K-On! Vol. 4

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

It’s finally time for time to catch up with the cast of K-On!. Graduation is around the corner, and this volume deals with everything that comes with it: the senior’s school play, deciding on a future, taking exams so that you can achieve that future, and of course their final concert. But is it really the end for our pop band cuties?

Of course not. This is not the sort of manga where you’re going to get a lot of angst and serious business. It’s a silly 4-koma, and we get what Kakifly does best. In fact, one of the main plot points is that the girls *don’t* want this to be the end – they all decide to join Mugi in applying to the prestigious Japan Womnen’s Univ – pardon me, to heavily disguised “N” Women’s University, because they’ve grown so close they can’t let it end like this. Of course, this isn’t just some convenient escalator school – Yui and Ritsu really have to buckle down, and a lot of the humor in this volume comes from the two of them trying to study while being so easily distracted (Yui) or bored (Ritsu).

Then there’s that class play. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, this is not a yuri series, despite what the fandom would tell you. However, among the situations that aren’t yuri but which fans glom onto anyway, this volume certainly has the most, especially for Mio and Ritsu. The class decides to do Romeo and Juliet, and decide that Mio is perfect for the role of Romeo… which she totally isn’t, but clearly they just want to see her dressed up as a hot Elizabethan boy. Likewise, Ritsu is a horrible choice for Juliet, and was likely chosen because… well, Mio was Romeo, and the two are inseparable. The manga latches onto this dissonance immediately, with some of the best jokes being about Mio’s timidity and Ritsu’s brashness. (Speaking of which, Yen’s translation of Ritsu’s speech patterns is fantastic – in Japanese, aside from ‘watashi’, she always tends to use boyish speech, and that’s conveyed very well here.) The solution to their issues is both funny and very clever, and again relies on them knowing each other inside and out.

And then there’s the chapter where folks think Ritsu has a boyfriend. (Look, Ritsu’s my favorite character, cut me some slack.) This is probably my favorite chapter in the book, as everything is just pitch perfect. Mio’s panic and jealousy, Mugi’s support and joy (Mugi is a yuri fangirl, but really just pushes interaction of any kind – again, it fits with her upbringing), Ritsu of course using this situation as a giant prank, and Yui for once as the voice of reason (great line about how Ritsu being girly makes her feel sick). In the end, of course, Ritsu does NOT have a boyfriend – it was set up so she could watch Mio freak out. Needless to say, Mio’s reaction in general, and particularly the “Ritsu, you can’t do this! Men are barbarians!” line made yuri fans happy. (Half the chapter was leaked online in Japan, and big surprise – otaku who thought Ritsu was ‘impure’ freaked out and made threats to burn merchandise again. And people wonder why so few love stories in Japan resolve anymore.)

And then we get graduation, and more attention is paid to the one band member who isn’t doing so, Azusa. Getting her to admit she’s an emotional bundle of stress, of course, is like pulling teeth – Ui and Jun both note this. However, when the other four have gotten their diplomas and reality is finally sinking in, Azusa just loses it, in what is one of the sweetest scenes in the entire series. Kakifly’s art is usually more what I’d call “satisfactory” than anything else, particularly with his ‘far older than they look’ character designs. But the way Azusa’s expression is drawn when she begs the cast not to graduate is simply excellent.

And so now it’s over… except it’s not. We now have not one, but TWO sequels running in Japan. The first deals with the four graduating girls in college, the second has Azusa, Ui, and Jun trying to keep the light music club going in high school. How this will be collected is unknown at this point, but no doubt we will eventually see more K-On!. Till then, this was a light and fluffy but of fun, and I enjoyed hanging out with these girls.

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  1. I’ve been confused as to whether K-ON! is considered complete in four volumes. It sounds as if the original incarnation is now technically done, but then again… Yen Press usually writes “series complete” on the pages for the series that are done, but they haven’t done so in this case, nor did they add the word “final” to the volume number on the cover. So, maybe they’re intending to publish the sequels as volumes 5+? Who knows.


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