(I didn't realize the Manga Movable Feast was going on until a few hours ago, so this is going under the wire. I will begin with the words of a great man.)
"The emptier your head is, the more room there is for dreams!"
There is a mindset that runs throughout Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba&!. It's a simple comic about a strange little girl (she says she comes from "the left") who, every chapter, experiences something mundane and injects it with joy.
And that's it. There isn't a central plot to concentrate on, and the only real mystery-- the green-haired Yotsuba's origin-- is ignored. If you need to know where Yotsuba came from or what things will be like in five years in the Koiwai household, your mind's not in the place that Azuma wants you to be.
The tagline of Yotsuba&! is simply "Enjoy everything." Stop for a second. We're all overloaded with stimuli: the first piece is gone and replaced with a fresh signal too fast for us to appreciate it. Allow yourself to be impressed. One doesn't have to regress towards childhood to simply remember joy, to try and look at the world through its eyes.
Since Yotsuba&! runs in an explicitly otaku-targeted magazine, and because this is an otaku blog, and because if you ask me, the world is going otaku, think about your relationship with media. Geeks of all stripes are in a unique place in this decade: the Internet has absolutely exploded our access. Between a Netflix subscription, Hulu, online retailers, and my hard drive, there is far more video content immediately available to me, right this second, than I can ever possibly finish in my lifetime. My videogame collection contains another several lifetimes.
And that's if I just plopped down on the couch (or perhaps, in ten years, some kind of gigantic, soundproof Facebook-compatible media bubble) and spent the rest of my time as a terrible mockery of life, a media glutton. If our theoretical couch potato's mind is just on getting through it, will the poor spud ever actually get any happiness out of the images flashing in front of his eyes? Isn't beauty worth a pause?
This is one of the reasons I started blogging, actually. I realized how much time I was spending on things like this, so often without really appreciating them. I felt that without pulling anything back out into the world from the experience, without engaging in a conversation, I was just wasting that time. So now otaku culture and I have this friendly arrangement where I try to look deeply and contribute. I think I get more out of the things I love now than I ever did before.
When a new volume of Yotsuba&! comes in, I'm enthusiastic but I try to take it slow. I let my eyes linger on the average, beautiful places Azuma wants to show us. I let myself laugh: at the end of the chapter about making a cake, I just put the book down and fell down laughing for a few minutes. It was all I could do. Yotsuba&! may not have a plot, but it does have a message, one it shows much more often than it tells. It is contagious, and it is something we need to remember.