Title:Bocchi the Rock! Vol. 1 Author: Aki Hamazi Publisher: Yen Press Language: English Format: Paperback Pages: 136 Genre: Slice-of-Life, Comedy Publication Date: October 17, 2023
In Bocchi the Rock!, Hitori is a girl who has social anxiety. She’s severely introverted, has no friends, stutters when she talks, and can’t even make eye contact with anyone. One day she turns the TV on. There, she sees a band get interviewed where the band’s lead talks about being introverted and how even introverts can find acceptance in a band. That’s when she turns and asks her father if she could borrow his guitar.
Fast forward three years and Hitori becomes an absolute master at the guitar. She discovers the internet and begins posting covers of popular songs. When she entered high school, she became determined to start a band or at least get invited to one. She did everything she could to stand out… even bringing her guitar to school. Nothing seemed to work until a girl named Nijika took notice of her.
Without even waiting for her to accept the offer, Nijika drags her back to the club where HItori is going to fill in for their guitarist who couldn’t make it. Even though Hitori is great, she’s never played in a band before and knows nothing about synchronization. Still, they go ahead with the show and accept her as part of the band! They give her the nickname Bocci (Hitoribocchi… I’ve seen that show!) but it doesn’t really solve her social anxiety but, hey, it’s a great first step.
Wanting to be helpful, Bocchi goes out to find someone to fill in for the guitarist who ran away. She overhears a girl named Kita talking about band stuff and figures that she could ask her but she tenses up and runs away. She finds a hiding spot and plucks away at her guitar but Kita follows her. She somehow convinces Kita to come to Starry… there’s only one little problem with that, though!
Despite the issue, Kita joins the band and now they have to prepare for a concert. Bocchi is in charge of writing lyrics to a new song but thinks about what Kita would want to sing rather than putting herself down on paper. After a pep talk from Ryou, she re-writes the lyrics and ends up going with those. The concert happens and everyone gathers to give Bocchi a bit of a self-esteem boost to end our first volume.
What can I say about Bocchi other than what was said in the story section? She’s just an erratic ball of anxiety that tries her hardest to act normal but as soon as she does, something comes along and jolts the ever-living heck out of her. She’s usually depicted as melting into a puddle, turning to ash, having her soul escape, or even drifting off to an apocalyptic scenario in her own mind. Despite her crushing anxiety, she chips away at it little by little.
Her character is where most of the manga’s comedy comes into play. All of the depictions of her reactions to nearly everything is what gives her character the most charm. Plus, the fact that she’s trying really hard to overcome her anxiety by herself is charming in its own right. She’s such a fun main character that you just want to hug her!
Nijika is the complete opposite of Hitori. She’s outgoing, fearless, overly excitable, and a little annoying if I could be honest. She’s the first to really understand Hitori’s condition but she never gives up on her. While she can be a bit of an airhead, she does her best to not really force Hitori into any situation. In fact, she’s very forgiving whenever Hitori has one of her moments.
The fact that she doesn’t make a big deal about her anxiety and accepts it so willingly makes her a cool friend but that’s the problem… she doesn’t really do much to truly push Hitori out of her comfort zone. Maybe she’s just respectful of her situation? Sometimes, it’s best to let people be themselves so that’s probably her mentality. Still, she is a good friend, though so at least Bocchi has that going for her.
Ryou lives a very… “poor”… life. She’s in constant need of money but even though she worries about it, she’s always too apathetic to care truly. At first glance, she gives off a dark and brooding aura but then you realize she’s quite playful… in her own way. Don’t expect her to pounce on you or do anything like that but a quick quip here and there can escape her mouth that reminds you that she’s one of those silent comedic characters.
She does help Hitori out occasionally, though… such as when she talked to her about writing the lyrics for their new song. She noted how Hitori was trying too hard to write something popular rather than something from the heart. With her encouragement, Hitori made it through.
As for Kita Ikuyo… I’m Here! Let’s Go!
She was introduced as the band’s singer/guitarist who just up and ditched them… then she accidentally reunites with them through Hitori and becomes their singer/guitarist again. She seemed as if she would have the “popular girl at school” type of persona but instead, she just comes off as a normal girl. She’s even super apologetic to the band whenever they reunite. She got scared and ran because she lied about being able to play guitar and thought that they would think of her as a fraud. She’s happy to be given a second chance. It seems like she has a bit to grow, too, and the fact that Bocchi is helping her learn guitar is cute and a good people-interaction-style exercise for her, so it works out!
This was a great introduction to the series that covered a LOT of ground. Heck, if you’ve watched the anime then you’d realize that they nearly covered the entire first season in the first volume here! For a book that’s only 136 pages, that’s a LOT of material to pack into such a small amount of space… so how did they do it?
This manga is presented in a 4-koma (four-panel comic) style. This one is read from top to bottom, right to left. While most 4-koma have strips that are unique, Bocchi the Rock!’s style is continuous. That means each strip flows into the other and creates an overarching story. So, it’s presented as a 4-koma but reads as a typical manga. It’s a nice combination of both styles but for 136 pages, it was very wordy and meatier than it looked. It took about twice as long to read this book than it does for a normal 192-page manga. Just a testament to how much they packed in there.
But, it was an entertaining read, nevertheless. The characters are fun and diverse and the story of a socially anxious girl trying hard to overcome her condition and live her dream of being in a band is a feel-good story that a lot of people can get behind. If you’ve seen the anime, you’ll know what to expect here but if you haven’t, this is still an excellent series to get into!
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