All good things must come to an end, and in the blink of an eye the original line-up of K-ON's light music club part in this fourth, but not final, volume of Kakifly's slice of life manga.
Despite the big event looming on the horizon, much of this volume proceeds without fanfare, taking in the usual fare as our five club members and their assorted friends and siblings goof around, banter and so on, whether it's about the possibility of Ritsu having a boyfriend or an opportunity to visit Sawako's home while she's off sick with a cold.
As the volume progresses of course, we begin to see the preparations of the club's soon to be graduates to move on, meaning entrance exams, lots of studying, and of course a final school concert for the group in its current incarnation. All of this is played with the same sense of fun and frivolity and a fast pace right through to the very end when it suddenly hits home - this is the end of an era, particular for Azusa as she has to wave goodbye to her seniors with which she's spent so much of the past couple of years. Such a realisation could never be anything but tearful, and this final parting is delivered with a devastating emotion simplicity that catches the reader out and threatens to dampen their eyes into the bargain.
This sense of sadness paired with expectation to close out the volume and this major part of the K-ON story makes you realise that for all of its fluffy, light-hearted humour, there's enough heart and character to the series to actually leave you caring about the individuals portrayed within it - a realisation that hits you like a tonne of bricks rather than creeping up on you admittedly, but there can be no denying its presence. Such a realisation is probably the biggest compliment that can be paid to the series - it might not have broken any new ground, but it's taken us on a fun, enjoyable and occasionally pretty funny journey through high school life.
It's a fitting ending to this chapter for fans of the series, and it might even be enough to persuade some of the doubters as to its merits - there are still better slice of life manga series out there, but there's no denying that K-ON is ultimately one of the more endearing properties.