Yotsuba&! – Chapter 75
I think Yotsuba&! is really starting to take after its predecessor. Most other comedy series make it difficult to tell if time is actually moving forward, since not much ever changes between chapters. That was where Azumanga Daioh was different. You could feel that the characters in that series were growing older, even if you couldn’t see the changes in every chapter. It was all the little things, like Chiyo and Tomo changing their hair, or Sakaki slowly coming out of her shell. It displayed a growing sense of maturity that you couldn’t get just from saying the characters are a year older, like some manga. Azuma may have moved on to a new series, and it may not by as mature (which is saying something) but I feel that Yotsuba&! still has that same sense of growth.
Most of that subtle element of change can be seen from Yotsuba’s bear, Duralumin. She ended up acquiring it in a one-off chapter some time into the series, so you wouldn’t expect it to be at all relevant later on. Since then, though, it’s appeared with Yotsuba a surprising number of times, to the point where it’s almost leveled up to Security Blanket status. It’s changes like that which you normally only see at the beginning of comedies to introduce the comedic quirks of the cast. She takes it with her everywhere, she dropped it out of a hot-air balloon, and now she’s left it with Asagi to recover from the dog attack.
Duralumin getting repaired also shows how the series can show growth in between chapters. There are a lot of points in this manga where the events of one chapter lead directly into the next, and not just in terms of two part chapters. Yotsuba asking Asagi for a souvenir in one chapter can lead to another chapter being about fireworks. The Koiwais receiving an excess of flowers can lead to a whole chapter about giving them away. The camera Yotsuba received last chapter lead directly into this one, and now the temporary loss of her bear looks like it will lead into the next. There are all sorts of these events in the series, and they help make the story more than just a random series of vignettes.
I think the idea that comedy doesn’t have to be static and unmoving is part of what makes Kiyohiko Azuma such an effective writer. It gives his stories an air of reality that helps us become invested in his characters. Now, we may never see Yotsuba going to school or Fuuka graduating or Asagi and Torako hooking up, but that sense of time is still there, if you know where to look for it.