Manga artist Kiyohiko Azuma is most well known for Yotsuba&!, his series which follows a young girl humorously moving through life. In that work, Yotsuba is rendered in a cartoonish manner, juxtaposed with her surroundings, which Azuma depicts with realistic detail.
The contrast between reality and fantasy is striking, but not unheard of in manga. In fact, Shigeru Mizuki, author of GeGeGe no Kitaro, pioneered the style. When pulled out from the manga context, Azuma’s architectural drawings come into focus as works of art in their own right. His detailed black and white line drawings are incredibly complex. The architectural drawings relay different facets of an urban environment and seem almost like stage sets, just waiting for a character to appear.
Yet, within the context of Yotsuba&!, Azuma’s choice to emphasize the main character’s cartoonish nature is purposeful. For the artist, the stylistic choice simply reinforces her “otherness.” “I lean toward realism, but at the same time, it’s not like I’m trying to make things actually realistic—what I’m going for is more like having a somewhat strange character within a realistic world,” Azuma shares. “Now, that’s pretty standard in manga, but what I’m aiming for is to strike the right balance of being ‘somewhat’ strange—not too out there, but not too normal, either.”