The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Akira Wada

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.

The end of K-On!

According to a Twitter post made a week ago, the final two chapters to the Kirara K-On! manga (documenting the university side of the story) will be released on June 9. The Kakifly side of the story (following Azusa and her Fresh Leaf Girls) will continued onwards.

  • When news of K-On!’s endgame was announced, the community erupted in mixed responses, leading to flame wars, accusations and general chaos. For those who read my posts for the pictures or lack time to take on the text, the end of K-On! left two different branches of the story that was eventually picked up by two manga publishers. The university side of the story will soon end.

The decision to drop Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s side of the story with the university crew was motivated by the difficulty in creating an engaging and realistic story, including exploring aspects of being a university student that are decidedly more mundane (like griping about GPA and courseloads) and social elements. The latter is especially problematic given the format of K-On! In my experience, university students are rather more social than their high school counterparts; on BHSc post-term celebrations and gatherings, there are over 20 different people that show up to events. The implications of this are that a more diverse range of characters will be needed to replicate the good times conferred by these gatherings, something that isn’t practical in terms of production. This aspect might account for why most anime are not in the university setting. Meanwhile, the Fresh Leaf Girls side of the story is capable of continuing, given that it is still set in the familiar high school setting, and having delved into each of the new girls’ backgrounds (such as Sumire’s relationship with Mugi), yields a  new yet familiar dynamic that the original K-On! was well-known for. Their story will continue for an undefined period of time, and likely explore the girls preparing for their school festival and welcoming performances.

  • K-On! was at its liveliest in the second season, and felt more than complete with the conclusion of the movie. By this point, things are being stretched out; while life itself is a continuous journey, continuously documenting it becomes similar to hearing people post trivial aspects of their lives constantly on social media services.

News of this has more or less raised a firestorm within the K-On! community, with fans undergoing a split as to whether or not it should have been the university or high school side of the story that should have gotten the axe. Proponents of the university side of things justify its continuation as necessary to take K-On! to new directions, while naysayers believe that the university setting is too difficult to maintain the manga’s previous feel. Supporters of the high school side of the deal, on the other hand, have to contend with claims that K-On! is effectively returning to its roots with different characters. Those who wish to see the high school side of things continue maintain that the manga is about a light music club rather than the characters.

  • The main problem the publishers encountered was securing enough material to make a university story worthwhile. Unfortunately for them, one of the main challenges included social elements (i.e. courtship) and how the environment found at the Women’s University would constrain that. This was presumably done to prevent otaku from committing crimes in protest of the turn of storyline.

For the time being, it appears that the university side of things will conclude with a performance of some sort. It is plausible that the two stories will merge when Azusa graduates, but realistically speaking, unless Azusa plans on attending the same university as the original four, this is a long shot. This can be said because Japanese post-secondary systems differ from Canadian ones: in Canada, most people attend the largest institute closest to them (such as the University of Alberta, University of Calgary and so forth), whereas the choice of post-secondary institutions are more varied and diverse in Japan. Azusa appears to be a pragmatic individual, so it is more probably that she will choose a college/university that will lead her to her career of choice. That said, it is also possible for the writers to push her towards the same university as the others for the sake of story, although this remains merely a possibility at this point in time.

  • Unlike lesser supposed “news” websites, I supply brilliant and succinct insights about things without the need to consult MS Thesaurus. I also happen to provide some of the best images to accompany my articles, and I don’t try to sensationalise something, nor do I cite unreliable and dubious sources (2ch comments are dirt in my books).

I’ve poked my nose into some of the well-traversed anime forums, and, let’s be honest: there is chaos, with forum-goers discussing potential future developments (some remain convicted that it will restart), arguing amongst themselves about trivialities within the manga or else raising concerns about otaku reaction to these announcements. What do I think about all this? The amount of discussion on this matter out there on the internet is an excessive overreaction. I have presented several of my own (rational) points on what could potentially be driving these decisions, but at the end of the day, the end of the manga is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, as there is plenty of other media out there to enjoy.

University K-On!

It’s been just under a year since the K-On! manga was released. The new manga was broken up into two independent stories: Manga Time Kirara would depict the university lives of the original Hokago Teatime members, while Manga Time Carat would focus on the lives of Azusa and Ui. It’s been a year, and having had the opportunity to read the chapters in the latest stories, it is clear that the manga is successfully delving into storylines that might be superfluous if adapted into another animated series.

  • It is hard to convince a high-school student that he will encounter a lot of problems more difficult than those of algebra and geometry.” -Edward W. Howe. Then you get to university and realise that trying to understand the TCA cycle and optimising a Red-Black tree (without causing a memory error) will kick your ass several times over.

On the Hokago Teatime side of the story, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi begin their lives as university students at J. Women’s University and gradually become accustomed to lectures and daily interactions with several people in their dorms, among them Akira Wada, Sachi Hayashi, Ayame Yoshida, Kana Yohii, Chiyo Hirose and Megumi Sokabe. While personal experience says that University is a time of writing papers, performing various wet-lab techniques (like Western Blots, PCR and SDS-PAGE) and studying for various exams, the manga depicts the lives of the girls as far more laid-back. This is, of course, a relative measure, as the girls nonetheless handle the stresses of university, as well as the radically different social environment; they quickly become friends with those in their dormatory, as they share similar interests. At the time of writing, we’ve mostly seen the girls’ daily lives during the academic semester, and have yet to see any major concerts or performances.

  • From left to right: Jun Suzuki, Ui Hirasawa, Nao Okuda, Sumire Saitō and Azusa Nakano.

Back in high school, Azusa has now assumed the role of the club president for the Light Music club. Together with Ui and Jun, she heads the club’s activities, and are soon joined by Sumire Saitō and Nao Okuda. While Azusa initially feels unqualified to handle the position, the support of her friends and Yamanaka-sensei spur her onwards, eventually convincing her to take on the role as the band’s new vocalist. She renames the band to “Wakaba Girls” (“Fresh Leaf Girls”) and begins forging new memories with the new band. Similar to the Hokage Girls, they have yet to actually perform in any concerts, and for the time being, much of the story has centered around practise sessions, the girls’ lives at school and more recently, a trip to a Kotobuki summer home, courtesey of Sumire, who revealed her family to be assistants for the Kotobuki family. This is how she got to know Mugi, and source material attributes their friendship to be as close as the relationship that Yui and Ui share.

  • The latest chapter of the manga set events at a Light Music Club Training Camp. In the anime, it is depicted as one part actual practise to several parts of goofing off in general.

The manga releases relatively infrequently, and I only read it on occasion (thanks to the awesome powers of CloudReader for iOS). Nonetheless, the new manga represents a logical extension to the events of the older manga and anime, and of course, it gives K-On! fans something to occupy their time with (assuming they aren’t swamped with exams, papers and grant proposals right now!) while they await the K-On! Movie; estimates put the release date of the Blu-Rays and DVDs in June at the earliest, although a more realistic expectation might be August 2012 or later.