K-On! High School succeeds K-On!, continuing the story of the high school pop music club after most of its members have graduated, leaving third-year student Azusa as the club’s captain, guitarist, and lone member. The story of Afterschool Tea Time’s former upperclassmen, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi, and Yui, is continued in K-On! College. While Azusa is soon joined by her friends Jun and Ui, who each play bass and guitar, the club’s two freshmen members, Nao and Sumire, have no experience playing instruments at all. Azusa does not feel confident that she can lead the new members of the club to be as great a band as Afterschool Tea Time. The collective inexperience of this year’s pop music club causes their adviser, Sawako, to dub them the Green Leaf (“Wakaba”) Girls. In the course of a year, the Green Leaf Girls develop their musical skills and their friendships.
Much the same as its predecessor, K-On! High School consists of lighthearted comedy in the slice-of-life genre. The four-panel comic format (read vertically) emphasizes the quick, upbeat humor and swift resolution of any topic. There are some references to the previous title, especially since Azusa and Ui miss the previous band members, but new readers will not feel much confusion or lack of explanation because this is not a title that focuses heavily on plot. While the girls move from awkward first meetings to fast friendship over the course of the year, and Azusa takes her responsibilities as club captain seriously, there are no difficult problems or profound themes. The characters are likeable, with quirks that are slightly toned down compared to those of the previous club members: Sumire is a maid at Tsumugi’s house and Nao has an extremely analytical approach to life, but neither of these is played up very much. I like that Nao has no aptitude for instruments, but is still able to make music and participate in band events, due to the knowledge of their teacher and adviser, Sawako. Otherwise, the tea-loving teacher provides the more flamboyant gags, such as horrifying people with the mere sight of her face when she has no makeup on.
The marshmallow-soft visuals suit the fluffy, sweet tone of the series well, but there’s a bit of male gaze there, if you choose to look at it that way. The occasional large cut will feature one or more of the girls in a cutesy pose, which includes swimsuits or cat ears, and some of them center on the girls’ hips or cleavage. Whether this is suggestive, neutral, or adorable may depend on the reader, but the title has been rated OT (Older Teen) by Yen Press.
Translator’s notes are included at the back of the book, which explain some of the jokes and provide general background knowledge.
K-On! High School
Yen Press, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen