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Yotsuba Koiwai (Japanese: 小岩井 四葉 Koiwai Yotsuba), also known as just Yotsuba, is the main character in Yotsuba&!, as well as the manga "Try! Try! Try!", both by Kiyohiko Azuma. As the title character of the series and almost every chapter, Yotsuba is usually the focus of each chapter; most stories revolve around her meeting, and often childishly misunderstanding, a new concept or activity indicated in the chapter title. She is noted for her childish energy, unusual naiveté, and iconic appearance.
DevelopmentYotsuba first appeared in a manga published in 1998 and two webcomics called "Try! Try! Try!", where she appears substantially the same as at the start of Yotsuba&!.
Appearance and personality
Yotsuba is drawn as a small girl with green hair done in four pigtails, giving her somewhat the appearance of her namesake, a four-leaf clover (四葉のクローバー yotsuba no kurōbā). She also has matching green eyes, and is considered by most people to be very cute. Her standard outfit consists of a white T-shirt with light red sleeves (in the fall she wears the same shirt but with long sleeves), matching red and white shoes, and a pair of beige shorts. Yotsuba has a carefree and energetic personality, taking delight in simple matters even as she learns about all manner of things in her daily life. In Japanese, Yotsuba's dialogue is written without kanji, making it seem simpler and more child-like, and in a typeface that gives the impression of speaking with high intensity. Her energy is noted by other characters, especially members of the neighboring Ayase family. However, when deeply frightened or upset, she does cry, and she has an unexplained fear of anything resembling a bullseye.
At the start of the series, Yotsuba is shown as having very little knowledge of the world around her, even for a young child. Things such as swings, doorbells, cicadas, and air conditioners all fascinate and confuse her, although she is not perturbed by her ignorance. She occasionally mispronounces new words and creates neologisms, such as "Yotsubox" (Japanese: よつばこ Yotsubako) as a portmanteau of "Yotsuba's Box", and often repeats, in incongruous ways, phrases spoken by adult characters around her. Yotsuba is frequently shown drawing, though she is not as good an artist as she thinks she is, and she is an excellent swimmer.
The series provides few details about her life before its start. She is an adopted child, with her birthplace unknown to the reader, although she claims she's from an island "to the left." Yousuke Koiwai, Yotsuba's adopted father, says he met her as an orphan in a foreign country and before he knew it he was raising her as his own; she is sometimes taken for a foreigner by strangers. When asked about her mother, she doesn't understand the question, and she gets confused by the concept of having two sets of grandparents. Before moving to her current home, Yotsuba lived in the country with her adopted father and grandmother. She initially claims to Fuuka Ayase she is six years old, but her father later corrects this, saying she is in fact five years old.
Yotsuba has never attended school, and as of the first chapter does not know what a grade is. In chapter 35, she fails to understand repeated explanations of homework.
Yousuke is Yotsuba's adoptive father. They are shown to have a lot of fun together, in part due to Yousuke's flexible parenting, as Yotsuba often plays with him. However, Yotsuba can get in trouble when she breaks one of the ground rules set to her by her father, such as lying to him. In one instance, Fuuka told Yotsuba to name someone she liked, she answered "Daddy!" and was heartbroken when Fuuka accidentally led her into believing that Yousuke disliked her, showing just how much she treasured her father. Yotsuba is sometimes impatient with Yousuke because he always has to work when she wants to play – but thankfully, the Ayase girls are usually around for her to play with.
Yousuke's best friend Jumbo is one of the people Yotsuba is closest to. She is always excited whenever Jumbo is visiting and likes spending time with him because of his funny looks and impressive height, not to mention his ability to be both dramatic and childlike at the same time and the way in which he cares about Yotsuba. Sometimes Jumbo uses Yotsuba as a way to get close to his crush Asagi, which Yotsuba is completely oblivious to. Jumbo also arranges activities so that Yotsuba and her friends can have fun.
YandaAmongst her father's friends, Yanda is the one whom Yotsuba dislikes the most. They got off on the wrong foot from the start – initially, Yanda tried to be nice to Yotsuba, but because of her extremely suspicious behaviour, he decided it would be more fun to tease her. Because of this, Yotsuba considers Yanda as an "enemy" and she often tries to one-up him. As time progresses, Yotsuba is shown to be more tolerant of Yanda's presence, though she is still wary of him when he is around.
Fuuka, the middle Ayase sister, is the second one to encounter Yotsuba when she has just moved in after Ena. As a responsible 16-year-old high schooler, Fuuka often takes on the role of a mother or older sister to Yotsuba by watching over her whenever she is playing or joining in. While Yotsuba seems to like Fuuka and even once claims she loves her when Fuuka says they are going to make a cake, Yotsuba finds her less attractive compared to her older sister Asagi.
The eldest and arguably prettiest of the three Ayase sisters, Asagi is the one who Yotsuba considers the prettiest. This is shown by the fact that Yotsuba called her the "good-looking one" while she called Fuuka the "not so good-looking one". Asagi is calmer and more laid-back than Fuuka, and also mischievous herself, which makes her good at playing along Yotsuba's antics or outplaying them entirely.
Ena is the youngest Ayase sister and Yotsuba's most frequent playmate. They have some interests in common, such as teddy bears. Ena is easy-going and, similar to Fuuka, she is polite and responsible, but sometimes she is bothered by Yotsuba, such as when Yotsuba kept calling her teddy bear "Juralumin" even though Ena had specifically stated that the bear's name was Julietta more than once. In general though, the two share a good relationship, despite the small age difference.
Yotsuba also gets along well with the mother of the Ayase girls, Mrs. Ayase. Similar to Asagi, she hardly ever loses her temper when dealing with Yotsuba, and though Koiwai constantly worries that Yotsuba is bothering her family, Mrs. Ayase keeps saying that it is all right and "fun" because Yotsuba is so cute. Yotsuba calls her "Mommy", which Mrs. Ayase doesn't seem to find strange at all, though it confuses others.
Yotsuba is fond of Asagi's best friend Torako, and finds her very cool. Torako is reserved and usually rather indifferent. She initially thinks Yotsuba to be strange, but later she warms up to her just a bit. Yotsuba always calls her "Tora" ("tiger" in Japanese) because of her name.
Miura is more insensitive than her best friend Ena, and sometimes hurts Yotsuba's feelings by accident. But when this does happen, Miura does her best to undo the damage, and Yotsuba nevertheless thinks of her as a friend. This is seen when Miura comes to visit Ena's house, and Yotsuba is the one to run and greet her instead of Ena, telling her "Let's play!" The three of them sometimes play together, which works quite well, especially when Miura disguises herself as Cardbo.
Unbeknowst to Yotsuba, Miura is the one who made and is hiding inside the cardboard robot known as Cardbo (or "Danbo"). Miura made it together with Ena for a school project, and ever since Yotsuba walked in on Miura trying on the robot costume, the two girls have been pretending that Cardbo is a real robot, which Yotsuba fully believes in. Yotsuba loves being with Cardbo, which Miura finds frustrating since it is very warm in there, but Ena keeps insisting they keep Cardbo's real identity a secret because Yotsuba's dreams must be preserved.
In other media
- The popular imageboard 4chan, which is known in Japanese as "Yotsuba Channel", adopted Yotsuba Koiwai as an official mascot: the site logo and icon at one point consisted of four leaves positioned identically to her distinctive four green pigtails, and she appears in the HTTP 404 message (leading to the nickname of "404 Girl"), banned user messages, banner ads, and logos. The software the site runs on is code-named Yotsuba.
- In the Korean MMORPG MapleStory, Yotsuba's hairstyle can be obtained in a salon located in a town called Zipangu (an archaic name for Japan).
The character of Yotsuba is cited by reviewers as one of the key appeals of Yotsuba&!, especially her energy, enthusiasm, and sense of wonder. For example, one wrote, "Yotsuba’s wide-eyed awe at each discovery, from the idea of a milkman to learning how to catch fish, is both inspiring and infectious. You want to see what happens next, because she continually comes across as genuine without turning into cloying." A reviewer at Anime News Network wrote, "What is really special about Yotsuba, though, is that newness with which she, as a child, sees the world. That the manga allows us to glimpse the world through those same eager eyes is what gives it appeal far beyond its humor." Johanna Draper Carlson, long-time comics reviewer for Publishers Weekly, said that "Yotsuba is a sponge of a character, with infinite possibility as she learns about life. Watching her do so is both fun and funny, and the way she finds enjoyment in everything is inspirational. It creates an infectious feeling of shared joy in the reader." Another claimed that "Yotsuba Koiwai's adventures are ... a lucid and charming look at the world through a child's eyes, as she gets into scrapes that remind us all of our own childhoods (if only through manga-tinted glasses)."
Reviewers often describe Azuma's depiction of her as realistic, especially compared to depictions of children in other manga and anime. One review claimed that "Yotsuba in particular is amusing, because she acts and speaks with that peculiar mix of honesty, immediacy, and childish logic that only young children seem to possess ... Yotsuba isn't a silent, simpering sweetie-pie, she acts like a real four-year-old." On the other hand, Tom Spurgeon claimed Yotsuba is "an idealized kid of that early age, retaining a wide-eye wonder and furious energy, minus the things that crop up at that age like cruelty and deception" and a reviewer in Newtype USA said that "Her hijinks are sweetly innocent, like a cuter, more naїve version of Dennis the Menace minus the 'menace'."
Yotsuba is 107 cm tall (3'6'').
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