K-ON! Season 1, Volume 1 [Blu-ray]
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When Yui Hirasawa enters high school, she wants to join a club but can’t decide which one is right for her. Fortunately, the Light Music Club is desperate to find another member or they’ll be disbanded! So, with the enticement of delicious snacks and assurance that no musical experience is necessary, Yui joins the Light Music Club. She becomes the guitarist in this all-girl high school rock band with Mio Akiyama on bass, Tsumugi Kotobuki on keyboard and Ritsu Tainaka on drums. Together, they’re going to rock the school and someday make it to the Budokan! Now, if only they can put down the snacks just long enough to practice.
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This first volume (there will be four in all) contains the first four episodes in which the group 1) first meet each other, 2) help a member procure an instrument, 3) struggle with mid-term exams and 4) have a training camp at the beach.
Since it first aired in 2009, K-On! has reached immense popularity among anime fans and it's a shame to see that Bandai Entertainment's domestic release is something of a disappointment. The release has a number of flaws, the most significant one being the as-of-yet unexplained music replacement in the first episode, where an instrumental piece performed by the characters has been replaced by an altogether different tune. Add to that the complete lack of any of the bonus materials included in the Japanese release and the fact that they went with lossy Dolby Digital audio instead of lossless for the Blu-Ray, and the disappointments begin to add up. Thankfully, the video quality is stellar. One thing I can't really fault Bandai for is the decision to release the series spread across four individual volumes as opposed to a complete series box set. The license for K-On! was no doubt hellishly expensive, and they need to make their money back somehow. And besides, at the very least it is still dirt cheap compared to the Japanese release!
The only notable extra on this disc is a video interview with a member of the American dub cast. If you're a dub fan, you might find this interesting. The English dub itself is, while no masterpiece, at least pretty good for what it is. You can tell they went to great lengths to do justice to the original - not an easy task considering the original set of characters is probably one of the most iconic casts to emerge from anime within the last couple of years. With the English dub being what it is - an imitation - it's never going to be as good as the original, but it is a decent attempt and should be appreciated by those with an aversion to reading subtitles.
All in all, despite being an imperfect release, I will still recommend it to anyone with an interest in this type of anime. From the get-go, it's good, charming fun and it is only going to get better from here.
We join the protagonists as they all descend on a high school group known as the Light Music Club. On the verge of being disbanded, this club's intention is to make music that is enjoyable and pleasing to the ears. But the only problem is that, despite the fact that three of the four are well-versed in music and can indeed play instruments, they're... just "not very good", according to the group's guitarist. She's in no position to speak though, because she can't even play guitar yet. Yes, with this type of dysfunction, on top of school exams, summer trips and other hindrances, the future of the Light Music Club is uncertain.
Their comedic struggles, though, provide a nice four episodes' worth of entertainment in this first volume, however vanilla it may be. These episodes start with each character confused as to what exactly this club's intention is, and end with them having formed a bond and set in motion a solid plan to perform at the school festival. Nothing too challenging in terms of content, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.
This series' main strength lies not in it's plot, though, but in the tone that the writers set. As a reader of the original manga, I have to say that KyoAni did a better job of establishing these characters than their own creator did. Despite the fact that shy rich girl, keyboardist and excellent cook Tsumugi feels like a carbon copy of Miyuki Takara minus the irony, these characters feel like real people that you'd meet in your day-to-day life. Any viewer of Lucky Star can attest to the fact that this studio's storytelling specialty lies in the field of believable characters, but this time, I have to say they've done a better job than in their previous works. I was sucked into these characters' chemistry, and was frequently reminded of my relationship with my own friends. This attention of detail to personality really puts K-On! ahead of so many imitators.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the plot. While it is fun to watch these characters go about their day-to-day affairs, the fact remains that many of these affairs are typical things we've come to expect from this type of show. Beach trips to the rich girl's summer home, shopping trips which include a montage of looking a pretty/cute/fun things, the very concept of forming a dysfunctional club that gets into comedic incidents... these are all things we've seen before. It doesn't make the show any less enjoyable, but those expecting a total deviation in formula from Lucky Star-type shows might feel a bit disappointed.
But to those expecting KyoAni to hold up their excellent quality of animation, prepare yourself for one of the best demonstrations of their work. This could perhaps be the most attention to detail they've paid to a series since the first season of Haruhi. Every piece of background art, every ripple of the characters' clothing, and every movement of the characters themselves are all delivered to us in painstaking detail. This is the type of stuff that only KyoAni's budget can achieve, and it's damn beautiful to look at. While what they're showing us isn't exactly fantastical, the studio proves that paying attention to your everyday surroundings may reap more rewards than immersing yourself in imaginary worlds.
The voice-acting is top-notch as well. KyoAni's past megahits have boasted fantastic casts (in both their English dubs and original Japanese voice tracks), and this show is no different. Especially great are Stephanie Sheh and Aki Toyosaki as Yui, the ditz of a lead guitarist whose personality shifts every 0.5 seconds. Both actresses convey a perfect sense of ADD when voicing this fragile girl, one rarely achieved by V.A.s when voicing this type of character. Not to take away from the rest of the cast; everybody here is on their A-game.
Hajime Hyokkoku's score is the tidy ribbon which wraps up this neat package. Encompassing a wide range of musical styles (rock, pop, orchestral, techno, synthpop, etc.), this man has come a long way from his Voogie's Angel days (five points to anybody who'd heard of that series before having to look it up in the link!). This should cement into the realm of top-notch composers of mainstream anime.
Bandai USA's American release of the show is fairly bare-bones, but that can be forgiven considering it's just not feasible to release the limited edition versions we saw of Haruhi and Lucky Star (whose last volume didn't even get a limited edition release because of then-collapsing anime DVD industry.) There's an entertaining interview with Stephanie Sheh, and a handful of trailers, but nothing too special. If you have a Blu-Ray player, though, getting this show on that format would be your best bet to appreciate the animation in it's highest quality.
K-On! isn't KyoAni's best work, not by a long shot. But their most polished? Definitely. It doesn't reach the depths of Haruhi, nor the emotional highs of Air, but sometimes, we all just want to relax with some shiny fluff. That's exactly what this show is, and that's why I love it.
Voice-Acting (both languages): A+
NOTE: This is the same review that I posted on my blog, so if you run across it on there as well, be aware that it's not plagiarism. I just didn't want to write two separate reviews for the same thing! ;P
I can recommend this for parent who like anime and want something to watch with their kids. Its good enough that it can get other audiences but that's the reason I liked it.
The first four episodes of volume one largely sets the scene and introduces the characters. We meet four girls: klutzy Yui (guitar), the introspective Mio (bass guitar), sweet-as-apple-pie Mugi (keyboards) and the slightly demented Ritsu (on drums). As you've gathered, the girls form a Rock band at high school in their "Light Music Club". We also meet Yui's friend, Yui's very responsible and together younger sister and their outwardly sweet female music teacher who is actually a bit of a renigade. In volume 2 we learn that Mugi is in love with her.
The show has some fun and laughs and it all good natured. It isn't anything "earth shattering", but it is a pleasant series to watch and I will buy the other volumes as they're released in Australia.
I like K-on!, there is much to enjoy in the series, especially the incredible look of the animation - which is especially vivid on blu-ray, but I will return to my old favourite, "Azumanga Daioh", which still has me ROTFLMAO!
A+++ for the quality of the animation
A- for the story
A for having characters we can identify with and like
A for the character development
C for the extras on the blu-ray
A for the look of the package
B for the comedy and drama
A+ for the music
A++ for the detail of the musical instruments
K-on! looks fantastic and has some cool music and a few laughs
The first volume of this show does give a nice and entertaining take on the manga by Kakifly.
On Bluray the quality is stunning crisp and clear nice step up from the im sure great DVD resolution, I found the songs in the opening and closing to be fun and rather cute.
Now comes to the meat to some fans, the English dub suites the needs well for those of us (myself included) who cant always look at the screen to read subtitles or a lack of know how to speak Japanese.
While Yui's voice is a bit high at times it still works well, the VAs of Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi DO fit their characters well. Some can argue that the voices `don't fit' and that it is fundamentally `better' in the original language. However do keep in mind the company didn't HAVE to bring this great series over.
I have noticed they have chosen to go for American Dollars over Japanese Yen, Yui's Guitar cost
250,000 Yen, yet Mio says $2,500, this isn't too large a deterrent however but a nice nod to those that can't get conversions.
Overall however I am impressed with this anime, nice packaging good quality. If you're a fan of the original manga or just want something cute, give this a go.