The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Category Archives: K-On!

Winter Days!

As the cold winter weather moves in, Yui offers to have nabe with everyone, but the girls are drawn away from each other by various concerns and obligations. Mio retreats to the beach alone to get inspiration for her lyrics, Tsumugi gets a part-time job at a fast food restaurant, Ritsu goes to a movie with her little brother Satoshi, and Azusa looks after Jun’s pet kitten. However, Mio cannot think of any lyrics, Tsumugi buckles under the pressure of her first job, and Azusa is left panicked and uncertain what to do when the kitten seems to be ill. A random, silly text from Yui cheers up the others and she goes to help Azusa with the kitten, who was just coughing up a hairball. They all meet up for burgers at Tsumugi’s restaurant later, where Ritsu is shocked to learn that what she thought was a love letter addressed to her were actually song lyrics Mio wrote.

  • Back in 2009, Random Curiosity only provided 480p images. It does not do the first season any justice, so for the sake of discussion, all of my images are in full HD to better illustrate the kind of quality that goes into the animation in K-On!.

  • I know what readers are thinking: that even after the release of the movie, I’ve only just gotten around to looking back on OVA episodes from nearly four years ago. This arises because substantial advances in technology have made it possible to revisit these shows in much greater clarity and depth than was previously possible.

  • Unfortunately, because this episode can only be summarised as “Yui tries to get everyone together”, there isn’t really much I can say with respect to the episode. This is not to say the episode was not fun to watch, but rather, there is little to discuss. Of course, the anime pseudo-academics out there might disagree: this topic will be left for another day.

  • What I would like to note here is perhaps what would be an interesting paradigm shift I’ve noticed at Random Curiosity, my go-to source for anime discussions. I hold them in high regard and praise them for their fair discussions on anime: this is thanks largely owing to Divine and the current staff.

  • When K-On! was nearing its conclusion back in June 2009, the quality of writing was substantially more immature relative to its status now. In particular, K-On! was reviewed and discussed by one Jaalin, who joined the Random Curiosity staff back in 2006. Jaalin is mentioned here for his unnecessarily poor assessment of K-On!, citing the series to be, supposedly amongst other things, a “downhill tumble into the depths of moe abuse, plot repetition, lack of variety, uninspired narrative…” While individuals are entitled to their opinions, Jaalin does not recommend an audience for K-On!, something I’ve come to expect from any capable reviewer. Jaalin’s last posts on Random Curiosity end in April 2010.

  • It turns out that the wing-ding eyes have their origins back from season one. It had been nearly a year and a half since I had seen the first season when the movie came out, so I expressed a degree of surprise when the effect was noted. It turns out that numerous aspects from the movie are drawn from the first season, as well.

  • For what it is worth, individuals who decide to vocally criticise a series without any rational basis will appear uncouth. Ria is probably the best example I can find on Random Curiosity’s post about the thirteenth episode. I’ve doubtlessly mentioned elsewhere on my blog that the haters can be safely ignored, so the same applies here. Remember, folks, anime fans who try to write walls of text come across as trying to impress with their supposed intellect: that approach doesn’t work 😉

  • Mio’s attempts to write a song prove to be unfruitful: at this point in the episode, it looks like everything is going south for everyone, with Mugi visibly shaken after accidentally mixing up a customer’s order and spilling a soda on one of her co-workers, and Azusa in near-panic when Jun’s cat appears unwell. Moments later, everyone recieves a phone call from Yui about their hot pot, and the mood shifts back to the classic light-and-fluffy atmosphere we have come to expect 

  • As a side note, one of my family traditions does happen to be to have hot pot every New Year’s Eve. Featuring chicken, beef, lamb, shrimp, various vegetables and yi mein, the hot pot (打邊爐 in Chinese, or 火鍋) is a Chinese tradition that originated from Mongolia and would become popular in China during the Qing Dynasty.

  • Mio totally trolls Ritsu with her song’s lyrics, which the latter takes to be a love letter of some sort. I note that after this point, the excellent K-On! series is taken up by a highly competent writer for Random Curiosity, Divine, and subsequently, all of the reviews are fun to read and meaningful.

I suddenly realised that in my haste to watch K-On!! nearly two years ago, I shot through the first season of K-On! without giving it much consideration, other than the fact that there were some moments that I had found amusing. Of course, this isn’t to say that I have no opinions of the first season (contrary to my website, which only reviews the second season): there are several memorable episodes and events that make the series, as a whole, worthwhile. Winter Days proceeds to be an episode about nothing in particular, being set after the final concert of season one and changes the narrative between Azusa’s experience with taking care of Jun’s kitten, Ritsu expressing nervousness about the so-called “love letter” she gets in the mail, Mio’s efforts to get inspiration for song-writing, Mugi working at a fast food establishment and of course, Yui trying to bring everyone together for a hot pot of sorts. The episode fits in with the rest of the series as a post-game show: the episode is considered an extra, but some locations online have confused this as a finale episode or even OVA.

Visit!

Nodoka arrives in the clubroom with a sample of the graduation yearbook. The yearbook needs to be checked by Sawako, who is sick with a cold. Curious about what her apartment looks like, the girls decide to pay her a visit. While looking through the album, they find a mysterious hand in the group photo, which turns out to be Ritsu’s. Despite Sawako’s objection, the girls decide to help her out around the apartment. They briefly visit Azusa, who is busy rehearsing for her freshman reception with Ui and Jun.

  • Yui mimics a hadoken with her new-found skills at floating an orange.

  • Azusa with the classic “anime pouty face” after learning she was deceived about what really happened to Yamanaka sensei. By all standards, that was not exactly nice, but it does lend itself to humour; consider that even Mio is in on the festivities.

  • By the second season, Mio’s reactions to her fears have been more reasonable compared to those of the first season. Yui, on the other hand, remains just as irresponsible and forgetful in their senior year, but the manga reveals that she has begun to mature, as well.

  • In my high school days, I fondly recall people talking left and right about how pro the yearbook was, and then thinking to myself “I had a hand in its design!”. I usually don’t photograph well, but the graduation photographers are professional, and I recall some rather amusing reactions from my classmates (especially in biology) about the resulting photographs.

  • Just so we’re clear, there are no ghosts in K-On!! Ritsu practically admits to placing her hand on Yui’s shoulder. The hand can be seen, albeit in lower resolution, in the actual class picture itself.

At the very least, I got this discussion out before the month was out. Visit is the second OVA episode of K-On!!, occuring in the intermediate time before graduation but after their acceptance into the same university. Aside from being a throwback to the classical antics of the girls, this is where the announcement for the movie was first made. The episode itself focuses on the girls’ visit to Yamanaka sensei’s residence, with the aim of delivering and overviewing a yearbook and ultimately, reminding me of the days when I was a yearbook layout designer and photographer for my high school. I recall spending many Tuesday evenings hanging out at the library with the yearbook team and designing the school’s yearbook from scratch using software. However, as the year wore on, we found ourselves increasingly short on staff, and I ended up being the only member left on the team by March for each of the three years I was assisting (that is, student member: my instructors were there, of course). Of course, through alchemy, we were always able to assemble awesome yearbooks. However, that’s enough of my personal trip down memory lane; it really attests to how effective the storytelling technique is in K-On! in the sense that they are able to bring out particular high school memories vividly in my mind. This is perhaps the part of K-On! that I enjoy the most; with its focus on seemingly trivial, everyday events, the show reminds me that the small things in life can oftentimes be just as meaningful as the more grandose things, such as watching a sunset with my buddies.

  • This sunset is rendered well enough to give rise to a feeling that it is a crisp, cool evening rather than a warm, languid one seen during the summer.

  • When I mentioned ‘sharing a sunset’ with buddies, I refer to the gathering my PI hosted during the summer. Long after the sun set, and the night arrived on the mountains, we discussed the future of computational technology and the LINDSAY Virtual human over a cup of coffee.

  • Mugi is running…at THREE TIMES the speed of the others! Listening to Azusa and company play their own take of Fuwa Fuwa Time is a reminder of how far Hokago Teatime has come since Yui first joined the club. That said, when Azusa assumes presidency of the club, the band obtains new members.

  • I remember the yearbook photographer giving us suggestions about how to take effective images. Of course, that depends on the powers of the cameras one possesses: dynamic poses are only possible if the camera has a high shutter-speed.

  • “I never fail”, said Mio. This image proves otherwise.

This last episode revealed the existence of the K-On! movie, and that was soon answered by the release of the aforementioned movie in December. The DVDs and Blu-rays will take a while to release, so I will be discussing that in great detail once the opportunity presents itself. That said, this is likely a distant event on the horizon; like books, I require at least two passes before I can form a solid opinion of it. It is insufficient to watch a movie in the theatre and then try to get a good review up for two reasons: firstly, a second viewing allows for more details to be taken in, and secondly, no one wants to read a text-only review. I provide high quality discussions with plenty of screenshots, and so, readers will have to have patience for its release. In the meantime, the manga is still running and definitely merits checking out.

Planning Discussion!

Azusa finds the light music club’s attempted recruitment video from before she joined the club, which was so embarrassing that Mio hid it in a cookie can. In order to recruit some new members for the next year, the girls try to come up with pitches for a new recruitment video, but to no avail. After talking with Ui and Jun, Azusa comes up with the idea of filming a documentary of their activities, intersected with interviews from fellow students and staff. The video turns out great, besides one scene at the end which Azusa is not too keen on.

  • The original recruitment video was hidden in a cookie tin and sealed by Mio. However, Azusa’s curiosity dug too deep; you know what she released in the depths of that cookie tin…shadow and flame.

  • Contrasting the more creative and dramatic ideas of the others, Azusa wishes to keep the recruitment video more sensible and realistic. Both Jun and Ui end up joining the Light music club when the others graduate.

  • The guitars are rendered spectacularly. I watched the first season in DVD quality, and the second season in Blu-Ray quality. There’s actually quite a difference in how sharp everything is, making the latter worthwhile simply for quality.

  • Minimalism is generally a good thing in my opinions. It applies to architecture, and it certainly applies to design of things, whether they are websites or video. Part of what makes the recruitment video so heart-warming is its simplicity and how it is able to convey the thoughts of its members without resorting to flashier effects.

This episode goes back to the good old days of the humble beginnings of the light music club, and its half-hearted recruitment video, as well as shedding some light on Azusa’s side of the story. Azusa has hitherto expressed little doubts and fear with respect to her future, especially in the face of all of her senior friends graduating, and now, it becomes apparent as to why this is the case. with all the support her friends have given her, she remains collected until the enormity of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s graduation strike her in the finale. The development of a “serious” recruitment video is a reflective piece about what it means to really be a member of the Light Music club. This is apparent in the planning stages, which considered wild elements taking after the big-screen Hollywood films, mysteries, and even Death Note, but even more so in the end product, which simply depicts the daily activities of the club, alongside people’s various thoughts on said club. With some intense editing by Yamanaka-sensei, the completed recruitment video we are treated to exemplifies the Light Music club’s dynamics and atmosphere, capturing a sense of belonging that the girls share.

  • The underlying principles of K-On relate more strongly to my personal experiences at the ESD lab, rather than anything I participated in during my days as a high school student. When K-On! was first released, I was nearing the end of my days as a high school student, and my interests did not encompass genres like K-On!.

  • I would argue that an open mind is essential to enjoying anime; when I entered my undergraduate program, I also found myself feeling the stresses of the program I was enrolled in, and eventually returned to anime as a means of relieving that stress. Anime, then, is a hobby, and little more. I review things mainly because I enjoy writing (much as I do anime), and as such, I hardly ever post scathing reviews of something.

  • If memory serves correctly, I think Yui makes this face at some point, too.

  • Azusa nonetheless feels embarrassed by the new recruitment video and wishes to conceal it within the confines of the cookie tin, despite the overwhelmingly positive thoughts the video evokes from everyone else.

  • Like all things in life, K-On! is best taken in moderation. That is, it is fine to watch something, talk about it on occasion and collect some K-On! related stuff. If you come across a website of some guy with excessive anime gear, your best bet is to hit the “back” key, flush your browser’s cache, clear its history and quit the browser.

The other OVA I have yet to check out will involve a visit to Yamanaka-sensei’s home. Given I procrastinate on my hobbies, only time will tell as to how quickly I get that review out.

Plan!

After receiving souvenirs from Tsumugi’s trip to Finland following Summer Fest, the girls decide to plan for an overseas trip after graduation. They practice various things for overseas travel, only to realize that, besides Tsumugi, none of them has a valid passport. While lining up to hand in their passport applications, Ritsu realizes she forgot her ID so she sends her brother, Satoshi, to fetch it. Mio needs to take a suitable photograph to complete her application, but keeps getting bothered by the others while attempting to take it. With everyone having their own ideas of where they would like to go, Yui suggests that they go on a second trip after Azusa graduates.

  • This OVA was released nearly a year after the ending of the series proper, and as such, I was inclined to check it out. Unfortunately, a busy academic schedule prevented me from seeing this episode until the late summer.

  • The girls discuss potential destinations to visit: for those who didn’t catch the destinations in the movie (or its trailers), they were actually mentioned way back during this scene, although they deviate slightly from their decisions in the movie. Yui wanted to go to New York, Mio wanted to go to Great Britian, Ritsu wanted to go to Hawaii, and Tsumugi had no qualms about the location.

  • The girls ultimately do not settle on a location; in fact, the destination is not confirmed until a little ways in the movie; by that point, Mio’s wish to go visit Great Britain is narrowed down to London. A sharp-eyed observer will see Mio imagining herself at Abbey Crossing already.

  • Azusa and Ui are out buying books to gather more intel on their trips. Ui picks up an interesting book on self-defense. Travel sections are standard-issue at local bookstores: I usually leaf through books concerning Canada, Hong Kong and other localities. The guidebooks by Lonely Planet are quite excellent, and a few days ago, I picked up a free gift from iTunes: the iBook Best in Travel 2012.

  • I don’t know whether or not this has been mentioned anywhere else yet (if not, consider this to be an official seal of approval), but the defensive techniques the girls experiment with draw their form from the Okinawa Gojuryu  Karatedo Kugekai branch. I say this, rather than ‘derived’, because what we do see is how I was taught not to execute the manoeuvres.

Set before episode 14 and released on March 16, 2011, this was a bonus episode found on the ninth volume of the K-ON Blu-ray/DVD releases. The events are cleverly orchestrated to set up the context of a movie, depicting the girls as they go about planning their vacation. In the context of the show, this means watching as they try to choose a destination and going through the processes of getting a passport. While these events are rather tedious in the context of reality, watching Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Mugi and Azusa going through these motions was a fitting set-up for the events that would eventually happen in the movie.

  • Having mastery in English and Cantonese Chinese, I’ve always found myself taking language courses for my own amusement. According to my former Japanese instructor, having a mind towards learning the basics of a new language is an innate talent. My former German instructor said that total mastery of a language only comes with at least eight years of total immersion in the environment. I personally feel that being able to read a newspaper or order food at a restaurant represents a respectable degree of skill with a particular language. Enough of this “personal reflection” stuff: I derive immense amusement from watching anime characters wielding English.

  • Mio’s attempt to look more adult-like with her ponytail backfired, and retaking a photo somehow became an event in its own rights. The best aspect about slice-of-life anime is how they are able to draw our eye to everyday details which we have grown accustomed to. I recall waiting an eternity to renew my passport many years ago.

  • Sharply contrasting North America, girls in Japan are depicted to dress more traditionally (skirts) while they are on vacation. On this side of the planet during the summer…well…

  • Yui insists that their band is Houkago Tea Time regardless of where they are in the world, reinforcing the fact that the band we see here is firmly established, contrasting the days when Yui first joined the Light Music club, which was (then) in disarray.

  • The girls add “getting a passport” to their list of things they’ve done together now, reminding us of how closely-knit they are.

That said, those who are awaiting the movie’s arrival on Blu-Ray/DVD might be inclined to check this out if they haven’t already done so; those who have already seen this episode (and are awaiting the DVD/Blu-ray releases) might re-watch it while they await the movie’s release. I understand that this is probably one of my longer posts and that it resembles the content found on my website. This blog is useful in the sense that I am able to make posts of any length on a much shorter notice than with the website.