K-ON! Complete Series 1 (Cert PG)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 326 minutes
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should already know that K-ON! follows the antics of the Light Music Club at Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School, consisting of five quirky young girls who decide to form a rock band, the soon to be named Hokago Tea Time (trans: After School Tea Time). Already a hit series from last year, Manga have now re-released it in a box set so fans can now get their moe fix in one big hit!
The frolicking fivesome that make up HTT are: Yui Harasawa on guitar, who only joins the club because she wasn’t any good at anything else and didn’t have the heart to tell the others she couldn’t play the guitar; drummer Ritsu Tainaka the self professed leader of the group and the Music club but is just as ditzy and forgetful as Yui; shy bassist friend Mio Akiyama who gets the chills at the slightest thing yet is arguably the most disciplined and mature of the group; rich girl keyboard player Tsumugi “Mugi” Kotobuki whose tea and cakes make her a popular member of the club with both members and non-members alike; and finally second guitarist Asuza Nakano, a first year student whose fretboard skills eclipse Yui’s to the point she ends up playing tutor to her senior group member!
A true guilty pleasure anime K-On! admittedly teeters on the brink of being unashamedly moe but refreshingly doesn’t lay it on so thick that one is tempted to gouge out theirs eyes and forced to bring up their breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time. Instead the situations are rooted firmly in the slice-of-life category, staying on the right side of reality, which applies to the characters as well. No oversized pink or blue hair, unfeasibly large puppy dog eyes or equally off putting sexualisation for the lolicon brigade – just four relatively normal (per se) school girls with a not unattainable dream of one day playing at the famous Budokan Hall.
Everyone will have a favourite out of the main players as they all possess unique traits and characteristics to allow them to connect with the audience on an individual level (okay Ritsu and Yui are both similar in appearance and share some traits but what the hey). And there is the strong supporting cast: Yui’s younger and blatantly more mature and sensible sister Ui, Yui’s equally astute and clued up classmate Nodoka Manabe – both who are usually on hand to save Yui’s bacon when necessary (i.e: most of the time) – and kindly teacher Sawako Yamanaka, affectionately known as “Sawa-chan” who, for this reviewer, is the most entertaining character of the show. Every moment she is on screen is pure gold, from the desperation of trying to prevent a big secret of hers revealed to her cosplay fetish – usually at the expense of the girls – and her bawling, self loathing over the break up with her boyfriend (bunny boiler doesn’t even come close to it) and if is almost impossible not be highly entertained and indeed won over by her deliriously zany antics which are the complete antithesis to her prim and meek bespectacled appearance.
One of the criticisms levied at this series is the paucity of actual musical content, which is justified but by the same token, easily defended. First and foremost this is a character driven show; if the viewer isn’t invested in them personally then why bother sticking around to see if their achieve their goals? This show doesn’t need to shoehorn a song into every episode for the sake of it as a mecha or magical girl show would feel duty bound to include a big transformation/special power scene in every episode. With a story concerning the continual growth of the girls as musicians and their bonding on a personal level in conjunction with their school and everyday life, it is only fair that these trials and tribulations are well documented and the musical numbers should be the light at the end of the tunnel and not a convenient beacon marking the way. That is not to say that a bit more focus could have been on the girls’ practise sessions but even earnest Asuza admitted in one episode based at a training camp that despite not playing much music, she found herself closer to the others. So, the priorities are a little askew but not to the detriment of the overall enjoyment of the show.
Such was the effect of the show in Japan that not only did they score big on the music charts with their songs but sales of musical instruments to young girls rocketed, neatly coinciding with the new breed of rocking girl groups like SCANDAL and Stereopony (who HTT thankfully sound a much closer to than the bubblegum vomit of Morning Musume or AKB48).
On a personal note this reviewer would like to see the public flogging of the clueless and ignorant individual who typed up the subtitles for this release, who for some inexplicable reason saw it fit to spell the surname of Led Zeppelin’s guitar supremo Jimmy “Paige”! The guy has been one of the most famous rock legends for over forty years yet some doofus still manages to spell his name incorrectly? Really?
It’s fair to say that anyone who has had their fill of moe/slice-of-life school comedies is unlikely to be swayed by the release of K-ON! even with the musical premise. Well, more fool them I say. Perhaps it doesn’t break any new ground but every once in awhile it is okay to indulge on something that is indirect opposition to one’s normal diet and K-ON! is that irresistible sweet snack it is okay to feast on. If music be the food of love, as the Bard once said, then rock on with K-ON! I say!!
English Language 2.0 Dolby Digital
Japanese Language 2.0 Dolby Digital
Interview with Stephanie Sheh aka Yui Hirasawa
“Fuwa Fuwa” Time Music Video
Interview with Christina Vee voice of Mio Akiyama
“My Love Is A Stapler” Music Video
Interview with Cassandra Lee voice of Ritsu Tainaka
“Brush Pen, Ballpoint Pen” Music Video
Interview with Shelby Lindley voice of Tsumugi
Ratings – **** /5
Man In Black