The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Revisiting The K-On! Movie, a year later

As per the title, it’s been a year since the K-On! Movie was released. On July 18, 2012, I had the opportunity to see the movie for myself. At the time, I had an MCAT looming over my head, and had spent the entire summer in preparations for the exam. I spent the entirety of the morning doing a practise full-length exam under exam conditions. By the time I had finished (the practise exam yielded a 33T), I was exhausted and desired little more than to relax. Thus, I would begin watching the K-On! Movie and came out of the movie refreshed, slightly less stressed than I had previously been. I would write a review for the movie shortly after, on July 20, where I would note the movie’s strongest points were its atmosphere and presentation. I would watch the K-On! Movie a second time on August 9, the day before the MCAT, to steady my nerves (for those taking the MCAT, I can say that studying on the day before is probably counterproductive and may increase stress). This year, though, there is no MCAT on the horizon, and as such, I opted to watch the movie once more in its fullest glory. The movie itself is a completely different experience, and, though opinion of it has remained unchanged, I do find subtle elements that deserve mention. My original K-On! Movie review post may be found here.

A Second Opinion

K-On! has always presented itself as a simple, yet distinguished anime franchise, succeeding in evoking a sense of nostalgia in its viewers about their own days as high school students. The movie carries on this tradition, depicting the girls going about their daily lives in a carefree manner in what is one of the most sincere (if not ideal) representations of life as a high school student. The fact that the girls choose to go abroad for the movie ultimately drives home Yui’s point, that Houkago Tea Time will always be as thus, regardless of where they are in the world.

London, upon first glance, seems to be as far removed from the girls’ homes in Japan, and indeed, less than half of the movie itself is set in London. Travel is oftentimes said to be a fleeting experience: we tend to remember everything leading up to, during and following the vacation. The movie captures this feeling, illustrating the girls’ journeys through London in a short but memorable montage as they visit sights and attractions, even coming across two instances requiring them to break out their instruments and perform in front of a crowd. Whether it be in a foreign cafe, a Japanese Culture Fair, in front of their classmates or for Azusa, the girls continue to remind their audiences that they are Houkago Tea Time and as such, apply their own twists to doing things. By setting the movie in London, this point is driven home, reminding users of just how deep the friendship is between Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Mugi and Azusa to further give the movie a solid focus.

The movie’s portrayal of London’s citizens is an integral component to providing an immersive feel to the girls’ adventures through London. Presented as friendly, accommodating and helpful, the movie even casts native English speakers to voice the English-speaking characters. In most anime intended for a televised broadcast, characters speaking foreign languages (most commonly, English, German and Russian) are Japense voice actors with a reasonable proficiency in the required languages. The fact that native English speakers are cast here demonstrates the effort that went into the movie’s production, and the sense of immersion this creates speaks for itself, furthering the movie’s sincerity.

Upon seeing all of the promotional materials, initially, I expected the movie to be about the trip to London, but I’d be missing the forest for the trees under such an assumption. The movie makes it explicit that the entire story is built around Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi’s wish to craft an appropriate farewell gift for Azusa. Choosing a meaningful gift is a challenging process, and viewers are given an opportunity to explore this process. The girls hold true to their mannerisms throughout the process, and never force themselves to be something they are not: everything we’ve seen of the girls from the TV Series makes a return in a comfortable, familiar manner. In doing so, they create a final product that is well-suited for conveying exactly how the girls feel about Azusa.

Music features more prominantly in the movie than it did in the TV series, with each of the girls’ performances becoming increasingly intimate in nature. K-On! has always made it clear that Houkago Tea Time’s music was a product of their friendship, and that their friendships were at the forefront of everything they participated in. However, of all the hobbies the girls could have chosen, they pick music. Why music is suitable, especially for a series of this sort, boils down to something I cannot quite recall the source of: music provides the means to express emotions far more effectively than words alone. It follows that the intricies of friendship would be best depicted in music; for the K-On! Movie, the music itself reflects on how the girls feel about each of the different settings they perform in. They pick the more generic “Curry Nochi Rice” while performing at the Cafe (chosen on the spot out of nervousness), “Fuwa Fuwa Time” and “Gohan wa Okazu” at the festival (familarity and expression of the girls’ identity, respectively), “U & I” and “Samidare 20 Love” for their classmates back home, with “Tenshi ni Futera Yo!” as a highly personal and emotional song for Azusa.

Until the movie, we’ve only seen Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi practise briefly on-screen: Azusa notes this frequently, wondering how the rest of the girls perform at such a calibre throughout the series. Their song-writing processes were hinted at occasionally during the anime, such as Mio dropping off some lyrics for Ritsu during a season one OVA and Yui’s inspiration to write “U & I”. In the movie, the underlying details to the song-writing process are elaborated upon with “Tenshi no Fureta Yo!”. The process of composing a proper melody and set of lyrics is explored in greater detail than the anime had done, giving viewers a sense of just how much thought and emotion goes into each song. Seeing this process would suggest that each song would have required roughly the same effort to compose in the series. While it was omitted in the series, the composition process makes a late but welcome return in the movie, finally allowing viewers to see how the girls write music.

The K-On! Movie feels like an extended episode, essentially taking all of the strongest points about the anime and refining them in the movie format. With a steady, casual pacing that reflects on the Houkago Tea Time’s mannerisms and visual quality that speak volumes about the incredible production value, the film’s focus is cohesive and succeeds in telling a story about a group of close-knit high school students in their two journeys, towards both saying farewell to a friend and towards a foreign city. In particular, the pacing in the movie deserves recognition: whereas other anime movies immediately delved into their respective stories, the K-On! Movie proceeds in such a manner as to allow even those unfamiliar with the franchise to pick up who’s who and what’s going on. By the end of the movie, even the uninitiated will feel at home when watching the girls sing for Azusa in their final farewell to a dedicated friend.

  • As per the tradition, I’ve taken 30 screenshots and assembled them here. Admittedly, the task of giving all 30 figures captions will be a daunting task.

  • I now understand why this expression is so common in K-On!; it’s inspired by Peko-chan. A well-known mascot in Japan, Japanese viewers would have probably identified this expression’s origins immediately. I live on the other side of the planet, so it took me a little longer to catch on.

  • Because this is technically my third discussion of the movie, there isn’t really much I can add to the image captions with respect to plot and intricate details.

  • Yui’s paper mask is worn as punishment for rigging the selection process. How it manages to stay on is beyond my feeble knowledge of statics.

  • Back in December 2012, I did a short series of posts detailing the logistics behind a trip to London. Inspection of this image finds a large number of sticky bookmarks in Azusa’s book, suggesting a similar level of complexity in planning such a trip.

  • Digital cameras have come a long way: I find that for vacations, an ultra-compact point-and-shoot is appropriate for most things.

  • I make it a personal goal to ensure that no two images here are used twice. I took around 220 images a year ago while watching the K-On! Movie, and have expended roughly 100 of them.

  • Truth be told, the current summer has proven remarkably disappointing, as I have had no opportunity to travel by any means. Life has fallen into a melancholic pattern of waking up, lifting weights, doing software development, going home, and sleeping.

  • A portion of Skyfall is set in the London Underground: contrasting the girls’ relaxed demeanor, the atmosphere in Skyfall is tense as 007 pursues Silva through the tunnels; said pursuit ends with explosions and a train crash.

  • Noticeably absent from my previous posts, I have included here a screen shot depicting some of the sushi. Ritsu mentions wanting to see how London’s sushi stacks up to their sushi back home, but whenever I travel, I attempt to always try the local cuisine. Of note was a trip I took to Boston two years ago, where I had a whole lobster as part of a dinner, and the next day, Boston Chowdah and a lobster roll for lunch

  • On AnimeSuki, I gave the movie a nine of ten when I first saw it. The movie ranked as one of my favourites, but I docked a point for the movie’s nonexistent depiction of English cuisine and the absence of the SIS building.

  • Presently, if given the opportunity to re-evaluate the movie, the movie would score a perfect ten for being able to capture the spirit of travel as the girls see it, and for being able to ease the heart of stress.

  • An English dub of the movie was released recently, but it lacks the spirit that was present in the original Japanese language. For me, the debate between dubs and original voices is a strictly case-by-case examination (i.e. some shows are better in their original language, while others are better dubbed).

  • Countless others before me have found that all of the locations depicted in the movie are real, setting my standard for what I’ve come to expect from any anime set in non-Japanese nations.

  • Azusa acts as the girls’ travel guide, allowing the girls to visit various locales in the Earls’ Court area.

  • Random trivia: I work well with children, having acted as the assistant instructor to a Chinese language course for students at the primary school level. Since this isn’t a curriculum vitae, I’ll leave it at that.

  • Yesterday, I acquired a massive number of games through the Steam Summer Sale. The distressing point is that a bus ticket for City Transit costs as much as some of the games on discount.

  • While I said in a previous review that this were the most endearing scene in the movie, I think the time is right to actually include the image that prompts such a statement. I know that someone out there has a GIF of this, but for our purposes, that shan’t be necessary.

  • One of the most enjoyable things about travel occurs wherever a hotel or travel package includes a full English breakfast. Continental breakfasts are also an excellent variation.

  • The girls have the opportunity to explore a music store in London. Two years ago, on a trip to the New York area, for one reason or another, part of the tour included shopping at the Woodbury Outlet Mall. While prices were reasonable, the products were not anything that we could not have bought at hime. I subsequently spent much of the shopping trip browsing around a Sony Store.

  • After nightfall, Yui and company begin translating Gohan wa Okazu into English, but encounter some difficulties in doing so. While it is reasonable to assume that the girls have a reasonable capacity for English, translating from one language to another does require near-total fluency.

  • The girls put on their second performance at a conveniently timed Japanese Cultural exhibition. While hardly realistic by any stretch, I took this in stride because it offered a second opportunity for the girls to put on a show. They go above and beyond expectations, and very nearly miss their flight in doing so.

  • Regardless of what story it is, things always have a tendency to progress more rapidly as the flow of events draw to a close. In this case, the girls will decide the specifics of their farewell gift to Azusa after they return to Japan.

  • After their concert, Mugi composes the melody to what will become Tenshi ni Fureta yo!, although it is only thanks to a last minute suggestion from Yui that allows the song to take the name.

  • Azusa is seen gazing out the window wistfully, wondering what her seniors are up to and what the future will hold. The manga goes into depths as to what happens in Azusa’s last year as a high school student. The English version is expected for release in October 2013, while the University K-On! is supposed to release in less than two weeks.

  • Watching the girls running on the roof and crying out is perhaps my most favourite moment in the movie; simple emotions like these cannot be expressed in words, and here is perhaps the strongest moment of the movie for me.

  • The amount of effort that went into Tenshi ni Fureta yo! resonates within the lyrics; transcending language barriers, every line in the song sounds as sincere and meaningful in English as it does in Japanese.

  • The last few moments of the movie are set to a montage of the girls preparing their gift for Azusa. As with last time, writing a long post of any sort is quite exhausting, and as such, I will be wrapping things up shortly. By the way, this isn’t necessarily relevant to the K-On! Movie per se, but I’d like to know the rationale behind the lack of comments in my K-On! posts in general: are they substandard?

  • The most observant of readers might notice that my discussion bears striking resemblance to one of the more negative reviews of the movie out there. That is no coincidence: out of good sport, I wrote this post in that structure to both revisit the strong points in the movie and counteract some of the negative points.

  • The K-On! Movie is quite deserving to be recognised as a masterpiece, not on the basis of its story and characters, but on the virtue of how it is able to draw out the spirits behind travel and graduation.

It should be quite clear that the movie has retained all of its entertainment value even a year after its release; while the movie has sentimental value from my end (i.e. I watched it so closely to the MCAT), there are aspects that definitely make the movie worth watching. A year may have elapsed, but the movie remains as fun to watch as ever, whether it be the miscommunications caused by the girls’ minimal English understanding, the adventures they have in the Streets of London or the performances they put on wherever they go. I’m not certain whether or not there will be another K-On! manga or adaptation after the movie, and as such, future posts about K-On! will become fewer. However, future adaptations will be greatly anticipated. For the present, however, I am content to set aside the K-On! franchise and stand by my assertion that the series ends on a high note.

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