare time when not gaming, watching anime or reading manga, he browses an art sharing website. He takes a liking to one particular artist’s moe style, who goes only by the name Sayane.

tonari no kashiwagi-san

Sayane’s illustrations

At the start of the story we find that he’s landed his dream job – to become an attendant at a store that sells anime and manga merchandise. On his first day there he bumps into a student who sits next to him in class – Kashiwagi Kotone- a girl he thought hated everything otaku.

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Kashiwagi Kotone

On recognizing Yuto, Kotone runs away, embarrassed and extremely concerned that he will reveal to their classmates that she’s a closet otaku herself. The next day she confronts him about it, explaining that she does love anime and manga, and begs Yuto not to tell anyone. We later discover her reasons behind this are that she saw some classmates insult another student for liking anime and manga, and she fears being ostracized.

Yuto agrees to keep her secret and after the suggestion of Kotone’s best friend Fukuda Sayaka, they decide to secretly meet and talk about their interests.

tonari no kashiwagi-san

Fellow otaku

A budding friendship blooms between the two very similar main characters, spending their breaks discussing their mutual love of all things otaku.

One day Yuto brings up the artist Sayane, telling Kotone about her enthusiastically. Initially Kotone is nervous about revealing the fact that she is Sayane, merely keeping quiet and agreeing while Yuto praises her art.

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Budding friendship

As the story progresses Yuto’s feelings for Kotone blossom, as do those of two of their close friends. Still, even though Yuto sits right next to Kashiwagi-san, it seems that her heart couldn’t be further from his reach…or maybe not?

Pencil Sketch:
Being a completely character-driven story, Kinusa Shimotsuki has made maximum usage of the characters’ facial expressions, body language, and often-inserted ‘chibi’ versions of them to bring out the comedy in their ongoing life stories.

While focusing mainly on the slowly developing love story between Yuto and Kotone, Tonari no Kashiwagi-san also branches off to into the romantic lives of their best friends Sayaka and Kazuki Kusano.

Yuto is breaking into the 3D world after having spent a considerable amount of time focused on 2D. For the first time in his life he finds himself attracted to a real girl and it’s an experience he doesn’t know what to make of. The combination of his lack of experience, over-thinking and somewhat shy nature make for some comic moments as he tries to win Kotone’s heart.

Kotone is equally inexperienced and unaware about everything regarding love; she misses even the most absurdly direct hints that Yuto gives. Gradually she begins noticing Yuto’s advances, yet is still indecisive about how to deal with them.

In keeping with the atmosphere of the manga, not much is revealed about the pasts of each character, maintaining its focus on their current relationships. This may be considered a weak point of the series, however it’s never bothered me, after all that’s not what the story’s about.

tonari no kashiwagi-san

Chibi Yuto, Kotone and Sayaka

Inking:
Overall Tonari no Kashiwagi-san is a light hearted, cute, humorous and slow paced tale about two teenagers whose remarkable alikeness make them an unlikely match. Whilst observing the love of their friends grow around them they start to take baby steps out into the world of their own feelings. It’s no heartrending romance, but it’ll leave you feeling warm and fluffy after each chapter.

tonari no kashiwagi-san

Doodles:
In a way Tonari no Kashiwagi-san has been pretty educational for me with its notes on otaku issues and references to general aspects of the anime and manga culture. For new readers I’m sure there are some interesting tidbits of otaku information you’ll find and for the more experienced there are plenty of familiar tropes that are explored.

What’s your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?

Happiness is a Warm BB Gun – Assassination Classroom

Assassination Classroom

Assassination ClassroomManga Title: Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoshitsu)
Mangaka: Yusei Matsui
Genres: Comedy, slice of life, action supernatural
Demographic: Shonen

I picked up this title as a few people were talking about it, and the slogan used on the advert I saw for it caught my attention. The way it was advertised made me think the first page would have crazy-eyed students blowing away their real life teacher. A few pages in and I realized that this wasn’t the case – it was something even more bizarre.

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Good morning…sensei

The story revolves around a multifarious alien ‘teacher’ who has come to destroy the Earth, and just to prove his point he’s already destroyed most of the moon by the time the manga begins. The teacher – known as Korosensei (unkillable teacher) – states that he will destroy the Earth within a year unless humanity is able to assassinate him. After making an agreement with the government, Korosensei becomes the homeroom teacher of a class at Kunugigaoka junior high. They’re known as Class E, and he instructs them to attempt to kill him – whilst teaching them regular school subjects too. The government offers a reward of ten billion yen to anyone who can successfully exterminate him.

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Assassins

What follows is the ludicrous but entertaining chronicle of Class E’s endeavors to assassinate Korosensei. It should be an easy enough task for a whole class of students to bump off someone else, however Korosensei is no ordinary being. His face is like an oversized emoticon (complete with color changes for moods), his body is composed of a malleable material, he has octopus – like tentacles (the old favorite) and can travel at the speed of Mach 20.

In volume one, we meet some of the more proactive members of Class E. Nagisa Shiota is a gentle-natured bishonen who is at first unable to try assassinating Korosensei, but is later encouraged to do just that by the sensei himself! Later Nagisa takes on the job of recording Korosensei’s weaknesses in order to make a more successful attempt on his life in future.

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Nagisa and Karma

Karma Akabane is a student who was expelled for violence at school and returns after the first few chapters. His past experiences led him to lose confidence in his previous teacher, and he now has no qualms about murdering Korosensei. His ‘killing intent’ is far stronger than almost all the other students and he starts thinking up all sorts of methods to do their sensei in right away.

Two other adult teachers (who are actually just posing as teachers) are Karasuma Tadaomi and Irina Jelavic. The former tries to train the students and hone their assassination techniques, while the latter is a professional who turns on her womanly charms (one of Korosensei’s weaknesses) to get him to drop his guard and rub him out.

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Irina Jelavic

Of course, Korosensei steals the show with his contradictory actions and amusing antics. Whilst encouraging the students to execute him and even teaching them how to do it, he also teaches them life lessons and encourages them. In only a short time, the students come to see him as a warm teacher who actually cares for them.

melted (2)

He melted!

Though Assassination Classroom is pure comedy, it makes some meaningful points about teacher/student relationships. Another draw for me was the wordplay used throughout the series. Most of the jokes are Japanese puns (especially involving the word ‘koro’ – kill) playing on the meaning of the words used and their associations. Despite that the translation is well done and pretty close English substitutions are provided with explanations.

Overall Assassination Classroom has lots of gags, slice of life content that’s particularly centered around school themes, Japanese word play and assassination tactics all rolled into one manga. My main concern about this title is how long the mangaka can keep it fresh when Korosensei is almost invulnerable and the rest of the characters are trying to do pretty much the same thing in each chapter. That all depends on how the story is handled as it progresses, though.

Last but not least, Yusei Matsui’s artwork captures the comic moments (and there are plenty), action scenes, and day to day life of the students with pleasing art that always holds a few surprises hidden in the frames. Particularly, the drawings Korosensei likes to leave in his students’ notebooks are worth a chapter all of their own!

Korosensei

scrap

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?