K-On! Volume 3

By Kakifly. Released in Japan by Houbunsha, serialized in the magazine Manga Time Kirara. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Time, believe it or not, keeps marching on for our girls, as they enter their senior year in this volume. Of course, trying to think about their future plans is just a little bit too hard right now, so they continue to do what they do best – drink tea, glomp each other, do boke/tsukkomi routines, and occasionally play music.

By now Azusa is fully absorbed into the cast mix, and there’s no new people introduced here. The amusement comes from watching the girls behave the way we want them to, and occasionally subvert our expectations. (In fact, I noticed that’s how Ritsu tends to work a lot of the time – she’s crafty enough to know how folks will react to her doing something, and takes advantage of it. Thus when it doesn’t go the way she planned, she’s more upset than usual.) This is typified by one of the earlier stories, where the cast decide to try to help Mio get over her stage fright by working at a maid cafe so she can open up more. Naturally, though, being terrified of performing is one of Mio’s ‘cute’ points, so it’s doomed to failure.

I also really enjoyed the chapter devoted to Mugi and Ritsu. Mugi usually gets the short end of the stick when it comes to developed appearances – in fact, the moment Azusa arrived, she started to do more and be seen more than our yuri-loving keyboaardist. So seeing her go around town with Ritsu was nice, and shows us a more serious side. Even if it’s played for laughs, it’s quite clear that Mugi is desperate for interaction with other girls her own age, and that much of her own obsession with the girls hugging and occasional yuri fantasies are due more to her completely sheltered upbringing. To Mugi, Mio hitting Ritsu all the time is a sign that they’re the closest of friends. To Ritsu, it just hurts. And Mugi gets the perfect capper here as well, saying something so oblivious that it actually provokes the aforementioned ‘friendship hit’. This was probably my favorite part of the book.

Although the final story comes close, where we see how Mio and Ritsu met, and the story of their unlikely friendship. This was a special chapter, so manages to break out of the 4-koma format, and it’s better for it, feeling a lot more relaxed and nostalgic. Mio and Ritsu as children are much the same as they are now, but we start to see how Ritsu can get Mio out of her shell, and how Mio is a better person for it. Though Mio may not see it that way…

Again, Yen’s translation is mostly excellent. Azu-meow continues to niggle at me. There’s also a class trip to Kyoto, which brings us to the dreaded Kyoto dialect translation. This is next to impossible to convey without jarring somewhat, especially if the gag is to show it being said by someone that would not normally use such a dialect, such as Mugi. That said, the choice of ‘urban New York’ and seeing Yui and Mugi swearing… feels really off to me. I think I’d have preferred the usual southern drawl instead.

Some noise was made in this volume about thinking about the future, and we see Yui struggling with a future career. But that’s all for Volume 4. For now, there’s tea and cakes, and sometimes music. And there’s cute 4-koma silliness. K-on! is not winning any awards, but it remains a light, fun, breezy read, and has some loveable cast members.

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