K-ON!! Season 2 Part 1 (Episodes 1-13) (Cert PG)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 300 minutes approx.
It’s back to school for the pupils of Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School and for the five girls that make up the Light Music Club it looks set to be a challenging year ahead. Yup, turn off your brain, grab your comfiest cushion and let yourself be swept away by another maelstrom of moe madness in the form of this second season of K-ON!!
If you loved the first series of cutesy, off the wall antics courtesy of the fun-sized fivesome then you’ll love this follow-up as we are treated to double the episode count –that’s right, twenty six instalments detailing the trials and tribulations of wannabe rockers Hokago Tea Time. This set contains the first thirteen episodes across two discs which hopefully will prove to be a more successful prospect for anime fans then the multi-disc release format of the first series.
Making a welcome return to our screens are Yui Harasawa (guitar), Ritsu Tainaka (drums) Mio Akiyama (bass), Tsumugi “Mugi” Kotobuki (keyboards) and Azusa Nakano (guitar), along with Yui’s younger sister Ui and the irrepressible teacher Sawako “Sawa-chan” Yamanaka, who – much to the pleasure of this reviewer – gets plenty more screen time and as usual, steals the show.
But back to the girls, and while little has changed there is one major upheaval that is imminent – Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi are now seniors thus are entering into their final years at high school, while Azusa being a year behind will be left on her own. This may surprise a lot of people but this season of K-ON!! has an overarching plot to drive it forward in between the frivolities and occasional musical outings that made this show such a hit.
As one can imagine, this semi-serious thread brings an air of pathos and melancholy to the proceedings, but doesn’t bring the mood down to a state of depression. Azusa ponders the prospect of keeping the Light Music Club going on her own, referencing the struggle of Ritsu and Mio endured at the start of the first series. She also begins to feel left out from her seniors even more as the pressures and work load of their final school year separates them further. That is not to say that the other girls aren’t sympathetic – far from it: along with trying another fruitless recruitment drive for new members, to stop Azusa from being lonely, they buy her a pet turtle named Ton! A sweet gesture or another distraction from practicing for Yui and Ritsu? You decide!
Not that Ton is needed to prevent the girls from improving their chops. If it isn’t the stifling heat, it’s the pouring rain that holds them back, not to mention exams, shopping for a shelving rack (and buying Ton instead), a fan club tea party for Mio, deciding on their future careers or school trips to Kyoto.
Each event is naturally laced with the madcap silliness and random asides that we’ve come to love about the show, ensuring there is never a dull moment to be found. As is often the case with anime, some domestic references may go over heads of us gaijin viewers but mostly the humour is broad enough to raise a laugh or three. But quite how the word “skull” has the girls crippled with laughter is a mystery.
Unfortunately we once again bemoan the lack of music in this volume with a few snippets of the group’s harmonious efforts given an airing, including a new song born out of Ritsu’s frustration of being the unseen drummer and wanting to change instruments to one that gets her a more prominent place in the spotlight.
There is a treat for serious rockers however, courtesy of Sawa-chan, whose much alluded to past in the Light Music Club comes to light at the most unlikeliest of places, a wedding! In fact, Sawako reveals a lot more about her non-school ma’am side this time round, providing some of the hilarious moments of the series.
This second outing is very much focused on the further development of the relationship of the group members, leading to what presumably will be a tear jerking finale when the end of the school year arrives. These poignant waters of have been delicately tested in this first set of episodes, gentle teasing the audience with effective tasters of what is to come. This gives the show a depth that seems unbecoming for what is essentially is supposed to be a lightweight piece of fluff, but since the characters are so captivating and adorable, why not go for the emotional jugular for a more rewarding experience?
K-ON!! is what it is. If you weren’t won over by the first series then nothing here will convince you otherwise; those who caught the bug will not be disappointed with this release and should find the main storyline a pleasant and engaging companion to the zany, colourful and boundless fun and merriment provided by the cutest girl rockers in anime.
Prepare to crank up those amps to eleven – the girls are back in town!
English Language 2.0 Dolby Digital
Japanese Language 2.0 Dolby Digital
Disc 2 only:
Ratings – ****
Man In Black