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K-On! Season Two, Collection 1 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 9, 2012 by  



The immensely popular “K-ON!” anime series is back with its second season on Blu-ray. Featuring the first 13 episodes of the series, “K-On!” focuses on the senior year of high school for Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi, but also a new recruiting year in hopes to gain new members to join sophomore Azusa.  If you are looking for a lighthearted, fun and hilarious anime series, “K-On!” is highly recommended!  Definitely one of my favorite anime series to be released in 2012!

Images courtesy of ©Kakifly/Houbunshua/Sakura High Band. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: K-ON!: K-On! Season Two, Collection 1

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), Dolby Digital, Audio: English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: TBS Animation/Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: August 11, 2012

Originally Created by kakifly

Directed by Naoko Yamada

Screenplay by Jukki Hanada, Katsuhiko Muramoto, Masahiro Yokotani, Reiko Yoshida

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Character Design by Yukiko Horiguchi

Art Director: Seiki Tamura

Chief Animation Director: Yukiko Horiguchi

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Featuring the voices of:

Aki Toyosaki/Stephanie Sheh as Yui Hirasawa

Asami Sanada/Karen Strassman as Sawako Yamanaka

Ayana Taketatsu/Christine Marie Cabanos as Azusa Nakano

Chika Fujitō/Laura Bailey as Nodoka Manabe

Madoka Yonezawa/Xanthe Huynh as Ui Hirasawa

Minako Kotobuki/Shelby Lindley as Tsumugi Kotobuki

Satomi Satou/Cassandra Lee as Ritsu Tainaka

Yōko Hikasa/Cristina Vee as Mio Akiyama

Yoriko Nagata/Michelle Ann Dunphy as Jun Suzuki

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!!

The girls of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School’s Light Music Club (K-On!) are back in season 2 of the hit Japanese animations series known as “K-On!”.

“K-ON!”, happens to be one of the hottest anime series in Japan that has not only dominated in the TV ratings but also on Japan’s Oricon music charts!

The series has been a phenomenon as it has attracted fans all over the world, those who want to cosplay as the characters, those who want to sing like the characters and those who want to play the music of the characters. Just one look on YouTube and all over the Internet and you can see how passionate fans have been for this series!

“K-ON!” began as a four-panel comic strip written and illustrated by kakifly and the manga would then be serialized in Houbunsha’s seinen manga magazine “Manga Time Kirara” between May 2007-October 2010. In April 2011, the manga was relaunched on both “Manga Time Kirara” and Houbunsha’s magazine “Manga Time Kirara Carat” with two separate storylines.

The popularity of the manga series led to a 13-episode anime TV series which aired in Japan on April-June 2009, an OVA episode in Jan. 2010 and a 26-episode second season titled “K-ON!!” which aired in Japan from April through Sept. 2010, a new OVA released in March 2011 and an animated film last winter.

The series would also lead to a Sony PSP music rhythm video game and now, the first half (13 episodes) of “K-On!” Season Two will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

What is K-On!?

“K-ON!” is a play on the Japanese word “keiongaku” (light music) and the series follows four high school students of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School who are members of the “keiongaku” club. The four characters featured thus far in the series are Yui Hirasawa, a naive and clumsy student entering high school who is not entirely sure what she wants to do in terms of extracurricular activities. While she tries to figure out what she wants to do, two other students, Ritsu Tainaka and Mio Akiyama join the keiongaku club to find out that most of the members have graduated and the only way they can keep the club open is if they have four members.

Because Ritsu plays the drums and Mio plays the bass guitar, they hope they can find other musicians and form a band.

Fortunately, a new member joins the group, Tsumugi Kobobuki, a student from a wealthy family who plays a Korg Triton Extreme 76-key keyboard. Now all they need is one member.

While Yui is trying to think of activities to do, she sees a flyer for the keiongaku club and in her mind, she remembers light music as something she did when she was young student in elementary school and so she joins. Meanwhile, the other three members are happy because with a fourth member, the club will stay alive but also the fact that maybe Yui is a guitarist and now, they can start their own band.

But Yui is not a musician and if anything, what she loves about the club is the ability to eat desserts and drink tea with the other members but when the three members perform in front of her, she becomes inspired and wants to be a member of the club and be part of the band.

Eventually Yui learns the guitar rather quickly and the four would go on to form a band known as Hokago Tea Time thanks to the advice from their advisor and former K-On! Club member and rocker Sawako Yamanaka..  By the end of the first season, the club gains a new club member named Asuza Nakano, a best friend of Yui’s younger sister Ui.

And the first season featured the band performing live in a non-school related event.

So, what happens in Season 2?

As the first season focused on group dynamics and the group wanting to perform live and work on being a band, as expected with the first season, they were character building episodes.  Getting to know Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa as well as their friends Nodoka and advisor Sawako.

The second season now features some music related episodes but now focuses on their senior year and high school.  Wondering what they will do after graduating and for young Azusa, being sad that her friends will be graduating and wondering what will happen to the Light Music Club after they leave and will they find any new members.

For their final senior school year, their music advisor Sawako Yamanaka is now their teacher and to make things interesting, she has brought together all senior classmates of the Light Music Club and also Nodoka into the same class.  So, a lot of the episodes focus on their senior year in high school, rather than focusing on strictly music.

We are also get to see the introduction of Azusa’s friends who have an interested in joining the club, after seeing how much fun Asuza has with her bandmates.

Here is what to expect in the first 13 episodes of “K-On! Season Two, Collection 1” (spoilerless summaries):

  • EPISODE 1 – It’s a brand new school and members of the Light Music Club are determined to find more club members, so Azusa will not be alone.
  • EPISODE 2 – When the members of the club find Sawako’s old guitar, Sawako asks them to try and sell it in order to have money for their club.
  • EPISODE 3 – What happens when Ritsu decides that she doesn’t want to be a drummer anymore because she does not stand out enough, like the other members.
  • EPISODE 4 – The group takes a class trip to Kyoto and Mio becomes annoyed by Yui and Ritsu’s childlike behavior.
  • EPISODE 5 – While the seniors are in Kyoto, Ui, Azusan and Jun try to have their own fun together.
  • EPISODE 6 – Trying to keep her “Gita” dry from the rain, Yui gets drenched in water and her friends try to help her change into whatever clothes they can find.
  • EPISODE 7 –  Who is stalking Mio?
  • EPISODE 8 – The seniors of the Light Music Club must fill out their University Choice forms.
  • EPISODE 9 – Yui’s friend (who she refers to as her grandmother), asks her to participate in a talent show.  Yui feeling an obligation, must perform but also study for her finals at the same time.
  • EPISODE 10 – A former member of Sawako’s band (and former member of the club) asks a favor from the current members of the Light Music Club.
  • EPISODE 11 – With the club room so hot, the members of the Light Music Club wonder if they can get an A/C installed in their room.
  • EPISODE 12 – Sawako takes the members of the Light Music Club to the Natsu Music Festival, for them to experience new bands and what happens at a music festival.
  • EPISODE 13 – While the Light Music Club senior members are studying for exams, Azusa is bored and starts to have weird dreams.

“K-ON!” features the following characters:

  • Yui Hirasawa– Yui is a naive and clumsy student who likes to sleep, eat and go shopping. But when she joins the Keiongaku club, she becomes the group’s newest member and the band’s guitarist. She tries to learn how to play a Heritage Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul standard electric guitar.
  • Ritsu Tainaka – The most vocal person of the Keiongaku club. She is a drummer that plays a yellow Rick Marotta Signature Yamaha hipgig drum kit and always upbeat, energetic, sarcastic and often always playing jokes on her good friend Mio. Sometimes she can get in the nerves of the other members but she is the most determined in wanting to make sure the club exists and that they form a band.
  • Mio Akiyama – The levelheaded person of the group and the smartest student among the four. She plays a Fender Jazz Bass. She originally was planning to join the literary club but her friend Ritsu tore up her applications and made her join the Keiongaku club. Although a person who knows quite a bit about music, she is also quite shy and is easy to scare. She can’t take anything that deals with anything scary, ghosts, blood, injuries or anything macabre.
  • Tsumugi Kotobuki – The daughter of a very wealthy family. Known as “Mugi”, she plays a Korg Triton Extreme keyboard and is a piano prodigy. She is known for her blonde hair and thick eyebrows. Because her father owns a variety of businesses including a maid cafe, she often brings desserts to the club meetings.
  • Azusa Nakano – The same class as Yui’s sister Ui, Azusa joins the Keiongaku music club but not sure if she wants to stay because the members do not appear to be taking their band practices that seriously.

OTHER CHARACTERS:

  • Ui Hirasawa – Yui’s younger sister who tends to get Yui out of a jam. Unlike Yui, Ui is more responsible and mature and takes care of her older sister.
  • Nodoka Manabe – Yui’s childhood friend and confidant. Smart and intelligent, despite how Yui is at times, Nodoka always supports her.
  • Sawako Yamanaka – A beloved teacher known for her kind heart, she also carries a secret, she is a former member of the Keiongaku music club during her high school years and was a member of a death metal band known as “Death Devil” as the lead guitarist and vocalist. She has tried to hide her past but when the members find a photo and music of her past, as part of a deal for them to keep it a secret, she becomes their advisor. Despite seeming to be responsible, she is quite wild and an airhead like Yui. And also making the members dress up in costumes that she creates.

VIDEO:

K-ON!” is an anime series that is stylishly created but also features beautifully painted art backgrounds. Presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen), one thing that I love to see when it comes to anime series is the attention to detail when covering a modern setting.

A lot of TV series tend to not make the backgrounds of a city landscape so detailed and tend to put a lot of recycled trees, dirt and sky but “K-ON!”, is not one of those anime series. There are scenes and also still images of natural settings that are beautifully painted and added to the series. There is detail for the instruments, for the desserts and I felt that with each episode, aside from the practice room and the wideshot image of their school, there was always something new being featured in terms of location. So, the color palette of the series is full of color and nothing is stale or seemed regurgitated.

With that being said, the colors are a bit saturated but for an anime TV series (which is expected) but the OVA does feature more vibrant colors and a bit more detail.

For the many decades I have watched Japanese animation, for anime series that are set in a modern Tokyo setting, I prefer anime series that focused on the smallest details, such as what is inside their bedrooms and home. What’s inside the stores when they go shopping, etc. I love seeing those details instead of the typical walls or trees that are part of the banality anime TV series.

“K-ON!” is one of those series where those little things matter and for me, those attention to small details enhanced my appreciation for the series.

AUDIO:

If there was a weak side of this Blu-ray release, I’m sure the audiophiles might be a bit cranky that the soundtrack is not Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA. What you get is an English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack. What surprised me is the fact that even with the work for the English dub version, there was no change to make it a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack or to increase the bitrate for Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA. But for a Blu-ray release, those who are expecting immersive lossless audio may fret about it, while those who have been waiting for this series to come out to the U.S. will be perfectly fine with the its 2.0 lossless soundtrack.

Personally, I chose to have my receiver play the anime series with stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundscape. As for the voice acting, I am a bit biased to the Japanese voice acting but I did watch the series also with the English dub soundtrack and for the most part, both are well-done and the voice acting should appeal to fans who prefer their anime in Japan or English.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“K-On! Season Two, Collection 1” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Closing Animations
  • Trailers – Sentai Filmworks trailers.

As a fan of “K-On!” and simply loving the first season, the question is how you can you continue this successful series?  And the answer is to focus on the club members as seniors in high school and having their final time together as classmates.

It is sad in a way, but “K-On!” does capture high school life and the plans that the kids have of having a band but then having to decide what next in their lives.  To continue with music or to find careers?

And that’s why I’m happy to see the character of Sawako having more of an impact this season.

As a former member of the Light Music Club, now advisor and teacher for Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi, she personally knows how life went for her and her friends who were musicians and having to choose a different career path.

But as the first season focused on the music and the courage of the members to perform live and create Hokago Team Time, the second season has two storylines.  One focusing on the group’s final year in high school and part of the club, but also sophomore Azusa who is now starting to feel the emotions of how these young women, friends and club members who she thought were lazy and always eating cakes and drinking tea than performing, are actually much more to her life than she ever knew.

These bandmates and club members have made Azusa happy, they experienced adventures together that help establish her as a person with confidence but also a new drive and that is to continue the Light Music Club by finding new members.

I have to say that I really love this series!  And loved the progression of the Hokago Tea Time band and how each of these young ladies grew up together to become a band that can actually perform quite well and start playing their first major gig to now growing together and getting ready to prepare themselves to whatever happens after high school but for now, enjoying this final year together.

My favorite episodes of the first half of season two includes episode 10 titled “Sensei!”, the group following Sawako and finding out that she is meeting a former club member of the Light Music Club and a former member of the band, Death Devil.  But to see a juxtaposition of what Sawako experienced and the experiences of the members of current Light Music Club.

Another favorite was “Natsu Fesu!” and in Japan, summer music festivals are huge!  From Summer Sonic to the Fuji Rock Festival, it was great to see Sawako taking the members to their first music festival and just seeing their eyes light up when they experience these various bands.

“Atsui!” was another fun episode as the group are lacking the energy to do anything because of high heat and humidity, and their room has no A/C.  So, it is interesting and fun to see how far they go to cool down.

And to tell you the truth, every episode in this first half of season one, I enjoyed a lot!

I love the fact that it focuses on normal high school life but also the formation of a band and the dynamics with each of the members as they go through their ups and downs but also the little cute quirks that come with each character.

I typically don’t go crazy over anime series, nor am I the hardcore fan that goes out and buys anything after I see a series but this is probably the first time since I watched an anime series such as “Ranma 1/2″ back in 1992, where I went out and started buying merchandise related to the series. In fact, I have purchased the PSP video game, the Figma figures and it has become one of my favorite series that I have really got into in a very long time in this manner.

The music is awesome! The characters are entertaining. The animation and art backgrounds were very good and for the most part, it has been a long time, possibly since “Azumanga Daioh” in which I really enjoyed gakusei-based anime series (student anime series – focused on a school setting).

As for the Blu-ray release, I know one of the major criticisms that the first season (released by Bandai Entertainment) was its price and that it only came with four episodes per volume.  And many wondered if Sentai Filmworks would follow the same path.  And fortunately, for fans, Sentai Filmworks included 13-episodes with this first collection and also for the second half as well.

As for picture quality and audio quality, “K-On!” also receives a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack for both English and Japanese.  And the TV series looks great on Blu-ray!  And as for special features, the first season never really came with any and the second only comes with the clean opening and ending themes.  But fortunately, fans should be happy that this second season Blu-ray release comes with the first 13-episodes, instead of just four episodes.

If you are an anime fan who loves a straight-up, feel-good anime series with nothing dark, nothing to risque but something just all out-fun, give “K-ON!” a chance! It’s a wonderful anime series on Blu-ray and there is really nothing like it out there (although one may want to check out the live action film “Linda Linda” if they are interested in a storyline of all-girl rock bands).

Overall, a fun, hilarious and entertaining second season of “K-ON!” and definitely one of my favorite series to be released in 2012.  Definitely recommended!

 

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