Thursday, March 24, 2011

K-On! Volume 2

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

Another volume of K-On means another volumes of cute characters doing cute things, four panels at a time. I will assume that if that aggravates you, you never would have bought the manga in the first place. Therefore, everyone else knows what they're getting.

What they get in this volume is mainly the introduction of the last main cast member, Azusa Nanako. Our four band members are now second-year students, and are anxiously trying to recruit new members who will be able to carry on the tradition. They're mostly out of luck, but fortunately Azusa saw their performance at the festival last year and was totally smitten. So she ends up joining the club, despite a slow sinking feeling as she realizes there's far more tea-drinking than practicing, the faculty adviser has a cosplay fetish, the other guitarist has a tendency to like hugging, and she's easily the most skilled musician of the group.

Azusa manages to, believe it or not, be even more moe and adorable than the other four girls, and rapidly became the cult favorite of the cast. The author, of course, has no issues with pandering to this, and quickly has Azusa wearing cat-ears and dressing up in yukata. As I noted before, this is a moe manga, make no bones about it. She quickly takes over the serious-minded taskmaster role that Mio had in the first volume, leaving Mio free to stress out about things and be the tsukkomi to Ritsu's boke. Mostly, however, this is about a group of close-knit friends who quickly add another to their ranks, band or no, and seeing how they try to make Azusa open up and become one of the group (even if she is reluctant much of the time, mostly due to Yui's skinship) is rather nice. 4-koma moe comics do tend to have a lot of cute girl groups of friends, something you don't see as often in other demographics, and it can be quite refreshing.

The plots here are nothing really groundbreaking. We get a beach trip (where we see Azusa tans incredibly quickly and easily), exams, preparing for another concert (which ends up going horribly, mostly as Yui gets a bad cold a week or two before it and they can't practice). And, as I said before, what you see is what you get in terms of these characters. Mio will not learn to conquer her fears onstage, Ritsu is not going to learn responsibility, and Sawako is not going to stop being a 'dirty old man' female teacher. But the jokes are funny, if not laugh-out-loud funny - they're designed more to put a smile on your face than anything else. My favorites were the early stories introducing Azusa (who makes Yui 225% more hyperactive), and the hysterical episode where Yui 'gets over her cold' and returns to practice - but is it really Yui?

Yen's translation, with a couple of niggles, continues to be smooth and well-done, with endnotes where needed. The niggles do annoy me, though. Yen mostly uses honorifics in their normal way, however, when they run into complex or invented honorifics, they sometimes translate it instead. So we see 'Miss Tsumugi' rather than 'Tsumugi-oujosama', which is very strange given that we see '-san' the panel before. Worse, Yui's nickname for Azusa, 'Azu-nyan' - a combination of the 'nya' meow of a cat and '-chan-' is translated as 'Azu-meow', which just messes up the flow of the speech, I think, and doesn't really explain the joke of it being 'meow+honorific'. In both those instances, I feel using the original (as is done with -san, -chan, etc) with an endnote to explain would have been a better choice.

Despite this, however, this is a fun volume of K-On! People who are buying the anime when it comes out next month will want to get this as well. A few scenes from the manga, especially towards the end, were never animated and are quite fun. It's a relaxing cup of tea manga.

1 comment:

  1. Agree 100% with the Azu-meow nickname. Would've been the perfect place to use an endnote as an explanation because it would, in the flow, of things be just another cutesy honorific. They did it with the "Mio-shan" honorific earlier in the volume; couldn't they have done it with this one?