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K-ON!: The Movie (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 9, 2013 by  



If you are a big fan of “K-ON!”, this animated film is a must watch, must own Blu-ray release!  A fantastic animated film that fans will absolutely love and a Blu-ray release that is jam-packed with lengthy, awesome special features!  5 stars and a Blu-ray release that is not only highly recommended but definitely on our list for one of the best anime Blu-ray releases of the year!

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

TITLE: K-ON!: The Movie

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Audio: Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: TBS Animation/Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2013

Originally Created by kakifly

Directed by Naoko Yamada

Screenplay by Reiko Yoshida

Music by Hajime Hyakkoku

Character Design by Yukiko Horiguchi

Art Director: Seiki Tamura

Chief Animation Director: Yukiko Horiguchi

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Production: TBS

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

Graduation time is finally here, but the girls of the Sakuragaoka Girl’s High Light Music Club aren’t going to let the end of high school be the end of all they’ve built together. First though, they have to keep a promise to take a trip together, and like everything else they do, they’re not doing it halfway. So it’s time to hop on the bus – the double-decker bus that is – and go around the world as the band heads for the birthplace of the British Invasion: the United Kingdom!

On the way they’re going to have to solve that one last big puzzle that’s been vexing them: what to get for their underclassman rhythm guitarist Azusa, who will be taking over the club once they don their caps and gowns and leave Sakuragaoka for the last time. Get ready for a Magical Musical Tour as the whole gang takes in the sights and sounds of London and prepares for one last amazing encore!

Fans of “K!-ON!” have watched as the band members of Hokago Tea Time: Yui Hirasawa (guitar), Mio Akiyama (bass), Tsumugi Kotobuki (keyboard), Ritsu Tanaka (drums) and Azusa Nakano (guitar) have won fans hearts with their music.  But also watching the band but most of all, the friendships grow from the beginning to the graduation of four of the members from high school.

But as the final episodes of the second season gave viewers a glimpse of the concern the four members had for their youngest member and leaving her behind, the animated series kept things simple, yet sweet as we watch the band and friends prepare for graduation but we saw Azusa’s side of wanting to do something for her graduating friends and fellow band mates.

But with the popularity of the series and how it became a phenomenal hit throughout Japan inspiring video game and merchandise tie-ins, an animated film was released in December 2011 to showcase the final vacation shared by the five band members but what the band members did for Azusa before graduating.

The film was a big hit in Japan and now, the animated film will be released on Blu-ray in May 2013 courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

What is “K-ON!”?

“K-ON!”, it happens to be one of the hottest manga and anime series in Japan that has not only done remarkably well in the anime TV ratings (from 2009-2010)  but also have its music top 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 you can see how passionate people are 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 and a new OVA released in March 2011.

The series would also lead to a Sony PSP music rhythm video game and the film released in Dec. 3, 2011.

As for fans in the United States, there was been high anticipation for the anime TV release and the release of the first and second seasons on Blu-ray arrived with plenty of fanfare.

As for what “K-ON!” means…  “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.

The group eventually form the band “Hokago Tea Time” and with the help of their band adviser/teacher Sawako Yamanaka (who once was a student at the same high school, attended the same music club and member of the speed metal band, Death Devil), the group gathered the strength to perform in front of a large audience.

When they performed, their music eventually captivated a young guitarist named Azusa Nakano, a friend of Yui’s sister Ui.

Azusa became the fifth member of Hokago Tea Time and the five friends would eventually take part in several live performances but practice together as a band while enjoying sweets and tea inside their band room.

And as these band members became great friends and bandmates overtime, by the final weeks of their final year in high school, the band realizes that they are leaving Azusa behind, as she is younger than them and graduating  later on, the band just wants to make things comfortable for her.

And the final year of high school played out in the anime television series.

“K-ON!: The Movie”….

And with the release of the animated film “K-ON!: The Movie”, the film takes place months before the four members are to graduate.  Both want to experience a vacation together as friends and as a band, but they also want to spend their final time with their youngest band member Azusa, who they worry about and don’t want to leave her all alone.

So, the group come up with an idea, plan a trip to London along with Asuza, but to come up with ideas of what farewell gift they should give Azusa before the graduate.

A fun and music-filled film as the group manages to get lost in London, what kind of adventures will the five experience in the city and will they be able to play Hokago Tea Time music in this country they are visiting?

And what final gift will the four members decide to give as a parting gift for Azusa?

Find out in “K-ON!: The Movie”!

“K-ON!: The Movie” 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 band’s guitarist and vocalist. She plays 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. She also has an intriguing interest in the club advisor, Sawako Yamanaga.
  • Azusa Nakano – The same class as Yui’s sister Ui, Azusa joins the Keiongaku music club but often feels that the other  members do not appear to be taking their band practices seriously and are often wanting to have fun.  She is a guitarist.

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 and is good friends with Azusa.
  • 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!” has always been 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, “K-ON!: The Movie” expands on the look by much better shading and a really beautiful look of London scenery with beautifully painted backgrounds.  As one can expect for a recent animated film, the Blu-ray release features a colorful palette, vibrant colors, inky black levels and during my viewing, I saw no problems of banding or artifacts.

AUDIO:

If there was anything that I was critical of “K-ON!” in the past was its 2.0 soundtrack for the TV series, but this time around, because this is an animated film, the lossless audio is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  It’s important to note that I spent most of my time watching this animated film in Japanese but checking both lossless tracks during certain scenes to see how they utilize the surround channels.  For the most part, the music is crystal clear and sounds fantastic in HD.  There are use of surround channels for crowd scenes but for the most part, the film is dialogue and musically driven and sounds fantastic.

While I am biased towards the original Japanese voice talent (which I found each to be fantastic with their performance and music vocals), fans who have watched the original “K-ON!” TV series releases in the last three years via English dub and enjoyed it, should be satisfied with the animated film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“K-ON!: The Movie” comes with the following special features:

  • Minami Tanaka’s Dubbing Investigative Recording – (22:38) TBS announcer Minami Tanaka visits voice actresses Aki Toyosaki, Ayana Taketatsu, Minako Kotobuki, Satomi Satou and Yoko Hikasa and each take part in tongue twisters.
  • London Bus and Press Conference at TBS – (19:00) A featurette with the five Japanese voice actresses riding a London red bus to the TBS headquarters to discuss the the film.
  • Navi Show 1-2-3 is K-ON! – (23:59) Featuring TBS announcers Haruka Kobayashi and Sylvia Kato hosting the program and cast interviews with TBS announcer Minami Tanaka.
  • Movie Premiere Event – (21:40) TBS announcer Sylvia Kato and the cast members of “K-ON!” at the movie premiere event for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Director Naomi Yamada in London – (28:59) A featurette on “K-ON!” director Naomi Yamada visiting London and her thoughts of the area, while doing research for the film.
  • Good Luck Music Hall – K-ON! Music Hall – (4:43) TBS Anime Meister and announcer Masao Mukai discusses the music of “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Japanese Trailer – (1:38) Japanese theatrical trailer for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Japanese Teaser – (:41) Japanese teaser for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Japanese Spots – (2:44) Japanese commercial spots for “K-ON!: The Movie”.
  • Clean Opening and Closing Animation
  • Trailers – Sentai Filmworks trailers

I have been vocal about “K-ON!” being one of my favorite anime series, from its combination of humor, music but also fun character interaction and magnificent voice acting of the Japanese cast.

In my last “K-ON!” review, I wrote about how sad it was to say goodbye to the members of Hokago Tea Time as they graduate and go their separate ways.  While the manga series continued and possibly in the near future, we may see another animated series with the four members as college students and Azusa continuing the tradition of the club in high school, the fact is that there has not been a series that I found so colorful, fun and amazing when it captures all-female band members (which is common to see in Japan) trying to form a band, performing live and just grow with each other as friends.

In Japan, you can watch variety TV shows such as “Gakkou e Ikou” (Let’s go to School) or films such as “Linda Linda Linda” and there are many young people who want to play music. And its evident from the various young bands that have come from Japan straight out of high school that have become signed to a major label.

While here in the West, there are shows and events that spotlight this, in Japan, its a bit more magnified because these storylines are brought to television, film and manga. There are constant music auditions throughout Japan featuring many young teenagers who want to make it and these auditions are featured on television. Especially female students who create a rock band.

“K-ON!” captures that essence of those female students wanting to create a rock band and the series gives life to those characters and while keeping the stories fun and light-hearted, I was very impressed with how music is integrated into the series. From the instruments featured, the focus on chord progression and hand/finger movements. While there is an anime series such as “La corda d’oro ~primo passo~” that does focus on intricacies of instruments and focuses more on classical music, the show is more magical in a sense that a fairy gives the protagonist the power to play the violin.

Most often there are dramatic series about girls and guys  ala “NANA” or one that is geared towards idol pop such as “Hummingbird” and “Idolm@ster”, but “K-ON!” didn’t even go that direction, it focused on the music and the friendships with each individual.

What “K-ON!: The Movie” does with amazing efficacy is to give us a clear look at how the four founding members of “Hokago Tea Time” felt about leaving Azusa behind and wanting to do something special for her before they leave.  So, as the TV series focused on the school life of the students, the film features a vacation as the five visit London but also the four wondering what goodbye present to give to Azusa.

Not only was the adventure in London entertaining and a lot of fun, the way the film is handled as the group are about to graduate felt much better than the TV animated series, because you can feel the emotion of the four members towards Azusa and what the four decide to give her as a final present.

The music for the film is catchy and upbeat and just to hear things in lossless audio is fantastic and the picture quality was vibrant with beautifully detailed backgrounds.

But one of the reasons why this animated film is also worth owning on Blu-ray is the amount of bonus features included.  From the TBS Japanese special features to promote the film, featuring fun games and interviews with the Japanese voice talent, there is also the premiere event, the pre-promotional event in Japan and even a featurette with director Naoko Yamada and staff going to London and sharing their thoughts and experiences of the locations they researched and featured in the film.

And no, this is not your typical 3 minute special feature, each of these are 20-30 minutes long.  So, you are getting a good amount of special features included on this Blu-ray release, more than what you usually see in anime Blu-ray releases these days, so this release is really jam-packed with “K-ON!” awesomeness!

Overall, if you are a big fan of “K-ON!”, this animated film is a must watch, must own Blu-ray release!  A fantastic animated film that fans will absolutely love and a Blu-ray release that is jam-packed with lengthy, awesome special features!

5 stars and a Blu-ray release that is not only highly recommended but definitely on our list for one of the best anime Blu-ray releases of the year!

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