What They Say :
It’s the final year of high school for Yui Hirasawa (guitar), Ritsu Tainaka (drums), Mio Akiyama (bass), and Tsumugi Kotobuki (keyboard); the founding members of the Light Music Club. Together with their junior member Azusa Nakano (guitar), they spend their days after school in the music room enjoying tea and sweets, and practicing music. Amidst band practice, preparations for the new student orientation performance, scouting for new members, and student responsibilities they still have time for “After School Tea Time”.
Set in English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0, the K-ON sound quality whilst decent is a major step down from practically every other release currently on the market, Manga Entertainment or otherwise. No issues with the sound itself, but as expected had to raise it up from my default setting of my 5.1 releases to make sure could hear it – watching the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese though there wasn’t any real difference and no issues with any distortion or problems with audio with subtitles so nothing wrong per say, just so used to the 5.1 quality by now it feels a step down. Video wise also felt a little off as well, a bit grainy and darker than I usually expected – no issues with the actual quality, it was still fine to see, no problems with pausing and screen freezing, no watermarks and no problems regarding subtitles with audio or missing audio with the lip-synching, just didn’t feel as strong as usual. No real moans, just not as good as it has been.
Menu is fairly standard, both DVDs have a picture of the 5 main girls on the front looking stunned in a static shot whilst your selection of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on disc 2, Extras are available. Selection is easy, and the changes are quick, and no problems getting it from menu to show and vice versa, but again not really that interesting. No problems though.
The only extras were the cleaning opening and ending on the second disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
K-ON is one of those series that doesn’t really have ongoing plot, and is more the focus of cute girls going through life. It’s a combination of slice-of-life with the popular ‘moe’ type style that is both loved and hated by fans alike. I’m always in the middle of this sort of scenario because whilst I love slice-of-life series, sometimes the moe genre can get a bit over the top and not really be anything but cute bait for fans. K-ON does seem to be like that, except for one major difference. The girls are so different, charming and fun that the series just lets them do what they want and runs with it. And because of this, the K-ON series works.
We start where the first series left off, except this time we have all 5 girls from the beginning as the girls begin their final year (bar Azusa) of school – with Mio ecstatic that she is finally in the same class as all the other girls, and Sawako doing a Yukari from Azumanga Daioh by making to get them all into the same class, her class, partly to make them happy…and partly so she doesn’t have to remember so many new faces. Got to love Sawa-chan. (And yes, the fact the K-ON girls, mostly Ritsu, try to reveal her less than stoic side with their classmates is a running gag). To start with, knowing that it’s their last year, the girls want to recruit some new band mates for Azusa when they leave. It’s actually a combination of comedy and sweet moments when they get overzealous in their recruitment, they begin to look how other clubs do it, and despite an impressive performance at the freshman reception, no new students join them. It turns out though that Azusa realizes that because the 5 girls are so close, that fans of the group don’t want to join because they feel they can’t get in with them, which is really sweet. Almost as sweet to make sure Azusa isn’t lonely, the girls actually buy a pet turtle named Ton-chan which of course, is an excuse for Yui to get all mushy with how cute the pet is…or how cute Azusa is depending on her mood.
With a series like K-ON, each episode is fairly episodic, though the running threat of the girls graduating is a running theme. Each of the girls have their quirks which make them fun – Yui and Ritsu are the troublemakers (Yui being the more innocent one whilst Ritsu is the devilish one), Mio is the one who tries to be the stern one but ends up either getting involved or is teased to high hell, Mugi is the adorable rich girl who is getting more mischevious and loves to do commoners things (including getting punished in the hallway) and Azusa is the adorable underclassman who is probably the most mature of the girls as she is the one getting most exasperated by the club’s antics, whilst at the same time gets involved either voluntarily or not. The interesting thing is for this part anyway, none of the girls really get a major focus episode, rather their focus goes through the other members as well. For example Ritsu decides she doesn’t want to play the drums as she rarely gets to be seen so a funny montage of her trying out everyone else’s instruments is derailed due to Ritsu being Ritsu. The girls go to Kyoto for a school trip where it becomes apparent that the K-ON girls habit of calling Sawako ‘Sawa-chan’ is catching as poor Sawako’s days of apparently being seen as a model teacher are getting lower and lower…even more so in a later episode where one of her old friends wants her to perform as part of her old band Red Devil for a marriage party. At first, she resists, but when the K-ON girls replace them and the crowd sees Red Devil as ‘cute’, she goes ballistic and her wild side shows, thinking that her students will hate her seeing her true side…and they love her even more now.
The Kyoto trip is told from two different sides – one from the 4 older girls, Sawako and Yui’s other friend Nodoka, and on the other side we have Azusa, Yui’s little sister Ui, and their friend Jun who was briefly in Season 1, as Ui who is really attached to her sister realizes she will be home alone for a couple of days. Azusa and Jun go to sleep over, and it’s fun to see Ui really showcase that she is a super girl of sorts when the girls decided to have fun, or in another episode go to the pool. I also love the character of Jun, who is the Ritsu of the three, but much sillier. With the pool episode, it was after another mini-saga where the girls and Sawako go to a music festival, where again the eccentrics of the cast make them even more lovable, i.e. Mugi’s quest for buying takoyaki, or Mio’s joy of seeing a band who has a left handed guitarist playing. Seeing Azusa get a gift from the girls in the form of jewellery that together form ‘Light Music Club’ again brings us the charm this series really does well.
Every episode showcases these quirks and how adorable the girls are, but not to the point where it gets too saccharine. For example, Yui really protects her guitar (named ‘Gitah’) where she protects it from the rain but getting soaked herself. Mio has an episode where she remembers that she gets a fan club and has to perform for the president of her fan club, and thus a year later, the rest of the gang actually host a party for Mio’s fan…and Mio of course goes to her shy self which is why she became so popular in the first place. However, the ongoing plot of the girl’s graduation is never lost from these moments – there is an episode where Ritsu and Yui are the only girls who haven’t filled in their sheets on what they are going to do once they are graduate, whether it is college, work, etc. The two try to be lazy about it but for once it doesn’t work, so whilst Sawako is amused by their attempts, they realize they need to do something. This leads to one of my favourite episodes when Mio tells the story of how she and Ritsu became friends, and also Nodoka tells about how she and Yui became friends. Nodoka is a very underrated character being Yui’s rock despite being overshadowed by Yui’s new friends, the two never lose that friendship and Nodoka telling stories to her new friends is a really sweet moment. Ritsu and Mio’s story was of course hilarious, but surprising touching as well in that Ritsu actually built up Mio’s confidence when they were kids.
Another pair I love is the pair between Azusa and Yui. Yui adores her young underclassman to a running gag that she has to hug her when she sees her, with Azusa being pouty and moaning about it. The two have some sweet moments, like sitting outside listening to the music of a festival, or the two training for a competition that Yui entered just to let a friendly neighbor hear her music at the same time as Yui having to retake some tests (Azusa again being the serious one with a schedule as Yui pouts). The only episode I felt was a little weak was the one where the K-ON group wanted some air conditioning because Ritsu was an idiot for not requesting one when it was available – the resolution was simple and the pay off not really that funny, but to be honest when only one episode I felt was a bit meh for a comedy series, that’s still 12 pretty good episodes.
What makes a show like K-ON so likeable amongst all the other cute girl anime is the relationship between the main characters. Whether it is the 4 older girls with her underclassman, all of them with their teacher (there’s a moment when they try to fool their teacher when they sell an old character of hers as it was actually really valuable, the payoff is golden), Yui with her sister, Yui with Nodoka, Ui with Azusa and Jun, even minor ones like Jun idolizing Mio, and Mugi driving home with Sawako to get a new tank for Ton-chan gives us little dynamics which really make the series work. It’s not plot heavy at all, but it is a lot of fun, and quite touching. I cannot recommend it for everyone though because it is a show based on a lot of cute girls, so if you are not into that at all, definitely stay away, you won’t like it – it’s not quite diabetes level, but you’ll feel your teeth rot. The fact though there is an arching plot as the girls have to resolve what they want to do when they leave as Azusa wonders what she is going to do with the light music club (it strongly hints that Jun will leave the Jazz Club and Ui may also join) as it all in a small way ties in, with Azusa’s conversations with her two friends, and the talks the girls have with Nodoka as well all make you wonder what is going to happen. Mugi and Mio both seem resolved, but the fact the four girls are as close as sisters at times makes you wonder if they will all go together despite this.
It’s certainly not an anime that will break boundaries – it is very safe in that regard. But in terms of an enjoyable show with a likeable cast (Ritsu and Yui sometimes do get annoying, but they usually get their comeuppance so it balances out) combined with some nice music, a potential for plot and some genuine funny and heartwarming moments, you certainly could do worse if you want a show just to switch your brain off and enjoy.
K-ON has this utter charm about it which makes it a show that I find it impossible not to enjoy. With Azusa now in it from the start, she takes the roles as the straight man as Mio descends into madness and the other three girls get into mischief. And because of that, we get new dynamics with all the girls, their teacher and Azusa’s friends whom bring out some real charm, delight and hysterics within the room. There is very little wrong with it as a series outside of not being a real plot driven series and just cute girls having fun. But the fact there is a potential plot with a lot of fun characters, it’s really hard to criticize as a series because in the end it is doing its job as a show, it is entertaining me. Avoid if you hate the cute girl type show, but if you remotely like it and want to just have a big smile watching something, you can’t go wrong with K-ON.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 20th May 2013
Running Time: 300 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.