K-ON!: The Movie Blu-ray Review
When the first season of K-ON! went on the air in 2009 few people thought it would become a cultural phenomenon and the most influential anime of its decade. Of course K-ON wasn’t impeccable in any way. Praises regarding its presentation were balanced by complains about its shallowness. Now the franchise is back with a full-blown movie; One that provides a cunning look at the Japanese tourism culture while still retaining enough K-ON! charm to satisfy the existing fan base.
Simply named K-ON!: The Movie, this featured film follows the five girls that comprise the light music club (the “keionbu” or K-ON for short) as four of them reach the end of their final year of high school. Yui, Tsumugi, Mio and Ritsu decide to go on a graduation trip and invites Asuza (who’s a year younger) to join them. After “harsh” negotiations they set their eyes on London – a city known for its rich musical background. Meanwhile Yui decides to create a special song and present it as a farewell gift to Azusa. The girls intent to keep the song a secret from Azusa until graduation day, which turns out to be a hard task for the light-headed Yui.
While the movie’s plot may come off as a bit plain the execution of the plot is anything but. The wealth of animation in the first five minutes of the movie alone are enough to put most anime movies to shame. K-ON! was always a meticulously drawn and animated series, with plenty of budget to throw around, and the movie keeps that tradition alive and well. The facial expressions and body gestures the girls use throughout the movie are a joy to watch. The little jokes and jabs Yui and Ritsu kept churning out made sure I maintained a steady silly grin on my face the entire time. Once the girls depart on their trip to London though the movie adds a more elaborate layer of humor; One that makes fun of the cultural norms of Japanese overseas tourism. The girls try their luck at speaking English, photograph anything and everything that moves and end up eating Japanese food despite being in London. It’s all in good taste with a steady pace that keeps things short and sweet. The farewell song for Azusa remains a second thought for the majority of the movie. It becomes a much bigger issue in the
late second half of the movie and ends up being one of the most
memorable parts in the entire franchise and easily the highlight of the movie.
If you’ve never seen K-ON! before you should know this movie is the epilogue to the TV show. That said it is also a great place to start from. The personalities of all the girls shine through and the plot is simple enough to keep you entertained even if you don’t recognize some of the faces. The biggest draw of the series is that it makes you feel a part of the club. You experience the silly, seemingly irrelevant daily occurrences with the girls and enjoy the simple pleasures of the mundane. It is a counter-intuitive feeling for the busy people among us and arguably the series’ biggest charm. Hardcore K-ON! fans who are already well-invested in the series can expect to see more of what they love. The movie is a condensed, well executed version of the series, and changes relatively little of the formula (which in this case is a good thing). The movie isn’t a mad-dash to the finish line either and those looking for extra details will be rewarded. Expect to see supporting characters in the series making short cameos, a rare scene where Yui’s father and mother are revealed, and three new songs sung exclusively in the movie (including an opening theme and an ending “music video”).
For this review I watched the Blu-ray version of K-ON!: The Movie, released by Sentai Filmworks. The film has Japanese with English subtitles and also an English dub. The subtitle track was taken directly from the original Japanese release and for the most part is spot-on. The English dub is there, but it’s a waste of time and money. K-ON!: The Movie was meant to be watched in Japanese. Watching it in English effectively removes all the sting (and meaning) from the jokes, and since the songs the girls sing remain in Japanese you’re still basically be watching a half English half Japanese chimera. Accompanying the movie are a nice set of extras. Some overlap each other in terms of content but they are a nice addition and Sentai hired a translator just for the sake of translating them into English.
It is hard not think of K-ON!: The Movie as the crown jewel of the K-ON! franchise. It manages to take the best assets K-ON! has to offer and assemble them in the most endearing and desirable way possible. There isn’t a single bad side to K-ON!: The Movie. It is a simple, yet immensely enjoyable experience that leaves nothing to be desired. It is the perfect swan song for the K-ON! franchise.