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Ponkotsu Yamada .com

Writing about Japanese comics

"YOTSUBATO !" Yotsuba smiling at readers as if she looked at through "fourth wall"

よつばと! 12 (電撃コミックス)

よつばと! 12 (電撃コミックス)

 In vol.12, a story about camp which is mentioned briefly in vol.11 is drawn. I was impressed by rather the toast of adults after children's sleep than frolicsome children, and I thought it meant my aging. However that may be, I was specially affected the final panel of the camp story, and which is also the final one of vol.12.

よつばと! 12巻 p222/YOTSUBATO! vol.12 p222)
 Because Yotsuba smiles and speaks to us as if she stared at us through "fourth wall", I felt so bracing and doubted whether "YOTSUBATO !" concluded by this story. How amazing this expression is.
 Then, I thought why I felt like this from this panel, in other words, why I felt as if Yotsuba had stared at us who were behind "fourth wall". From vol.1 till this story , certeinly, although there are several (though not so many) panels in which Yotsuba turns her face toward the front, that is to say, toward reader's side, I have never felt like that. This panel made me feel so for the first time. Why ?
 It is her aloneness that we must consider. She doesn't communicate with other people in adjacent two panels.

よつばと! 12巻 p222/"YOTSUBATO!" vol.12 p222)
 This is the final page of final story in vol.12. As you see, no one but Yotsuba is there, and she also doesn't speak to others on a final panel of p221. This aloneness gives us an illusion of her staring through "fourth wall" though she, an character of comics, stares at only objects in the same comic world, I think.
 For example, there is a scene in which Yotsuba turns her face toward the front in vol.12.

よつばと! 12巻 p27/"YOTSUBATO!" vol.12 p27)
 In the upper panel, though Yotsuba looks toward the front(not directly the front, but it is the same as the final panel of vol.12), I don't think she stares at us. Because Yotsuba talks with Torako in panels before and after this panel. Readers understand unconsciously that Yotsuba looks toward there since she is communicating with Torako who is a character in the comic. So we comprehend automatically that Yotsuba's eyes toward readers are merely identical with ones toward objects in the comic by chance.
 But in the final panel, Yotsuba hasn't communicated with others for several panels. So it is not clear who is looked at by Yotsuba in the panel. Yotsuba looking at readers keeping the unclearness, we get a start, "Is she staring at me ?"
 In addition, in order to express her happy smile, she isn't drown her pupils, and this expression prevents us from precise recognizing  who Yotsuba is staring at. Eyes without pupils give readers the illusion of her staring through "fourth wall" much more. Of course it is only an illusion, but it is an illusion that makes us immerse ourselves in the comic world.
 I can depict this feeling as an illusion that I, as a reader, am suddenly dragged in the comic world by Yotsuba who smiles at me without having communicated with others. In other words, I was changed my position of the third person into of the third position.
 When we read "YOTSUBATO!", we are always placed in the position of the third person, and it means we aren't placed in the position of the first(Yotsuba's or other comic caharacters') position. In "YOTSUBATO!", there are so much composition. Much of them trace Yotsuba's eyes which look upon from the bottom, or other's eyes which look down Yotsuba, but there are themselves in the composition(or in the panel). So we are forced not to be identical with them but to see the comic world in the ways similar to the comic characters. We are inevitably the third person. We must see the world by the eyes very similar to, thus differnt from theirs.
 To tell the truth, there is a very very little composition that our eyes are identical with Yotsuba's.

(よつばと! 9巻 p53/"YOTSUBATO!" vol.9 p53)
 This is a very rare example. We are perfectly identical with Yotsuba's eyes looking toward a teddy bear. In addition, Yotsuba looking through a finder of a camera(vol.11 "Yotsuba and camera"),Yotsuba looking upon ceiling of the tent(
vol.12 "Yotsuba and camp the latter part"), and so on.
 But in the final panel of vol.12, Yotsuba is drown as if she smile at readers, and then, we are placed in not the third person but the second person, looking toward Yotsuba directly. Prbably this is the first expression since "YOTSUBATO!" was drown. This is why I was attracted so much.
 Though we have only seen this fortunata world from outside, we can face Yotsuba in the same world when we read this panel. That' very very exciting experience!


original article in Japanese: