The Infinite Zenith

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

Houkago Tea Time’s Encore: Considering a third season for K-On!

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” —Seneca

It’s been four years to the day that the K-On! Movie was premièred in Japanese cinema, and since then, aside from the pair of manga volumes released to conclude the series, plus the movie’s home release, interest in the K-On! franchise has diminished. At present, Kyoto Animation has directed its attention towards other projects, and despite the presence of unverified rumours, there appear to be no indicators that K-On! could continue, making use of the University K-On! and Wakaba Girls’ stories to form the basis for a third season. Officially, however, there are no plans to continue K-On! into a third season: Naoko Yamada, K-On!‘s director, is presently working on a film for the manga, A Silent Voice, and will be involved in a range of projects beyond K-On!. Moreover, from a marketing perspective, a lack of K-On! is logical, given that the anime and related merchandise saturated the market at the height of K-On!‘s popularity. With the novelty gone, a continuation of K-On! is unlikely to be viable from a financial viewpoint, and consequently, Kyoto Animation probably will not be adapting the final two manga volumes into an anime. Moreover, from a plot perspective, the K-On! movie, which dealt with how “Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!” came into being, acted as a final swan song that reinforced the idea that the seniors in Houkago Tea Time are immensely grateful that Azusa decided to stick with their club. This forms the core element for K-On! as the girls near graduation and begin to realise the full extent of Azusa’s contributions to their club. In choosing to reinforce this message twice (once in the second season and again with the movie), K-On! emphasises the importance of appreciation amongst friends, suggesting that a continuation would probably diminish the strength of K-On!‘s central theme.

  • All of this post’s screenshots were taken from the K-On! Movie‘s bonus features, where Aki Toyosaki and the others visit Universal Studios Japan, finding a dedicated K-On! exhibit there. It’s rare that there’s an opportunity to see the voice actors themselves, as most often, I merely watch the anime and then review it based on its merits.

  • Thus, it’s quite refreshing to see the people behind the characters; the voice actors bring life to each of the characters, and in K-On!, each character’s iconic voice is ingrained with the show. Thus, when we’re discussing continuations, it is almost mandatory that the voice actors of old be brought back to provide the voices. This was the case for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, and allowed the anime to feel quite similar to The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi despite being animated by a different studio.

  • The life-sized characters with their instruments are really something else, and the voice-actors find themselves impressed at the level of details that went into each model. K-On!, though not quite as widely-discussed now, was the true forerunner to most of the modern moé anime genre, as opposed to Haruhi: the latter made use of moé for comedy, but the high school club setting and using moé as a form of character interaction is more appropriately attributed to K-On!.

  • When the K-On! Movie was screening in Japanese theatres four years ago, I was just finishing the first term of my third undergraduate year, and busied myself with exam preparation. My excitement for the movie did not really begin until the home release was announced, and I was somewhat disappointed that it would be in the middle of MCAT season once the date was provided.

  • There was a seven month gap between the movie’s première and the home release, so I’m hoping that the wait for Girls und Panzer Der Film will be shorter, especially considering that the latter was a limited theatrical release.

Now that these practical elements have been considered, there remains the question: is K-On! meritorious of a third season, given the content present in these two manga volumes? The answer is a resounding “yes”, and there does exist a good justification that K-On! does deserve a third season, even if the number of practical constraints against it are numerous and well-reasoned. Before these justifications are explored, a short review of the history will be useful. The two manga volumes depicting events after Yui and the others graduate were published separately between April 2011 and June 2012: the segments of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s experiences in university were published in Manga Times Kirara, while Azusa’s time as the light music club’s new president was published in Manga Time Kirara Carat. Both manga volumes became available in English in 2013: the University volume was released in July 2013, and Azusa’s Wakaba Girls volume was released in October 2013. Both volumes are the size of one standard volume, and are structured in the same manner. Consequently, from a content perspective, there is enough material to occupy twenty-four episodes’ worth of time (twelve episodes per volume). Moreover, the animated adaptation could explore avenues inaccessible to the print medium, featuring new songs and concerts, and capture the feel for the new characters in ways that even the manga could not, giving audiences a glimpse into what’s happened to everyone following high school.

  • The new K-On! manga volumes following the fourth depict life for Yui et al. at university, as well as Azusa’s new role as the light music club’s president. She gains new members and manages the band in her own way, finding that Ritsu’s methods do influence her own approaches.

  • Logistically, the biggest challenge with adapting the new manga volumes and bringing their stories to life will be finding voice actors for Akira, Ayame, Chiyo, Megumi, Nao, Sachi and Sumire, as well as writing new songs for everyone to perform.

  • Beyond logistical difficulties associated with production and the anime’s theme, the manga definitely deserves an adaptation, as there’s definitely enough good material to make for at least 12 episodes (six for each volume). With that being said, I don’t have too high of an expectations that such a project will become a reality.

  • While it would be quite nice to swing by Universal Studios Japan and check out the K-On! exhibits should I ever be in that region, I imagine that the exhibits are temporary and consequently, this bonus feature will probably be the one place where I do see the exhibits.

  • All in all, just because a series merits a continuation does not mean it is likely to gain one: this is presumably the likely case for K-On!, so for the present, we will set aside the topic of K-On!. Regular programming resumes on Saturday with the release of Gochuumon wa Usage Desu Ka??‘s ninth episode.

Ultimately, K-On! has enough material for a third season, and furthermore, has enough good material to make a third season worth watching. However, the ramifications of continuing an anime that’s clearly finished must be considered, and consequently, it is unlikely that K-On! will see a third season on the basis that Naoko Yamada has concluded the series on a high note with the movie. My rationale aside, whether or not a third season of K-On! will become a reality will be left to the future. A continuation would likely deviate from the themes seen in the TV series and movie, especially given that Houkago Tea Time is no longer together, and that Azusa is now leading her own light music band in her own manner. While a third season would definitely be fun to watch, it would also be quite difficult to write for: whereas the K-On! Movie never really faced challenges about its story (as some purport), a third season would definitely will face challenges in weaving a consistent narrative. If done as a single season with twenty-something episodes, the challenge lies in picking points to stop one story and resume the other, while two separate seasons would introduce logistical difficulties. Unless a reasonable solution can be reached, the unusual format for the final remaining volumes of K-On! represents the main barrier towards adapting K-On! for its third season. If these problems can be overcome, K-On!‘s third season could prove to be quite successful, enchanting old and new viewers alike with its combination of music, comedy and an ever-present message about how the people one is with, rather than their activities, makes all the difference in the world.

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