Yotsuba & Fishing

From Yotsuba&! Volume 4
Published by ADV Manga

Early morning. The cast is getting ready to board the van. From left to
right, they are: Yotsuba's father, Mr. Koiwai, known only as "Daddy" (so far);
Daddy's friend Takashi Takeda , aka "Jumbo"; Yotsuba herself; Miura, best friend
of Ena Ayase, Yotsuba's neighbor; and Ena herself. Mother Ayase hands Ena some
onigiri (rice balls in the fan translation; unusual in that the fan-tran often
goes for the Japanese term). The rice balls are meant to accompany the fish
they catch.

"You've never fished before, Ena," says Mom. "You might have nothing else to

"I got a book from the library and read up on it last night," says Ena, thus
establishing her bona fides as the studious Ayase daughter.

"Okay, everyone, do your best," says Mom. "Catch enough for me, too."

"Just you watch!" cries Yotsuba. "I'll catch enough for Asagi and Fuka, too!"
Name-checking the other two Ayase girls. Kiyohiko Azuma's previous big hit
was Azumanga Daioh, which likewise featured a large female cast.

Everyone boards the van and Yotsuba yells, "Let's go!"

Next page is the title page. Over a shot of the van on the freeway we get the
iconic exclamation point with, "Yotsuba & Fishing, Chapter 23." Every chapter
is in the "Yotsuba-and" formation; the series' proper name is, "Yostubato"
("To" meaning "and" in this case.) The fan translation of the actual monthly
magazine story includes the title, credits, the usual catchphrase -- "Today will
always be the most enjoyable day" -- and the additional snippet, "Since it's
such a pleasant morning, there's a sense that today will be a good day."

Page 4. Miura is concerned: "We can only eat what we catch?"

Jumbo replies, "Relax, you'll get something. We're going to a rental fishing
spot." The fan-tran calls it a "regulated fishing site" and the translator
apologizes for not finding a better term for "kanritsuriba." We'll see how it
works in a few pages, but for right now, they're going fishing like Cheney goes

Miura; "Just watch. I'll be reeling in fish by the dozens!

Ena: "I'll be reeling them in left and right!"

Yotusba: "I'm gonna catch some beetles!"

Now there's two pages of nothing but scenery, almost. This is a good time to
mention that Azuma (including his studio) does some great work here, almost
photo-realistic. Puts me in mind of some of the work of Al Wiseman on Dennis the
Menace, especially those great travel specials (Hollywood, Washington D.C.,
Hawaii). Yotsuba and Dennis are close in age (five and four, respectively), a
time when everything is new, which makes detail extremely important. (For more
on Wiseman and his longtime writing partner Fred Toole, click on

The party reaches the fishing hole. (Another superb shot.)

"Are we gonna swim in there?" says Yotsuba.

"What did we come here to do?" says Daddy.

"Catch fish!" Beat. "Are we gonna swim in there?

"No, we're not." (Ena smiles indulgently. Since Ena is eight, and her sisters
are in their teens, being with Yotsuba gives her the chance to be the "big

Inside the shop Jumbo orders rainbow trout for five. (They don't stock
mackerel, to Yotsuba's dismay.) Then the girls select their rods (sans reels), which
are three times as tall as they are.

Another shot of the fishing grounds. "I was expecting something only a bunch
of old guys would like," says Miura, "But this is great."

One of the employees comes by with a bucket. "Is here OK?"

Jumbo: "Yes, please."

Yotsuba peeks inside. "Fish! Lots of them!" In fact there's twenty, which the
employee tips into the stream.

Jumbo: "Okay, we now have at least 20 trout in this one area."

Miura: "Huh. So that's how it works. It seems kinda fake."

Jumbo: "Well, it's everyone's first time to fish. It'd be pretty boring if
nobody caught anything."

The rods are ready for baiting. "Hold out your hand, Miura."

"It's a worm! You're gonna give me a worm, aren't you?" Miura shows her
nervousness with sweat drops and narrowed pupils.

"Don't be stupid. It's nothing like that," says Jumbo. And he puts a
caterpillar in her hand.

"AAAAAGH!" Miura just flips out. "I knew it! You lied!"

"It's not a worm."

"Let go of me!"

"It's a grub. OK, everyone, look close. You place it on the hook like

"What are you making ME do it for? Aagh!" And Ena and Yotsuba go, "Whoa..."

Next panel shows Miura all wrung out. For background, let me mention that
Miura is quite the tomboy, usually wearing t-shirts and jeans. Ena, by contrast,
is more girly-girl, wearing dresses and/or lace -- Shirley to Miura's Laverne.

After all the drama, Miura refuses to use the pole baited with the grub, so
Jumbo uses salmon eggs on hers. "That's way better than some grub! I'm gonna
kill you!"

Jumbo casts a rod and immediately gets a bite. This encourages all three
girls and soon they've all got hooks in the water. Ena is the first to make a
catch -- "I'm really good at this!" -- and Jumbo picks it up in his net. The fish
has already swallowed the hook, so Jumbo demonstrates his hook remover. An
ecstatic Ena puts the fish in the catch basket, a half-submerged mesh enclosure.

Then Miura gets a bite -- "When did that happen?" -- and is not as thrilled.
"Gah! It's all warm! And slippery! And twitchy!" This trout has also swallowed
the hook, but this time Jumbo wants Miura to remove it herself, something she
isn't too hot on.

"Ah! He jumped! I can't get it!"

"Push it in deeper."

"Deeper?! Sorry, fish. Gah! Now he's bleeding!" From the mouth and gill --
the messiest scene in the book. When this fish goes in the basket, he floats
upside down.

Miura washes her hands. "Scary... S-so scary..." She turns to Ena. "How can
you TOUCH them like that?"

"It's not like they're gross or anything. Neither are grubs." Ena (who, I'll
just mention in passing, is not wearing anything girly today, but a Gilligan
hat and jeans) promptly catches another trout.

"Now it's my turn!" says Yotsuba. Under Daddy's direction she casts her rod
where Ena just caught hers. "Now it's all heavy."

"I think you got one," says Daddy.

Yotsuba tries to pull it in but gets unbalanced and nearly falls in the
river. Daddy catches her by the t-shirt. "Nice save!" In a breathtaking shot she
pulls back and the fish breaks the water in a graceful arc --

-- And immediately snaps off the line and falls in again. "Get back here!"
yells Yotsuba as she dives in.

Next shot shows Daddy drying her off. "That was close, huh? I almost got him,
huh?" But soon enough she does catch one, and runs up to Ena and Miura,
beaming all over her face.

Shot of treetops to denote time passing.

Jumbo gathers the fish they've caught so far and wonders if it's time for
lunch. Yotsuba and Miura enthusiastically agree. While Yotsuba and Daddy build a
charcoal fire, Jumbo takes Miura and Ena over to the fish prep area. He
empties the net into the sink. By my count there's fifteen fish out of the inital
twenty, which seems like a pretty good ratio for first-time fishermen.

"How do you get them ready to eat?" says Ena.

"Well, first you cut them like this." And Jumbo makes an incision with his
knife, although no blood is shown. In fact, throughout this sequence att the
real mess is kept offstage -- we've already seen the most blood with Miura's
hook-removal scene.

Speaking of Miura, she reacts to the initial cut: "Ah! That's gotta hurt! ...
Aagh! I see its insides!"

"You take out its gills and internal organs."

"Gwah! Gwaah! You do that while it's still alive?"

"Then, you take a skewer and..."

"Eek! Right in the eye! That really stings!"

"Sprinkle it with some salt and it's ready to go." By this point a sweaty
Miura is cowering behind the intently-gazing Ena. She looks at the fish,
twitching on its skewer: "It's still alive..."

"Might as well go ahead and prep them all," says Jumbo.

"Can I help" says Ena.

"Gah! You actually want to try?!" Miura.

Jumbo talks Ena through gutting another fish while Miura "helps" from the
sidelines: "Ena, you're too much!... Y-You have no fear!... Is that what kids are
like these days? ... This isn't real! I feel like I'm in a game! ... You look
like you wouldn't hurt a fly, but--"

"Will you SHUT UP?" says a fed-up Ena. And now we come to one of the biggest
differences in the translations. In the professional version of volume 4, on
sale now at Barnes & Noble, Ena says, "Don't you think it's kind of neat when
they're all prepared?" -- putting the emphasis on the fish, focus for this
episode. But the fan translation has her say, "Don't you think it's interesting to
see how much you can do?" In other words, Ena sees this as a new experience,
a test of her limits. She will pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake in other
stories, notably "Yotsuba & the Stars," in volume 5.

Ena tells Miura she should try preparing fish, too. Miura picks up a fish and
a knife, all the while trembling like a leaf in a windstorm. She touches the
point to the scales --

And ZOOM! She hides behind a tree. "Y-you guys can finish up," she graciously

Finally the fish are skewered, stood up and smoked. Fan-tran: "Itadakimasu!"
Pro-tran: "Let's eat!" Me: "Rub a dub dub, thank God for the grub." Everybody
exclaims over the freshly-caught trout. Yotsuba holds a skewer in one hand and
a rice ball in the other and declares herself, "The Greatest."

Miura: "Mm! Better than I thought! I'm surprised.'

Ena: "It's hard to believe you were so scared of them before!"

Miura: "Yeah, but they're cooked now. They're food." Another loss to
veganism, then, I suppose.

And as the party settles in to eating and laughing, Jumbo looks over them and
smiles to himself. Then he says to Miura, "This day's given you a lot to put
in your diary, huh?"

Miura: "Yup!"

Daddy: "What's this about a diary?"

Jumbo: "Miura said she wouldn't be going on any trips during the summer
vacation, so I selflessly stepped in to give her a day to remember." (This happened
at the end of the previous episode, "Yotsuba & Challenges.")

Ena: "But you're going to Hawaii after the break, right?"

Miura: "Yup."

Everyone is stock still for a beat (or a panel). Then Jumbo says, "Huh?"

Ena: "Her dad's really busy during the summer, so they're going on vacation
in the fall. She's even taking a week off from school!" Then to Ena, "You're so
lucky. I've never been overseas."

Miura: "Yeah, but Hawaii? It's so typical."

Ena: "You think? Fuka was so jealous when she heard. I bet the water will be
pretty, and there'll be lots of fish!"

Miura: "Yeah, we'll probably go snorkeling."

Ena: "Snorkeling? Ah, you're killing me!"

Jumbo: "WAHAHA! Well isn't that nice! HAHAHA!" Then he looms over Miura --
and at 6'10", he's a man that can loom -- and growls, "You've got some nerve."

Miura: "Huh?"

Jumbo: "That's great, right? It makes you happy, right?"

Miura: "Um, yeah."

Jumbo grabs her fish away. "Give me that! No trout for you!" (With its focus
on everyday life and self-involved adults, Yotsuba&! has more than a little in
common with Seinfeld.)

"What is your problem?" cries Miura.


"I have no idea what you're saying!"

Ena adds helpfully, "It's the name of the first king of Hawaii."

Miura: "I know that!"

Jumbo: "Waikiki!"

Miura: "Oh, shut up!"

Ena: "Waikiki is the name of--"

Miura: "I know what it is!"

Yotsuba starts wolfing her food down, exactly as if she's saying, "Hey, don't
forget who's the star here!"

Jumbo: "Everyone, let's watch our little princess do a hula dance!" Ena claps
her hands.

Miura: "Cut that out!" And we fade out to the sound of Yotsuba's coughing and
the sight of two remaining trout in the stream.

A couple of points. This story is almost twice as long as the usual Yotsuba
episode. The whole Jumbo-Miura interaction could almost have come from a shojo
manga, if Jumbo had lost ten years and Miura had gained them. As it is, it's
just this side of creepy. (It doesn't help that Jumbo somewhat resembles Mr.
Kimura, the perverted teacher from Azumanga Daioh.)

I've already taken longer than I should, so I'll sum up the Yotsuba series in
one word: Delightful.