K-ON! 1 by Kakifly: C-

From the back cover:
When their high school’s pop-music club is about to be disbanded due to lack of interest, four girls step up to fill the membership quota. Unfortunately, lead guitarist Yui Hirasawa has never played an instrument in her life. Ever. And although she likes the idea of being in a band, standing in front of the mirror posing with her guitar is a lot easier than actually playing it. It’s gonna be a while before this motley crew is rocking out, but with their spunk and determination cranked to 11, anything is possible!

I tried. I really did. “Loads of people like K-ON!,” I told myself. “There has to be something worthwhile about it!” Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it much and can only conclude that I am not its target audience.

For example, I know this series ran in a magazine for men and, as such, some degree of fanservice is to be expected. Most of the essentials—a random trip to the beach, a hot springs scene during which someone impulsively stands up, and a panty shot—are accounted for. That’s not my thing, but that is fine. Occasionally, though, the poses are so awkward and so trying to pander to some specific vision of the feminine ideal that I just have to scratch my head. For example:

Is this pose sexy to someone? And if so, how come? Is it because she looks like she really needs to pee? I honestly do not understand.

Moving away from the art, the story is where K-ON! really has the most potential. Four girls—Yui, Ritsu, Mio, and Tsumugi—join the pop music club at their school and quickly choose what instruments they’re going to play. Aaaand then proceed to sit around a lot and eat a bunch of snacks. Because this is a four-panel manga, the focus is on getting to the punchline, but these are seldom amusing. Mostly they center on gags like Ritsu suddenly being motivated to play the drums after Mio suggests that she has gained some weight. High-larious.

There are a couple of interesting moments, though, like when the girls take Yui out guitar shopping or when they perform at the school festival. Unfortunately, Yui is so dumb that she first forgets that she needs to actually buy a guitar and then has to be reminded that she should be learning to play it rather than simply posing with it. Secondly, the entire “performance” consists of four panels of the girls starting their song. Turn the page and they’re thanking the audience. “That’s it?!” I boggled. Unfortunately, the rigid pacing required by the four-panel format really doesn’t allow for more, and without any reaction shots from the crowd it’s impossible to gauge how good they’re supposed to be.

In the end, I am disappointed. I’m willing to bet that the anime—free from the strictures of format and including at least one song performed by the voice actors—is much better, but I doubt I’ll be checking it out any time soon.

K-ON! is published in English by Yen Press. Volume one will be out later this month. The series is complete in Japan with four volumes.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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  1. Thank you for this review. I no longer feel alone in this world, as the success of K-On leaves me utterly baffled.

    • And thank you for your comment!

      I’m starting to think I should just stay away from four-panel manga. The only one that has ever really amused me was the first volume of Neko Ramen, but the second volume wasn’t as good.

  2. LOL! I just started reading this myself. I think it’s really cute, though? Like, I’m not Azumanga Daioh loving it by any means (my measuring stick for 4-panel manga), but I do find it funny and cute.

    • I didn’t even love Azumanga Daioh, but I’ve been thinking I need to finish it (I only read 1-2) and see whether my opinion has changed since I’ve read Yotsuba&! 1-8 in the meantime and really loved it.

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