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By otakuman5000 On 30 Mar, 2012 At 10:11 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews | With 1 Comment
K-ON! by Kakifly

No GravatarThe senior members of the Pop Music Club inch forward through their final high school year. The girls study for exams and goof off — but will they actually play any music?!

K-ON! by KakiflyAs usual there is next to no time for music, although now that’s more because they’re supposed to be studying for college than because their sitting around drinking tea (though there is, of course, plenty of that). Kakifly recycles a lot of the same old jokes for this volume: studying for tests proves that Ritsu is lazy and that Yui can’t focus, and casting Mio as Romeo in the class play opens the gate for more “Mio is so shy!” jokes. Mugi is still the most awkward character; it makes sense since one of her traits is an inability to fit in, but her constant desire to get punched like Ritsu can get grating. And there are the usual jokes that just can’t translate from Japanese, like Yui and Ritsu’s song titles and the lyrics to “Rice is the Dish” (you can figure it out from reading the liner notes, but once you explain it, it’s not funny). The manga has its moments, like the lengths Ritsu goes to make Mio tutor her (she climbs through a second story window), or Mio’s panicky behavior when she thinks Ritsu has a boyfriend. But as usual, while K-ON! may make you crack a smile, you’ll be hard pressed to really even chuckle at anything.

Azusa continues to be one of the more likable characters in the manga as she very realistically deals with the stress and sadness of her friends moving on. She worries that they’ve forgotten about the club in favor of doing the school play, and that now that they’re seniors that they’ll quit altogether. Azusa gives a long list of complaints about Yui and the others (particularly Yui), but in the end she has the most emotional reaction: “I promise, I won’t get mad anymore, just…just please don’t graduate…” But then her friends play a farewell song, and she becomes determined: “I’m gonna make the new Pop Music Club so much better than this one–!”

Even with the slight emotional upswing in at the end, K-ON! is still a shallow, goofy story that struggles to hold your attention for more than the length of one chapter. But, that’s not much more than what you can expect from a manga that’s more about hanging out than playing music. Still, for what it is, K-ON! is a fun time – a sweet manga to pick at that won’t make you feel too guilty for whiling your time away with it.

ISBN: 9780316188357 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released December 13, 2011

Review copy provided by the publisher.

By otakuman5000 On 23 May, 2011 At 08:44 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarIn this series of reviews I’m looking at the most recent volumes of three continuing series from manga publisher Yen Press. K-ON! features a group of high school girls who form a band but never get around to playing; a merchant guides a homesick wolf goddess home in Spice & Wolf;  and a patient boyfriend puts up with his excessively nerdy girlfriend in My Girlfriend’s a Geek.

Four-paneled manga K-ON!

K-ON! Volume 2 by Kakifly

The new school year started and it’s time for the Pop Music club to find more members. They somehow manage to impress first year Azusa, a determined guitarist. Azusa can’t wait to practice, but first she’ll have to get through the tea drinking and beach parties.

I reviewed Kakifly’s 4-koma story back in November, and stated there that “K-ON! is full of blatant fan-pandering, and sometimes the manga forgets it’s about a bunch of girls playing music. Despite that, I found myself with fewer headaches and more smiles at Kakifly’s cute, goofy story” but that it’s a manga “you’ll surely forget almost as soon as you put it aside.”

Not much has changed in K-ON! volume 2: one-dimensional characters, a plot that’s dumb as dirt, and Kakifly still refuses to show the Pop Music Club play music. But volume 2 gives a new character, Azusa, who shows a bit more determination than her upperclassmen (though they’re slowly dragging her down with them) and the story’s amusing, even if it’s not the most humorous manga you could pick up. But even if I’m enjoying it more, that doesn’t mean K-ON! is getting any better. This manga’s fine to read in the pages of Yen Plus, but certainly isn’t worth it’s own purchase.

ISBN: 9780316119405 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released March 29, 2011

Spice & Wolf based off the light novel by Isuna Hasekura

Spice & Wolf Volume 4, Story by Isuna Hasekura, Art by Keito Koume, Character Design by Jyuu Ayakura

The merchant Lawrence and his companion, the wolf goddess Holo, travel to the city Ruvinheigen to sell their wares on the way north to Holo’s homeland. On the way they encounter a nymph-like shepherdess named Norah, who acts as a guide and provides easy conversation for Lawrence. But that easiness may go away when they arrive in the city, and Lawrence finds out how much his merchandise is really worth…

The frequent economic discussions in Spice & Wolf fly over my head, and while they can create drama for the manga it can also cause the story to screech to a halt. In general the story description doesn’t go quite deep enough, seeming to just skim the surface and leaving readers without a full understanding of what’s going on (for example, exactly what is the problem with the shepherdess Norah?) Spice & Wolf is originally a series of light novels, so the problem could lie in narration that simply didn’t get transferred to the manga.

But it’s not the plot that keeps roping me into this manga; it’s the relationship between Lawrence and Holo. It’s amusing to see the way Holo will flirt with and tease Lawrence, even as it becomes apparent that the merchant is falling for the Wise Wolf. And the art continues to please on all accounts, from the detailed city streets and rolling country hills to the soft character designs that make even the roughest character appealing. It might not be an exciting read or a satisfying plot, but the characters and art do their job to draw you in.

ISBN: 9780316178266 • MSRP $12.99 • Yen Press • Released May 31, 2011

Taiga deals with his geeky girlfriend.

My Girlfriend’s a Geek Volume 3, Art by Rize Shinba Story by Pentabu

Taiga is excited for his first Christmas with his older, geeky girlfriend, but will it fantastic or super awkward? And it’s a small world after all when Yuiko says she has a new “girlfriend” – a cosplayer named Kaoru, who happens to be the younger sister of Taiga’s friend Kouji!

My big problem with previous volumes of My Girlfriend’s a Geek is that I do not like Yuiko as a person. She’s selfish and immature, and continues to be oblivious to how worked up she makes Taiga – he won’t even tell her he’s tutoring a middle school boy because of the yaoi comments she’ll make. Yet, she’s hilarious to watch, exalting over her new “girlfriend” and inwardly twitching as her smug boss shows off and hits on her.

Taiga is learning how to deal with Yuiko’s nature, but he begins to lie about things just because he knows how her twisted mind works. A part of me hopes that when this comes out in future volumes this will come to a dramatic fight that will help Yuiko really understand what she does. Or she’ll be oblivious again, which would be both frustrating and funny, a pretty standard feeling for this manga.

ISBN: 9780316178211 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released May 31 2011

Review copies provided by the publisher.