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K-ON! Vol. 3

Author: Andy Hanley

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K-ON! Vol. 3

Yen Press

With the first volume of its anime adaptation now available in the UK, we should be all set for a musical late summer of fun with the girls of K-ON's pop music club, helped along by its continuing manga volume releases from Yen Press.

By this third instalment of the series there really shouldn't be any surprises in store for readers as the club's quintet of girls go about their lives in a typical slice of life, four-panel manga style.  A lot of the typical fare from this kind of manga is on show here, whether it's New Year celebrations, trying to persuade other members to join the club as a new school year rolls around (with little success, I should point out) and moving all the way through to a summer break which sees the girls and their teacher Sawako taking in a live music festival.

Although this leaves us with nothing much new to say in general terms, it has to be noted that the content of this third volume of K-ON feels just that little bit "sharper" - its storylines flow better within the confines of its four-panel layout, its artwork feels more comfortably consistent throughout and (most importantly of all) the series seems to have final got to grips with how best to use its characters to entertain, resulting in a far richer vein of humour as a result.

This leaves us with what is certainly the best volume of K-ON from Kakifly to date - its cutesy everyday outlook certainly still won't impress everybody, and from a personal perspective it's still can't match the output of the likes of Sunshine Sketch, but for a fun and undemanding read K-ON is finally beginning to break out of its shell and deliver on its promise more consistently.

As per usual with a Yen Press release, this volume of the series is well presented and suitably comprehensive in its release notes, with our only issue being the translation of Azusa's nickname "Azu-nyan" as "Azu-meow" - yes, it's technically correct, but it still reads oddly in my head and sticking with the original nickname and using a translation note would have worked better in my opinion.  On the flip side of this, Yen Press' decision to translate a pair of strips where the girls try on a Japanese Kansai dialect using an over-the-top Brooklyn "gangster rap" style is legitimately the funniest thing in the entire volume, so kudos has to be given where it's due here for taking a potentially risky decision and having it come off.

Die-hard K-ON fans will need no reason to pick up this latest volume of its manga in English, but at this juncture there's finally a suggestion that the series is worthy of interest to slice of life manga fans in general now that it seems to be more comfortable in its proverbial shoes.

The best volume of the series yet, as Kakifly finally seems to get fully to grips with producing comedy and entertainment from its subject matter.
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