April 15, 2011

Bento Bako Bonus: K-ON! DVD vol 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: K-ON!
Volume: Volume 1 (episodes 1-4, of 13), $29.98 (DVD), $34.98 (BR)
Director: Naoko Yamada
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Licensor: Bandai Entertainment
Vintage: Original run – April 2009-June 2009, Volume 1 American release – April 26, 2011
Genre: Comedy, music, slice-of-life

This disc includes the episodes: “Disband the Club!”, “Instruments!”, “Cram Session!”, and “Training Camp!”

It’s a new school year, and Yui is entering her first year of high school. Encouraged by her friend, Yui searches out a club to join. Mio and Ritsu, long time friends, have also entered their first year of high school and want to join the Light Music Club. Unfortunately, the club no longer has any standard members, and without at least four members, the club will be disbanded. As they start to give up hope, another girl named Tsumugi (Mugi) arrives to join the club. With Mio, Ritsu, and Mugi, there is now a bass player, drummer, and keyboarder in the club (respectively). But without a fourth member or a lead guitarist, their band will be short lived. On impulse, Yui joins the group, but upon learning that she’s meant to be their new guitar player, she tries to back out. Bribed with tea and delicious sweets, Yui decides to join the club regardless, and even offers to learn to play the guitar. Though Yui desperately wants to help her new friends, guitars don’t come cheap, so the girls band together to raise money to buy Yui her first guitar. Yui is thrilled, but unfortunately does not know how to play, and can’t even read music. Luckily for her, her friends are willing and able to teach her the basics. Just as things start looking up, mid-terms arrive, and Yui, who has been spending so much time practicing and hanging out with her new friends, fails her test. If Yui fails the makeup test, the club will be back down to three members and will be disbanded. To save their club, the girls again band together in support of Yui, and help her cram for her makeup exam. With tests out of the way, Mio wants to get serious about their music. It’s been three months since the band formed, and they haven’t once played together as a group. Mugi offers up her vacation home for a training camp, inspired by Mio’s goal to sound as good as a previous Light Music Club band from their school, whose school festival concert tape she discovered hidden away in the club room. With a loud-mouthed tomboy, a shy song writer, a clumsy airhead, and an innocent rich girl, can these girls form a band good enough to meet their ultimate goal, a spot in the Budokan music festival?


©kakifly · Houbunsha/Sakura High Band. All Rights Reserved

K-On! is a simple, 12 episode (with a special) high school girls anime from Kyoto Animation (AIR, Lucky Star, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya). A lot of people raved about this show, and it is a cute little thing, but there are other things to spend your time on. It is VERY cute, charming, and funny (though it still manages to bore me, personally). I think it’s a fantastic show for girls (especially younger girls; the series is rated 13+, so it’s great for young teens). There’s nary a boy to be seen in this one; it’s pretty much all girls, all the time. But don’t expect a lot of fan service. There’s some (the girls dress up in costumes on a couple occasions, and go to the beach), but it’s not cluttered with pantie shots and the like (though there is the rare camera focusing on a boob shot of the more well-endowed characters). It’s good, clean fun for the most part.

The show is less about the music and the band than it is about the girls’ friendships, so don’t watch it expecting Beck Mongolian Chop Squad for girls. In fact, on this first disc, they hardly play any music at all. There’s no mysterious story here (like Haruhi), no romance (like AIR), no otaku humor (like Lucky Star). It’s just a group of cute and rather silly girls goofing off, having tea and cakes, and occasionally playing some music. So, it’s more like Azumanga Daioh with guitars. There’s even a fantastically entertaining teacher who becomes their club adviser later on.

The show is well animated (wouldn’t expect anything less from KyoAni, who has created some of the most popular anime among core fans in recent years), and the girls are irresistibly adorable (especially Mio and Mugi), though somewhat archetypal/cliché. I wouldn’t rush out to watch it, but I wouldn’t disregard it either. The title of the show comes from the name of their club, the Light Music Club (which is more like light pop, not orchestrations). The music in the show has been a huge hit, particularly the ending song “Don’t Say Lazy.” Personally, I was not impressed. It’s not bad music, but it’s far from amazing. The most I can say for it is that it’s catchy. On the voice acting, I’m content with the English dubbing. Mio (Cristina Valenzuela) and Ritsu (Cassandra Lee) are particularly well cast and well acted, but I’m having a harder time buying the voices for Mugi (Shelby Lindley) and Yui (Stephanie Sheh). I’m just not getting a gentle rich girl vibe from Mugi; her voice isn’t light or airy enough. I almost feel as if the voice actresses for Mugi and Yui should be switched, but with some alterations for character. Otherwise, the ladies do a good job, and the voice directing is also well done.

©kakifly · Houbunsha/Sakura High Band. All Rights Reserved

Now a little criticism for Bandai. Fans know Bandai can put out some amazing sets for the hard core collectors. But $30 for four episodes is asking a bit much. All told, for the full set, which will likely run at (optimistically) three discs (four if they really try and milk it), that’s $90 for 14 episodes (add another $15 for the BR set). In a time in the industry when the big companies like FUNimation are releasing 13-episode box sets for $50-60 (followed by complete 24-26 episode sets for $60-70), Bandai’s pricing seems way too high. And there aren’t many bells and whistles here. The only extra on this DVD is an interview with one of the English voice actors. I don’t know what will be on the others. It’s a basic DVD; it’s not in a fancy case, it doesn’t come with a figure, a booklet, on DVD art galleries, commentary, or anything that’s been populating current anime releases. It has the one interview (and I imagine future DVDs will also have one), and there are no clean credits (though it’s likely they’ll be included on a future volume). You are absolutely going to want to shop around for a bargain on this one.

You can watch Bandai’s official trailer for the show here.


Review copy provided by Bandai Entertainment.



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