What They Say:
For two full years, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi have worked together to keep Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School’s struggling Light Music Club alive, and along the way they’ve begun to build a reputation as real rock musicians… especially since the previous year’s addition of underclassman rhythm guitarist Azusa. But as a new school year begins, there are new and scary challenges ahead.
With four fifths of the club graduating at the end of the year, replacement members have to be recruited. There are college exams to prepare for, colleges to choose, and friends to prepare to say goodbye to. But no matter what happens, they’ll have their faculty adviser and secret former death metal guitar/vocalist Sawako Yamada there to help them in her own unusual way, especially since she’s now their homeroom teacher as well!
Most of all, they’ll have each other. The group of amateur musicians who barely knew each other has become much more than just a band, and by the time this school year is over, they’re going to achieve something so amazing it requires multiple exclamation marks!!
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get the Japanese and English language tracks in stereo, both of which are encoded in DTS-HD MA. The first season, as released by Bandai Entertainment, crippled the Japanese audio to just Dolby Digital, so getting it in lossless form here is definitely a big positive. The show is mostly just dialogue based and it has a good flow to it here with good placement throughout and an appropriate sense of depth where needed. When the show shifts to the music, it does pick up a fair bit more, though not overpowering, and it has a greater sense of warmth and richness about it that works well in the series favor. K-On isn’t a series with an over the top score or audio design to begin with, being a slice of life series, but it’s well captured here.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The set contains thirteen episodes spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, giving everything plenty of room. K-On does play to the slice of life angle but with a good bit of detail and some very fluid scenes throughout, particularly when the music is involved. There’s a good sense of color here and a lot of detail, both in characters and backgrounds, that gives it a pretty lived in feel while still having a clean and accessible look. The transfer captures the colors well with only a few areas of noticeably noise in some of the solid color backgrounds. Generally speaking, everything looks very good with no line noise or cross coloration issues to be had either.
The packaging for this release is done up in a standard sized Blu-ray case, using a blue cast, with an odd and interesting piece of artwork chosen. The main piece here has the core five girls together outside where four of them are in the background together in the shade with Mio laying on the ground while Mugi is in the foreground with her mouth open, practically looking like she’s going to eat up Mio. It’s a cute cover and I love the way the blue of the case works with the green in the artwork, but it’s an odd choice to be sure. The back cover goes for something a little more traditional with a pink border that blends into a white one with music notes while inside we have a lot of text and a few shots from the show. It’s all done on line paper design that ties it to the school aspect well, but there’s just a lot of text here. The layout is good, extras are clearly listed and the overall episode count is solid. The technical grid lays everything out accurately as well and there are no show related inserts nor a reversible cover.
The menu design is definitely a positive overall here, though it feels just a bit off. The bulk of the screen is given over to a pink hue with some little widgets inside of it while having the series name, in a light color, overlaying it. It’s essentially a big plot of empty space for the most part. While it’s okay, what does salvage and sell it is navigation strip along the bottom that has stars for each episode with each of them done using different colors. This strip, which doubles as the pop-up menu, has a really strong feel to it with lots of colors and a big sense of fun about it. Submenus load quickly and language selection is a breeze.
The only extras included are on the second volume in the form of clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
K-On’s popularity with the first series in 2009, which was based on the four panel comic of the same name, spawned a twenty-six episode series that hit in 2010 and added more to the overall universe. While I had seen the first couple of episodes of the first season, I didn’t see anything past that since the release format was awful along with the pricing. Thankfully, this is a standard slice of life show overall, so it made getting into this season easy, though perhaps my connection with the characters aren’t quite as strong as they could be otherwise. Still, it’s a show that I had fun with and hold out some small hope for when it comes to the first season eventually being released properly.
The general idea of the series is certainly appealing enough, though it’s one that doesn’t really generate much in the way of real stories. The show centers around a group of high school students, now in their senior year, who belong to the Light Music Club in their school. It’s not a hugely active group but it is one that came to life again in recent years due to an interest from Yui in forming a band and learning that their adviser, Sawa, was once a member herself many years ago during her heavy rock ‘n roll girl day. Along with three other girls who are seniors and another member that’s a second year, they practice when they can, spend a lot of time laying about or going on small adventures. And, of course, dealing with school situations along the way where most of it takes place.
With it being their last year in school, there is some concern among them about the club being disbanded should no more members come on board. All that would be left would be Azu, the sole second year, and she’s not quite the driving personality needed to really drive membership. The membership drive that’s attempted at the start here is cute since all the seniors want to help, but with Yui driving it, she goes for unconventional methods to get members and it doesn’t really work all that well. But it provides some normal and fun levels of humor as she goes after people hard and gives it her all. It’s definitely fun to watch it unfold, but it’s also something that for the rest of the set is largely ignored outside of a couple of mentions towards the end. The girls know it’s a problem, but just aren’t focusing on it.
What are they focusing on? Well, that’s the kicker with a series like this in that they’re focusing on a lot of things, but it’s not so much the things themselves but rather the experiences that draws it together. They have experiences in unearthing old treasures in the club room, that leads to a windfall of resources for the club, to working hard to gain an air conditioner for the club room after Yui ends up not going to any club president meetings and learning about it. Time is spent with some of them going to a water park and we also get the classic field trip that takes them all out to Kyoto, but splits the group up a bit due to some limitations. The one I think I liked the best though is when the girls, along with their adviser, end up going to a summer rock festival that has them going to see various bands, splitting up and having small adventures along the way. It’s fun to see them more out of their element, seeing a lot of other bands, and just enjoying that experience with Sawa.
For me, in a collection like this, shows like K-On are difficult to talk about because they are rather empty. It’s about the experiences of the characters as they go through their lives. I enjoyed watching it once I got familiar with everyone again since it’d been awhile since I last saw it, and it definitely is a show that keeps you really connected to the characters as it plays out. Watching this in a few batches over the course of a day, I really felt like I liked all of them and wanted to see more, but it’s also a series where there isn’t really a story in a way, much like life a lot of the times. Which is the point. The show hits some good things here with their lives, school and music as well as friendships and left me smiling for a lot of it. Sentai put together a solid release here that shows the series in the way it should be seen.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD Ma 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 19th, 2012
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.