What They Say:
Sometimes music and words come together so perfectly that the combination is far more powerful than either would be alone. In much the same way, the five members of the Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School’s Light Music Club have become far more than just a group of girls with similar interests; more, even, than just a group of friends. Through the medium of music they’ve found a common course in life, and whatever the future may bring, they know they can get through it if they stand together… which makes the coming end of the school year and the graduation of the four older members something that’s dreaded as much as it’s looked forward to.
In the meantime, however, there’s so much going on it’s as life has decided to throw everything it can at them. Going to music festivals won’t be hard to swing, but running a marathon? That will be a stretch! Yearbook photos? The horror! And a school play with Mio and Ritsu cast as Romeo and Juliet? Ooo, awkward. Then, of course, there’s one big final performance for the band!
Contains episodes 14-27.
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 fourteen episodes spread across two discs with nine on the first and five 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 a good looking shot that has the five core characters together as they race down the hall of the school. It has a lot of blues and grays to it but that’s broken up well by the faces and other parts of visible skin. . The back cover goes for something a little more traditional with a pinkish red 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)
With the second half of the season, I find myself once again in a similar position to the first half. The show is one that is technically very well executed with great visuals, solid atmosphere and a fun cast of characters that can really draw you in easily enough as it unfolds. Each episode give us the varied adventures of the girls and their small challenges and you can easily grin and enjoy it while knowing that not just deep down, but on the surface that everything is going to be alright. There’s a sense of fun about it and also a huge dose of nostalgia for the goodness that is high school for some when looked through the mirror of the past. There’s no harm, no foul here.
But it’s also a series that is hard to pin down in a lot of ways with the individuals of it all. I can imagine easily writing about the show on a week by week basis with the silly little adventures they get on, the quirks and gags that come up and some of the smaller emotional bits as well as they struggle. But some of the charm would be lost in it that way as well because of how it’ doled out. Watching it in a marathon form here definitely worked well, covering it in two days and going through some of the standard arcs. And really, that’s what the show gives us here, some standard high school stories with a group of girls in an all girls school with a good bit of personality. And some less than interesting music, which is the weakest part of the show for me.
The arcs they go through here are definitely fun even if it feels like we’ve lived them dozens of times before. The school festival offers a lot of enjoyable moments because it does shift the older four members into something different. While they have the concert part of it to go through with their band, they also have the seniors of the group participating in the play, which has a couple of them taking on the Romeo and Juliet characters. While it’s not a badly done play, and it has its quirks as the leads figure out a comical way of discovering how to play their characters, the focus is more on showing them enjoying doing different and outgoing things for their senior year rather than just repeating what they did as juniors.
The other big fun event that goes on here continues to involve the four senior girls as they start working through school choices for college with what they want. The real desire of all of them is that they want to continue on with school together, which is certainly understandable. There are some real differences in their potential though when it comes to academics, but it’s really good to see them rally together to help each other and really think about what they want. It’s kept slim on details in a way, but the focus is good and seeing them work with Sawako to achieve their goals in testing and to go through the waiting period is good fun. There’s good emotion to be had during it and I definitely enjoyed how they dealt with things such as the entrance exams at other campuses.
The most heartrending material though involves Azusa as she’s doing her best to cope with the loss of her seniors who have helped her so much. There’s that natural bond of friendship that has come alive since she joined and while she’s a grade behind, she’s just as connected to them. She also has the added problem of once they’re gone, the club itself is down to just her as a member. So there’s a fear and level of panic that she’s feeling there as well. Of course, the club isn’t going to just abandon her so we get some very fun bits as they work through different ways to help her draw in new members when the new year starts and that includes a comical look at the original “demo DVD” that they made to try and draw members back during their first year.
The end arc is one that works out better than I expected as well, as it deals with the culmination of the three years in the graduation and all the emotions that it entails. With the last days going through their minds, realizing that they’ll be done with these classrooms and all the usual, you get a good feeling from it. And from Sawako as well since this is her first graduating class to deal with. There’s fluff with yearbooks, final times in the club room and that last walk down the hall. But while the graduation and all of it finishes in episode twenty-four, the show wise gives us three more episodes that deals with the group now that things are said and done, including planning a trip overseas that makes you smile. Life, well, it goes on. And these friends are ones you can imagine always being there for each other.
K-On as a whole is a show that I definitely liked but struggle with because of its very simple nature. Some shows give us far too distinct of a set of characters to work with like Lucky Star does whereas K-On goes for something a bit more conventional. They stand out within the school for what they do and who they are, but not because of anything that’s really out of the ordinary. In fact, going by one of the video recordings made for the group, you can see that a lot of them and the club as a whole escaped the notice of a good chunk of the school. They have their adoring fans who definitely make up a vocal portion of the school, perhaps more than a minority, but they aren’t the dominant force in the school. These girls were a lot of fun to watch and I’d love to see a twenty years later kind of story done. But beyond that, this feels complete to me.
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: August 28th, 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.