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Masterpiece Anime Showcase: K-On! The Movie (Eiga Keion!), A Review, Recommendation and Remarks On Serendipity At The Film’s Ten Year Anniversary

We’re buddies from here on out!
Pictures of us together,
Our matching keychains
Will shine on forever
And always, we thank you for your smile

—Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!

With its theatrical première ten years previously to this day, K-On! The Movie has aged very gracefully from both a thematic and technical standpoint. The film follows Houkago Tea Time shortly following their acceptance to university. With their time in high school drawing to a close, the girls attempt to come up with a suitable farewell gift for Azusa, who had been a vital member of their light music club. Feeling it best to be a surprise, they try to keep this from Azusa. When word nearly gets out, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi wind up fabricating that their “secret” is a graduation trip. The girls decide on London; after arranging for their flight and accommodations, the girls arrive in London and sightsee, before performing at a Japanese pop culture fair. Upon their return home, the girls perform for their classmates and finalise their song for Asuza. Simple, sincere and honest, K-On! The Movie represented a swan song for the K-On! franchise’s animated adaptation, making the extent of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s gratitude towards Azusa tangible: K-On! The Movie is a journey to say “Thank You”, and as Yui and the others discover, while their moments spent together might be finite, the treasured memories resulting from these everyday moments are infinitely valuable. Ultimately, representing the sum of these feelings is done by means of a song; music is universally regarded as being able to convey emotions, thoughts and ideas across linguistic and cultural barriers, and so, it is only appropriate that the girls decide to make a song for Azusa. However, Yui and the others initially struggle to find the right words for their song. It is serendipitous that a fib, done to keep Azusa from knowing about her graduation gift, sends the girls to London. During this trip, Azusa undertakes the role of a planner. She handles the logistics to ensure that everyone can visit their destinations of choice and on top of this, fit their travels so that they can honour a commitment to perform at a festival. At the top of her game in both keeping things organised, and looking out for Yui, Azusa is exhausted at the end of their travels. Once they agree to writing a song, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi set about composing the lyrics for it. When they begin to draft the lyrics, they come to realise how integral Azusa has been to Houkago Tea Time, a veritable angel for the club. This is the birth of Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! (Touched by an Angel), an earnest song whose direct lyrics convey how everyone feels about Azusa. Because everyone’s spent so much time together, Azusa’s presence in Houkago Tea Time is very nearly taken for granted. It takes a trip to London for Yui and the others to discover anew what Azusa has done for everyone: from planning out the trip and fitting their itinerary to everyone’s satisfaction, to keeping an eye on the scatter-minded Yui, Azusa’s actions during the London trip act as the catalyst that reminds everyone of how her presence in the Light Music Club has helped everyone grow.

Azusa is also evidently selfless, worrying about others ahead of herself: when the others notice her slowing down in the Underground, Azusa mentions that her new shoes are somewhat uncomfortable. She insists it’s fine, but Yui figures they can buy new shoes for her. Because of Houkago Tea Time’s easygoing approach to things, this detour into an adventure of sorts at Camden. However, K-On! The Movie is not an anime about travel; sightseeing is condensed into a montage, and greater emphasis is placed on the girls’ everyday moments together. Subtle, seemingly trivial moments are given more screen time than visiting the London Eye, or David Bowie’s House, reminding viewers that Houkago Tea Time is about its members, not where they go. While it is likely that any destination would have accomplished the same, visiting London, the birthplace of many famous musicians whose style have influenced the Light Music Club’s music, proved to be an appropriate choice that also sets the stage for the girls to compose their song for Azusa, showing that London had a role in inspiring Yui and the others. With crisp animation, attention paid to details, a solid aural component and a gentle soundtrack, K-On! The Movie is executed masterfully to bring this story of gratitude to life for viewers. Its staying power and timeless quality comes from a story that is immediately relatable: many viewers have doubtlessly wondered how to best express thanks for those who have helped them through so much, and more often than not, found that simple gestures of appreciation can often be the most meaningful. Naoko Yamada mentioned in an interview that one of the challenges about K-On! The Movie was trying to scale it up to fit the silver screen. This challenge is mirrored in the film, where Yui wonders how to create a gift of appropriate scale to show everyone’s appreciation for Azusa; in the end, just as how the girls decide on a gift that is appropriately scaled, Yamada’s film ends up covering a very focused portrayal of Houkago Tea Time that works well with the silver screen: less is more, and by focusing on a single thing, the movie ends up being very clear and concise in conveying its theme. A major part of K-On!‘s original strength was instilling a sense of appreciation for the everyday, mundane things in life; the film’s success in scaling things up is from its ability to take something as simple as finding a gift to express thanks and then meticulously detailing how this gift matured over time into the final product viewers know as Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!. However, while director Naoko Yamada fills K-On! The Movie with the series’ previous sense of joy and energy, the overall aesthetic of K-On! The Movie is unlike that of its predecessors. For the past ten years, I’ve wondered why the film felt different – the film is still K-On! at heart, but there was a feeling of melancholy and sadness about the film that was absent in the TV series. For the past decade, I’ve lacked the words to express this, but here at K-On! The Movie‘s ten year anniversary, it is worthwhile to look at why the film continues to endure – since the film became available, I’ve watched K-On! The Movie once a year, every year.

While K-On! The Movie opens with Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi playing one of Death Devil’s songs to see what things would be like if their band had a different aesthetic, and then segues to the cheerful, Christmas-like Ichiban Ippai!, Yui and the others head off to discard some rubbish from the club room. As they walk through a sun-filled corridor leading into the courtyard, a contemplative piano begins playing in the background. Yui gazes out into the courtyard. The entire scene is faded out, featuring very little colour compared to when they’d been in the clubroom, and Yui opens by saying that she’s feeling that they should do something befitting of a senior. The moment’s composition was quite unlike anything else seen in K-On!; even though colour and joy do return to K-On! The Movie moments later, one cannot help but feel a lingering sense of sadness in knowing that, this is the end for K-On!. Much as how Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi know their time with Azusa is drawing to a close, viewers know that for every smile and laugh the girls share throughout this film, there is a point where things will inevitably come to an end. Moments like these return after the girls come back home from London. Whereas their travels had been filled with colour, upon returning home, the world becomes faded out and desaturated again. The music becomes slower, gentler and carry with it a sort of finality. Those feelings had been set aside among the excitement in London, but back in Japan, they return in full force. This melancholy, however, is not overwhelming at all. Instead, it adds to K-On! The Movie, emphasising the beauty of the girls’ previous experiences together, and that despite its impermanence, the friendship between Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa is very real. While they might part ways for the present, that it existed at all counts for something. This respect for that which is transient and fleeting creates a very unusual feeling which the Japanese describe as Mono no Aware (物の哀れ, “the pathos of things”): something is beautiful because it isn’t going to last forever. This juxtaposition and seemingly contradictory set of feelings results in a bittersweetness surrounding a given moment, and much as how viewers are aware that after the movie, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi will part ways with Azusa, the fact is that they will hold onto and cherish the countless memories they have of one another, too. It is because of these memories that everyone is able to accept that they are moving onwards into the future. Yamada’s masterful inclusion of gently wistful musical pieces and choice of colour in K-On! The Movie speak to notions of Mono no Aware, and in this way, weaves a central piece of Japanese aesthetic into the film: nothing, not even friendships, last, but this is just a part of life. Seeing K-On! The Movie capture Mono no Aware speaks to the depth of in this film, and while K-On! might ostensibly be about a group of girls who would rather enjoy sweets and tea over practising, the series also indicates that like all things, friendships do not last forever. In spite of this, and perhaps because of this, such bonds are all the more meaningful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post came about because I did wish to share something at the film’s ten year anniversary, and the observant reader will note that this year is the tenth anniversary to many things, coinciding with when I started this blog and really began writing in earnest. The film opens with Yui and the others acting like Death Devil for kicks (at least, Yui, Ritsu and Tsumugi are in on it, while Mio’s just playing as herself). Once the ruse is up, the opening song, Ichiban Ippai (“Full of Number Ones”), begins playing. This song has a very Christmas-like feel to it, appropriate for the season.

  • Because this revisitation similarly comes a full ten years after K-On! The Movie first premièred, now that ten years’ worth of accumulated experience is in the books, I was hoping to share a renewed set of thoughts about this movie. I’ve previously written about K-On! The Movie on several occasions and explored some of the aspects that made it worthwhile to watch, but reading through these older posts, it feels like back then, I’d only really scratched the surface for what I wished to discuss.

  • When Yui and the others leave the club room, the lighting is diffuse, and colours are faded. In conjunction with the music, this scene spoke volumes to me about what K-On! The Movie had been attempting to accomplish. Whereas Hajime Hyakkoku, the composer for the series’ background music, had previously written joyful, bubbly pieces, the second track on the soundtrack has a more contemplative, thoughtful tone to it as Yui considers doing something worthy of being a senior.

  • It was here that I began to realise that throughout the entirety of K-On! The Movie, a feeling of gentle sadness permeated everything that is shown, even when the characters are caught up in their own antics and creating adorable moments for viewers to laugh at. While Mono no Aware is a part of K-On! The Movie, however, it never overshadows the general aesthetic and mood; there are still plenty of jokes throughout the film, such as when Yui attempts to make a break for it after cheating in the lottery to determine where their graduation trip should end up.

  • On writing about K-On! The Movie in full for the first time in a few years, I’ve come to pick up a few things that I missed earlier, and in conjunction with a keener eye for subtleties, this post is the result; my conclusion about the film’s central theme is a little more specific now, with a focus on Yui and the others crafting a memorable farewell gift for Azusa in gratitude for her participation in Houkago Tea Time. My earlier reviews focused on friendship at a much higher level, and looking back, I think that this review captures the reason for why I enjoyed the movie a shade more effectively than the earlier reviews.

  • Gratitude is the first and foremost theme in K-On! The Movie, with everything else being an ancillary aspect that augments the film’s strengths. The movie, then, succeeds in conveying the sort of scale that Naoko Yamada desired for viewers, showing the extent of everyone’s appreciation towards Azusa. This underlines Azusa’s impact on Houkago Tea Time, and so, when one returns to the televised series, all of those subtle moments suddenly become more meaningful, and more valuable.

  • Mio gives in to her happiness and makes no attempt to hide it when it turns out London is their chosen destination. The movie’s original première on December 3, 2011 is now a distant memory. I vaguely recall concluding my introductory Japanese class and finalising my term paper on the role of a protein in iron transport for bacteria. At the time, I was focused on simply surviving that semester and save my GPA, which had taken a dive after my second year, and for most of the winter term, I was similarly focused on maintaining passable grades in biochemistry and and cell and molecular biology. I exited that term on a stronger note, and with my final exams in the books, I learned that the movie would release on July 18.

  • I still remember when this film became available to watch: it had been a gorgeous July day, and the high reached 26°C. At this point in my summer, I’d spent almost two and a half months studying for the MCAT. The course was under my belt, and I’d been going through practise exam after practise exam. When I did my first exam, I scored a 22 (equivalent to today’s 496). However, a summer of giving up research and hanging out had an appreciable impact on my performance, and by the time K-On! The Movie came out, I was consistently scoring 30s (510 in today’s scoring system).

  • For reference, a good MCAT score is 508 (29 in 2012). I had been worried if watching and reviewing K-On! The Movie would’ve had an impact on my MCAT scores, but in the end, the movie presented no trouble in that area, and I ended up watching the film after a day spent going through a practise exam. Back then, this blog was still relatively new, and I never wrote extensive articles here. Instead, I published my first review to my old Webs.com site: over the course of two days, I wrote out a review that was comparable to the average post here. This never did interfere with the MCAT, and indeed, having the chance to watch K-On! The Movie contributed to helping me relax.

  • I had decided to take the MCAT earlier that year, and this represented a major commitment from my part. From the film’s home release announcement to the day of release, time passed in the blink of an eye. The movie’s first forty minutes are still in Japan, and it provided plenty of time to establish the witherto’s and whyfor’s of how Houkago Tea Time end up travelling to London; here, Ui helps Yui to pack, and their mother can be seen in the background. Until now, Mister and Missus Hirasawa have never been shown on screen in the animated adaptation.

  • The manga would end up doing so in its fourth volume, but since K-On!! had no such equivalent (the events of the anime diverge somewhat from the events in the manga towards the end), Yamada decided to slot Yui and Ui’s parents in as Yui heads off to the airport. The manga suggests that the Hirawasas are a happy family, although the parents are very fond of travelling, accounting for why they were never seen in the TV series.

  • With its slow pacing, K-On! The Movie is very relaxing: as it turns out, Houkago Tea Time ends up overhearing classmates discuss a graduation trip and then, while focused on their own goal of gifting something special for Azusa, hide their plans by saying they’re also doing a graduation trip. This turn of events is precisely the way things Houkago Tea Time rolls, although it is notable that even while planning for the trip takes precedence, Yui’s mind never strays far from their original goal of figuring out how they can give Azusa a memorable gift.

  • In an interview with Yamada, she explains that the biggest challenge the movie format posed by K-On! The Movie was how to scale the series up to fit the silver screen. This challenge ended up being mentioned in film itself, when Yui wonders how they’d make a suitable gift for Azusa that captures all of their gratitude. In the end, much as how Yamada succeeds with K-On! The Movie by being true to the original series’ style, Yui and the others found that a gift for Azusa would mean the most so long as it had heart. The journey to London thus becomes a bit of a sideshow, demonstrating how regardless of where in the world Houkago Tea Time go, they’re still themselves.

  • K-On! The Movie is at its most energetic while the girls are on their travels. The London segment of K-On! The Movie only occupies a third of the movie, but it is here that some of the franchise’s most unique moments are shown. It is the first time anyone is seen heading to the airport and travelling on an aircraft –until now, K-On! had been set entirely in Japan, so having Houkago Tea Time set foot on a plane and becoming, as Yui puts it, a part of the international community, was a monumental occasion for K-On! in showing that the series had taken one giant leap forwards.

  • For the most part, K-On! The Movie was very well-received, with praises being given towards the direction, sincerity and ability of the film to remain true to the atmosphere in the TV series, while at the same time, capitalising on the movie format to do something that could not have been done in a TV series. Criticisms of the film are very rare – I can count the number of the film’s detractors on one hand, and most of the gripes centred on the film’s relatively limited focus on travel, portrayal of London citizens and gripes that the film was protracted in presenting its story. It is with satisfaction that I note the most vocal of these critics, Reckoner and Sorrow-kun of the elitist Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review blogs, are no longer around because both blogs’ domains have expired. Reckoner had been a particularly fierce critic of K-On!, but his assertions were unfounded and poorly argued, while Sorrow-kun had written numerous articles claiming K-On! was “objectively” a poor series.

  • As of now, both Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review have gone offline: after their owner finally stopped paying the hosting fees, their hosts suspended both sites, resulting in all of Sorrow-kun’s posts becoming removed. In particular, Sorrow-kun had believed Behind The Nihon Review’s goals were to “enlighten” fans on why anime was only worthwhile if it contained philosophical or academic merit, so seeing some of the internet’s most invalid opinions of K-On! become lost forever is something worth smiling about. The comparatively short amount of time spent in London is not a detriment to the film – K-On! The Movie is not a travel show, and London was only an aside, a consequence of a fib to keep Azusa’s gift hidden. With this in mind, it wasn’t particularly surprising that London would be secondary to figuring out what kind of song they should write for Azusa. Throughout the film, Yui’s determination to figure out something and efforts to maintain secrecy lead Azusa to wonder if something is amiss. If she did suspect something, things are quickly shunted aside when the girls’ plan to visit London become realised.

  • Upon arriving in London, the girls enjoy the sights over Hounslow, a district in West London immediately east of Heathrow Airport. It’s been a while since I’ve boarded a plane: the last time I flew was back in 2019, when I attended F8 2019. The last time I was on a plane for leisure would’ve been back in 2017 on a particularly memorable trip to Japan. No matter where I go in the world, there is always a joy about flying over a city and wondering to myself, what are the folks down below doing in their day-to-day lives? Of course, when I’m on the ground and looking up at an aircraft, I find myself thinking of where people might be headed.

  • The flight leaves Yui excited to finally become part of the international community, and she begins bouncing while riding the moving walkway. In this frame, the girls’ hands look quite small; in a cast interview, Yamada mentioned that she wanted K-On! The Movie to appeal to as many people as possible, and to this end, modified the characters’ appearances slightly from the style seen in K-On!!. The end result leaves the characters more expressive than they’d been in K-On! and K-On!! – simple things like facial expressions are able to speak volumes here in the film, whereas in the TV series, such nuances were not conveyed through such a subtle manner. After exiting the plane and entering the terminal, Azusa remarks that they’re going to have to clear customs.

  • Yui and the others are able to get through without any issue, although Yui’s weaker English leads her to mispronounce “sight-seeing” as “side business”, leading to some confusion from the customs official: I’m not sure what the laws in the United Kingdom are, but here in Canada, doing something business-related requires a visa. Fortunately, this mispronunciation doesn’t result in any complications, and all five clear customs without any trouble. The joys and drawbacks of travelling are presented in K-On! The Movie to the girls: while K-On! has long favoured gentle escapism, the movie adds an additional dimension of realism to its story through linguistic differences and challenges associated with travelling, such as the girls trying to figure out which Hotel Ibis their booking was for, or when Mio’s luggage is seemingly misplaced.

  • In the end, Mio’s luggage was placed off to the side, and she tearfully reunites with it, while developing a mistrust for revolving things in the process. Once outside in the brisk London air, the girls set off to find a taxi that will take them to their accommodations. Excitement sets in, and Mio begins taking photographs of everything Yui points at, including this Airline lounge sign for Air Canada patrons. I am Canadian, so seeing mention of Canada in the film put a smile on my face: Air Canada is the largest airline company in Canada and runs numerous flights to London. Even from my home town, there are five direct flight to Londons every week, and the average duration is around nine hours.

  • I am interested in checking out London for myself at some point in the future – aside from minor linguistic differences between Canadian and British English, I could readily do a free-for-all visit without a tour group and navigate on my own well enough. Aside from iconic spots like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, I would like to walk the River Thames and visit the same spots in Earl’s Court as the girls of K-On! do. Such a vacation could be done for within four thousand dollars, and in the past, I have considered the logistics of such a trip.

  • After spotting a taxi, the girls board with enthusiasm – the driver asks if they’re going to London City, to which Ritsu answers with a yes. While Azusa has done her reading to ensure the trip was a success, not everything can be planned for ahead of time, and for the girls, the fact that London is broken up into smaller districts is not something that crosses their mind. This bit of miscommunication leads to the girls ending up at the wrong Hotel Ibis, and here, even Tsumugi is unable to keep up with the English.

  • For the most part, my travels have never put me at a linguistic disadvantage because I can get by well enough with English, Cantonese and Mandarin in the places I visit. When I visited Laval in France for the first time for a conference, I had trouble getting around because I could not speak a word of French. Seeing Mugi and Azusa struggle with English might’ve been amusing when I first watched this, but after the humbling experience in France, I took on a newfound appreciation for all of the languages around the world. When the girls reach London City’s Hotel Ibis, it is thanks to Mio who is able to interpret things and set the girls on track for their hotel in Earls Court.

  • Skyfall was screened in November 2012, a few months after K-On! The Movie’s home release and nearly a year after its original screening in Japan. The only commonalities the two films share are that they have scenes set in London, including the Underground. While Yui and the others use the Underground to reach Earls Court, Skyfall saw James Bond pursue Raoul Silva through the Underground after he escapes MI6 custody.

  • On their first day in London, Yui and the others have a busy one as they try to make their way to their hotel. It’s misadventure after misadventure, but in spite of these inconveniences, everyone takes things in stride, going to Camden to buy Azusa new shoes, casually enjoying the Underground and, when trying to grab dinner, end up playing an impromptu performance on account of being mistaken for a band.

  • In spite of their surprise at being asked to perform, Houkago Tea Time’s showing is impressive. While it seems a little strange the girls travel with their instruments, the last several times I boarded a plane, it was with a laptop or iPad in tow, as I was either set to give a conference presentation or be involved in work. Carrying additional gear while travelling is a pain when one is alone, but with others, it’s much easier – one can simply ask their companions to look after their belongings.

  • K-On! The Movie has several moments where Kyoto Animation was able to showcase their craft at the movie level, and clever use of camera angles really brought the performances to life. Aside from the opening, inset and ending songs, there are no new Houkago Tea Time songs in the film: all of the performances in the movie are done with existing songs, and at the sushi restaurant, the girls perform Curry Nochi Rice after Yui spots an East Indian man in the crowd. Back in 2011, I wasn’t too big of a fan of raw fish, but I imagine that my openness to try it began after watching Survivorman‘s Arctic Tundra episode. A few weeks ago, when my office did a sushi lunch, I decided to participate and greatly enjoyed the nigiri: there’s a special flavour about raw fish that makes it delicious, and it goes especially well with a dash of soy sauce.

  • Movies typically are scaled-up TV episodes, with superior visuals and music accompanying it; K-On! The Movie is no different, feeling distinctly like an extended episode. I particularly loved the soundtrack, which features both the motifs of the TV series and new incidental pieces that gave a bit of atmosphere to where Houkago Tea Time was while at the same time, reminding viewers that it’s still K-On!. Here, Ritsu runs into Love Crisis, another Japanese band that was supposed to be performing at the sushi restaurant.

  • K-On! The Movie depicts London with incredible faithfulness, and perusing the official movie artbook, the precise locations of where the girls visit are given. Abbey Crossing, David Bowie’s House, West Brompton, and many other areas are on the list of places that Yui and the others visit. Their travels are set to the upbeat, energetic Unmei wa Endless! (Fate is Endless!) in a montage that highlights the girls enjoying themselves in London in their own unique manner. Throughout the trip, Azusa takes on the role of a tour guide, planning and coordinating itineraries for the others, who end up having a wonderful time.

  • The montage in K-On! The Movie is ideal for showing that while in London, Yui and the others have an amazing time sightseeing: the tempo would suggest that the girls’ experience is very dream like, hectic and dynamic, reminder viewers that when they are having fun, time flies. Vacations often seem to go by in a blur, and so, a montage is a very visceral way to capture this feeling. In condensing out the travel and sightseeing, the montage creates the impression that K-On! The Movie is not about London, but at the same time, it also allows the focus to remain on the girls’ aim of working out their gift for Azusa.

  • London, Japan and Hong Kong share the commonality in that they have left-hand traffic, an artefact dating back to the Roman Empire; right-hand traffic is the result of French standardisation, while Americans used right-hand traffic out of convenience for wagon operators. For Yui and the others, traffic in London would be identical to that of Japan’s, but when they encounter a “Look Right” labels on the road, they conform. These labels are also found in Hong Kong, as well: for folks like myself, they are very useful, since I instinctively look left before crossing most streets.

  • I’ve long held that the best way to truly experience a culture is to experience their food, and so, when I was in Japan, having the chance to enjoy snow crab, Kobe beef, okonomiyakiomurice and ramen was high on the highlights of my trip. In K-On! The Movie, the girls end up stopping at The Troubadour on 263–267 Old Brompton Road in Earls Court. Opened in 1954, The Troubador was a coffeehouse that has since become a café, bar and restaurant. Catching Yui’s eye early in their tour of London, the girls have breakfast here. Their Eggs Benedict is shown: it costs £9.95 (roughly 16.88 CAD with exchange rates).

  • Earlier this year, I did a special tour of London using the Oculus Quest to show how faithful the film had been to details; the real-world locations are portrayed faithfully in K-On! The Movie, although here, I will remark again that London’s skyline has changed quite a bit in the past decade. K-On! The Movie shows The Shard as being under construction, and it was opened in 2013. Some of the areas still remain as they once were. Earl’s Court, for instance, still looks much as it did in 2011, while downtown London is quite different; folks looking to visit K-On! locations in central London now will be hard-pressed to find some locations since they’ve changed so much – the Harper’s Coffee has since been replaced by a Costa Coffee, for instance.

  • After Yui gets her hand stuck in a receptacle for dog waste, the girls set off to find a bathroom and wind up at the British Museum. Here, they take the London Underground’s Central line from the Kensington Gardens: during the day, the Underground is nowhere near as busy as it was when Yui and the others first arrived, and certainly not as crowded as it had been in Skyfall, when 007 pursued Silva through the London Underground after the latter managed to escape MI6 custody.

  • While they’d intended to only stop by for a quick bathroom break, Mio, Tsumugi, Yui, Ritsu and Azusa end up checking out the British Museum’s exhibits, including the original Rosetta Stone. The girls recognise this as the replacement tombstone they’d borrowed from the Occult Club back during the events of K-On!!, when they found Juliet’s headstone was misplaced. The Rosetta Stone replica ended up being a suitable replacement, and the class play of Romeo and Juliet went off without a hitch. To see the Rosetta Stone again shows the kind of care that Yamada put into the film, giving Yui and the others a chance to see the world beyond Japan.

  • Here, Ritsu, Mio, Yui, Tsumugi and Azusa run down the stairs on the Westminster Bridge’s south banks: the location was not hard to find, since the girls end up at the London Eye moments later. There’s a doorway underneath the South Bank Lion sculpture on the left of this image, and this was used as a secret entrance to MI6’s new digs in Skyfall after Silva bombed the SIS Building. One of the joys about K-On! The Movie was that so many locations seen in this movie were also featured in Skyfall, and I myself wondered if the SIS Building would make an appearance. While this never occurred, it was a contrast to see Yui and the others have fun in the same places where Bond was on duty.

  • Mio’s fear of rotating things kicks in when the others suggest boarding the London Eye to gain a better vantage point over central London; she decides to stay on the ground and let the others have a good time. To this, Yui and Ritsu decide to haul Mio off anyways. A longstanding joke in K-On! stems from Mio’s various phobias, although it is typically the case that once Mio is pushed out of her comfort zone, she is able to live in the moment with the others.

  • As such, despite her initial reservations about all things with angular velocity, Mio is convinced to go on the London Eye. With a height of 135 metres, it is more than double the size of Hong Kong’s Observation Wheel and during K-On! The Movie, was the highest public viewing point in London. Since the movie’s release in 2011 (and the home release in 2012), The Shard opened and now offers London’s highest observation deck.

  • The girls rest here near The Royal Menagerie on the west end of the Tower of London, a major landmark that has variously been used as a mint, armoury and presently, the home of the Crown Jewels. Adjacent to the Tower of London is a modern office block and fish and chips shops. While it would be a tight schedule, the girls’ tour is possible to carry out within the course of a day. To really take in the sights and sounds, however, I would allocate at least seven days for the entire trip London, which leaves five full days to explore.

  • One aspect in K-On! The Movie that I enjoyed was that smaller details about travel were presented; most travel shows only highlight attractions and the best eats of a given trip. Conversely, K-On! The Movie portrays the smaller, more awkward moments that result when people are far from home. After their day’s worth of adventure, the group return to Ibis Earl’s Court, and almost immediately, Yui and Azusa end up missing one another often enough to the point where they wonder where the other’s gone. Yui’s just scatter-brained, but Azusa is genuinely tired from having spent the day putting an itinerary together that allows everyone to see as much as they could.

  • In the end, the pair end up running into one another in Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi’s room. Such moments typify the sort of humour present in K-On! as a whole; it’s not over-the-top, and instead, acts to create gentler moments that elicit a smile. Some folks consider K-On! to be a comedy, but this is, strictly speaking, incorrect: K-On! might’ve had origins as a 4-koma manga driven by punchlines, but Yamada’s interpretation of the series allows for more meaningful learnings to be presented; themes like appreciation and mindfulness are more important in K-On! than making viewers laugh.

  • With this being said, comedy does crop up from time to time as a result of everyday occurrences; here, Yui slips after rushing to meet Azusa after wandering off to the Brompton Cemetery whilst considering what the song for Azusa should entail. One small visual aspect in K-On! The Movie that did stand out was the fact that all of the folks in London are uncommonly tall relative to Azusa and the others. While Azusa is stated as being only 4’11”, a quick glance at this image finds that the average Londoner would be around eight feet in height. I imagine this was a deliberate choice to show how small everyone is compared to the world.

  • After Ritsu and the others run into Love Crisis following their performance at the sushi restaurant, they are invited to perform at a Japanese Culture Fair. The girls agree to the performance even though the timing will be a bit tight, and when Azusa hesitates, the others reassure her that it’ll be fine. Because they are to be performing in front of an English audience, Yui and the others feel it might be useful to translate some of their songs to English. Strictly speaking, preserving the meaning is of a lesser challenge than finding the words with the correct syllables to match the melody.

  • The Ibis at Earl’s Court, while being a bit more dated, has attentive staff and is situated in a good location, being close to public transit. By comparison, the Ibis London City is located a stone’s throw to the London city centre and the Tower of London. The choice to have the girls book lodgings at Earl’s Court, in a comparatively quieter part of London, allows the film to also show Yui and the others spending downtime together while not sightseeing. Here, they begin working on translating their songs for their performance at the Japanese culture fair.

  • The performance itself is set at the Jubilee Gardens adjacent to the River Thames and London Eye. The introduction into the culture festival features a sweeping panorama over the area, taking viewers through the spokes on the London Eye. It’s one of the more impressive visuals in K-On! The Movie and really shows that this is no mere extended episode: I’m particularly fond of movies because they provide the opportunity to use visuals not seen in TV series. Here, the girls react in surprise that Sawako has shown up.

  • During their performance, Yui is spurred on by a baby in the crowd and plays with more energy as the concert progresses, even improvising lyrics into Gohan wa Okazu. Whether or not Houkago Teatime plays for the people they know or not, this has very little bearing on the enthusiasm and energy the girls put into their song. Personal or not, each performance is spirited conveys that Houkago Tea Time’s music is universally moving, whether they are playing for a crowd of folks in London, or for Azusa as a thank you gift.

  • It turns out that as a place to have a graduation trip, there is no better option than London, England: Houkago Tea Time’s style draws inspiration from British artists, and the songs produced for K-On! have a mass appeal for their simplicity, earnest and charm found from the saccharine nature of the lyrics. Even now, whenever I see images and footage of London, K-On! The Movie is the first thing that comes to mind; the film had done a phenomenal job of bringing the city to life, and while melancholy gently permeates the whole of the film, the thirty minutes spent in London are K-On! The Movie‘s most cheerful, energetic moments.

  • After the concert draws to a close, the girls depart for Japan; owing to their timing, things are really close by the time Yui and the others have to return to the airport and board their flight back home. In general, it is recommended that one arrives at least three hours before their scheduled departure when flying internationally. This is so one can make it through customs and security checks, which can take a while, and because some airlines require one to check in an hour before their flight. Accepting a concert on the same day they were heading back would be cutting it close, especially in a city as large as London.

  • Fortunately, some elements can be abstracted away, and the girls’ ride over to Heathrow is uneventful, with Azusa falling asleep immediately from exhaustion. A snowfall begins in London, bringing the girls’ trip to a peaceful close, and here, the soundtrack takes on a much slower, gentler tenour. The track that accompanies this scene has a very wistful, reflective mood about it and is appropriately titled “Winter night in a warm room”.

  • Back in Japan, Ritsu and the others attempt to convince Sawako to give them permission to host a farewell concert for their classmates. To her colleagues and other students, Sawako presents herself as professional and caring, attempting to distance herself from her Death Devil days, but in front of Houkago Tea Time, she’s less motivated and occasionally partakes in actions that are of dubious legality. At the end of the day, however, Sawako does care deeply for her students, and so, decides to allow the concert.

  • One of the other teachers is opposed to the idea of a concert and on the morning things kick off, Sawako does her utmost to keep him from finding out. While unsuccessful, this instructor does not seem to mind Houkago Tea Time quite as much, suggesting that Sawako’s Death Devil band were rowdier back in the day to the point of being a nuisance. During this in-school concert, the song Sumidare Love is performed: the song had been on the vocal collections, but until now, had not been played in the series proper.

  • Compared to the more colourful segments in K-On! The Movie, the final segments depicting the girls drafting out their song for Azusa are much more faded, almost melancholy, in nature, hinting that all things must come to an end. Kyoto Animation has long utilised colour to make the emotional tenour of a scene clear in their drama series; from CLANNAD to Violet Evergarden, time of day, saturation and the choice of palette are all used to great effect. Traditionally, comedies have seen a lesser dependence on colour and lighting, so for these effects to appear in K-On! show that the series has matured.

  • Despite having drawn blanks while in London, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi manage to begin their song once they’re back home; it was Azusa’s actions throughout the trip that really led everyone to see anew how much they’d come to rely on their junior. While this should be a joyous moment, K-On! The Movie reminds viewers that this moment is also steeped in a sort of finality: once they finish their song and deliver it, they will have to part ways with Azusa.

  • The K-On! The Movie‘s home release was only twenty four days from the day of my MCAT, and one of the dangers about this was that reviewing the movie so close to the MCAT might’ve taken my focus from the exam. In the end, watching the movie and writing about it was very cathartic, and I found myself lost in each moment: seeing Mio and the others sprint across the school rooftop with a carefree spirit was a light moment that really captured what K-On! was about. The movie helped me relax, and in conjunction with support from friends, some time management skills and the usual efforts of studying, I ended up finishing the exam strong.

  • Audiences thus come to learn how Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! came about: K-On! had preferred to focus on the girls’ experience together, and things like songwriting were often set aside in favour of having everyone enjoy tea together. This did lead to the impression that Houkago Tea Time were unqualified. However, K-On! did show that Mio spent some of her free time writing lyrics to songs, and to reinforce the idea that Houkago Tea Time’s success is well-deserved, K-On! The Movie opts to show the song-writing process behind Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!.

  • This song had appeared to come out of the blue in K-On!!, but the film shows the process behind how the song the lyrics and heart that went into the song came from seeing how much of an impact Azusa had on the light music club. However, Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! was not written overnight, and because of the timeframes, I would estimate that the film is set over the course of three weeks – the first third of the movie would’ve taken place over the course of a few days as the girls figure out they’d like to do a song for Azusa, and then book a last-minute trip over to London as a graduation trip. The London trip itself is explicitly mentioned as taking five days, and then after returning, some time would’ve been needed to put the song together.

  • While this seems excessive, we recall that in K-On!!, there had been quite a gap between exams and graduation – when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi head off to write their entrance exams for the women’s college, it would’ve been shortly after Valentines’ day, and graduation itself was in March. This in-between period was never covered in K-On!!, and Yamada expertly used this time as when Yui and the othes came to write out Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! ahead of graduation for Azusa. Through K-On! The Movie, it is shown that the in-betweens in an anime can also have a story to tell. Non Non Biyori Repeat adapted this concept for the entire second season, showing that anime only shows the best moments that impact the narrative.

  • Consequently, while Yui and the others might appear to be pulling songs out of nowhere, and performing like experts without much apparent practise, the reality is that the anime and manga tend to show us viewers moments when Houkago Tea Time are slacking off, but once the chips are down, and the girls get their motivation, they’re quite determined and capable. As such, this is the one criticism of K-On! I can dismiss immediately – folks who hold this against the series have fundamentally misunderstood that anime only show milestone moments, and more mundane details are deliberately omitted for a reason.

  • Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! is the song that got me into K-On!, and after I became curious to know how the series reached its culmination, I stepped back and watched everything from episode one.  With this modernised talk on K-On! The Movie very nearly finished, I note that it was very enjoyable to go back and re-watch this film under different circumstances, then write about it with a new perspective and style. Even a full decade later, the song remains every bit as enjoyable as it had been when I first went through K-On!.

  • Like a good wine, K-On! The Movie improved with age. My original score for the movie was a nine of ten, an A grade. However, revisiting the movie and seeing all of the subtleties in the film, coupled with recalling watching the film to unwind from studying for the MCAT, led me to realise that this film had a very tangible positive impact on me. Consequently, I am going to return now and give the film a perfect ten of ten, a masterpiece: for a story of pure joy that was successful in helping me regroup, and for being every bit as enjoyable as it was ten years ago, K-On! The Movie had a tangible, positive impact on me.

K-On! The Movie remains as relevant today as it did when it first premièred a decade earlier; even for those who have never seen K-On!‘s televised series, the movie is self-contained and the themes stand independently of a priori knowledge. After all this time, I have no difficulty in recommending K-On! The Movie to interested viewers; the film is every bit as enjoyable and meaningful as it was ten years previously. Because of how Yamada conveys Mono no Aware, as it relates to friendship, it becomes clear that K-On! The Movie was intended to be the final act for Kyoto Animation’s adaptation – author Kakifly had written two sequels, K-On! College and K-On! High School, which respectively cover Yui’s life at university and Azusa’s efforts to keep the light music club going. K-On! College was published in September 2012, and a month later, K-On! High School became available. Precedence would have suggested that adapting both of these volumes into an anime could’ve produced a two-cour season with twenty-four full episodes, but this would stand contrary to the aesthetic in K-On! The Movie. At the time, K-On!‘s anime adaptation had exceeded expectations in promoting the manga – the anime had been intended to promote the manga, and in this role, it has certainly succeeded. The manga itself concludes in a fashion that is consistent with the Mono no Aware aesthetic. K-On! College has Yui settling in to life at university and even makes rivals out of Akira, a serious musician whose skill is enough to get her noticed by professional producers, while K-On! High School has Azusa wondering what fun things the future will bring. However, this diverges from the feeling that K-On! The Movie originally concluded with; to bring K-On! back in the present would undermine what the film had accomplished ten years earlier. Six years earlier, I did walk through whether or not a continuation was possible, and back then, I had concluded that such a project would have been welcomed. After all, there had been enough materials to do so, and K-On! would’ve still been relatively fresh in the viewers’ minds. This answer has changed since then – a full decade later, it is safe to say that it is unlikely that Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa’s stories will be expanded upon. While Kakifly’s spin-off series, K-On! Shuffle, is set in the same universe and built around a similar premise (protagonist Yukari Sakuma is inspired to take up drumming after watching Ritsu perform), K-On!‘s success had largely come from the fact that it had been so groundbreaking at the time. The concept is no longer novel, and as such, adapting K-On! Shuffle is similarly unlikely in the foreseeable future. With this in mind, I imagine that this is the last time I will be writing about K-On! The Movie – as enjoyable as the series is, I do feel that I’ve said everything that needs to be said for a film that has aged very gracefully and certainly stands of its own merits, during the past decade that I’ve been active as an anime blogger.

Skyfall: A Reflection and Revisitation of Themes and Triumphs In The Twenty-Third James Bond Film

“Chairman, ministers: today, I’ve repeatedly heard how irrelevant my department has become. Why do we need agents, the 00 section? Isn’t it all rather quaint? Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do, and the truth is that what I see frightens me. I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map, they aren’t nations. They are individuals. And look around you – who do you fear? Can you see a face, a uniform, a flag? No, our world is not more transparent now, it’s more opaque! It’s in the shadows – that’s where we must do battle. So before you declare us irrelevant, ask yourselves – how safe do you feel?” –M

MI6 Agent James Bond and trainee Eve are in pursuit of an agent who has made off with a hard drive containing the identities of British operatives embedded in terrorist cells around the world. When a pursuit ends in Bond being accidentally shot, the hard drive is lost, and Bond is presumed dead. Three months later, after a public inquiry, M is pushed to retire by Gareth Mallory, and MI6 is compromised. When Bond learns of this, he returns to London. Despite failing physical and aptitude tests, M authorises his return to the field with the aim of having Bond retrieve the hard drive and eliminate the assassin who’d originally taken it. Tailing the assassin to Shanghai, Bond kills him before learning the identity of his employer, but a poker chip sends him to a Macau casino, where he encounters Sévérine. She promises to help Bond out if he can eliminate her employer, bringing him to a derelict island. Here, Bond meets and captures Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who was captured by foreign actors and fell to counter-terrorism. Back in London, Q attempts to decryt Silva’s laptop, inadvertently introducing a virus into their system and allowing Silva to escape. It turns out that Silva was desiring revenge against M for having abandoned him on an assignment decades earlier, and he plans to attack a public inquiry. Bond deduces Silva’s intentions and thwarts the attack before taking M to Skyfall, his childhood home in Scotland. Q and Bill Tanner design an electronic trail to lure Silva out with Mallory’s tacit approval. After arriving in Scotland, with gamekeeper Kincaid’s help, Bond and M prepare the house for an attack. They fend off the first of Silva’s men, but Silva himself appears later and lays siege to the house with incendiary grenades. Kincaid leads M through a priest’s hole to a church, and Bond rigs explosives that destroys the house, along with the helicopter. Silva pursues them and reaches the church before Bond, begging M to kill them both, but Bond kills Silva with a knife. M succumbs to her wounds and dies. After M’s funeral, Eve introduces herself as Moneypenny, and Mallory is appointed as the new M, briefing a Bond who is ready to take up his next assignment. Skyfall is the twenty-third 007 movie in the franchise and released in 2012 to positive reception for reintroducing classic elements from James Bond films with a modernised spin.

At its core, Skyfall covers the idea surrounding the worth of human resources in an age where SIGINT has begun to vastly outperform HUMINT in terms of efficacy, accuracy and safety. These themes permeate the film: while M continues to run the 00-section and use field operatives, villain Raoul Silva specialises in electronic communications and cyberwarfare, exploiting lapses in MI6’s security to accomplish his revenge. Q remarks he can do more damage with a few well-placed lines of code than 007 could in a month. At the public inquiry, the minister questioning M wonders why there’s a need for human intelligence at all when almost all of it can seemingly be gathered with a keyboard and mouse. The vulnerability of MI6 to this novel form of intelligence, then, speaks to society’s shift away from more conventional means of getting things done. As M rightly puts, enemies no longer operate behind unified banners or a centralised organisation. They are becoming increasingly anonymous and decentralised. Even with the best technology in the world, good guys operate against an enemy that is cunning, ruthless and elusive. However, as formidable as they are with a keyboard, the cleverest villain still has weaknesses, and this is something that one cannot pick up from behind a screen – upon meeting Q for the first time, Bond remarks that what HUMINT offers that SIGINT cannot is the ability to make a crack decision, whether or not to metaphorically (or literally) pull a trigger. There are things that one can ascertain in person that would be much trickier to investigate remotely, and hence, there remains a need to strike a balance between the old and the new. This balance is demonstrated as Q and Bond work together during Silva’s escape, as well as when they lure Silva to Skyfall estate for the climactic conclusion: away from his keyboard and mouse, Silva and his thugs are mortal men vulnerable to bullets, blades and fire. In the end, Skyfall indicates that against foes that would hide behind a keyboard, it is a combination of the old and new ways that work best, although even then, sacrifices often need to be made if one means to secure victory.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When I watched Skyfall in theatres eight years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with what the film had brought to the table – it was a striking balance of tradition and modernisation, reintroducing familiar characters in new roles and new personalities. The film opens with a lengthy chase sequence: after a hard drive is stolen, Bond pursues an assassin through Istanbul in an attempt to retrieve it. Dispensing with the iconic gun barrel, Skyfall continues in the vein of Craig’s movies in being grittier. I realise that, even back in 2012, Skyfall was better remembered for Adele’s rendition of the opening theme (almost to memetic levels), and while her performance of Skyfall was solid, the film itself is phenomenal. This is one of those things where I find myself at odds with the online community, who praised the song and forgot about the movie, and one of the things I aim to address in this post are the merits of Skyfall, which I feel to be under-appreciated.

  • After Bond is accidentally shot when Eve misses the assassin, he is presumed dead, and Thomas Newman’s style begins to make itself heard in Skyfall‘s soundtrack: a contemplative, melancholy tone is found in the incidental music, which mirrors the film’s themes of old and new. The Bond motif can still be heard interspersed throughout the film, cleverly woven into Newman’s compositions, but some of the songs that truly shine are those that have a purposeful sense of modernity to them. Mallory is seen speaking with M here, and in Skyfall, Judi Dench shines – she plays a regal, composed M fully aware of what her department’s purpose is, handling criticisms with dignity and a raw determination to see the job through.

  • After an unknown enemy reroutes gas lines into M’s office, triggering an explosion, MI6 moves its operations underground. This prompts Bond, who had disappeared into the tropics as retirement, to return to London. Bond’s aging was apparent here: he struggles to keep up with the tests, fares poorly as a marksman and walks out of a psychiatric test. It is in Skyfall that the realities of being a field operative are shown – Connery, Moore and Brosnan’s Bonds had suggested that being a spy would be a classy, suave occupation defined by martinis, girls and guns, but with recent thrillers like The Borne Identity, the 007 franchise has begin stepping away from the glorified, idealised vision of espionage in favour of a more down-to-earth, dangerous occupation.

  • The Craig era of 007 movies had initially struggled to make this transition, but by Skyfall, the series has found its footing. I was rather fond of Mallory’s character: he is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, a well-known actor best remembered as Harry Potter‘s Lord Voldemort. In Skyfall, Mallory seems fairly intent on seeing M’s retirement, stating that she’s had a good run and feeling the 00 section to be obsolete. He questions Bond on why he’s bothered to return before leaving M to brief Bond on the next assignment, which sends him to Shanghai.

  • While London only is presented briefly in most 007 films, Skyfall features the city as a more prominent background to remind viewers of the series’ roots. To this end, key scenes surrounding M and MI6 are set in London, and here, Bond heads to meet Q in a museum. K-On! The Movie had its home release a few months prior to Skyfall, and at the time, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the two films’ portrayals of London – both take viewers to more mundane parts of London, including the Underground and museums, but because K-On! had been about exploration, its portrayal of London is much more colourful than Skyfall‘s.

  • Ben Washaw’s Q is quite unlike Desmond Llewelyn’s Q – the latter portrayed Q as an eccentric, uncommonly talented inventor whose genius lay in being able to conceal weapons in common, everyday objects. He enjoyed a light-hearted relationship with 007, briefing him on the gadgets that would come to save Bond’s skin in each movie, and constantly lamented that his gear never came back in pristine condition. Conversely, as a younger Q, Washaw’s talents in mechanical engineering, while still impressive, are secondary to his ability as a programmer and computer scientist. Q’s first exchange with Bond is a reminder of Skyfall‘s themes, challenging viewers to consider where the line between youthfulness and age, innovation and efficiency, is struck.

  • It is therefore unsurprising that Skyfall‘s Q equips Bond with a fingerprint-encoded Walther PPK and a radio transmitter before Bond leaves for Shanghai: this is a back to the basics loadout that evokes memories of Dr. No (when Bond switches over to the PPK), From Russia With Love (Q’s first introduction), Goldfinger (the radio transmitter), License to Kill (another fingerprint-encoded rifle) and GoldenEye (mention of an exploding pen). Once in Shanghai, Bond takes the time to do laps in a pool before setting off to tail his quarry, the assassin he had been pursuing in Istanbul.

  • In Shanghai, Bond’s old strength appears to begin returning to him: the assassin enters a building for another job, and Bond is forced to cling to an elevator to ensure he doesn’t lose the assassin. While Bond cannot stop the assassination, or prevent the assassin from falling to his death in the subsequent confrontation, he does manage to find a poker chip that points him to a casino in Macau. The fight here was a visual spectacle: as Bond and the assassin struggle to gain the upper hand over the other, the electronic signage of the building adjacent floods the floor in an unearthly light, giving the fight a surreal feeling.

  • Skyfall continues to subvert expectations for what a Bond movie is, but it also finds novel ways of playing the characters off one another: a recurring occurrence in Bond films was Moneypenny and Bond’s flirtations, which had a humourous tone to them. When Eve is sent to Macau to assist Bond, she helps him freshen up before they hit the casino. It creates a more human side to Bond’s character: previous series had presented Bond as a gentleman, but a stone-cold killer who brushed off death as an occupational hazard, and remorse as an impediment to his assignment. Craig’s Bond is more layered: he is someone who struggles with the balance between his duties and finding a meaningful human connection ever since the death of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.

  • While ostensibly set in Macau, Skyfall‘s portrayal of the colonial city is entirely fictional: there is no district of Macau hosting a sprawling casino, and in fact, Macau counts itself as the Chinese version of Las Vegas, with hotels and casinos rivalling those of Vegas’ Strip. I concede that Skyfall probably intended to create a more exotic portrayal of Macau to set the scene apart from Shanghai, which was correctly presented as a glittering metropolis. If memory serves, Bond also visits a floating casino in Macau during the events of The Man With the Golden Gun, lending additional credence to the idea that the choice to create a fictionalised Macau was deliberate.

  • At the casino, Bond meets Sévérine, a woman who was once a sex slave and currently works for a mysterious employer, whom she remarks to be fear incarnate. She agrees to help Bond out if he promises to take her employer out, and he agrees. Bond Girls figure in most 007 movies, although the precise definition of what makes a Bond Girl is not agreed on, ranging from “love interest” to any female character with a considerable role in the film. In this sense, Skyfall breaks the convention because the film’s romantic aspects are minimal. I’ve always found the romance in James Bond movies to be generally weak, a token aspect of the film compared to the spectacle of explosions and car chases. It is only in films like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale, where Bond considers retirement to be with someone important to him, where the romance becomes more meaningful.

  • Conversely, in Skyfall, besides Sévérine, the women (Eve and M) play a much larger role in the plot itself, setting in motion the events that leads Bond to the villain. This aspect of Skyfall shows that a Bond movie could hypothetically do without Bond Girls and still tell a compelling story. With this in mind, a Bond film without a Bond Girl probably would not be counted as a true James Bond movie: this is that balance between tradition and innovation that Skyfall itself speaks to, and I feel that Skyfall itself did a decent job of exploring these new realms. Here, after cashing in the poker chip that was meant as the assassin’s payment and taking a drink, Bond defeats Sévérine’s bodyguards, convincing her that he is up to the task. The palm-encoded gun comes in handy here when one of the henchmen grabs Bond’s PPK, but it refuses to fire, leaving him to be bitten by a Komodo Dragon.

  • Ultimately, Sévérine takes Bond to meet her employer, an unusual character who is physically unimposing, but also unstable. This is Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who turned to criminal activities after being abandoned. His hideout is on an island that resembles Hashima Island: the real Hashima Island was originally a coal-mining island, and had been home to mines since 1887. By 1916, the island’s first concrete apartment was constructed to accommodate miners and their families. These structures were intended to protect against typhoons and would soon dominate the island over the next five decades, but when the coal seams began running dry in the 1970s, the island was abandoned. Here, Silva’s setup can be seen: he’s running servers in a large room that resemble the crudely-assembled rigs that crypto-currency miners use.

  • For Sévérine’s betrayal, Silva decides to execute her, concealing it as a sporting game where the object is to knock a shot of Scotch from her head using an old Percussion Cap Ardesa 1871 Duelling Pistol. Aware that Bond’s marksmanship is poor, Silva anticipates that Bond might accidentally hit Sévérine in the process. Bond deliberately misses, and Silva shoots her himself, declaring himself the winner of that contest. However, Bond manages to turn the tables on Silva and kills all of his guards, just as a contingent of helicopters arrive to take Silva in.

  • In a way, Silva represents a proper modern villain, driven not by grandiose plans for changing the world, but rather, petty revenge. Given the prevalence of petty flame wars on social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, Silva’s motivations are in keeping with the times, and I’ve found the world’s blind faith in social media opinions to be a disturbing one. I imagine that many of the people behind popular hate memes and misinformation campaigns out there would resemble Silva: possessing some talent, but ultimately, unstable and motivated by trivial reasons. Just because Silva is petty, however, does not mean he is any less dangerous.

  • As Q quickly discovers, breaches in a computer network do not usually result just from an adversary having a superior algorithm for defeating security, but rather, as a result of being played. Social engineering, rather than an uncommon brilliance with writing algorithms that can crack encryption hashing, is how most hacks are carried out – while most films suggest that all one needs is a strong mathematics background, Linux or Ubuntu and fast fingers to be a hacker, the reality is that hackers are frighteningly good actors, counting on their ability to lie and deceive their way into a position where they can access sensitive data. Silva’s done precisely this, engineering his capture and counting on Q to be careless in order to break into MI6’s systems and create enough disorder to go after M.

  • During the inquiry, the minister questioning M goes on such a long-winded spiel about the usefulness of field agents coming to the end, that Mallory asks her to allow M to speak, as this was the purpose of the hearing. The minister is played by Helen Elizabeth McCrory, and while I initially thought she had played Dolores Umbridge, it turns out she’s actually the actress for Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter. Despite the claims against her approach, M remains calm and explains that she stands by her work because of the changing world: it is precisely because the world is changing that tried and true ways need to be retained and act as a measure of defending things the old fashioned way while newer techniques are refined.

  • Having eluded Bond in the London Underground, Silva arrives at the hearing and opens a firefight, hoping to kill M. Fortunately, Bond is not too far behind Silva and dispatches most of Silva’s henchmen. Mallory takes a bullet during the firefight while trying to protect M, and after Bond shoots a pair of fire extinguishers to create a smoke cover, Silva is forced to flee when he’s lost the initiative lost. With Silva gone for now and M safe, Bond decides it’s time to head elsewhere, on account of Silva’s considerable reach and resources, somewhere where they’d have the edge over Silva.

  • To ensure that Silva can locate M and himself, Bond asks Q to create a trail for Silva to follow, likely by mimicking the tracking signals used by MI6 company cars, with the aim of luring Silva into the open. The operation is not strictly by-the-book or legal, prompting Q to remark that his “promising career in espionage” might be over before it really began. While it took some getting used to, Washaw’s Q is actually a nice change of pace from Llewelyn and Cleese’s Q – while as brilliant as his predecessors, Washaw’s Q is still learning the ropes surrounding intelligence, and makes mistakes on the job, making him more relatable. I’ve long joked that Cillian Murphy might be suited for portraying Hibike! Euphonium‘s Noboru Taki, but now that I think about it, Washaw wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.

  • A part of keeping M safe includes switching over to the Aston Martin DB5, which first made its debut in Goldfinger. Capable of reaching 100 km/h from zero in eight seconds and reaching a top speed of 233 km/h, the DB5 became famous as being the first Bond car to be equipped with an array of unusual features: an oil slick, tire spikes, front-facing .30 calibre machine guns and an ejector seat. In Skyfall, this appears to be the original DB5 from the Goldfinger days in-universe, as the car is equipped with the ejector seat. In a in a bit of a humourous moment, Bond idly fingers the button under the transmission column when M remarks the car isn’t very comfortable, and it seems she knows precisely what the ejector seat is about.

  • When Mallory notices Bill Tanner and Q writing a phoney tracking signal, rather than reprimand them, he instead suggests to set the Scotland segment of the signal down the A9, which is the longest road in Scotland and therefore, well covered by traffic cameras. Mallory begins the film as someone who questions M’s efficacy, but over the course of Skyfall, comes to see M’s standpoint on why having field agents and HUMINT is so important – the attempt on M’s life and his efforts to defend her show that Mallory is someone who does what he feels is best, and moreover, is someone who isn’t unwilling to admit when there are merits to the other side’s perspective.

  • The unique terrain in Scotland accounts for its world-famous gloomy weather, where it is rainy and overcast for a fair portion of the year. The weather is so prevalent that the Scots even have their own word to describe it: dreich. It seems appropriate to send Bond and M up here: there is a sort of melancholy about as they make their way to Bond’s childhood home. I am generally not fond of weather such as this, but I concede that there is a charm about the miserable, grey weather that is perfect when one feels the inclination to do some introspection and brood a little.

  • After arriving at Skyfall, M and Bond meet gamekeeper Kincaid, a gruff but warm individual not unlike Hagrid. One would be forgiven for thinking they could find Hogwarts nearby – the famous School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is also set in the Scottish Highlands, and up here, Bond’s comment about going back in time holds true. An ancient stone house in the middle of nowhere, far removed from the wireless connections of the world, feels like a place befitting of a “better man wins” face-off. With Kincaid’s help, Bond and M rig the old home with improvised traps and uses whatever’s available to prepare for the inevitable firefight against Silva and his henchmen. Bond initially asks Kincaid to sit this one out, but ever loyal to the Bond family, Kincaid declines and readies his Charles Parker 1878 double-barrelled shotgun for the fight.

  • As evening sets in, Silva’s first wave of men begin showing up. Bond uses the DB5’s machine guns to mow them down, and then picks off survivors with a double-barrelled Anderson Wheeler 500 NE. Inside the house, the various traps finish off any stragglers. A lull steals across the landscape, and in the distance, The Animal’s cover of Boom Boom begins playing, announcing Silva’s arrival. I know The Animals best for their classic, House of the Rising Sun, and listening to the lyrics in Boom Boom, it seems an appropriate choice of song for Silva, expressing his thoughts about wiping M and Bond out. This creates a jovial atmosphere that stands in complete contrast with the mood that surrounds Skyfall and its final firefight.

  • After disposing of the first wave of Silva’s henchmen, Bond picks up an HK-416 D10RS to provide himself with more firepower. Considered to be one of the best assault rifles around, handling very well and shooting accurately, the HK-416 uses a short-stroke piston system that was based on the G36 line of rifles but sports a frame similar to the AR-15 family of rifles. The D10RS has a barrel length of 264 mm and is one of the more compact variants of the HK-416. After Silva arrives, he orders the DB5 destroyed and begins tossing incendiary grenades into the house in an attempt to flush M and Bond out. Kincaid takes M through the priest tunnel, and Bond rigs some dynamite he’d retrieved from the quarry to blow a pair of large gas tanks.

  • Kincaid and M make it through the priest tunnel and find the home burning: when the gas tanks exploded, it killed most of Silva’s men, and stunned the helicopter pilots, causing them to crash into the house. The resulting explosion is even larger than the first and flattens the old stone house. Bond himself barely escapes in the priest tunnel and comes out the other end, but unlike Kincaid, who knows the area well, he is forced to traverse a frozen lake and defeats the remainder of Silva’s men after falling into the frozen water.

  • Climactic battles in James Bond movies are always my favourite part of the film, featuring some of the most impressive action scenes. Some of the best final fights include the raid on Fort Knox in Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice‘s assault on Blofeld’s volcano hideout, the firefight on Stromberg’s Liparus in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker‘s space battle, which marks the only time a James Bond ever was in space. While Moonraker‘s fight can be seen as ludicrous, as my first 007 movie, I personally enjoyed it greatly. By comparison, Skyfall‘s final fight is nothing outrageous or of an impressive scale, but it works well enough for the story, being an old-fashioned gun fight in a field where skill with a keyboard and mouse has no bearing.

  • While Bond is distracted fighting the remaining henchman, Silva notices Kincaid’s flashlight and follows it to find M and Kincaid in an old chapel. He implores M to shoot them both so they die together for their sins, but fortunately, Bond arrives just in time to throw a knife into Silva’s chest, killing him. It’s a bit of an anti-climactic death for Silva to symbolise the futility of his actions, and that for all of his field experience and knowledge in cyber-warfare, he is still just an ordinary man.

  • In Skyfall‘s most poignant moment, M succumbs to her wounds and dies. However, rather than dying to someone who had a vendetta against her, she dies in the company of her best 00 Agent – while Bond might not be the most by the book 00 Agent she has, he’s the most resourceful and committed to doing his job, no matter the cost, and there is a symbolism about dying in a chapel, just as her current job of identifying and bringing the perpetrator Silva to justice comes to a close. With Judi Dench’s M deceased, her role as M draws to a close, and I admit that I was very fond of her portrayal as M – previous Ms were played by Bernard Lee and Robert Brown, who portrayed a stern, serious intelligence head that embodies the English spirit. Dench, on the other hand, handles the post-Cold War MI6 with a matronly dignity.

  • After M’s death, Mallory is promoted to be the new M. Bond briefly contemplates the old M’s passing before returning to his duties. However, M’s death weighs on Bond heavily, and in Spectre, it is revealed that Bond is secretly investigating a lead M had been working on prior to her death, similarly to how Harry, Ron and Hermione continued to pursue Horcruxes after Dumbledore’s death. With this, my revisit of Skyfall draws to a close. For the themes that it covers and the fact that it weaves its themes into the very fabric of how the film was presented, Skyfall is probably my favourite James Bond movie from a story perspective. Despite eight years having passed since I first watched and wrote about the film, Skyfall‘s themes and messages remain relevant today. The film also evokes memories of my undergraduate thesis project, but I will be saving those thoughts when I write about Halo 4, which released in November 2012.

Overall, Skyfall was a superb James Bond experience, being my favourite Daniel Craig Bond film insofar, and while I’ve yet to see No Time To Die, which is supposed to be the last of the Craig Bond films, I imagine that Skyfall will continue to hold the crown of being the top Craig 007 film on account of its themes, presentation and balance between classic Bond experiences, as well as the grittier Craig-style 007. Skyfall cemented Daniel Craig’s suitability as performing James Bond during its run: Casino Royale had presented Bond as being inexperienced, a blunt instrument, and Quantum of Solace was a bit of a disappointment. By Skyfall, Craig plays an aging 007 who is past his prime, determined to continue serving his country even though he is declining both physically and mentally: the idea of returning to old places and older ideas is a recurring theme in the movie, as well, and indicate that while technology has advanced incredibly, the crutch that superior technology offers might not always out-compete raw experience. Skyfall is therefore compelling, telling a story that speaks to the realities of espionage and the world at large: fancy gadgets, fast cars and beautiful women are sidelined in favour of considering relevant social and political conditions in this 007 movie, and consequently, Skyfall does stand out as being one of the more thought-provoking James Bond films for striking a balance between old and new, the overt and the subtle, and respecting the series’ roots while presenting a contemporary, current theme at its core. Eight years ago, Skyfall was an immensely enjoyable film, and presently, topics that the movie covers remain relevant – even more of the world is connected now than it had been in 2012, and the dangers of an over-reliance on technology, as well as not fully understanding what bad-faith actors are utilising technology for, remain ever-present threats on the principles and values that form our institutions. As Skyfall suggests, it is only through a merger of the old and new, experience and innovation, that enemies of our system can be understood and if not overcome, held at bay.

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.