Bocchi the Rock! Volume 1 Review

In the 2022 Autumn anime season, we were introduced to Bocchi the Rock!, a series that took anime fandom by storm and now has a recap movie in the works for 2024. In the meantime, while we eagerly await that, Yen Press has brought the original manga series to the West! But does the series prove to be entertaining in manga form?

Serialised in the Manga Time Kirara Max magazine, Bocchi the Rock! is a 4-koma manga running alongside series like Is the Order a Rabbit? The story follows Hitori Goto, a girl with crippling anxiety. During her first year of middle school, Hitori was inspired to start learning guitar so that she could form a band and play at the school cultural festival.

Unfortunately, thanks to Hitori spending six hours a day every day learning how to play, her time in middle school came to an end before she formed a band or got to perform in the festival. On the plus side, she is now a popular (but anonymous) YouTuber who is excellent at playing the instrument, but she’s no closer to having made friends or gotten through her anxiety. 

Now it’s time for her high-school debut and Hitori is hoping she can accomplish her dreams of starting a band. So Hitori brings her guitar to school, hoping someone will notice and speak to her. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go to plan, but she is approached by second-year Nijika Ijichi who finds her moping after school. Nijika is the drummer in a band and after a case of their guitarist flaking out, she’s looking for someone to fill the slot for their first live performance. Unable to say no, Hitori is dragged along for the ride and soon finds herself in a situation she could have never imagined! 

However, their performance doesn’t go well, especially as Hitori is too anxious and plays from inside a box! On top of that, she’s only ever played by herself, so she’s not used to working together with others and finds that her sound isn’t blending with theirs. Still, Nijika and bassist Ryou Yamada are pleased with Hitori and invite her to formally join the Kessoku Band. 

Hitori is of course delighted to have made friends and been invited to play in a band, but her anxiety makes it difficult to face the responsibilities of performing in front of a crowd. On top of that, she needs to be able to work in Nijika’s sister’s club if she wants to make enough money for them to pay to perform. There are a lot of challenges ahead but with Nijika, Ryou and later additional guitarist Ikuyo Kita by her side, just maybe this young girl will be able to break out of her shell. 

As mentioned earlier in the review, Bocchi the Rock! is a 4-koma series with two sets of 4-koma strips per page. Because of this, there’s not a lot of room for mangaka Aki Hamazi to draw in great detail, so the emphasis is usually on Hitori’s anxious reactions to the world around her. That’s not a bad thing at all as the gags are good and if you’re someone who’s ever experienced anxiety or simply being nervous about social interactions, then you’ll certainly be able to relate to what’s being shown here. Although I will say I think how Hitori’s anxiety is depicted here lacks the depth it deserves. This is very much a comedy comic strip series, rather than having anything deep to say on that side of things. 

But as someone who is reading this after watching the anime, I was surprised by how little focus there is on the music side of things. Sure, the characters talk about the band and their instruments and songs a lot but we rarely get to see the performances for more than a panel. I suppose that’s because the structure doesn’t lend itself to showing those scenes in the detail they require, but it’s a shame all the same. Hamazi did break away from the 4-koma structure toward the end of this volume for a live performance section, so I’m left wondering if this is something that will improve going forward. 

And if you have watched the anime, it will be obvious to you just how much the anime expanded on the material, as by the end of Volume 1 we’re into content that was in Episode 8 of the TV series. Again, it’s not particularly a knock against the manga itself but it does make for a slightly strange experience if the manga isn’t your first exposure to the story especially as this book only comes in at 118 pages. 

In the afterword, Hamazi talks about how they knew very little about bands before starting this manga which made the first few chapters a challenge. However, they had plenty of knowledgeable people around them who helped and Hamazi clearly loves music, as many of the opening chapter pages are references to popular albums or bands. These are all explained in the extensive translation notes at the back of the release in case you miss any. That enthusiasm is why I suspect the series will improve in many respects as it goes on, compared to what we have here. 

Bocchi the Rock! Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by John Neal with lettering by Chiho Christie. The translation reads well and as referenced above ,there are extensive translation notes explaining many of the references made throughout this book. This release also opens with several colour pages, which are a real treat especially as this is one of Yen’s bigger formats, so the art has the space to come alive. 

The series is ongoing in Japan with six volumes available. Volume 2 is scheduled for an English release in January followed by #3 in May. The TV anime adaptation is available to stream on Crunchyroll, hopefully followed by the recap film in the future. 

Overall, Bocchi the Rock! Volume 1 proves to be quite a different experience from the anime. However, being its own thing doesn’t mean it’s bad and there’s still plenty to enjoy here if you don’t mind the 4-koma format. It may not be the deep dive on music and mental health I expected, but it’s entertaining to read all the same. 

7 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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