Sometimes a series doesn’t have to be thought-provoking, deep or awe-inspiring to be good…sometimes it just needs to be fun and charming, with a little bit of teary eyes to make an impression. K-ON does that…and it’s great.
What They Say :
The show’s not over until the band says it’s over! 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. But in the meantime there’s so much going on, it’s as if 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, VERY awkward. And then, of course, there’s one big final performance for the band! The tempo is rising and emotions run wild as the final encore approaches in K-ON!! Season 2 Collection 2!!
The DVD release is disappointing with the sound quality mainly as it is a Japanese/English 2.0 Stereo track with no 5.1 option. Whilst there is nothing bad about the sound quality in either language, with the 5.1 option now commonplace it does feel a bit disappointing, especially in a series so focused on music you wonder how well the quality could have been. No issues in terms of synching with subtitles and still clearly audible, just didn’t have the impact you’d really want it to. Visually wise, the style is appealing but does feel a bit scratchy at times, like it didn’t sync in as well when it comes through on the screen, it feels a bit grainy and dull at times as in widescreen format it didn’t seem to sync as well. No problems with the subtitles but had the issue of when pausing, some of the animation was blurred so there were some issues there altogether.
In the two disc release, we have a menu of the 5 main girls on the first disc with their mouths open in an ‘o’ formation, whilst the second disc we get a selection of photographs of all the girls from the various episodes. On each disc, the menu is set up horizontally near the top with Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on the last disc Extras. Very simple format and easily accessible (though for some reason the opening from the first season of K-ON is playing instead of any of the second season songs, this was in the other release as well), nothing majorly fancy but no issues with converting from the main menu or from the show itself.
The only extras were a clean version of the 2nd opening and ending.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
K-ON is one of those series that has both its fans and its detractors. The cute girls motif is a popular one in anime and those who feel it might be overplayed I can see where they are coming from. However some of these series can be genuinely charming and entertaining – and K-ON is not only one of these, for me it is one of the best when it comes to that.
The story is still the girls continuing on in school, but now with the impeding graduations of the girls bars Azusa, things now actually take a bit more of an interesting and even slightly serious route. Of course, there is plenty of silliness but it all eventually leads to the eventual conclusion that Azusa has to say goodbye to her sempai, and how is she going to take it…
It starts off silly enough – we get a Mugi focused episode where Ritsu actually meets up with Mugi on her own and the two hang out, which is surprisingly rare as this combo doesn’t come up much without the other girls. Mugi is one of my favourites as she is utterly delightful in how she enjoys mundane things and also just on how strange she is – i.e. wanted to be hit similar in how Mio hits Ritsu as a form of skinship. It leads to various humorous moments trying to get Mio to hit her, but whenever Mugi tries to be like Ritsu, it never comes off well because Mugi is just way too nice. It does work out in the end, but this episode stood out for me as a Mugi fan. The following episodes have a similar filler type nature, but again, there is a lot of fun just seeing the girls interact. The marathon episode we see all the girls worrying about the marathon, and just moments like how Ui and Azusa’s friend Jun is a total fan of Mio, as well as the close bond the girls have to race together when Yui is lost…only for them to fight over the last potential red bean soup and rice cake at the end.
One of the characters that gets focus though is Azusa. She has almost replaced Mio as the straight guy to the girls silliness – again, we get some interaction between her and Mugi which is new, as well as the rest of the girls, and shows each of their quirks as we know, yet we also start to get an inkling of Azusa’s concern over the girls leaving – worrying about the future of the club, their big performance, etc. After we get a fun episode where the club room is closed for a bit and the girls have to find somewhere to practice (and get typically distracted) we get the beginning of what I call the ‘plot arc’ for K-ON as much as a series like K-ON has a plot. What is known as the ‘RoMIO and JuliRITSU’ arc – Mio and Ritsu have been picked by their class to play Romeo and Juliet for their school play. With Sawako doing costumes and Mugi directing (and Yui playing a tree) the two girls have to basically be the polar opposite of who they are in real life – Mio tomboyish and Ritsu girly. Seeing Mio training at a maid café was hilarious as the two girls realize they really need to act like the opposite, i.e. Mio acting like Ritsu and Ritsu acting like Mio. Whilst this is going on, Azusa is getting worried they are spending too much time on the play and not on their performance also at the school festival. This is where the bond of the girls is in question but never did the main cast forget about Azusa. They arrange an all night session to catch up with what they’ve missed, which leads to some heartwarming moments when they get to perform the next day. Not going to spoil too much, but it left me in tears – so many heartstrings were pulled both on happy and sad, really surprised K-On would leave me in tears but it definitely did on more than one occasion.
It leads to the final part where the girls have to decide on what they want to do after school. Ritsu and Yui are still unsure, whilst Mugi has applied to a famous woman’s academy. Mio on the other hand has a recommendation and could easily just go there, yet here is why Mio is another one of my favourites. She has probably grown the most of the girls as whilst she is still the adorable scaredy-cat, she has now accepted the antics of her club whilst still being mature enough to make sure that Azusa and others don’t have to either follow or decline their example. Mio truly loves the kinship she has with the girls, so instead refuses the recommendation and attempts to go to Mugi’s school. Yui and Ritsu get serious and also do the same, which leads to some fun study sessions at the club – reminding me a bit of Azumanga Daioh at times and in a good way. Not lost is Azusa who is also concerned about her sempai, and actually wants to make the girls some chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day as a thank you, as before Mugi always brought in some expensive sweets for the girls and she felt out of place. With everyone busy, Ui and Jun help her out as she gets really shy trying to give them the gift – the girls catch on and she finally opens up and gives them the chocolate cake, and later hears the good news the girls graduate together. The series basically ends mostly though as the girls record all their songs as a leaving way for future generations, Sawako gets sad as her first class she’s taken over leaves heartwarming messages for her, and the real tearjerker seeing Azusa having to say goodbye to her friends, knowing despite everything she truly loved them.
There are a couple of OVA episodes after that which I must admit kind of ruin the flow after that tearjerker and would have preferred if they were put in between where they were set in the show, one focusing on a video the Light Music Club made before Azusa joined, one where they visit a sick Sawako (which was quite amusing) and one which is almost a lead up to the movie where the girls get passports. Not that the episodes were bad, just felt they should have worked in the series rather than after the series, and whilst am aware obviously these episodes and OVA came after the 24 main episodes, just seemed a little strange watching them.
That said, that’s really the biggest nitpick I have about this collection. K-ON I can see will have its detractors, but it really is one of the most charming shows I’ve had the pleasure to watch. Azusa really comes into her own realizing that she is going to miss her sempais, and seeing her two friends Ui and Jun hoping to continue the legacy is a good sign if the show does have a sequel (a manga sequel was made where the girls are in college so there is always a chance), but seeing her break down in tears in episode 24 and how much despite their many quirks and errors how she loves their music and playing with them, it’s just a joy to watch. Most of the first half is simply the girls being themselves (the Mugi moments in particular alone with Ritsu and Azusa were very amusing, seeing Yui and Mio show their feelings about the strawberry on a strawberry cake was hilarious, and of course the mad rush for the last bit of food during the marathon race – the girls like their eats…). It’s certainly not going to be for everyone, it’s not incredibly plot driven, it’s very episodic and slice of life. However, when the girls are so fun to watch and it does actually take a turn for the serious where you do start crying when the girls start to cry, you know you are getting into the series.
And in the end, sometimes a series doesn’t have to be in-depth, intelligent or action packed to enjoy. Just smile through the girl’s antics, cry at the realization they will soon no longer play together, and hum along to their songs. If you do that, you’ll enjoy this.
K-ON is one of the top in terms of the ‘moe’ style shows for me. It’s not incredibly plot driven (though there is some) and really is just a focus on the girls in general. However this half of the series is probably the best since the early episodes of Season 1 because of the way towards graduation, how the girls really develop in terms of what they have to go through, and just how much Azusa really depended on them. There’s a lot of comedy and cuteness for sure, but for a switch off, enjoy and smile series, this is one of the best of the best, hence the high grade. It’s not a Cowboy Bebop or an Evangelion, but it doesn’t need to be. It does what it does best, and for that, there’s no higher praise.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening/Ending
Content Grade: A-
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 22nd, 2013
Running Time: 325 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.