As reported in an Anime News Network article earlier today, the issue of Manga Time Kirara that’s published this week will announce the end of the ongoing K-On! manga – at least partially. Spoiler warning: If you haven’t kept up with the K-On! franchise beyond what’s been released in English, read no further.
Kakifly’s original K-On! manga ended in the fall of 2010, with the graduation of the four seniors. The series was however revived a year ago, with new chapters seeing publication both in Manga Time Kirara as well as Manga Time Kirara Carat. The former featured the original four main cast members – Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi – in their new college environment, joining the local Light Music Club and making new friends. Chapters published in Carat, meanwhile, followed Azusa, Ui and Jun in their senior year of High School, with new characters joining the cast to form a new Light Music Club band.
The news today is that the College part of the manga is going to end next month, while the High School chapters will continue.
And here’s where my view may very well differ from those of a lot of K-On! fans: As sad as it is that the College manga is ending, I find no solace in the fact that the High School manga will go on – in fact, that only makes it worse. The way I see it – the way I’ve always seen it – K-On! is about the five members of Ho-kago Tea Time. Yui, Mio, Ritsu, Mugi and Azusa. When the manga resumed last year, after four of those characters had gone on to college and one had not, it only made sense that the story would split its focus between them. Follow the older four to college, but show us Azusa’s side as well. And in time, I hoped and assumed, when Azusa inevitably graduates, she would rejoin her fellow band members in college, and the story would place its focus back on the five of them where it belongs.
Well, so much for that. Instead of going that route, Kakifly (or possible his publisher – who knows) has opted to end the story of the original characters and continue on with the younger group. This, of course, opens for the possibility of keeping the manga going indefinitely with new characters introduced each year as the older ones graduate and get phased out. And this is exactly what I’ve been fearing for some time – that we’d see K-On! turned into a revolving-door cast story, where any character is expendable, easily replaced by new and younger members, which can go on and on until the original characters – the ones we fell in love with, the ones that drew us to the story in the first place – are but a distant memory.
That’s not to say Kakifly will definitely take the manga in that direction. It would make sense that this could be the reasoning that went into the decision to drop the college manga in favor of the high school side, but at this point it is pure speculation, and hopefully I will be proven wrong. I am not at all excited about the idea of an ongoing K-On! with no Yui, Mio, Ritsu or Mugi. But who knows – maybe Kakifly has a trick or two up his sleeve, maybe we will see them again in some fashion at some point in the future?
For now, though, one thing is for certain: The K-On! movie, quite possibly the last part of Kyoto Animation’s anime adaption, is coming out on Blu-Ray and DVD in July. I still haven’t seen it, and I have been looking forward to it in almost the same way one might look forward to being reunited with old friends. Now, it seems, it may feel more like a bittersweet final farewell.