The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: K-On! The Movie

Why anime film reviews cannot be “spoiler-free”: A case study through the K-On! Movie

“It’s about communication. It’s about honesty. It’s about treating people in the organisation as deserving to know the facts. You don’t try to give them half the story. You don’t try to hide the story. You treat them as true equals, and you communicate and you communicate and communicate.” —Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

  • The short version of this post is, if you see a post on a blog about an anime movie you’ve been interested in watching, the movie’s BD/DVDs aren’t out yet, and the post says its spoiler free, don’t click on it if you’re looking to avoid spoilers. Granted, the blogger gets less traffic, but your movie-going experience is rather more important. Bloggers looking to write a review on an anime movie before the BD/DVD release should clearly state that their post will have spoilers and not attempt to misrepresent it.

A glance at the calendar shows that there are numerous anime movies releasing within the next half-year, most notably, the Girls und Panzer movie. These anime films are going to be highly anticipated, but it’s not difficult to spot that discussions on anime movies represent a different sort of challenge for both viewers and reviewers alike. Rather than releasing within a week of the original air date, anime movies only become accessible to overseas audiences via home releases. Barring an opportunity to time a visit to Japan with the release of a movie, viewers typically must wait for the movie’s home release in order to view said movie. As such, English-language discussions for an anime movie are virtually non-existent until the home releases come out.

Consequently, individuals looking to maximise their enjoyment of these movies typically avoid any websites and/or blogs discussing these anime movies. However, in passing years, there have cases where some reviewers purport that it is possible to provide a meaningful discussion without introducing spoilers into their review. These spoilers, defined here to be any piece of information from a part of the media that detracts from the experience, especially with regards to details entailing a narrative’s plot. However, a review aims to evaluate its medium based on how effectively it satisfies what the audience was anticipating, whether it be how well a story is told, how effectively characters contribute to plot progression, whether or not suspense elements are effective, and so on. These discussions are only effective if the reviewer is able to draw upon specific details within a medium to support their evaluations, and more often than not, said details overlap with information that would constitute a spoiler. As such, an effective, useful review that is simultaneously spoiler-free is a contradiction and cannot exist.

A review is intrinsically spoiler-laden by definition and as such, when a review about an anime movie claiming to be “spoiler-free” is written, it would doubtlessly turn heads. Such a review was written at Yaranakya concerning the K-On! Movie, posted nearly a month after it had premièred in Japan. In this review, Cytrus (the author) opens with a disclaimer, stating that it would not “important plot points or describe scenes in detail”, restricting its contents only to “themes and contents in broad terms”. Unfortunately, this review is unsuccessful from the start: Cytrus suggests that the movie faced unknowns during production, as this marked the first time the K-On! franchise was stepping onto the silver screen and is forced to reveal that the whole point of the K-On! Movie was not about London itself, but rather, to present the story behind how Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! came about. Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! acts as the cornerstone for the entire film, and London itself is a secondary aspect that provides a backdrop for Houkago Teatime as they aspired to write a song that captured how they felt about Azusa. In doing so, the film aims to illustrate that “everything is special if the group of individuals one is with is special, regardless of what one is doing”.

The reason for each of the artistic decisions within the film is motivated by this objective, and any review must adequately address this if it is to assess whether or not the K-On! Movie is worth watching. The “spoiler-free” review in question ultimately cannot maintain its no-spoiler policy: in order to analyse the overarching themes within the film, critical plot elements must be mentioned. The end result is a review that does a disservice to the readers. The title misrepresents the review by suggests that its readers will be able to peruse its contents without gaining information on the film that would subsequently diminish the film’s impact. Instead, Cytrus clearly states in its body that Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!, and not London, is the keystone to the K-On! Movie‘s plot.

While K-On! is considered to be an anime where there is intrinsically limited opportunity for spoilers, it nonetheless represents an interesting case study illustrating that even in something as simple as K-On!, it is nigh-impossible to completely eschew spoiler elements. As such, while the review in this discussion reaches a reasonable verdict on the movie, it winds up making use of spoilers and ultimately violates its own no-spoiler policy. Consequently, any readers who were looking for a true “spoiler-free” review will not find one at Yaranakya. Cytrus demonstrates that even the best efforts to avoid spoilers are unsuccessful, because a meaningful review must directly address plot points. Inconsequential this might be for a franchise such as K-On!, there are implications for anime films that are story-driven: conceivably, readers may encounter blogs that might profess to have a “spoiler-free” discussion and wind up learning something that diminishes their own enjoyment of the film later on.

This ties in with the upcoming Girls und Panzer movie; the franchise’s popularity doubtlessly mean that a greater number of people might consider visiting Japan in November 2015 for the film’s premier. This would statistically mean that there could be a greater volume of discussions concerning the movie, with writers publishing talks on their experiences with the film. However, given that spoilers are inevitable in any good discussion, individuals looking to maximise their own enjoyment of the Girls und Panzer movie (and other upcoming anime films in general) should minimise contact with said discussions, whether or not they are marked as spoiler-free or not: discussions tend to be more meaningful when individuals learn of critical plot elements and piece them together for themselves.

  • While it’s unlikely to be the case, there could be a number of casual bloggers out there are willing to sink in a few thousand dollars to fly over to Japan and watch the Girls und Panzer Movie after it airs. After the film’s home release comes out, I will strive to get a review of the film out, and I’ll do two things that a review written after the theatrical première cannot do: I’ll have plenty of screenshots, and a masterful discussion that ties everything together without the need to worry about spoilers.

Investigating Unacceptable Academic Practises in Dani Cavallaro’s “Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography”, with a case study on the K-On! Movie

“Taking something from one man and making it worse is plagiarism.” —George A. Moore

  • This post is a little lengthy and formatted differently to ensure that the message in the paragraphs below are not lost: the take-away message is that as an academic author, one must ensure that their sources are credible and reliable. Blogs do not qualify as a reasonable resource, and so, when an author makes extensive use of them, the possibility exists that the opinion expressed by blog’s author winds up being considered to be “credible” as an academic source. Thus, this post will aim to offer insight as to why Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography should not be regarded as a serious, much less as a correct, source for K-On! analysis.

On the first lecture for my health research literacy course five years ago, the topic of what constituted as acceptable sources for academic writing was presented. The lecturers stressed the importance of using peer-reviewed primary literature, which process ensures that a source’s contents are accurate, correct and meaningful, making them useful as the grounds for future research. The message from lecture has since guided all of the research and papers that I partake in, and while this process is far from perfect in academia, it does prevent poor articles from being used as sources. Undergraduates are encouraged to stick to peer-reviewed articles, and informed that online resources, such as websites, are typically discouraged (unless they are authoritative in their field, such as the Protein Data Bank). Blogs happen to fall under this latter category, and students who cite blogs in their coursework will likely receive a failing grade for that submission. Similarly, a paper submitted to a conference or a journal may be rejected for citing blogs, given that blogs are not peer-reviewed and therefore do not follow any standards outlined by journals or conferences. However, at least one text out there appears to have quietly slipped by these standards: Dani Cavallaro’s Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography is purportedly intended as an academic reference on Kyoto Animation. While it sounds exciting, a closer inspection of the text will prove disappointing: Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography is poorly-written and convoluted, making use of archaic jargon that demands a dictionary for comprehensibility. More significantly, Cavallaro’s passage contains assessments of the K-On! Movie that are completely incorrect, and additionally, appear to be plagiarised from anime blogs and personal reviews. These are red flags in academia, signalling that the source is not going to be meaningful.

The entirity of Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography is filled with errors, but for this discussion, the focus will be on a few of the errors concerning the K-On! Movie for brevity’s sake; the list of grievances with Cavallaro’s take on the K-On! Movie is sufficiently large to comfortably fill a separate volume . It is necessary to reinforce the idea that the K-On! Movie has two main goals: to convey the story of how Tenshi ni fureta yo! came about, and to emphasise the fact that Houkago Teatime is Houkago Tea time regardless of where they are in the world. These are the factors that are driven home by the movie. However, in the lengthy passage introducing the movie, Cavallaro erroneously claims that the K-On! Movie faced two challenges pre-production. The first of these is that supposedly, Yamada and the others had to somehow “conjure a drama [that] could be deemed sufficiently engrossing to stand the test of the big screen”. This is false, given that the movie would have lost the very elements that made it appealing to begin with, had drama been the focus. Instead, the K-On! Movie is able to convey its message by means of an overarching story to show how the girls’ graduation gift for Azusa leads them on this journey, and that, true to Yui’s words, the girls retain their carefree approach even in a city like London. Thus, the challenge Yamada et al. faced was deciding on the appropriate story to tell that could make the film memorable for the viewers. Cavallaro cites the second challenge to be making the film stand out from The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, which had been a critical and commercial success following its release in 2010. The second challenge directly contradicts the first: K-On! stands out from Haruhi precisely because of its laid-back atmosphere, which allows for each of the characters’ personalities to be developed and differentiated from one another. K-On! was already intrinsically accessible, which means that Yamada et al. would simply needed to retain these attributes if their film were to be enjoyed by both existing fans and a more general audience. Neither of the listed factors affect the artistic decisions in the film to the extent that Cavallaro is conveying: at one point, Cavallaro mentions that the artistic details in the movie were specifically adjusted to appeal to the general audience. If the film was meant for a general audience, and the art shows this, does this not already make the film unique from The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi? It is clear that Yamada et al. were aware of the film’s intended audience, so their goal could not have been (and is not) to create a film that could outshine The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi. Aside from the pair of contradictory challenges, Cavallaro also misidentifies the performances in the film, claiming that “the girls never played for a nameless crowd but[sic] always somebody important to them”. Within the film, Yui and the others put on an impromptu concert for the patrons of a newly-opened sushi bar, and later, agree to a performance at a culture festival in London. It is only the final two performances in the film that are performed for familiar faces (classmates, and Azusa, respectively). When taken together, the intent of these performances is to highlight the fact that the Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa retains their unique approaches to doing things that is independent of where they are; as noted earlier, this serves as the major theme to the movie that Cavallaro somehow misses.

As one might intuitively proceed, after encountering these serious errors in Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography, the first thing to do was to follow the citations, which are provided in-text. One might reasonably expect that when a paper with flawed information arises, tracing through the citations to the source of that information may find that the source was incorrect. When reading through Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography’s bibliography, a large number of personal blogs are found. Upon closer inspection, it turns out Cavallaro subsequently (and crudely) paraphrases from these, using them for her book’s passages. These behaviours toe the line for what is considered to be plagiarism and should have warranted the removal of the books from distributors. These are serious faults, meaning that what was intended as an academic reference for Kyoto Animation is in fact meaningless for any serious discussion. Aside from the obvious issue of plagiarism, Cavallaro’s extensive use of blogs for information, as observed in Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography, gives rise to several problems. The most notable of these is that blogs are not peer-reviewed and therefore, follow no set standard (as would peer-reviewed literature) that ensures the writing’s quality and value are acceptable. In the case of the anime blogs Cavallaro cites, the blog passages were written from a strictly personal perspective and offer insights into how the blog’s author viewed the K-On! Movie: they are not meant to inform the reader of what Kyoto Animation intended to do with the K-On! Movie and therefore, would be meaningless for any sort of analysis. Moreover, by citing blogs for the purposes of academic writing, Cavallaro potentially allows a single blog writer to dictate the discourse for the K-On! Movie and its interpretations within an academic setting. With this singular perspective now in a book (considered to be an acceptable resource for academic research), this means that bloggers can potentially influence how scholars ought to look at anime. After the blogger’s interpretation is published, other individuals may unknowingly accept this view as true even if it contradicts with the author’s view of the work. In this case, while a blog’s author is (and should be) free to express their opinions on the K-On! Movie, any one interpretation cannot be accepted as fact suited for academia because there is no evidence to show that they are in fact consistent with Naoko Yamada and Yoshihisa Nakayama’s view points on the movie. Through these actions, Cavallaro potentially enables bloggers to displace Naoko Yamada and Yoshihisa Nakayama’s intents for the K-On! Movie. Another problem that arises from citing blogs is that blogs are non-permanent: should the author choose to modify the post, delete the post or even the entire blog, the record disappears, and it will be as if the source never existed to begin with.

For all the damage that Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography has the potential to do towards any scholarly publication concerning Kyoto Animation, the fact remains is that such a book has been published, fraudulently taking what bloggers intend to be a personal reflection and transmuting that into a purported fact. When everything is said and done, there are two things that scholars should be mindful of. The first is that as an academic writer, one should not depend on personal blogs as reliable sources of information. The second is that Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography should not be regarded as a meaningful or serious resource for scholars looking publishing papers about Kyoto Animation (and especially not on K-On!); there is no indicator that Cavallaro possesses the academic background and qualifications to be writing about Japanese animation (from the sound of things, Cavallaro has not even seen the K-On! Movie). The validity of the book’s contents are of questionable value, merely regurgitating what bloggers are saying rather than coming up with any novel or meaningful interpretations of Kyoto Animation’s works. As it stands, one hopes that no scholar will use the book as a means of corroborating their own points and only apply it towards pointing out flaws with Cavallaro’s passages. A little bit of background reading shows Cavallaro as a reasonably well-known author who has applied similar techniques towards talking about other anime genres. Given my experience with Kyoto Animation: A Critical Study and Filmography and Dani Cavallaro’s background (or lack thereof), I find that this author gives readers little reason to trust her credibility as a scholar. The claims in her books are fraudulent, and therefore are not meritorious of being used as a reliable resource for those who aim to conduct research of any kind surrounding Kyoto Animation.

  • Am I more qualified than Dani Cavallaro to talk about K-On!? I wonder if the real Dani Cavallaro will stand up to contest my assertion that the short answer is “yes”: the full answer is long and uninteresting, but I do have the advantage of having seen the movie for myself.

A Closer Look At the Spoiler-free K-On! Movie Review: Is the Film Still Relevant After Two Years?

Two years have now elapsed since the K-On! Movie was released on DVD and Blu-ray, making it accessible for the first time to viewers. When the movie was originally screened in Japan, it was December 3, 2011, and at the time, the date for a home release was completely unknown. It was not until April 29, 2012, that the DVD/BD release would be announced, finally providing a concrete release date. Prior to this announcement, three reviews were published to the internet, and at the time, curious parties who felt that spoilers were not much of a concern would read these articles to gain a rough idea of what the K-On! Movie would be like. All of these early reviews take on a slightly different approach towards discussing the film, touching upon various parts of the film that made it worthwhile for the respective authors. These reviews were the sole sources of information about the K-On! Movie for nearly eight months, until the depths of summer 2012 arrived. The K-On! Movie was finally released, allowing viewers to watch the movie for themselves. I myself produced two different reviews of the movie, noting that the movie’s core message was that “everything is special if the group of individuals one is with is special, regardless of what one is doing“. When it was released, discussions were quickly ignited by excited fans. However, discussions became increasingly infrequent as time wore on, and by Winter 2014, it seemed that K-On! has fallen from all thought and knowledge. However, the K-On! Movie illustrates that, even if two years have indeed passed since the movie’s home release, there still are things that merit further discussion.

  • It’s the two-year anniversary of the K-On! Movie‘s home release now, although strictly speaking, the movie released on December 3, 2011 in Japanese theatres. This talk will be slightly different than my previous reviews: whereas the figure captions previously dealt with the movie itself, this time, I’ll do short commentaries of some things surrounding the K-On! Movie rather than talk about specific scenes in the movie.

  • The first thing that comes to mind is how viable it would be to travel to Japan to watch an anime movie. Shortly after the K-On! Movie was released, I read about how some individuals made a trip to Japan solely to watch the movie, or even moved there to get access to movies earlier.

  • The question that is subsequently raised would be whether or not would I have visited Japan to watch the movie on its premier. The answer to that is no: December is exam and term paper season, during which I need all of my time to finish things. I was just completing my Fall term for my third year at the time, and was busy with an agent-based Na+/K+-ATPase pump simulation, an introductory Japanese course, reporting on the effects of introducing point mutations into E. coli and several exams. Some may consider my priorities to be skewed, but work comes before anime without fail.

  • I am slightly disapproving about going to Japan for the sole purpose of watching an anime movie, as it would be tantamount to shelling out for a ticket equivalent to the total cost of transportation, accommodations and food in addition to the movie ticket itself (so, a movie ticket costing between one and two thousand dollars). Conversely, if I were to be in Japan for a vacation or visit when an anime movie releases, I might take the time to watch it, provided that it does not disrupt too much from time otherwise spent sightseeing or enjoying Japanese cuisine.

  • Given the popularity of K-On!, I am surprised that cinemas in Canada did not even consider screening the movie, but as of late, they are doing screenings for more anime. As mentioned in earlier discussions, I missed all of them, but if they decide to do what is right and screen the Girls und Panzer movie, I will make every effort possible to see it, even if it means sacrificing myself!

The general lack of interest in K-On! stems from several factors: after the movie was released, Kakifly’s final installments of the manga were published and closed off the story. It was clear that K-On! had reached its conclusion, and that Houkago Tea Time’s journeys into the future, whatever they may entail, are left as an exercise for the audience. However, there is no challenging the impact that K-On!‘s animated adaptation has had on the slice-of-life genre, and anime in general. While the “cute girls do cute things” sub-genre has existed since the early 2000s, and Kyoto Animation itself adapted Lucky Star, which had a similar atmosphere, K-On! held an appeal to the audience well beyond the typical demographics associated with anime. Through its presentation of a slow-paced, carefree lifestyle for its central characters, K-On! captured the viewers who wished to simply relax and be entertained. In both seasons, the central story is loosely coordinated by Yui Hirasawa’s half-hearted desire to join her high school’s light music club, and in the process, eventually discovers her own passion for music, as well as making a group of inseparable friends. The first season aired in 2009 and was so popular that a second season aired a year later with twice the episodes. When the second season drew to a close, several OVAs were released, showcasing Houkago Tea-Time’s desire to go abroad. They go through the passport application process and think of places to go, but as OVAs, nothing more came out of it until the K-On! Movie was announced.

  • The music in  K-On! is something I previously did not choose to discuss in great depth because, while adding to the show’s light and fluffy atmosphere, it wasn’t something that I originally felt as standing out as to deserve unique mention. It’s standard fare that’s pretty upbeat and fluffy (depending on the song’s origins), but upon closer inspection, the music speaks volumes about what K-On! is.

  • The movie soundtrack and vocals are a mix of old and new, reminding viewers that even though this is a movie, it’s still a movie about Houkago Tea-time. Of course, one could take things differently: there are old songs, so this is a movie about Houkago Tea-time, but there are also new songs that remind viewers that this is a movie that’s going to do something a little bit differently than the TV series.

  • There are a grand total of four major performances in the K-On! Movie, starting with an unexpected, hastily prepared-for presentation at the Sushi bar, a performance at the London Japanese Culture Fair with Yamanaka-sensei looking on, followed by a performance for their classmates back home, and lastly, an emotionally charged song for Azusa. Every subsequent performance becomes more intimate and personal in nature.

  • In general, opening songs in K-On! are performed by Aki Toyosaki, while ending songs are performed by Youko Hisaka. The latter produces songs that are more intense and passionate, reflecting on Mio’s desire to make music, while Toyosaki’s songs are fluffy and full of life, mirroring Yui’s easy-go-lucky approach to life. I particularly love the opening song, Ichiban no Ippai!, which has a light, springy feel to it that evokes Christmas morning. The inset song, Unmei wa Endless!, is set in the middle of the movie to a montage of the girls exploring London their own way. Fast-paced, this song gives the girls’ adventures a quick, fleeting feeling to it. While they have a great deal of fun, these moments also happen very quickly.

  • Much praise was voiced about the ending song, Singing!, for how well the sequences were animated, and for the song’s lyrical composition. With Hisaka’s passionate performance and lyrics that speak volumes about the Houkago Tea-Time’s adventures, the song also mentions how this act is coming to a close, and that Houkago Tea-Time will continue to forge into the future together. Singing! is said to summarise Houkago Tea-Time’s entire story quite nicely and act as the franchise’s main theme.

A feature film presents a unique set of challenges to its writers if said writers are moving from a TV series to the movie format. In an interview with director Naoko Yamada and producer Yoshihisa Nakayama, it turns out that “[they had] to make it special for a film, and more dynamic on a bigger scale” (Yoshihisa). When it comes to K-On!, a series characterised by its languid pacing and lack of significant conflict, it seems logical that the movie would likely have a similar pacing. In the end, the movie winds up with the same feel as the TV series. Yamada must therefore answer the question of coming up with something to give the movie a special feeling to it: this answer turns out to be illustrating the emotional journey the girls take towards finding and making a suitable graduation gift for Azusa, who has shared two years’ worth of memories with the older girls. It follows that, though it may be contrary to the promotional materials, London winds up being a secondary element in the film that forms one of the stepping stones towards the end-goal to make a memorable farewell. Viewers find that, in the movie, the girls disregard convention for travel and wind up having a good time in their own way, quite differently than the images typically conjured by mention of travel. This is precisely because the trip to London was, in actuality, a fabrication made to conceal the girls’ preparations towards Azusa’s gift: even as the girls travel London, their thoughts do not stray far from the gift. When Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi actually see the trip through with Azusa, it is a reminder of the strength of their friendship, and together, planned or not, the girls have a good time, reflecting on their propensity towards ad hoc decisions and making the most of anything that happens. Azusa’s gift thus forms the movie’s entire focus, and it is this aspect that lends itself to how the movie was executed, including the pacing and artistic style.

  • I’ll now take a few moments to consider the post’s title: there is no doubting that K-On! left a large impression on anime, and in fact, after K-On!, several anime (most notably, Kokoro Connect and Tamako Market) have drawn inspiration from the character designs in K-On!. There are also a greater number of anime that now place an emphasis on the idea of “cute girls doing cute things”. K-On! has been criticised for dragging down the industry before, but while “dragging down” or even “damage and harm” might be a little excessive, the fact is that K-On! does have at least some impact and therefore, still is relevant as an anime.

  • As of late, two anime I’ve watched come to mind whenever I think of something that evokes the K-On!-esque feel to it, including GochiUsa and SoniAni, both of which can warm the heart on the right day as K-On! does, and are similar in composition, mood and pacing, lacking a centralised story and trading that off for glimpses into the character’s everyday lives.

  • Besides the “cute girls doing cute things” premise, another aspect from K-On! that have permeated other anime include a preference towards music. Following K-On!‘s success with in-show performances from the voice actors, other series began following suit and included musical performances to capitalise on what was hot. Angel Beats! is the first example that comes off the top of my head: here, the concerts act as little more than distractions to allow the SSS to conduct their missions, although strictly speaking, there are a host of other methods to allow a successful “Operation Tornado”. However, producers reason that fans sufficiently entertained by the music in the concerts are likely to buy the albums, which would improve profits, accounting for their inclusion.

  • As time wears on, while K-On!‘s role in all of this will be forgotten, the fact is that some of the trends in K-On!, whether it be the moé artistic style, plot and pacing or music, have made their way into other anime and shaped them into what they are. The reason for this is because this is the style that’s presently popular, although one cannot say that moé is “harming” the industry or “pandering” to viewers of a certain demographic.

  • Changes to an industry happen over a very long time, and whether or not moé is in the equation, the fact is that as long as there is a demand for anime of different kinds, anime of different kinds will be produced. There may come a day, far out there, when moé becomes less popular, and a lack of plot becomes a shackle, slowing down the story and reducing viewership. On such a day, I know there will be other anime willing to step up to the plate and entertain, and when that happens, I’m pretty sure that people will be entertained as long as they hold an open mind.

Besides making use of Azusa’s graduation gift as the catalyst to hold the film together and achieve the scale the producers were seeking, the K-On! Movie is also able to succeed in making the film “work as a stand-alone film, so you could enjoy it if you’ve never seen the TV series. But at the same time, it had to appeal to the fans of the series as well, so that’s the discussion that we had, and the direction we decided on” (Yoshihisa). Far from being a challenge the producers would have fought to maintain, accessibility was improved precisely because the movie’s dynamics and scale was handled by the graduation gift. This focus meant that the film could be of a much greater scope than anything from the TV series, and with a large scale achieved, the film is free to proceed as the TV series did in terms of pacing. This slower pace means that the girls’ personalities can be fleshed out, allowing newer viewers to get a feel for each of Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Mugi and Azusa’s personalities. Fans of the series, already familiar with the pacing, will be reminded of the elements that makes each character unique. In the end, one might go so far as to say that, in maintaining the pace from the TV series, the movie provides the writers with the liberty of depicting the characters going about their business. In doing so, they have allowed for enough time to be allocated towards showing off personalities for each character such that viewers get a sense of who everyone is, while simultaneously advancing the girls’ adventures in Japan and London without compromising the pacing. Consequently, the movie reinforces Yui’s notion that “Houkago Tea Time is Houkago Tea Time, regardless of where they are in the world.”

  • Admittedly it was remarkably difficult to come up with figure captions for the images in this post, as I exhausted all of my commentary in last year’s re-visitation. In the final five images that decorate this post, I’ll briefly compare and contrast the differences between watching a movie in the theatre, and watching a movie at home, as well as the merits of each.

  • I’ll begin with the theatre-going experience, which yields a significantly larger screen and better sound quality, as well as that advantage of being able to watch it without much of a wait. Moreover, with few spoiler materials floating about, any impact the movie has will be amplified, making the experience even more memorable. Lastly, from a budget consideration, the average cost of watching a movie is roughly sixteen dollars, which is half that of a DVD.

  • Watching a movie at home at 1080p confers the benefits of not requiring a trip to the local cinema. For those with a sufficiently large screen and sound system, movies can be enjoyed in a reasonably high quality, while adding additional benefits of being able to pause the movie to go get snacks. While a home release is more expensive than a movie ticket, if a movie is worth purchasing, it’s probably worth watching several times, so the cost eventually pays for itself.

  • From a personal perspective, I prefer the theatre experience because it offers a considerably greater degree of immersion. For the duration of the movie’s running time, it feels as if I’m right there to watch things go down (doubly so since the advent of 3D movies), and there is a thrill about not knowing what happens next. However, solely for anime, all of my experiences have been home releases: besides the small matter of the impracticality to fly over the Pacific to watch an anime movie, it’s also nice to be able to pause and rewind to check out some details for any reviews I plan on drafting out.

  • Thus ends yet another K-On! post, which after two years, acts as an excellent and satisfying conclusion to the K-On! franchise in addition to bringing back a lot of memories for me around summer 2012. As it stands now, although the contents in this post was fun to think about and write, and the film retains all of its charm, K-On! discussions have lost their magic. I do not imagine that I will make another talk in a year’s time, so for the present, this will be the last K-On! post for the Infinite Mirai.

At the end of the day, the K-On! Movie makes the step up to the silver screen not by doing something grand from a visual or story perspective, but instead, focuses on genuine, honest feelings as the girls prepare their gift for Azusa. By allowing the pacing to remain as it was for the TV series, the film makes itself open to new viewers and long-time fans alike. It follows that every artistic and stylistic choice in the film would not stem from the challenges the production team faced, but rather, result from building the film around the idea of a heart-felt graduation gift. Moreover, the themes of friendships, adventure and memories are timeless; as such, the K-On! Movie is a film that will age well and continue entertaining future audiences for years to come with its light-hearted, gentle moods as the franchise’s pièce de résistance, representing a masterful balance between preserving the spirit of K-On! and scaling it up to create a worthy feature presentation for the silver screen. Things like these ultimately mean that, even if the K-On! Movie is not widely discussed, it has not lost any of its relevance as the pinnacle of both the K-On! franchise and as a standalone film.

An Interview With the Director and Producer of the K-On! Movie

Back in 2012, K-On!‘s director, Naoko Yamada, and one of the producers, Yoshihisa Nakayama, attended one of the screenings of the K-On! Movie in Glasgow, Scotland to introduce the film to its audience, and subsequently, participate in an interview session with the audience. As the series’ director (for both the TV series and film), Naoko has also been involved in storyboarding and animation. Through the interview, a thirty-minute session, key decisions and moments in the movie are elaborated upon, providing a greater understanding of the movie’s conception and design. The interview follows, just below the image.

  • The questions below are an approximate reconstruction of what the original questions were. For one reason or another, I could only find the text file that held the answers that Naoko and Yoshihisa gave during the course of the question and answer session on my local drive. I suspect that I had another version of it, but failed to copy it over last year when I was migrating computers a year ago. However, the questions themselves are less relevant than the answers Naoko and Yoshihisa provide: approximate reconstructions are more than sufficient for the purposes of this discussion.

Question One

Question: Was the decision to go to London inspired by an actual discussion at Kyoto Animation?

Answer (Naoko): No, that was Houkago Tea Time; they made every decision.

Question Two

Question: Two separate trips to London were made to do research for the film. What was done during these two different sessions?

Answer (Naoko): The first time we went, we were scenario hunting. So, we went to find out what the five girls from HTT would want to see, what they want to think, and what they’d want to do in London; and the second time, we went there to find the places where they would be put.

Question: Is it reasonable to say the staff were exploring London at a casual pace, and their experiences were transcribed into what is seen in the movie?

Answer (Naoko): I think that Yoshihisa-san and myself were trying to see things through the eyes of the girls of the band, so it wasn’t so much a case of going “Yoshihisa-san, write this down”, but I think we both knew what we were looking for, and that we were on the same wavelength.

Question Three

Question: Were there any experiences that you had in London that could not be included in the movie?

Answer (Naoko): Yeah, I tried Marmite thinking it was Nutela, it was in this cute little heart shaped tub, and thought it looked delicious…

Question Four

Question: Films generally have different considerations compared to TV series. What was handled differently for the K-On! movie compared to the TV series?

Answer (Yoshihisa): So much in terms of direction and instruction, but, I said to them that TV – anyone can watch it. But, for a film you have to go to the cinema and you have to pay money, so it has to be special – you have to make it special for a film, and more dynamic on a bigger scale.

Question Five

Question: Was the K-On! Movie intended for fans of the series, or for a more general audience?

Answer (Yoshihisa): K-On! was screened in Japan in the middle of the night, so we didn’t just want those to come: we wanted other people to come as well. But we wanted it to work as a stand-alone film, so you could enjoy it if you’ve never seen the TV series. But at the same time, it had to appeal to the fans of the series as well, so that’s the discussion that we had, and the direction we decided on.

Question Six

Question:  What are the demographics for K-On!‘s audience in Japan like?

Answer (Yoshihisa): For the timeslot that K-ON screens at, for normal core audience is age 20-35 females. But we with K-ON were aiming for a broader audience so younger people – teenagers, and also 20-35 female viewers, and I think we succeeded in making it appeal to a wider audience than just the people that usually watch that time slot.

Question Seven

Question:  How reflective are the movie’s events of reality? Specifically, are graduation trips common amongst female high school students in Japan?

Answer (Yoshihisa): It’s kinda half and half. I didn’t go on a graduation trip after high school, I went to Europe for the first time when I graduated from University. So I think they’re quite confident to leave from their home.

Question Eight

Question: With the characters graduating, K-On! looks like it’s approaching a conclusion of sorts. However, it feels like there would be hints of something more in the future, Have you considered whether or not the series would be continued, or is this the end for K-On!?

Answer (Naoko): We don’t have anything in mind at the moment for K-On!; this is quite a K-On!-like ending, and this is something you might have to ask Yoshihisa-san because it’s to do with the direction. But it doesn’t tend to end in a bang, it sort-of trails off as it did with the TV series, as well.

  • This post is intended to supplement my following talk on whether or not the K-On! Movie (and franchise as a whole) is still relevant two years after the movie’s been released. The short answer is yes, given that artistic elements ranging from character appearances, to pacing and atmosphere, and even the inclusion of music have carried forward, spurred on by their success in K-On!. While K-On! cannot be said to be the sole influence behind these trends, there is no doubt that K-On! has had at least some influence in shaping the trends we see in present-day anime.

With two years having elapsed since the movie’s home release (and some twenty months since the original screening), the Glasgow interview also provides a tangible citations for those seeking to understand more about the artistic designs within the K-On! Movie: a handful of discussions that came out within weeks of the film’s premier in Japan mention minor statements from Naoko in newspapers and Newtype magazine. Accessing either of these sources represent a substantial challenge, and as such, to help with my upcoming post, I have provided a copy of the interview on-site to simplify things and allow for near-immediate access to the relevant points in the interview.

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.