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K-ON!: Volume 3 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 3, 2011 by  



Highly contagious! Hilarious and outright enjoyable and fun! “K-ON!” vol. 3 features a new member joining the club/band and also what happens when Mio and Ritsu’s friendship is tested?  Overall, another awesome volume of “K-ON!”

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

TITLE: K-ON!: Volume 3

DURATION: Episodes 9-11 (75 Minutes)

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

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

COMPANY: TBS Animation/Bandai Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: September 13, 2011

Originally Created by kakifly

Directed by Naoko Yamada

Series Composition by Reiko Yoshida

Screenplay by Jukki Hanada, Katsuhiko Muramoto, 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

Minako Kotobuki/Shelby Lindley as Tsumugi Kotobuki

Satomi Satou/Cassandra Lee as Ritsu Tainaka

Yōko Hikasa/Cristina Vee as Mio Akiyama

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

Azusa has just joined the Light Music Club and she is shocked that all they do is drink tea and eat snacks instead of practicing. The rest of the band reassures her that they will practice hard at their training camp, but despite Azusa’s objections the girls end up playing all day at the beach.

Azusa soon learns that reason why the band plays so well is because they have so much fun together. With the school festival right around the corner, the girls still have some hurdles to clear, like filling out the stage use application, doing maintenance on Yui’s guitar, and coming up with a band name!

The hugely popular animated series “K-ON!” is back with its third volume on Blu-ray and DVD and this time, a new member named Azusa Nakano joins the band!

So, what is “K-ON!”?   Well, it 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 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 now fans in Japan are awaiting for the film adaptation set for Dec. 3, 2011.

As for fans in the United States, there has been high anticipation for its anime release and the first two volumes are now available courtesy of Bandai Entertainment and in Sept. 2011, a third volume featuring episodes 9-11 is out on Blu-ray and DVD.

“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.

In the first volume, 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 second volume focuses on the club dynamics, having to find an advisor for the club in order for the club to exist and the band preparing for their very first live performances and preparing for another school year in which they hope to attract more members to the club.

Now, the third volume is here and it focuses on the introduction of a new club member Azusa Nakano, a friend of Yui’s sister Ui and a guitarist.

Azusa is a long-playing guitarist who was inspired to join the club after watching the band perform live but when she joins the club, all she sees is them fooling around, eating desserts and drinking tea.  For Azusa, she wants to be part of a band but with the members of the club having fun instead of practicing, she worries that maybe she made the wrong choice of joining the club.

Will Azusa stay in the club or leave?

“K-ON!: Volume 3” features the following episodes:

  • EPISODE 9: New Club Member – Azusa Nakano joins the Keion music club but she is not sure if she wants to stay after observing how the club members rather eat dessert and drink tea than play music.
  • EPISODE 10: Another Training Camp – It’s training camp once again at Tsumugi’s family island resort and this time, the club members try to make Azusa feel comfortable.
  • EPISODE 11: Crisis!? – Yui’s guitar has gone rusty and Azusa tries to help her out.  Meanwhile, Ritsu is becoming jealous because Mio is wanting to hang around Nodoka.

“K-ON!: Vol. 3” 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. 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 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.  She is also becoming good friends with Mio since they are in the same class.
  • 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, 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 Dolby Digital 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 expect lossless audio are going to 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 Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Personally, I chose to have my receiver play the anime series with stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundscape. But nevertheless, with the awesome music featured in the series, it would have been wonderful to hear that music via uncompressed lossless.

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, the voice acting will appeal to both fans who prefer one over the other.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“K-ON!: Volume 3” comes with the following special features:

  • My Love is a Staple Music Video – (1:43) The English dub music video for “My Love is a Staple”.
  • Interview with Cassandra Lee – (6:26) English dub voice actress Cassandra Lee talks about how she was cast for the role of Ritsu and how she prepared for the role.
  • Trailers – Bandai Entertainment trailers

I love this series!

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 a gakusei anime series (student anime series – focused on a school setting).

I have been waiting for the introduction of Azusa Nakano.  I have only read from fans how they really love her character and having not known too much about the character, I can see why “K-ON!” fans enjoy her addition to the show.  She has that fiery attitude like Mio but also this caring and childish side as well.  But seeing these new episodes, you can tell that she is going to be an awesome guitarist for the band.

The series continues to focus on the dynamics between the members but as the first two are Azusa-driven episodes, by episode 11, we get to see something that has not been featured and that is fall-outs between members.  In this case, what happens when Mio and Ritsu’s friendship changes even slightly and to see how it affects the other members of the group.

The latest third volume of “K-ON!” was definitely fun but viewers may realize that there are only three episodes as opposed to four.  And that is because there are only 13 episodes total plus one OVA.  So, more than likely the final volume for the first season will feature episodes 12-13 and the OVA.

But overall, these latest episodes in volume three were so hilarious, fun and highly enjoyable. This is one of those light-hearted series that if you want to get away from the serious or dark anime or if you are having a long or tough day, “K-ON!” is the feel-good anime series because it’s all about having fun, enjoying life and doing your best! That’s what I love about this series!

I have seen music-based anime series, from the long running “Hummingbird” idol pop anime series to an anime series like “NANA”. But while “NANA” had its flair for the dramatic and also featured a more young adult theme, “K-ON!” is a series that attracts people of all ages. It captures the youth of one wanting to become a band, to be part of the band and to fit in.

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.

As for the Blu-ray release, I know the more hardcore technical Blu-ray reviewers will probably be a bit more unforgiving to “K-ON!” and its saturated colors and lack of a lossless soundtrack and there will be some who may be critical that there are only four episodes on this Blu-ray release, but I enjoyed this anime series so much that I know I am a bit more forgiving towards it than other reviewers. Do I wish the whole first season was presented as a complete series, sure I do! But I understand that anime companies have different strategies, especially those who are closely tied to the Japanese business side of the anime industry. That’s how it is and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

But I’m loving “K-ON!” and 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!

And for those who did purchase “K-ON!” volume 1 and 2, it’s a no-brainer volume 3 is a must-buy!

Definitely recommended!

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