Paper Plane Reviews

A Book Review Blog

Category: Manga

K-ON! College by kakifly

It’s been a while since I last read K-ON!, and after a reasonably intense book, I thought that I could do with something a bit lighter and fluffier. And there’s nothing in my library quite as light and fluffy as that.

K-ON! College follows Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi as they go through their first year of university. Now having to deal with living away from home and being independent, they join the University’s Light Music Club in order to continue playing together. At their dorm they meet another first year band who seem to be setting up to be close rivals.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure where this was likely to go, given that the fourth volume ended on a pretty definitive note. Focusing solely on the older members of the band looked to be a good idea, as the university setting does fit well with the new theme that this volume brings to the fore. The introduction of the rival band, made up of the ultra-serious guitarist Akira, energetic drummer Ayame and shy bassist Sachi, force the group to consider how far they want to take music. Do they want to continue playing together as a hobby, or do they want to knuckle down and try to become professionals? It’s not a route that I was expecting from something that has until now been reasonably silly and inconsequential, but I think it worked well with the general growing up theme that university naturally brings. It’s not tied up by the end of the volume, but I think I’m okay with that. I certainly didn’t finish my first year of uni and know with absolute confidence where I was going, so it would seem weird if it had all been tied up.
The new characters are cute enough, although they act mainly as foils for one another. Ayame and Sachi become fast friends with Ritsu and Mio respectively, and it’s nice to see them interacting with people who are a bit closer to them in temperament. In contrast, Yui attaches herself to Akira, who can charitably be said to assume babysitting duties, although there is some grudging respect there. I think this was the relationship that I liked most, for two reasons. First, it’s always fun to see someone utterly lost for words at the chaos that is Yui. Second, Akira is just so damn sweet that seeing her come out of her shell is nice to see.

A bit more on the thoughtful side as the cast have to learn independence in their first time spent away from home. The new characters are cute enough, with Akira stealing the spotlight with ease. It’s as cute as ever and if you’ve made it this far, you’re unlikely to stop enjoying it here. 4.5/5

Next review: HOPE Engine by Andrew Lynch

Signing off,
Nisa.

K-ON! Volume 4 by kakifly

It’s been a while since I read the last volume of K-ON!, and after an intense few books, it seemed to be the right time to finish off the main bulk of the series.

K-ON! Volume 4 follows the club members in their last months at high school. Now that the older club members have to focus on studying for university entrance exams and class activities, Azusa has contend with the fact that they’ll soon be graduating and leaving her alone.
This volume definitely felt more poignant compared to previous volumes, given the emphasis on partings and new beginnings. In particular it was good to see Azusa given the space to grow and try feeling things out. Related to that, Ui and Jun are featured a bit more as they look to continue the club after Yui and the others leave for university.
While I’m looking forward to the epilogue volumes looking at the older cast members at university and the new blood continuing the club at high school, K-ON! Volume 4 feels like a good place to end the series. It’s looking forward to a bright future and it’s maintained its warm and fuzzy feeling through to the end. I don’t know that the epilogues will add anything that is absolutely necessary, but K-ON! isn’t a series that you can get truly tired of.

A cute place to end the main bulk of the series, K-ON! Volume 4 continues to do what the series is good at. Not sure what the last two volumes will add, but I’m hopeful. 4.5/5

Next review: Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Signing off,
Nisa.

K-ON! Volume 3 by kakifly

I was feeling in the mood for something quick and a bit cute before a few books that were likely to take a bit more time to complete, so I settled on K-ON! Volume 3. It was a good thing too, considering that I ended up heading home early from work feeling thoroughly ill and miserable.

K-ON! Volume 3 picks up from where the last volume left off, with the majority of the Pop Music Club’s members finishing their second year and entering their final year of high school. With graduation looming, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi have to start considering where they want to go for university, while Azusa has to face the prospect of being the only remaining member come the start of the next school year.
As I haven’t been feeling great today, it was nice to read something safe and predictable. If you’ve been following K-ON! so far, it’s safe to say that you know how it goes now. There aren’t quite as many jokes about eating cake instead of practising, but it’s still more focused on the domestic than the music side of things. There’s a sense of things starting to come to a close, as there’s a lot of baton-passing shown, both inside and outside of the club. There’s also a bit more focus on how it is run as a club, with more mentions of things like club budget and requests for things like air conditioning.
The characters are still great, and this volume the reader gets to see a bit more of some of Azusa’s classmates. Ui’s already been introduced in an earlier volume as Yui’s doting and hyper-competent younger sister. A new addition to the cast is Jun, who really admires the club whilst they’re on-stage, but can’t bring herself to join as she thinks that they’re a bit lazy and embarrassing day-to-day.

If you like the previous two volumes of K-ON!, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll like the third. A bit more of a focus on the actual school side of things, and more of a spotlight on characters that are likely to join the club once the older members leave for university. 4/5

Next review: Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams

Signing off,
Nisa.

Final Fantasy Type-0 by Hiroki Chiba, Tetsuya Nomura & Takatoshi Shiozawa

In addition to enjoying books, I am also a bit of a keen gamer. Not a very good one, mind you, as my hand-eye co-ordination and reflexes are about what you’d expect from someone with a desk job whose primary hobby is reading. One genre of game that I do get on with is the humble RPG, especially if it’s one with turn-based combat. Take that hand-eye co-ordination, I didn’t need you anyway. A prime example of the genre that I have never had a chance to play is the Final Fantasy series, so when I got a manga adaptation of one of their spin-off games, Type-0, I thought that this would be a prime opportunity to see if I would like to try this game in the series.

Final Fantasy Type-0 follows the cadets of Akademeia’s Class Zero, an elite group of twelve students whose magic is unparalleled in their country, to the point where they are considered to be a myth by many. But their strength is tested when, shortly after two other elite cadets transfer to them, their country is attacked and they find themselves at the centre of the battlefield.
Adaptations of games tend to be one of two things. On the rare occasion, they are things of beauty and comparable in quality to the original product. Much more commonly, it’s a complete dud for one reason or another. Final Fantasy Type-0 is unfortunately in the latter category, simply because I had only the barest idea of what was going on. As I haven’t played the game, I can’t judge how much gameplay the manga covers, but it feels like there is far too much being crammed into a tiny space. In the first chapter alone, the reader is expected to remember and recognise 12 separate characters with little to no introduction, when they are introduced mere moments before entering a big chaotic battle scene. It’s far too much to take in in one chapter, and you can figure out who maybe a couple of characters are.
It’s kind of a pity that the creators decided to take this route, for two reasons. Firstly, you can see that there is a lot of lore that could be lovingly expanded on and explained properly with more time and space. As it is, cool concepts are introduced and just sort of left for the audience to ponder by itself. For example, in the main characters’ country, the crystal that gives them magic also makes them forget people who have died. There’s a line about how it’s to stop people being held back by fear and grief, but it the development it gets is nowhere near enough for such an arresting idea. Hell, you could make an entire book about that alone, without even getting to the other stuff that Type-0 is trying to look at.
Secondly, it frustrates me that such good artwork effectively goes to waste on a story that is all sound and fury, but no real substance. I might not have known or understood what the hell I was reading, but it was hella pretty to look at. If this had been the start of a slower, better paced manga, then this art would have been the cherry on top.

Final Fantasy Type-0 is very pretty and has a lot of cool concepts to explore, but it tries to do way too much in a single volume of space, leading to a confusing mess. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind getting into the lore of this more, but I’d prefer to do that through the game rather than this. I hope that this makes at least marginally more sense if you read it post-game. 1.5/5

Next review: Balam, Spring by Travis M. Riddle

Signing off,
Nisa.

K-ON! Volume 2 by kakifly

While not as draining as Blood Meridian, I did feel in need of something lighter and fluffier after finishing True Grit, and so I went to the same source as I did for the former novel. K-ON! is pretty much the apex of cute, funny shenanigans with a minimum of plot, so it seemed like the perfect thing to dip into to rest my brain a bit.

With a new volume comes a new character. Azusa Nakano is an aspiring guitar player who decides to join the Pop Music Club after hearing a recording of the club’s first concert. She is particularly keen to meet the lead guitarist of the group, as she was really inspired to meet a musician of such skill. How will she react when she sees how the group truly is?
So the obvious thing to mention is that if you didn’t like the first volume of K-ON! then there is little chance of you enjoying the second, because it’s very much more of the same thing. There’s jokes about how the club seems to be more an excuse to drink tea and eat cake. There’s jokes about the teacher being less mature and weirder than she wants to be. And then there’s Yui’s weird propensity for either excelling or failing spectacularly depending on what it is that she’s concentrating on at that point in time. It feels very comfortable, if that’s what you’re looking for.
The main difference for this volume is the addition of Azusa, a first-year to the main group’s second-years, and she feels like a definite breath of fresh air. She’s kind of a nice foil to both Yui and Mio. With Yui there is a brewing rivalry of sorts, as while Yui is spacey and doesn’t know the specific terms for musical techniques, she does have an uncanny ability to pick them up enviously quick. And with Mio, there seems to be more of a traditional senpai-kohai relationship, except that they’re both so adorably dorky and awkward that it’s an incredibly bumbling example of the relationship. Azusa’s presence does also mean that there are a few more scenes that focus on them practising and performing, which is nice.

All in all, if you weren’t keen on the first volume, this second one provides more of the same. A new character and some additional focus on the musical side of things is nice, but you definitely know what you’re getting when you read K-ON! 4/5

Next review: Demons of the Ocean by Justin Somper

Signing off,
Nisa.

Batman & the Justice League Preview Edition by Shiori Teshirogi

It’s weird when you see characters that you’re used to seeing in a typical American comic style portrayed as manga characters. Especially when it’s Batman. The dissonance would normally be enough to dissuade me from picking up Batman & the Justice League, but since I got the preview edition in a bundle that was bought for me, I felt like I should give it a chance. Keep in mind that this volume only covers the first two chapters, so if there’s anything else that comes up in the regular first volume, then I cannot comment.

Gotham City is no place for a tourist, but a Japanese boy by the name of Rui Aramiya finds himself drawn there after his parents disappeared in a power plant explosion there. Everyone keeps telling him that there’s no way that they could have survived, but until he can see the proof for himself, he refuses to believe that. At the same time, Batman is once more in confrontation with the Joker, fresh from killing Jason Todd. But there is something strange afoot and he may need to bring in support from his colleagues in the Justice League.
I wanted to like Batman & the Justice League, but it just doesn’t work on any level for me. This can be split largely into two points: the artwork and the plot.
While the artwork is good, it just doesn’t work for Batman, and that frustrates me so much. The characters are expressive, everything is clear and easy to follow, but it’s just the completely wrong tone. Batman and Commissioner Gordon shouldn’t look like they walked out of a men’s fashion catalogue mere minutes before their entrance in the manga. Worse than them though is the one glimpse that we get of Jason Todd, where he is so ludicrously baby-faced and innocent-looking that you have to remind yourself that this is the Robin introduced stealing the Batmobile’s hub-caps.
I have a few issues with the plot. First is that it starts with ley lines, the least Batman-appropriate plot point that I could possibly think of. Second, while I appreciate that I’ve only read a couple of chapters, I don’t think that Rui storyline fits tonally with whatever Batman and Joker are doing. With the Batman stuff, it was more-or-less typical cat and mouse game, while Rui is both wide-eyed idealist tourist and a ninja. I’ve technically seen Batman in stupider situations, but it’s still weird seeing some random civilian pull out smoke bombs. If they were working together, I could probably understand how the plot could be pulled off, but the early events makes it clear that Rui is seen as a nuisance. So I’m not really sure how it will go from here, and to be honest I’m not especially interested.

Not objectively bad, but for me this didn’t work on any level. While there is the possibility that a few more chapters may have changed my mind, I am certainly not interested enough to pick up more from what I have already read. 2/5

Next review: On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

Signing off,
Nisa.

K-ON! Volume 1 by kakifly

After the long and draining read that was Blood Meridian, I was in the mood for something a lot lighter in tone. Enter the first volume of K-ON!, a series that comes highly recommended to me by my husband. Since I like what I’ve seen of the anime adaptation, and I needed something short, sweet and relatively harmless, it seemed like the perfect choice.

K-ON! follows Yui Hirasawa in her first year of high school. When she’s frightened into joining an extracurricular club for fear of becoming a NEET after high school, she joins the Pop Music club, assuming that it will be an easy ride. Unfortunately, her new club members assume that she can play the guitar, an instrument she has never touched in her life. But with determination, she and her new friends may be able to turn this failing club around.
I was after something gentle, and K-ON! certainly delivers on that. There isn’t really much in the way of driven plot, but then that’s pretty much a staple of the slice of life genre. What the genre sacrifices in plot and serious conflict, it makes up for in characters, and K-ON! definitely has that in abundance. So the core of the cast is made up of the four members of the Pop Music club. As mentioned above, there is Yui, the inexperienced main guitarist. She’s sweet and energetic, but nowhere near the brightest bulb in the box. There’s Mio Akiyama, the studious and painfully shy bassist, who more or less has to adopt the straight man role out of the group. Self-appointing herself the new club president, despite having none of the qualifications necessary for such a role, is Ritsu Tainaka, the audacious prankster on drums. And finally, my current favourite, Tsumugi Kotobuki, the wealthy keyboardist who is outwardly the perfect gentle lady, but is more than a little risque in her thoughts. There are also some secondary characters, but the one that stood out most for me was the teacher acting as their club adviser, Sawako Yamanaka. She only agrees to advise the club after they threaten to reveal her past as a member of the Pop Music club during its speed metal period, at which point you realise that her sweet, gentle nature is just a mask for someone mildly terrifying. It’s a beautiful moment.
This volume covers the first year of the club, in which they mainly mess around and treat the clubhouse like a tea-room while Yui tries to get the hang of playing the guitar. It’s cute so far, and I especially like what I’ve seen of them actually playing music, complete with comically terrible lyrics for their first original song. I’m a little sad that it does take a bit of a back-seat to your standard slice-of-life high school stuff, but I’m hoping that it will get a bit more music-focused as Yui and the others get more confident with their instruments.

Very cute and fluffy. Not a great deal of plot, but that’s not really why I picked it up. Will definitely be picking up the next volumes in the future. 4.5/5

Next review: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Signing off,
Nisa

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